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Desert necessities: Water…shade…cheese?

September 10, 2010

I wanted to share this quick story with everyone as I was completely caught off guard with the circumstances leading up to this.  As I mentioned in my last post, I have been away on vacation for the past couple of weeks in the middle of the desert.  Burning Man is a unique and  mind-blowing event that happens once a year in the northern reaches of Nevada.  Thousands of people from all over the world converge on this prehistoric lake bed for a festival that celebrates community, music, art, life…you name it…  The conditions are pretty extreme as attendees  camp in 100 degree heat, and weather through winds that blow in excess of 40 miles per hour which can produce “white outs”.   Sounds like fun right?  The perfect place for one to taste a 5 year Cheddar from Hook’s Cheese Company for the 1st time…

I am out riding my bike on the Playa with a friend of mine when we happen upon a tent with a “Cheesehead” sign.  Of course I stop…how could I not?  Even on vacation, I am still obsessed with cheese.  It turns out that this camp was made up of some people (Doc and Harold) who had made the trek from Wisconsin.  They have a plate of various cheeses that they are sharing with people passing by.  I step up and strike up a conversation and mention that I am a cheesemonger from NYC.

“What!  I have a Hook 5-year Cheddar!  I was waiting to crack it tonight, but here is someone who can appreciate it!  Let me go and get it…”

Obviously I wasn’t going to argue with that… Doc comes back with a large piece of Hook 5 year as well as a couple of nice IPA’s to taste with. (Man after my own heart…)  Hook’s cheddar is famous in many circles as they recently released a 15 year old cheddar.  As much as I would have liked to have tried it in comparison, I will definitely settle for its younger cousin.  The cheese makers add annatto to the milk to give that characteristic orange hue.  The paste was moist for a 5 year cheese, but there was still a nice semi-friable texture to it as Doc shaved off a few pieces. There was development of amino acid crystals, and a nice, well-rounded sharpness in a typical cheddar fashion.  The acidity and bite hit the back of my tongue as soon as I took a bite, but the earthiness (slight barnyard) in the finish struck a nice balance.  I am not sure if it was the cheese alone, maybe it was the location and the unexpected treat, but I thought it was fantastic.  A great block cheddar with a distinctive sharpness to be enjoyed with a nice and hoppy IPA, with friends (both old and new),  maybe even in the middle of the desert…

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