And then Chris Roelli gave me a call.
Thank god for Wisconsin cheesemakers. Leave it to an up-and-comer to bring me out of my December cheese doldrums (it doesn't help that as I write this it is six degrees BELOW freaking zero, 25 mph winds and three feet of snow outside -- the wind is actually driving snow through my window cracks, but alas, I digress ...).
So last week I headed to southwest Wisconsin to see Chris and find out what was so important that I must visit him in person. Turns out he is unveiling his new Dunbarton Blue -- the cheese wagered by Ken Montelone of Fromagination earlier this month -- and Chris wanted my advice on how to describe it to buyers.
Here's one word for ya: yummy.
But if you'd like a technical review, here you go: Dunbarton Blue is an earthy cheddared-blue, open air cured, giving it the feel of an English cheddar, but spiked with the delicate, subtle flavor of a fine blue.
Plus, it's really pretty.
Currently available only at Fromagination in Madison at upwards of $20/pound, I predict once buyers from around the country start tasting this cheese, it will be in high demand. Chris only has eight 7-pound wheels ready right now, but in about four weeks, he'll have another 30 wheels ready for sale.
Chris named the Dunbarton Blue after a neighboring township and has been tinkering with the recipe for more than a year. He makes the cheese by hand in a small, 300-gallon artisan cheese vat in his small creamery between Shullsburg and Darlington. He aged the first few wheels at Willi Lehner's cave in Blue Mounds, but is almost done with building his own affinage facility. Chris is renovating the original cave used by the cheese plant - surrounded by earthen walls on three sides with a rock wall foundation -- and plans to age the next batch on his own turf.
Chris is also redesigning his website so that anyone and everyone can buy his cheeses directly. It's not quite finished, but once it's live (around February) you should be able to go here and order Dunbarton Blue online. Whoo-hoo!