My local cheese column in the June issue of Grid Magazine focuses on this little bunting of mixed-milk cheese. It's a wonderful local robiola called Hummingbird, which has a bloomy rind and creamy interior at about 3 weeks.
"You don't see many robiolas in the States," cheesemaker Kristian Holbrook (Doe Run Dairy) told me when I interviewed him for the story. That got me thinking. I've only seen one other artisan robiola that I can recollect, and that was in Iowa. Why don't more cheesemakers produce it?
"I like Robiola Bocina," Holbrook told me, referring to a popular Italian import, "but it's too thick for me. Too pasty. I wanted something with more lactic character that would be good at a young age."
When I wrote my column for Grid, the only Hummingbird I could find was very young -- two weeks old. It was lemony in taste and springy in texture. My friends and I ate it with homemade raspberry jam and nearly passed out from joy on the living room floor.
A few weeks later, I clammed onto a couple older specimen that were exceedingly ripe (beyond 6 weeks, I'd guess). The downy surface mold had turned wheat-colored, and the center pooled onto the counter when I cut into the rind. Oh, momma! That robiola was strong! Hot and sharp.
It was interesting to see a cheese change so dramatically after just a few weeks. From lemon sponge to peppery satin. Here is my plea if any cheesemakers are listening: Pssst, make some robiola! It's so dreamy. I fear that once Hummingbird catches on, it'll disappear in a razor-whirr just like the bird.
Hummingbird is produced in Chester County, Pa. at Doe Run Farm, home to 16 cows, 30 sheep, and 19 goats. In Philadelphia, it makes appearances at Di Bruno Bros. in the Italian Market and at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal.
More Hot Bits
Check out the current issue of Culture Magazine for the spread on cheese-related tattoos. You saw a few of them here first, but there are a slew more, alongside new photos of Ezekial Ferguson and Ian Peacock of Di Bruno Bros.
The Philadelphia Cheese Experiment takes place on June 5 at World Cafe Live. It's part of Brooklyn Brewery's national tour of food experiments, where amateurs compete for prizes...like a free trip to the brewery. There's still time to sign up or get tickets to attend. I hope somebody makes a goat cheese brownie to blow my mind.