Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rogue Creamery

Rogue Creamery, Central Point, Oregon

As part of the homework required for the NZ CheeseMaster study I was doing last year, I researched and wrote about Smokey Blue, a smoked blue cheese made by Rogue Creamery.  So since we were in our campervan and headed towards this part of the world, we had to stop by and visit.

From reading the history behind the Rogue Creamery, I have to say I was expecting the location to be a bit more quaint – perhaps next to the river or nestled beside the hills.  The town of Central Point is in a big valley in hills, but the feeling was more of a typical US town spread out along an urban highway.  Never mind, as once we got inside the shop we were made to feel very welcome.  The shop looks into the cheddar making room which was having some maintenance.  The blue room is in a different, but attached, building which we unfortunately couldn’t see.  The shop itself has two cheese display cabinets.  Once full of various Rogue cheddars and other cheeses from Europe as well as the US (including some from Cowgirl Creamery, featured in a previous blog entry).  The second display cabinet was named “Blue Heaven” and indeed it was – with seven different blue cheeses (all made by Rogue) on display, each in stacks of wheels.  Once we got talking to Tom, the cheese shop manager, he gave us a run through of his favourites.  Tasting through all these blues in one go is a really good way to see the subtle (and not so subtle) differences that can be found in blue cheese.

#6: Oregon Blue.  This is the original and famous cheese made by Rogue Creamery back in 1956.  It is made from raw cows milk, and aged for at least 90 days.  It was firm to bite, creamy in flavour, with a light blue mould flavour.  Well balanced. 

#7: Rogue River Blue.  This immediately tasted more aged than the Oregon Blue.  A creamier texture, a stronger blue moudl flavour, with some floral notes.  A small amount of crunch in the veins, and a savoury aftertaste.  Whole wheels of the cheese are wrapped in hand picked vine leaves which have been soaked in pear brandy.  Rogue River Blue is only made from Autumn milk – this example was about 18 months old.

#8: Smokey Blue.  This is Oregon Blue cheese that has been cold smoked in whole rounds over hazelnut shells for 16 hours.  Quite a strong smokey flavour comes through, slowly at first, but this does not override the blue mould flavour or the saltiness of the cheese.  When swallowed the smoke leaves a slight savoury, bacony flavour.  We were told that it took a long time to perfect this cheese (playing with different smoke sources and conditions) and this shows, as the cheese we tasted was very well balanced – delicious. 

#9: Chocolate Stout Cheddar.  This was an interesting one to try after all the blues. Cheddar curd is mixed with some chocolate stout and pressed together – which gives a very lightly marbled cheese block.  The cheese itself has a slightly sweet, slightly yeasty/fruity note, mixed with a young cheddar texture and flavour.  Not quite the flavour I was expecting from the name – this is quite a delicate cheese. 

And lastly, to finish off with something unusual, Tom gave us a taste of a wasabi goat chevre.  Clean, fresh, slightly acidic as you would expect from a good chevre, but with a good punch from the wasabi as you swallow.  I would definitely eat more of this – but we forgot to ask where it was from… Vermont or somewhere on the East Coast I think.  We shall have to make a trip there sometime.  

"Blue Heaven" at Rogue Creamery.  

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