Tobasi and Maggie’s Round
Some women love to be surprised with jewelry. I love to be surprised with boxes of cheese. On Friday as I was taking a writing break in the kitchen, a package appeared at the door. My UPS man gave me a funny look when I exclaimed, “Oh, that must be Paul’s cheese!”
The label was from Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts — the new home of my friend and fellow cheese maniac Paul Lawler. At the end of April, Paul left his post as local dairy emissary at Reading Terminal Market to become a cheesemaker. Behold, he’d sent me some samples!
I promptly unwrapped them and set up a photo shoot, then I left the cheeses out to relax while I went out. Later, they would become an after-hours party.
“Look at that orange rind!” cried Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm when she stepped into my kitchen. Sue, who makes a pudgy moon called Red Cat knows her washed rinds. “I bet he’s using SR3,” she mused about the culture. It was 10 p.m., which is midnight in Cheesemaker Time, but Sue had made a special trip back to my house after a Beer Week engagement in order to taste Tobasi.
“Oh, it smells so nice,” she crooned, as she held the wedge up to her nose. “The consistency is beautiful.” Tobasi tasted delicious, too. Like sweet cream and mushrooms. Like an elfin wedding cake. If you know Paul Lawler, who has a bit of hobbit in him, you know that this is the cheese of his dreams.
In an email regarding this cheese, Paul wrote: The Tobasi is the cheese I’m in charge of/inherited (though I’m involved in all the cheesemakes, each maker has one they oversee). It was actually originally based on taleggio, but has evolved over the years. I’m in the process of pushing it in a softer and stinkier direction and am still getting to know the milk. It’s changed so much with summer pasture just since I’ve been here!
Maggie’s Round, the second cheese Paul sent, was very different. Her rind looked like snake skin. Her paste was denser with tiny eyes (read: air pockets). “It’s so toothsome,” Sue remarked. “I taste toasted oats, brown rice.”
I tasted green beans. Perhaps my palate was off from too many recent tastings. Mostly, I wanted to take the rind and find a pair of boots with those reptilian markings.
Soon, two more tasters stumbled through the door of Chez Fromage: Sue’s son Randy and his friend Jerry. There was a lot of sniffing and studying, followed by thoughtful lip-smacking. Paul’s cheeses were devoured. They were as glorious as they were gorgeous.
Needless to say, I eagerly await Paul’s next missive from the cheese cave. Word has it that Tobasi will soon be available at Formaggio Kitchen.