More Cheese, Please

    Some things are so delicious it seems a crime not to overindulge.  For instance, you’re at a party and you have eaten quite a bit. And then somebody arrives with a large wedge of Humboldt Fog. It is presented, perfectly ripe and mouth-wateringly creamy—in fact, quite silky and oh-so-scrumptious in a subtly pungent sort of way—alongside a basket of baguette bits.
    This happened to me recently. The cheese in question, while gorged upon in Berkeley, came from Jeff Diamond’s Farmstead Cheeses & Wines (Alameda Marketplace, 1650 Park St., 510-864-9463). Cypress Grove Chèvre makes the Fog, an award-winning goat-milk cheese, way up north in Arcata.
    Diamond is always good for suggestions and stories about cheese. The thin black ribbon that dissects the Fog is ash, not any sort of penicillin, he says, before explaining its origins and meaning.
    The ash in the Fog is a tribute to a French cow-milk cheese, called Morbier, from the Franche-Comté region. The story goes that a couple of hundred years ago, when the Comté cheese farmers didn’t have enough curds for a final full-size Gruyère, they would put what was left into a round mold, and to stop the flies from settling in, they would cover it with a thin protective layer of wood ash from the outside of the pot used for cooking the curds. Later, when making the next batch of curds, they would add a layer on top of the ash to form a complete cheese.
    A third cheese with a similar thread comes from the Carr  Valley Cheese Company in Wisconsin. Called Mobay, it’s that cheese company’s take on the Morbier, says Diamond. This one features a layer of sheep-milk cheese and a layer of goat-milk cheese separated by a line of grapevine ash.
    Diamond suggests eating the Mobay, which I found the least tasty, as part of a cheese platter; the Morbier, he says, “screams for an apple.” And the Humboldt Fog? He eats it on its own, as an appetizer. Which of course gives scope for grand indulgence!
 —Wanda Hennig
—Photography by Lori Eanes

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