Living on the East Coast, it’s rare to find delicate goat-y beauties from the West, especially the luxe puffball Taupinière. It’s the sort of lush lump you’d expect to find under a moist log — ash-black and spongey, with maze-like surface markings. Set it on a bed of moss, and you’d swear it was a mushroom. Somewhere out in the forest, it must have a mycological doppelgänger?
Taupinière made its way from California via Di Bruno Bros. to a spa weekend at Woodloch last week, where it was demolished by happy people in bathrobes. It fit right in with the peace and the pampering, because Taupinière is a serenity cheese. Can I say that? Let may explain: biting into Taupinière is like wrapping one’s maw around a rain cloud. It’s both creamy and oozy, with a salinity that calls to mind tears.
I like to stage a cheese like this — one that is ominous-looking to some — with jewel-like things. Blackberries. Flowers. (Glistening oysters would be perfect.) Then, the beauty of Taupinière emerges, like a truffle sparkling against soil.
From Sonoma, this French-style goat cheese was created by Laura Chenel, one of the great American artisan cheese pioneers. Inspired by French cheeses she tasted abroad in the 1970s, she developed her own small wonders and began selling them to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. In 2006, she sold her business to a French company. This year, Taupinière won “Best of Class” at the U.S. Champion Cheese Contest.
The dark coloring on this cheese comes from vegetable ash — which is edible and virtually tasteless.
Pairings: Lemon curd, berries, any acidic fruit. Honeydew melon. Honey and fresh figs. Berry jam. In the glass, I want a mineral-y rosé or Sancerre. A fruit beer, something with apricots, would be delicious — or a wheat or saison.
Outtakes from the Goat Cheese Spa at Woodloch
Note: The Lodge at Woodloch in Pennsylvania is located in the Poconos, and every month a culinary guest is invited to lead tastings. It’s been a privilege to lead workshops there twice now. The pools and services are exquisite, and the kitchen sources locally, drawing from its garden and from local cheesemakers. You can read about my last visit in this post and sniff out their calendar for upcoming culinary guests.