three small, slow bites

You can keep the gluten. I’ll take the cheese.

Look, I know that many of you who have celiac or gluten intolerance cannot tolerate dairy. I’m sorry. This isn’t meant to taunt you. But this is goat cheese. Does that help? If not, I’m sorry. More cheese for us.

We live in a funky place, an island with lots of characters, with walnut trees and salmonberries and geoducks. Have you seen a geoduck? (Good on you if you clicked on that link. You’ve now seen the most phallic seafood ever created.) This island has heirloom apple festivals, more blackberry bushes than citizens, and at least a dozen small organic farms growing kale and offering sauerkraut and pickled carrots for sale in their ramshackle farmstands. We love this place where we live. We feel really lucky.

One of the reasons I love Vashon is our goat cheese CSA. From April to October, a lovely woman with six children milks her goats, turns the milk into fresh chevre, and sells it to those of us lucky to be in the know. Each week we drive up the winding driveway, get out of the car, and open the refrigerator on her front porch. If the kids are around, we wave hi. We leave money on the door of the refrigerator and go home with a tub of chevre, the softest, milkiest chevre I have ever eaten. From April to October we are spoiled rotten.

In the winter months, we long for it. I cannot wait for spring.

Still, there are other alternatives. When we venture into the city, we always stop at Calf and Kid, a tiny artisan cheese stall in the Melrose Market. It’s across the way from our butchers, Rain Shadow Meats, where we buy locally grown, grass-fed beef and pork, whole chickens from a farm nearby and sometimes a sliver of chicken liver custard. Lu likes their bacon best. Sometimes we have lunch at Sitka and Spruce. But I’m always happy to walk into the cheese cave.

We love cheese in this family. We’re crazy about it. Lucy could live on Tillamook cheddar, if we let her. Luckily, she also walks around the house pronouncing her love for brussels sprouts. But cheese, in pretty much all forms, makes the three of us happy. I am daily grateful that I don’t have a dairy allergy.

Lately, however, I’ve been trying to cut back on the cheese. To not just reach for a slice of that Tillamook and eat it mindlessly while I’m making a sandwich for Lu’s lunch. Instead, I’m sitting down with a few small slices of really great cheese, with thinly sliced apples, a few favorite crackers, and a handful of olives strewn across the plate. Lately, I’ve been savoring my cheese.

So each week, we treat ourselves to small nubs of cheese we’ve never eaten before when we go to Calf and Kid. This week it was goat cheese, since we were missing our tubs of chevre from the island. And this one? Oh, this one forced me to really taste it.

It’s Sunset Bay, from River’s Edge Chevre, made at Three Ring Farm in Oregon. It’s bloomy (the official cheese word for oozy and a little too ripe), washed with vegetable ash. And in the middle, a thin layer of smoky peppery goodness. A goat cheese with smoked paprika? Be still my heart.

I’ll take three small, slow bites of this cheese over a mound of melted orange cheese on a hillock of corn chips, tangled up with jalapenos and tumbled with salsa.

Food tastes better when there isn’t so much of it.