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Sometimes dinner is a cheese plate. I mean a “cheese plate” in the broadest sense, in the sense that it’s cheese on a plate. If I’m feeling ambitious, I could include a few other supporting characters to complement it and make it look more like a meal: olives, fresh veg, something crunchy. But none of these elements are entirely necessary. The ideal cheese is the star of the show, able to stand alone and feel not only worthy of a meal, but happily worthy of a meal. When making a full cheese meal, I focus on the satisfying, earthy weight of washed rind cheeses, and more specifically, consider Bardwell’s new Dorset Mini.
Washed-rind cheeses are literally washed with brine (or sometimes wine, beer, or spirits) as they age, which promotes a welcoming environment for a variety of bacteria, often brevibacterium household linen (b. sheets). The B. the linen fabrics give these cheeses their famous sticky mandarin-colored rinds and their spicy aromas. One of the classic examples of this style, the Epoisses de Bourgogne, is so powerful that it would be banned from public transport in Paris.
Consider Bardwell’s Dorset Mini to be more nuanced, and I don’t think anyone would smell it on the Tube. This semi-sweet Jersey cow’s milk beauty is made in West Pawlet, Vermont, right on the New York state border. It weighs 12 ounces, so it’s not exactly tiny (the mini refers to a scaled-down version of the original Dorset); it makes an excellent meal for two. Its lovely orangey exterior results in a rich, pudding-like texture, and its flavor is savory, almost meaty, with tons of complexity. It has enough funk to intrigue, but it doesn’t hit you over the head with a stinky smell.
Consider Bardwell a longtime darling of the American artisan cheese world. In 2004 Angela Miller, a New York literary agent and publisher of books for chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, started the creamery with her husband, Rust Glover, reviving what had been a dairy cooperative, founded in 1864 and closed during depression. I was lucky enough to visit when I was working for Murray’s Cheese in 2015. I will never forget the green hills – they almost looked fake – and the friendliness of the little staff. Their cheeses are made only from fresh Jersey cow’s milk from a single herd just down the road, and the crisp flavor of the milk shines through even their bolder wheels like Dorset Mini.
You can turn Dorset Mini into a meal with whatever’s in your fridge, but I recommend pairing it with apples and honey, or ribbons of ham and pickles. For a special occasion, take out the Cava. You won’t miss the meal you didn’t cook.