Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cheesed Off

Last week we bought a chunk of Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese at the Point Reyes Station farmers market, from a vendor who also sells cheese by another company. I've never talked to her about it, but I'm assuming she's a middleman, not directly related to Cowgirl Creamery.
Her prices are fair; she offers sample bites; she's friendly when she's not otherwise distracted.
But oof. She sold me a stinker.
Was it her fault? I'm not sure it was, although as a vendor of foods, she ought to be a little vigilant about the quality of the products she puts out.
Cowgirl Creamery offers their wonderful cheeses in whole balls or halves, and I usually get the half. It is wrapped and labeled, but there is never a date on the label.
This cheese was simply too old. The red tinge on the rind had migrated all the way over the cut surface, and the whole thing was smoodging around in a smelly, wet bath of putrefaction. I couldn't throw it away fast enough. (Cranky and I were sitting at a picnic table in the vicinity of other people; so embarrassing. Who did that?)
This isn't the only time I've had a problem with the age of a Cowgirl Creamery cheese. I once tried to buy a Red Hawk at their store in the Ferry Plaza mall, but it felt way too firm to be enjoyable any time soon. I asked a salesperson about it, and she said if I would come back in an hour, another delivery of cheeses would have arrived and I could select a riper cheese then. That sounded odd, but I went back in an hour, and sure enough, there was a batch of riper Red Hawks. How could she have known that? And why weren't the riper cheeses in the store earlier than the less ripe ones? Again, no dates on the labels.
I am a huge fan of Cowgirl Creamery. I have supported them since their early days when they weren't, frankly, all that skillful at cheesemaking. I've enjoyed their development and diversification, and I will probably continue to patronize them.
But please. How about a little quality control?


Anita said...

I have had the same problem at the Ferry Building store. All the cheeses are too young, and if I buy them like that, they either rot in my fridge -- especially the halves, and I can't eat a whole unless there's a huge party. I actually buy most of my Cowgirl cheese from Whole Foods, which does a decent job of keeping properly aged cheeses on the shelf.

cookiecrumb said...

Anita: Well, boy howdy, thanks for the props for Whole Foods' cheese department. The one here in San Rafael is great.
So how come so few comments on this post -- is it the picture of plastic barf??

Catherine said...

I can't imagine you're anything less than happy today despite the cheese. I love Mt. Tam., but haven't been so crazy about the others.

kudzu said...

It's criminal, in my mind, to have to buy "cut cheese" (no rude commenmts, please) that is all pre-wrapped. This is cheese death, no matter where it's sold. I mean -- yes, we should be able to choose the amount we need, but shouldn't have to buy it unless it's cut right in front of us from a properly aged/fresh source. The price of artisan cheeses is so high we should demand European style service for them.... Tsk. T'ain't fittin' .

Stacie said...

I'm shocked that an item such as cheese could be sold w/o a date!

cookiecrumb said...

Catherine: Yes, happy.

Kudzu: Great point. The wrapped, cut cheeses from Cowgirl are in opaque paper. I would love to jump to the defense of the Ferry Plaza store though: They will happily cut a cheese for purchase.

Stacie: It seems like only grocery stores date their cheeses. Eee.

Joanne said...

Caveat on Whole Foods though - The Santa Rosa one recently sold me Bellwether ricotta that was way south and vermont shepherd that was really off. Whole Foods does not have a cheese cave so they are not really aging cheeses either. You should be able to do the same job as they do in your own refrigerator to get that "aged" product you've found or perhaps it is more "aged" when they get it from Cowgirl - who do a sort of affinage.

Buying not cut-to-order cheese already wrapped cheese is a dangerous game anyway you look at it. Caveat Emptor.

cookiecrumb said...

Joanne: I would be sorely bummed to discover I had bought a rotten ricotta. Thanks for your expertise.
I think I'm going to make my own goat's-milk yogurt cheese next. Of course, unaged, but homemade!

Dagny said...

Sorry to hear about the bad cheese. I bought cheese the same day you did from the same source. Now I must rush to my fridge to check on the cheese I bought -- although I did not buy the Red Hawk. *sigh*

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: We opened this one within a couple of hours after we bought it (at the lunch break for mushroom school, heh). I don't think all her cheeses are overripe and I wish you luck with the one in your fridge. This is the first time we've ever had a bad one from that seller.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's different in the states but to me this would be time for a complaint. I would expect a replacement/ money back or doesn't it work that way??

cookiecrumb said...

ChrisB: I have no doubt I would have received a replacement or refund if I'd taken the cheese back. But we were in the middle of "mushroom school" and it just seemed easier to throw it away. (And more merciful. Lord, it smelled.)