The Fair Oaks Farm Cheese Board

February 19, 2010

Jacqueline, Social Media Specialist for Fair Oaks Farm, Indiana’s Largest Dairy Farm, contacted me recently asking if I would be interested in reviewing some of their Award-Winning cheeses. This Feline Foodie never turns down a shot at free cheese… her request had no strings attached. I sample and give my opinions. (BTW, we met through twitter; we follow each other.)

Before the cheeses arrived, I wanted to learn more about Fair Oaks Farm. With the assistance of The Lady, I began to research this dairy farm and what I learned is simply impressive. These folks have got it going on when it comes to sustainability and caring for their cows. Here are some of the things I learned (in no particular order):

  1. Fair Oaks Farm is the “Official Milk” of the Indianapolis Colts, runners-up at the 2010 Super Bowl.
  2. Their cheeses have won more than a dozen prestigious awards over the last five years including Grand Champions at the 2005 and 2007 World Dairy Expo and Best of Class in 2005 for two of their cheeses at the American Cheese Society Competition.
  3. Their “Grass to Glass™” concept educates the public with exhibits that start with the birthing of a new calf; through the milking process; to the products that ends up on your table as milk, cheese or ice cream and finishes with a stewardship program that highlights taking cow “poo” and turning it into energy. energy that provides all the power for the farm and also sends power to local grid. (3,000 cows can provide power for 1,000 homes.) Also, by using biomass digesters to break down the manure, the foul smell and flies that often accompany a large group of cows is reduced by as much as 90%. Visitors to the farm may not even realize what a blessing this is. But as a cat who has ridden along the Harris Farm in California that fronts on Interstate 5, I can tell you that the reduction of cow manure smell is a blessing.
  4. Fair Oaks Farm which is owned by nine families also believes in superior care of their 30,000 dairy cows. This care includes sand bedding that conforms to the cows’ bodies and reduces joint pains and soreness. The sand also prevents harmful bacteria from growing and causing infections. The cow quarters are cleaned three times a day and the floors are heated in the winter and misters and fans provide comfort in the summer. Fair Oaks Farm ascribes to the belief that contented cows really do produce better milk and perhaps as much as 20% more than less well-tended cows.
  5. And you don’t have to take my word for their stewardship, Fair Oaks treatment of their animals and stewardship of the land has been certified by Validus, an independent firm that audits dairy farms and evaluates them based on these practices.

 Now for the cheese…

  Sweet Swiss

 The Lady arranged the cheeses clockwise on a wooden platter and The Man and I began at high noon (or midnight, should you prefer) with Fair Oaks Sweet Swiss. Traditionally Swiss is closer to a very pale yellow or even ivory in color. This Swiss is more of vivid buttercup yellow with a yellow waxed rind. There were no holes which would indicate it’s a younger cheese than their Emmentaler (which was at 9 o’clock on the board).

 The aroma was subtly mild with a hint of nuts. The taste was sweet, nutty and mild. There was no after bite.

 This is a nice cheese for young and old alike. The Lady felt that children would love this cheese; it’s pretty to look at and it tastes good. This is in no way a negative; The Lady is always searching for cheeses to “introduce” to the next generation of foodies. Their taste buds are much more sensitive that the older humankinds who have dulled theirs with decades of spicy foods.

 I give Fair Oaks Farm 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

 Serving Suggestions: As a snacking cheese, this is a winner. It would also work well in a grilled cheese and as one of two or three cheeses in fondue. Pair this with green grapes, pears and nuts and you can’t go wrong. The Lady offered The Man and your favorite Feline Foodie (that would be moi) a selection of spreads to accent the cheeses and The Man chose the Dalmatian Orange-Fig Spread and pronounced it a perfect pairing. Personally I would love to have this cheese served with a fillet of grilled Patoka River Etheostoma asprigene; but that might be because I’m a cat…

 Wine Pairing: Indiana’s Buck Creek Winery Award-Winning Der Champion

 Beer Pairing: Indianapolis’ Broad Ripple Brewpub’s ESB

 Source: Pasteurized Cows’ Milk

 Awards: Numerous, including Best of Class at American Cheese Society (2005), US Cheese Awards (2005) and World Cheese Awards (2004)

 

Asiago

This was the second cheese on the board and was the least favorite of all three of us. The Lady and The Man like a more robust Asiago (remember – they have abused their taste buds for decades… for The Man, many decades). There was nothing wrong with this cheese and The Lady plans to grate the remainder on the next pasta dish she prepares or the next bagel she throws in the toaster oven.

 This young cheese lacked a strong aroma and the taste was mild. The texture was creamy and melted nicely on the palate.  I ate more of it than either of them and enjoyed every bite.

I give Fair Oaks Asiago 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

 Serving Suggestions: The Man spread a little Ficoco Spread on it and decided the two went well together. As mentioned, The lady plans to use this cheese in her next pasta dish… so a follow-up will appear in the next few days.

