Keep Calm & Eat Cheese

Loads of spicy, smoky flavor -- that's why Cypress Grove's Chipotle Cocoa delivers big-time.
Loads of spicy, smoky flavor — that’s why Cypress Grove’s Chipotle Cacao delivers big-time.

When it comes to cooking, it’s the little things in life that make such a difference now — crunchy sea salt, olive oil with a real personality, and an exceptional cheese with flavor to spare that elevates anything it touches.

That’s why I felt like I had truly hit the culinary jackpot when Humboldt County’s Cypress Grove sent me samples during this just-the-basics-ma’am, hunker-down-and-make-do kind of time.

Because it’s soft-ripened goat cheeses are anything but banal. Since 1983, this Arcata, CA-based cheesemaker has been turning out award-winning wheels. Since 2017, it’s taken a fancy turn each year to its classic Humboldt Fog by making limited-edition remixes that feature herbs and spices added.

This year, Cypress Grove ups the equation by not only adding the familiar ripple of flavoring at the center of the cheese, but also mixing it into the cheese paste through and through. The result is wallop of flavor.

This year’s line-up includes the Dill Remix, which was released in April; the Chipotle Cacao that will debut in summer; and the Haze Remix due in the fall.

After trying samples of each of them a week ago. I can’t say enough about these extraordinary cheeses.

Its Dill Remix atop baguette slices.
Its Dill Remix atop baguette slices.

The Dill Remix features both dill and dill pollen. It’s so aromatic that you smell the herbs the moment you unwrap the cheese. It would be fabulous smeared on a bagel with lox, melted in an omelet, atop pizza, or crumbled over a green bean salad.

The Chipotle Cacao boasts chipotles, as well as chocolate from Eureka’s Dick Taylor Chocolate. This is one spicy meatball — with a big kick of heat, but not a painful one in the least. There’s a lovely smokiness to it, too. It tastes a bit like mole. It dresses up a burger dreamily, and would take grilled cheese up a big notch. I also crumbled it over earthy Rancho Gordo black beans — a match made in heaven.

The Chipotle Cocoa crumbled over warm Rancho Gordo black beans accented by diced roasted acorn squash.
The Chipotle Cacao crumbled over warm Rancho Gordo black beans accented by diced roasted acorn squash.

The Haze Remix, which blends lavender and wild fennel pollen, smells like a walk through a field of wildflowers. Spread some on crostini and drizzle on a little honey; or tuck a slice into a salami sandwich; or toss some into any type of green salad.

Look for the Remixes for $27 to $33 per pound at Berkeley Bowl, Andronico’s, New Leaf Community Markets, Whole Foods, Lunardi’s, Bianchini’s, Nugget Markets, and others in Northern California. A 3-pound wheel also can be purchased on the Cypress Grove site for $70.

It may not be an inexpensive product, but a little goes a very long way — and really makes anything taste more special. Plus, as so many local artisan foods purveyors contend with unprecedented challenges at this time, it’s a great way to support the singular work that they do.

Artisan cheese makers, in particular, are feeling the hurt, as so many of the restaurants they once sold to are now closed or doing limited to-go orders. For sheep- and goat-cheese makers, it’s doubly challenging because unlike cows that produce milk year-round, these animals produce it only seasonally. You guessed it — that prime time is now.

Learn more about what Bay Area cheese makers are contending with in this fine story in the San Francisco Chronicle. And if you can do so, definitely eat more local cheese now.

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  • I love Humboldt Fog! I’ll be on the lookout for these.

  • Robyn: These are SO worth seeking out. I’m almost finished with my samples, and longing for more cheese already. 😉

  • I tried this and it was bonkers. The heat went right up to my limit but somehow it didn’t burn. It was just loads of flavor. Thanks for the hint about what to put it on– I’ve been trying to figure out what best to pair it with!

  • Hi Seth: These cheeses are incredible. So glad you’re a new fan, too.

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