Cheese: Bonne Bouche
Producer: Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Age: up to 45 days
Vegetarian: vegetarian rennet
It isn't an exaggeration to say that this cheese started a chain of events that changed my life. I first bought this award-winning cheese on the recommendation of a Pastoral cheesemonger in 2010. I had no idea that goat cheese existed outside of chèvre, and though I wasn't sure what to make of the ash-coated and brainy rind, I decided to take a chance.
I cut into the cheese and found a stark-white, chalky paste and oozing ivory interface just under the geotrichum rind. It didn't smell as strongly as I'd expected, not "goaty" at all. And that first bite, well, that was all it took. I get floral and citrus notes from this cheese, and when it's just over-ripe there's more earth and a slight piquancy that I just love (this is the stage I prefer my Bonne Bouche, with baguette and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc).
I greatly respect the cheesemakers at Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. In an interview with the authors of Cheese by Hand (available as podcast here), Allison Hooper describes the process of bringing this cheese to market, and how it almost didn't happen. In 2001 Allison and Bob Reese started making Bonne Bouche in the same plant where they made fresh cheeses. Surface molds, like those used to create the Bonne Bouche rind, can travel. The molds were infecting their fresh cheeses. They made the heart-rending decision to put Bonne Bouche production on hold while they build a separate facility for making Bonne Bouche and other mold-ripened cheeses. It is this attention to quality and safety that VBC has been recognized as an outstanding American artisan producer or more than 25 years.
My first experience with this cheese brought me back to Pastoral again and again. I became braver and tried cheese I wouldn't have thought I'd like. Even when trying something new, Bonne Bouche was always part of that day's purchase.
Instead of becoming satisfied with knowing a few good cheeses, I unearthed a desire to learn as much as possible about the cheeses of the world, of American artisanal all-stars, and exceptional pairings. Two years after my first "good mouthful," I made a decision to pursue this undertaking full-time. I left my corporate marketing job in favor of the Pastoral cheese counter, where I endeavor to provide each Pastoral customer with the same eye-opening experience I was so lucky to have.