 Wine Pairing: Satek Winery’s 2006 Kreibaum Bay Sangiovese

 Beer Pairing: LaPorte Indiana’s Backroad Brewery’s IPA

 Source: Pasteurized Cows’ Milk

 Awards: Second Place – US Cheese Contest (2005)

  

Aged Gouda

 This will come as no surprise to those of you who follow this blog; the Aged Gouda was The Lady’s favorite on the plate and by extension, it was also my favorite. Most American Goudas are a bit lacking when it comes to comparison with the Goudas from Holland. But not this one. It was similar in texture and taste to the Vlaskaas that Beemster  – quite a nice comparison, I might add.

 The aroma was buttery with hints of caramel and nuttiness. The texture was extra creamy and pleasing to the palate. It was indeed sweet with a wonderful nuttiness and an after bite of caramel.

 I give the Fair Oaks Aged Gouda 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got… and most days, all I need).

 Serving Suggestions: With pears and grapes on a cheese board and you’ll never be disappointed. The Lady thinks this would go nicely in a mac n cheese and I think a nice fondue would benefit from this cheese.

 Wine Pairing: Last night, The Lady paired this cheese with a glass of her favorite Merlot, 14 Hands.

 Beer Pairing: Indiana’s Lafayette Brewing’s Piper’s Pride Scottish Ale.

 Source: Pasteurized Cows’ Milk

 Awards: Many, including three Best of Class Awards at three different competitions.

 

 Emmentaler

This cheese was the favorite of The Man. This cheese, like the Sweet Swiss, was a vivid buttercup yellow; had nice holes and a robust aroma. In taste it was much stronger than the Sweet Swiss but not as strong as a Swiss Emmentaler, and according to The Man, that is a good thing. The Man finds the Emmi version to be too kick-ass and burns the roof of his mouth.

 The Fair Oaks Farm Emmentaler is a little crumbly but melts nicely on the palate and leaves a pleasant after taste. This is a great cheese and its long list of awards says I am not the only one who thinks this.

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

 Serving Suggestions: Fondue is the perfect dish for this cheese. On the cheese board we had last night, The Lady paired this cheese with an Armenian quince Paste and she really liked the combination. It would, of course, make a great grilled cheese, especially if you throw a slab of Sylvilagus floridanus in between two gooey pieces of this terrific Emmentaler.

 Wine Pairing: Beaujolais would go well with this cheese.

 Beer Pairing: Evansville, Indiana’s Main Street Brewery’s Helles Bock

 Source: Pasteurized Cows’ Milk

 Awards: 2005 Grand Champion – World Dairy Expo

 

 Royal Blue

 The blue was the last cheese on the board and it was a homerun for The Lady and The Man. Both are big fans of robust blues and this one didn’t let them down. It had a real kick and that kick is what they both look for when it comes to blues.

 The veining was a deep navy and contrasted beautifully with the creamy white color of the cheese. The texture was crumbly and it melted on the tongue and left a full-on bite after the cheese was gone. The Lady baked pizza dough and topped it only with a little EVOO. This blue on this dough was perfect. The Lady also topped one bit of this blue with the Dalmatian Fig-Orange Spread and The Man drizzled a little honey on his. Both pairings worked well.

You will find a follow-up soon over on the recipe blog as The Man desperately wants to have this cheese as a dressing on his favorite: lettuce wedge. And what The Man wants, The lady gladly provides…

 I give Fair Oaks Royal Blue 4 paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

 Serving Suggestions: On the cheese board with various spreads and honey.

 Wine Pairing: Blue Cheese always pairs well with a Tawny Port

 Beer Pairing: A Stout would kick-butt paired with this cheese.

 Source: Pasteurized Cows’ Milk

 I thank Jacqueline and all the fine folks at Fair Oaks Farm for introducing me to their fine Award-Winning cheeses. You can find their cheeses at many fine food stores in Indiana and Illinois. You can also order their cheeses directly from their website.

FTC Full Disclosure – The cheesemaker/manufacturer sent me their product, hoping I would review the product/cheese.

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5 Responses to “The Fair Oaks Farm Cheese Board”

  1. LarryLove Says:

    Hey very nice blog!!….I’m an instant fan, I have bookmarked you and I’ll be checking back on a regular….See ya 🙂


  2. […] the recent reviews of Fair Oaks Farm, Indiana’s Largest Dairy Farm, she used pieces of their Baby Swiss, Emmentaler, Aged Gouda and Asiago; from Roth Kase, she used Grand Cru Gruyere (which she helped make last spring), Butterkase and she […]

  3. venusesobn Says:

    hi there! I am new to the board and just wanted to introduce myself 🙂


  4. I just did my review of Fair Oaks. We actually visited them and everyone was so nice. Did they send you the 5-year cheddar? By far our favorite. I agree with you about the Asiago. It was missing that punch. Love your review!

    • cheesemonger Says:

      Huh… no 5 year cheddar for me… what’s up with that??? thanks for your kind words. I’m heading your way right now.

      SG


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