In honor of Eating the Rind’s nomenclature, I decided to not only try to talk about what cheese I’m tasting each week, but to also try to touch upon how it tastes both with and without the rind. Unintentionally, this first selection happens to be a great example: Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery in Northern California.
Winner of several awards, Red Hawk is a highly flavorful, washed-rind, triple cream cheese. Washed-rind indicates that the cheese has been washed with what is usually (and is in the case of Red Hawk) a brining solution, although other liquids such as beer or wine can be used as well. For all intensive purposes here, let’s just say that triple cream translates to a high percentage of butterfat, and usually a cheese I will adore. But let’s not kid here–Red Hawk is not for someone who will be deterred by a stinky, hockey bag odor. After about an hour of munching and sitting around this little rust-colored beauty, my husband needed to move the remaining Red Hawk back to the kitchen for better air quality. But allow me to give this piece of advice–do not shy away from stinky cheeses! Pungency is not necessarily an indicator of flavor, so hold your nose and dive in.
Without the rind, Red Hawk is voluptuous, rich, buttery, and even mushroomy. But with the pungent rind, every flavor is heightened and the slightly sticky and grainy rind gives way to an incredibly luxurious center. Without the rind, you really miss the essence of Red Hawk. We paired the cheese with some simple Tuscan crackers and a highly recommended blend from the Santa Ynez Valley, a 2007 Martellotto. The berry and woodsy notes of this medium-bodied red were a delicious compliment.