Region of Origin: Humboldt County, California
Notes: Humboldt Fog, created by Mary Keens at Cypress Grove Chevre in McKinleyville, California, is named after Humboldt County's thick morning fog. It's an American original. Mary Keens started crafting goat cheeses in the 1980's and helped lead the American artisanal cheesemaking revolution. Humboldt Fog is a gorgeous wheel of goat's milk cheese with a clean, lemony, lactic taste which becomes earthier and mustier with age. Cut open the pillowy bloomy rind to find bright white, smooth paste, bisected with a thin line of black vegetable ash.
Serve: Over a dish of roasted wild mushrooms. Or with soft-dried pears, a drizzle of honey, and a crisp white wine.
Bleu du Bocage
Region of Origin: The Vendée, in Western France
Notes: A blue goat? Oh, man. My mind was flown when I first tried this one. This cheese is aged for several months, but retains a stunning delicateness. Slice it open and find a bright white, moist paste, laced with a grayish-green blueing. Like ice cream(!): sweet under a bit of earthiness, milky, and fabulously luscious. Bleu du Bocage doesn't just taste like blue; it tastes like meaty, toasty, clean cheese, spiked with a perfect dose of sharp salitiness as a wonderful footnote.
Serve: Made for a Riesling with a touch of sweetness, or a great Port, or Moscato. Crazy good with a piece of bittersweet chocolate. Or toss in a salad with candy walnuts and peppery greens.
Region of Origin: Catalonia, Spain
Notes: "Gah-ROE-chah" is named for the gorge way up high in the Pyrenees of Catalunya. This compact, semi-firm, smooth, gentle and delicious goat cheese was a once forgotten classic, revived by young Catalan cheesemakers in the 1980s; it quickly ascended to cheese world rockstardom. Garrotxa's gentle earth and herb and hazelnutty flavors entice big time. This is a cheese that goes with everything.
Serve: With Cava, of course! The bubbles play wonderfully off the clean, milky flavors. Add a handful of marcona almonds and a sliver of quince paste and you're golden.
Crottin de Chavignol
Region of Origin: Berry, in the Loire Valley
Notes: Crottin de Chavignol is lovely and rustic. The little package packs a wallop of tangy, sharp flavor. As the little guy ages, he will become drier and increasingly intense, a bit gamy, and terribly delicious.
Serve: You can't go wrong with the famous wine from the same place: the flinty, dry Sancerre. Slice in half and use to top an arugula and olive salad; bonus points for warming until just short of melty. Or serve for dessert with fruit and chocolate.
Tomme de Chevre Aydius
Region of Origin: The village of Aydius in the Pyrenees region of France
Notes: The southern Pyrenees Mountains are famous for their sweet, smooth sheep's milk wheels. Tomme de Chevre Aydius looks and feels like one of these Pyrenees classics—but behold!—it's made with fresh, raw goat's milk, then aged for about six months for startling complexity. Grassy, fruity, and musty, with a melting, smooth mouthfeel, this is a really cheesy cheese. Tomme de Chevre will save the day: I challenge you to find someone who does not swoon.
Serve: With a glass of Shiraz, or for dessert with some amaretto with some dried figs and brandied cherries. Or make a remarkable grilled cheese.
Region of Origin: Piedmont, Italy
Notes: This fluffy, silky soft-ripened goat's milk cheese from the little Piedmontese village of Bosia is luscious as whipped cream, oozy, perfect. Definitely eat the whole thing, rind and all. The cheese will collapse in a beautiful symphony of gooey-ness and flavor. Brunet tastes like mushrooms, yeast, and sweet, sweet cream.
Serve: Awesome with sweet beets and an un-oaked Chardonnay. Tear off a hunk of baguette and smear a generous smear and life is good.
Saint-Maure de Touraine
Region of Origin: From Touraine, in France's Loire Valley
Notes: The little village of Saint-Maure is famous for its goat cheeses—shaped like logs and pierced with a straw or stick from end to end—a trick for keeping the fragile, young cheese logs from crumbling into oblivion. The texture becomes firmer with age, bridging the crumbly/creamy divide. Balanced, lemony, tangy, and classic. This AOC-protected cheese has been made for some 1000 years and counting.
Serve: With Vouvray. Beside a big green salad. Melted into a quiche, or eggs scrambled with leeks.