January 6th, 2008
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2008
Of all the Cabrales pictures I found while scouring Google Images, this seemed most to communicate the forbidding-ass, hoary, curmudgeonly flavor of this most formidable blue cheese.
Cabrales is a Spanish blue, usually from cow, but in the case of the piece I bought, a blend of sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk. Like other blues, it’s aged in caves until it’s pretty damn raw.
I bought mine at the Whole Foods in New York at Columbus Circle. I had no idea what I was in store for. I only picked it because it looked the most grumpy. It was sitting there on the far end of the blues, hunkered down, surly, like a grizzled, feral cat.
Anyhow, I got home, unwrapped it, tried it, and was stunned. This cheese is a troll grandfather whose savage breath makes you shut your eyes but whose zyklon war stories & randy secret-wife asides open them right the fuck back up.
In non-troll terms — it’s a tough cheese to love. It’s surprisingly acid, not very tender, sort of molar-sticky. But the flavor once you get past the bouncer is incredibly complex: woodsy-nutty, tangy, forceful, rich. It takes 5 or 10 seconds to really settle in. Language lets me down (or vice versa), and I don’t have the ready stock of adjectives/jargot that wine-nuts do — “vegetal”, “notes”, “tannins”, etc etc — so I’ll just say simply that the flavor is unlike that of any other blue I’ve tried, and is much stronger, more stubborn, and less cheese-like than I thought I could care for.
In this regard, it’s more like a hard red wine than a cheese. It makes your mouth sort of freak out and huddle (4th quarter time-out style) before rallying and realizing there was nothing to be afraid of after all — JUST STANKY BLUE LUV.