New Jersey and cheese? I never thought I’d put the two together, but then my friend Albert (of Messy & Picky fame) texted me about Maidenhead. I saw the pics on his blog – here was a cheese that looked like a rusty wicker basket – and I got very excited. When I heard it was washed in Flying Fish beer, I lost my shizzy.
Maidenhead has a cool story – it’s made on a sustainable farm, called Cherry Grove, in Lawrenceville, NJ where the cheese facility is run solely on a wood fire supplied by brush from local tree surgeons. This is a true farmstead cheese, which means that the maker uses milk from his own animals, not from other sources. It’s both organic and raw. Rah rah rah to that -- I love the depth of flavor that you get in unpasteurized cheese.
Let it be known that I took this cheese to my Food Writing class this week, as a bonus tasting – they have been very brave (last week they sampled Purple Haze, Parm, and a raw whiskey-blue) – and at least one of them could not handle the stink. Maidenhead smells like a cow stall, true, but it’s just delicious.
Imagine eating a chicken leg on a tire swing, and you’ve got the flavor notes. There’s a strong rubbery, gamey taste, initially – which sounds awful, I realize – but then it mellows, filling your mouth with sublime avocado. Wild. It’s a long-lasting, quasi-exotic ride – a little bit farmy, a little bit Costa Rica.
Cherry Grove makes about 7 cheeses, including an arrestingly salty blue, called Shippetauken, and a buttery Piedmont-style washed-rind cheese that melts like a dream, Toma Primavera.
I have a little crush on Cherry Grove Farm, not just because it has a purdy website but because it's so welcoming to strangers – there are tours and a farm stand. One blue-sky day, I will wend my way over the PA line to buy a wedge of Buttercup Brie and some free-range pork. Mmmm, I smell a farmstead breakfast sandwich.