Many of my friends are triple-crème lovers. Me? I don't freak for brie. I like the stinkers, and most brie is too grassy, too tame. A couple weeks ago, that changed. Oh mercy, I ate a triple-crème with an orange rind and a peanutty vibe. Here was a cheese that tasted a little bit truck stop and a little bit beachy. I should have known it came from Cowgirl Creamery, run by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, two farmstead-cheese pioneers with a soft spot for stink.
I like Red Hawk because it is unexpectedly strange. It looks like a moussey, mousy number; it's so small -- each wheel is only about the size of a dinner roll. And yet, it's full of flavor -- salty, luscious, peanutty goodness. Alongside a chocolate stout (try a Rogue Ale) it tasted like a fermented peanut butter parfait.
Just when I think I've eaten the funkiest funk (Hooligan), along comes another crazy, oozy enigma. This is why I love cheese.
Cowgirl Creamery makes Red Hawk from organic milk, then washes it in brine so that a ruddy rind develops. Think of Epoisses, another washed-rind winner. Cheese maven Janet Fletcher suggests taking Red Hawk out of its wrapper a day before you want to eat it and letting it sit at room temperature under "a cheese dome or inverted bowl" so the rind can dry and develop "a faint salty crunch."
My Red Hawk is on the counter right now, glowing like a holy relic under glass. And when the sun lights up the rind, I know I will never take a triple-crème for granted again.
Tenaya Darlington blogs about cheese at Madame Fromage.