If there was a cheese-of-the-woods mushroom, this would be it. Bleu Mont Dairy's Bandaged Cheddar Reserve tastes like walking through a damp forest at the peak of fall color. It's gorgeous -- a cheddar so woodsy you have to wear a wool sweater to eat it and, if possible, a cap with ear flaps.
Wisconsin's Bleu Mont Dairy has an interesting story. Second-generation cheesemaker Willi Lehner runs a solar- and wind-powered operation outside of Blue Mounds, and he ages his British farmhouse-style cheddar on planks in a straw-bale aging cave. When you eat cheese from Bleu Mont, you're eating sustainability. Lehner buys organic milk from local farmers who practice rotational grazing, so you get a cheese that's imbued with the flavors of different grasses -- it's a Michael Pollan fantasy.
Bleu Mont's Bandaged Cheddar Reserve is a great cheese for October, when you're breaking in the fireplace for the first time. Pour some hard cider -- Strongbow pairs nicely -- and slice up some apples or crisp Asian pears. Then invite the neighbors in. The smell of this cheese -- earthy, with caramel notes -- will have them swooning (and hopefully running home for their banjos). And the flavors -- nuts, strong wind, sweet hay -- are a perfect way to savor fall as you mentally prepare for winter hibernation.
Tenaya Darlington blogs about cheese at Madame Fromage.