I recently had the privilege of visiting Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers in Glen Ellen, CA, and partaking in a little tasting. Yum! Everything they offered was tantalizing and top-of-the-cheese-game, including two farmstead goat cheeses, the Pavé and the Petit Marcel, from the relatively new Pug’s Leap Farm in Healdsburg.
(In the photo, the Pavé is topmost, and the Petit Marcel is at the bottom.)
Pug’s Leap, founded by ex-San Franciscans Eric Smith and Pascal Destandau, is notably dedicated to Slow Food and sustainable practices. They have stated that “buying locally brings health, economic, environmental, and social benefits to the community.” Their single goat herd of Saanens, Toggenbergs, Sables, and some cross-breeds, is fed organic feed. Their cheese production is relatively small-scale and done largely by hand. The farm is solar-powered.
The Pavé is unusually dry in texture, especially for a goat cheese. It’s extremely flavorful — tangy, with strong goat tones and smells, earthy, ashen and mushroomy. The complicated flavors linger nicely on the taste buds.
The wrinkled rind is wonderfully bloomy and the cheese nearest the rind has a great gooey texture. The processes used at Pug’s Leap greatly influence the Pavé’s taste. For one, the fresh curd is treated gently, to produce a rind with external mold, which in turn influences the taste of the ripening cheese. To create the especially dry texture, the whey is expelled.
The Petit Marcel is another winner. It also has a great goat flavor and an even more pungent goat nose (which I like). It’s also dry in texture, though less so than the Pavé . The younger Petit Marcel is sweeter and milkier than the Pavé. The taste, while great, is ultimately less complex, less special, than the Pavé.
As for pairing, both cheeses are wonderfully versatile. Grapes, peaches and cherries are some fruits that work with them. Almonds make a nice accompaniment. The stronger Pavé can take Cabernet and other red wines. I’d stick with a fruitier Syrah or Pinot, or a Chardonnay for the Petit Marcel.
Either way, get yourself a little goat round and enjoy!
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman