Red, white, and Smokey Blue. Photo by Gina Erdmann.
The Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue
“Best New Product” Shows Innovation and Charm
CAPSULE REPORT: We’ll gladly be blue with this magnificent Roquefort-style cheese. Made by artisan cheesemakers in Oregon, Rogue Creamery specializes in blue cheeses—and nobody does it better. Smokey Blue is smoked over hazelnut shells. It’s still smooth and creamy, as you’d expect, but with a pervasive hint of smoke that is simply smokeylicious. It’s the best blue cheese we’ve tasted in a while—a wonderful gift for any lover of Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Stilton or blue in general.
Rogue Creamery’s Oregon Brand Blue Vein Cheese is the first blue cheese made on the west coast and the first blue cheese anywhere to be smoked...transforming it into the heavenly Smokey Blue. Made in the finest tradition of artisanal cheesemaking—by hand, with passion, dedication and inspiration, and using only the highest quality ingredients—the result has been another award winner for a company that has filled a trophy case in just a few years.
Smokey Blue is the Creamery’s classic-style Oregon Blue Vein, cold smoked for 16 hours with Oregon hazelnut shells. The smoking process creates a cheese that is at once sweet, creamy, and smokey. The smoke flavor has great finesse and is not overpowering, as is the case with smoked cheeses of a lesser breed. The smoking mellows the sharpness typically associated with blues and creates an equally creamy texture that becomes lush and almost spreadable at room temperature. There is also a hint of nuttiness—from the hazelnut shells, one presumes—to add nuance to an already delightfully complex innovation.
Smokey Blue’s creaminess will enable it to attract fans who do not normally enjoy blues because of the aforementioned acidic sting. We served it to a prominent chef in that camp who was delighted, and commented that blindfolded, most people would not know this was a blue cheese. Yet, it maintains its full integrity as a blue. That is the uniqueness of this cheese and why, in addition to innovation, it has been recognized with so many awards. Since the cheese debuted a year ago, it has racked up honors including last week’s declaration as 2005’s Best New Product at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s (NASFT) Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City—a show that saw the introduction of 1,200 new products.
Even more remarkable is that without any cheesemaking experience, David Gremmels and Cary Bryant, who purchased the 70 year old Rogue Creamery in 2002, have won over two dozen medals and two trophies in just three years. In 2003, Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue made history for America at the World Cheese Awards in London when it was crowned the overall best blue cheese, beating out blue cheeses from all over Europe. In 2004, Smokey Blue took first place in the Other Smoked category at the World Cheese Awards in London, where it was also named was named the Best American Cheese. (Rogue Creamery makes five blues: Crater Lake Blue, Oregon Blue Vein, Oregonzola, Rogue River Blue, and Smokey Blue.)
Smokey Blue is handmade from 100% natural full cream sustainable milk from Bonanza View Dairy. The Creamery uses raw milk (the cheese is aged 90 days or more), salt, enzymes, cultures and Penicillium roqueforti. We first enjoyed the cheese on its own, with a fork and, in the absence of hazelnuts, a few raw almonds. We then explored it:
- On a baguette, with fresh tomato and basil (a favorite way to enjoy any soft, semisoft or firm cheese)
- On a burger (place a slice atop the already grilled burger—a heavenly combo)
- With smoked turkey (too much smoke—let the cheese stand alone)
- Tossed with hot new potatoes, chives and water chestnuts (optional) as a warm, smoked potato salad (great!)
- As an hors d’oeuvre or dinner plate garnish, mashed and stuffed into mushroom caps poached in beef broth or hollowed new potatoes (a delicious counterpoint)
- As a wedge in a salade composée (a balsamic vinaigrette went best, matching sweetness to the smokiness)
- On a cheese plate (of course!)
We could find ways to use an entire wheel. But as the cheese is rich, you might want to start with two eight-ounce packages. One note, though: Don’t expect, based on all the acclaim, a toothsome beauty queen to arrive at your door. The cheese does not look remarkably different from other blues, isn’t as pretty as some, and is a cheese that wins more with intellect, innovation and harmony than with a flashy twirling act. The more we ate it, the more we wanted to get to know it better; and then, to become its good friend.
THE ROGUE CREAMERY
Smokey Oregon Brand Blue Vein Cheese
Shipping additional. Price and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.
Purchase online from iGourmet.com by clicking on the link above.
|Eight ounces of “Best Product” award-winner Smokey Blue. Photo by Gina Erdman.
Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional.
Learn More About Cheese
|The Cheese Companion: This accessible book is a comprehensive guide to selecting and enjoying the world's cheeses. Click here for more information.
||The New American Cheese: An in-depth look at the art and craft of cheesemaking. Click here for more information.
||Cheese: Discover one of the keys to the Mediterranean diet—cheese. Click here for more information.