Rogue vs. Figgy

I’ve been waiting to tell you about a little wrestling match between blue cheeses that I held at my house. It was a throw down between The Leaf-Wrapped. I used a cutting board in place of a mat and let my two guys warm up. While they sweated it out, I did some yard work.

Here were the contenders:

Rogue River Blue

Birchrun’s Figgy Blue

When both blues were at room temperature, I sat down down for a snack, amid imaginary bells and whistles. I wish there had been a crowd. This was a rowdy, flab-on-the-ropes, booze-on-the-breath, hair-on-the-chest kind of affair.

You see, Figgy Blue is the new blue star from Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It’s a raw-milk knuckler wrapped in fig leaves that have been macerated in local Laird’s Apple Brandy.

Figgy Blue

Figgy’s Creator, Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm

Rogue River Blue, from Rogue Creamery in Oregon, is a reigning champion. It’s won Best of Show twice from the American Cheese Society (see yesterday’s post), and it sets the bar high for any blue that wants to cloak itself in darkness and bathe itself in spirits. Rogue River Blue is also made from raw milk — a combination of Swiss and Holstein — and it dons grape leaves macerated in Clear Creek Pear Brandy.

Rogue River Blue, a two-time gold medal winner

Here’s the shocking truth: I thought these buggers would taste similar. Couldn’t have been more wrong.

Rogue River Blue

Smell: Yeasty, milky, fruity — like a buttery Parker House roll topped with slightly musty preserves

Texture: Moist and cheesecake-crumbly; smooth, except for tiny crystals

Taste: The front end is sweet, berry-like with a gentle brandy-infused taste. In the background, there are pine trees, pine nuts, all things foresty. It makes me think of walks in the woods, plump berries hanging from vines. It’s delicate, mind-bogglingly elegant, graceful even as the flavors shift and turn on the tongue.

Figgy Blue

Smell: Floral and mineraly, like violets growing in limestone

Texture: Damp and loosey-crumbly, like fruitcake drenched in spirits, slightly grainy

Taste: Black walnuts jump out on the front end, followed by minerals and white chocolate. If fruitcake were fudge, it would taste like this — rich, nutty, fruity, and boozy with a luxurious mouthfeel. Gorgeous, heavy, thunderous even.

And the winner?

Don’t be silly. Figgy Blue and Rogue River are two different kind of challengers. One is a legend, one is the new kid. Rogue is a gentle giant, and Figgy is a heaving piece of heaven.

The cool thing is that they represent the terroir of two coasts — Rogue River Blue has always been a landmark blue for the West Coast. Now, the East Coast has its leaf-wrapped Ali.

Figgy Blue Portrait, by Mike Geno

Now it’s up to the Midwest to bring a leaf-wrapped cat to the mat.

Cheese Sourcing: If you live in Philadelphia, go to Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings from 10-2 or and ask Sue Miller for a wedge of Figgy Blue. She also sells at markets in Media, Bryn Mawr, and Phoenixville. Figgy Blue is sometimes available at Di Bruno Bros. and the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. Rogue River Blue can be purchased locally at Di Bruno Bros. or from the Rogue River website.

Portrait Procurement: Mike Geno’s cheese portraits and prints are for sale on his website.


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One Response to “Rogue vs. Figgy”
  1. Robin says:

    Went to DiBruno Bros (with the rest of the world) today to get both of these for lazy New Year’s Day snacking. They were out of the Figgy Blue, but I bought a wedge of the Rogue River. Had a small taste before I bought it. I can’t wait to dive into it tomorrow! Thanks for the recommendation.

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