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Washed-Rind Cheeses: Perusing Scardello's Most Challenging Flavors

Winnemere: not for the faint of heart.
Winnemere: not for the faint of heart.

As Lance Lynn and I wrapped up our cheese tasting at Scardello, I asked him to show me one more product. "Give me something that's a little scary," I asked. I was looking for a cheese that was as far away from the mass-produced slices we all grew up on as possible. A real Frankencheese.

See also: How to Find Your New Favorite Cheese at Your Local Cheese Shop

Lynne immediately turned to the washed rind cheeses in his case, eying an Epoisse, which was washed in Marc de Bourgogne, a French spirit not unlike grappa. Washing the rinds of these cheeses as they age promotes the growth of B. linens a bacteria commonly found on the human skin that, you guessed it, is also the cause of foot odor.

Then there's the Cabrales, Lynn said, pointing to what looked like a wheel of dusty zombie cheese. "And the Winnemere," he added, pulling a small reddish yellow wheel from the case. "This is pretty intense," he said. Lance was very serious. I felt like we were discussing high grade medical buds at a dispensary in California.

Lance shaved of what may have started as a sliver, but was quickly reduced to a gloop that stuck to the paper he used to hand it to me, before offering me a spoon to scrape it free.

Winnemere is bathed in booze from a local brewery, which may be why I first thought of beer when I tasted it, but there's a lot more going on here. The cheese is wrapped in bark cut from spruce trees and it is indeed intense -- a locker room's worth of gym socks wrapped around the delicate creamy texture that comes from the high-fat, high-protein milk used to make the cheese.

At room temperature Winnemere runs like molasses. Lynn showed me an uncut wheel that jiggled slightly to his touch. At nearly $25 a pound you won't be melting this stuff on top of your burgers, but you wouldn't want to. It's got more than enough character to stand on its own.


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