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Red Hawk on its own is worth a flight ticket to the US. Who thinks that’s overdoing a bit in all likelihood never experienced this small round stinker at its best. Promised. It is delicious, as in melting-delicious like the most delicious ice-cream you can think of (no PR talk in this case – it’s a triple cream, with plenty of cream added to the already super-rich full fat milk), and all this creamy sweetness is balanced by the intense washed rind aromas – the more mature the cheese, the more daring and the more impressive.
Agreed, the 200 gram wheel is hard to find for under 20 dollars. It’s a luxury, full stop. Named after the red hawks of Marin County, that beautiful coastal region immediately north of San Francisco, it is not only a wonderful addition to any cheese board, but also extremely interesting from a food history point of view. Because Red Hawk was one of the very first really stinky representatives of contemporary American cheese culture – “the warm reception for Red Hawk suggests that Americans are leaving bland behind” my colleague Janet Fletcher commented back then, and quoted Sue Conley, Red Hawk’s creator: “People are looking for more complex cheeses now.”
Well, Mount Tam, Red Hawk’s older brother by only a few years certainly isn’t boring, in spite of its white, mushroom scented dazzling brilliance…. It was that cheese that put Cowgirl Creamery on the map, the dairy Peggy Smith and Sue Conley founded in Marin County in 1997. First they worked the organic milk of a neighbour’s farm into fresh wares such as cottage cheese (legendary!), crème fraîche and quark, then, after a few years, they tried their hands at Mount Tam and yet a few years after that: Red Hawk.
A historian’s note regarding the Cowgirls: That name didn’t just drop from the sky. Today in their mid-sixties they were back then mostly seen in boots, blue jeans, plaid shirts and according hats. Impressive, imposing. The two east coast students had met at college in Tennessee, went together westwards, worked als chefs, amongst other places at AliceWaters’ Chez Panisse, and then managed to establish their own business as well transform their private relationship into a non-romantic one. Quite something.
So, if you hopefully somehow manage to get hold of that wonderfully decadent, inspiring, endlessly unctuous and yet slightly sandy stinker that is mature Red Hawk: even that can be topped. Jason Lett’s Eyrie Vineyard Pinot Noir from Oregon pairs beautifully with it. Nough said… cheesio!
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