Istara Family of Cheeses – Part Three – Kaikou, Chistou and P’Tit Pyrenees

April 15, 2009

To conclude this series, I decided to combine the three least known cheeses from the Istara Family of Cheeses. In no way, is this meant as a slight; nor does it diminish the worth of these fine Basque cheeses.

Another Sheep’s Milk cheese from Istara, Kaikou is a slightly salty hard cheese, with piquant notes of sheep’s milk and overtones of olive oil, wild herbs and summer grasslands. (Terroir rears its lovely head one more time in the land of European cheeses…there must be a Monk somewhere in the neighborhood as well…) It is aged for a minimum of six months and is recognizable both for its rustic appearance and its rippled golden brown rind.

Kaikou’s texture is firm and almost crumbly with a distinctive taste.

Again, this cheese would pair well with black cherries…it must be the sheep thing here that creates the bridge to cherry preserves. Anything that includes black cherries makes the Lady one happy cheesemonger.

This feline foodie gives Kaikou 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving suggestions: In addition to going well with black cheery preserves, it also pairs well with quince paste. You can cube it and add it to a salad or shave it over your favorite gratins.

Wine Pairings: A sweet white wine such as Jurancon or a full-bodied Cab.

Source: Sheep’s milk.


Chistou is the newest cheese from Istara and has a nice twist: it is 50% sheep milk and 50% cow’s milk. Both milks are pasteurized and BGH-free (as are all Istara cheeses).

Chistou is a semi-soft/semi-hard cheese with a supple body encased in a natural rind, again typical of Basque cheeses. The flavor is tender with fruity nuances. It is smooth and pleasing and sure to satisfy a cheese novice as well as the most sophisticated connoisseur.

I give Chistou 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: This is a table cheese that works best as an appetizer or as a cheese course served before dessert.

Wine Pairings: Pair this cheese with an Oregon Pinot Noir and everyone will be happy.

Source: Equal amounts of Cow and Sheep’s milks


P’Tit Pyrenees also combines cow and sheep milk as Chistou, only in a smaller version (like P’tit Basque). It is fragrant and has a melt-in-your-mouth appeal.

As with Chistou, I give P’Tit Pyrenees 4 Paws out of 4 Paws…yep…cause that’s all I’ve got…I know a fellow observer living with The Lady’s mother who has six toes on his front paws…his name is Hemingway, some connection to Ernie’s cats in Key West…of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with cheese, just a little free-association going on, I suppose…back to the land of cheese from the Pyrenees. Another reason for 4 Paws is that I enjoy a little bovine with my ovine.

And as long as I am free-associating, doesn’t it surprise the heck out of you that such a warlike people (the Basque are a militant crowd…they prefer the term  “nationalistic” – and in the defense of the Istara cheese producers, there is less support for the Basque movement among the French Basque than among the Spanish Basque) could produce such sublime cheeses…beats the heck out of me…kind of like the Japanese who on the one hand have origami and bonsai and on the other hand embrace hari-kari…go figure…

Basque trivia: I am wading into dangerous territory here aka, what I am about to discuss may piss off The Brain and subject me to a nasty transmission from the Mothership…oh well. Did you know that the origin of the Basque language is unknown and has few or no similarities to the Indo-European languages written and spoken in all the regions and countries around the Basque regions in the Pyrenees? There are many theories as to why this is and where the Basque language originated. That sneaky buddy of mine known as The Man seems to have tumbled once more to my origins while analyzing the Basque language with The Lady. I overheard him telling The Lady that one theory is that the Basque descendents actually came from the Lost Continent of Atlantis. How in the world does he figure this stuff out? Everyone on the Mothership knows that Atlantis was originally populated by my ancestors…oops…my head just buzzed…The Brain is calling and his buzzing sounds angry…

Serving suggestions: As an appetizer with fruits or go commando and drizzle it with orange blossom honey and call it dessert. And here’s a surprise, it goes well with Black Cherry Preserves…I know…I’m as shocked as you are…

Wine Suggestions: I would love to pair this with any of the Temecula Valley medium to robust reds. That little-known wine producing area of Southern California is producing some decent wines these days. (The Lady played in a poker tournament there a few years back and made her first final table…woohoo…)

Source: Bovine and Ovine Milks in equal parts.

Not sure what cheese will grab my fancy next…been so busy reviewing cheese, I’ve missed some naps…time to curl up and catch a few zees…this feline foodie is signing off the computer and will be dreaming of ways to stowaway to Wisconsin with The Lady.

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