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Cowgirl Creamery Cheese

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We bought some CCC Red Hawke cheese at Glen Ellen Market as we were passing through town. We purchased it on January 31 and the pull date was February 21. It was wrapped in Saran and when we opened it had a distinct ammonia smell and then taste. Since we could not return it to the market, we tossed it. I have since written CCC about this sine the market charge the equivalent of $30 a pound for the cheese and the piece we purchased was $10.00. CCC did reply and said that we should have left the cheese open to "breathe". Since we have had this cheese before, we knew that this piece was not good. CCC never said so, but it seemed as if they were blaming the market and us for not returning the cheese. So I left it there as it seemed as if we were not going to offered our money back or any restitution.

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  1. Just curious -- did you let it breathe after you opened it? Sometimes cheeses that have been wrapped in plastic get "wet" and develop an odor, which dissipates when the cheese dries out.

    I'm not sure what you expected. First, if you wanted your money back, you should have contacted the person who actually has your money, aka the retailer. Second, did you expect them to mail you a check? Something else?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Yes, try unwrapping it and letting the ammonia dissipate:

      "If the cheese sits around long enough, the little organisms on the cheese will eventually produce enough ammonia to give the cheese quite an unpleasant cleaning fluid odor. Try unwrapping the cheese and letting it air out for a while. The ammonia may dissipate, and the cheese may be restored. On the other hand, the cheese may be so permeated by ammonia that it can't be saved."

      From Caseophile on Chowhound here:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2992...

      1. re: maria lorraine

        I also find Red Hawk to be improperly aged and stored quite often. I find it underaged, with little of the orange or orange-red b. linens rind (where it gets its name), or stored improperly in plastic so that the cheese becomes ammoniated. What doesn't help is that the cheese is double-wrapped, first in clear plastic, then in the white plastic outer wrapper, so that the purchaser cannot get a read on the ripeness. In some stores, you can ask that the cheese be unwrapped so that you can take a peek.

    2. If you want a refund, you should contact the market, not the dairy. If the cheese was not in perfect condition when it arrived at the market they should have sent it back rather than cutting and wrapping it (which should properly be done to order).

      1. I don't see where CCC has any responsibility in this case. They dont know how the cheese was handled after it was sold to the Glen Ellen Market The market on the other hand is where you should direct your attention if you want a response or refund

        1 Reply
        1. re: scubadoo97

          +1

        2. Forget that Red Hawke. Just find yourself a nice epoisse.

          6 Replies
          1. re: pauliface

            I usually really enjoy the RH. It’s different than epoisse. I like the creaminess. They also have a cheese called the Drake that is excellent. With all these good artisan cheeses they are always a little different. For example this summer I tried a batch of Stinking Bishop at the Cheeseboard that was my favorite cheese in several years. Just amazing. Went back a month later and tried a different batch which I found way too strong. The epoisse itself varies quite a bit and the cheeseboard gets batches that range from extremely mild to versions that are more runny and salty to versions that are supper stinky.

            1. re: Ridge

              I do have to say I love the Cheeseboard. I still love the cheese shop in Noe Valley on 24th (which I know a lot longer), but I think I even like the cheeseboard better at this point. (keep in mind that for me, the best cheese shop is going to be the one that has the best quality and selection of imported French cheeses. I'm not that into domestic, though there are exceptions)

              1. re: pauliface

                Due to the government's decision to strictly enforce the rule against importing raw-milk cheeses younger than 60 days, all cheese shops here are worse than they used to be as regards quality and selection of French cheeses,

              2. re: Ridge

                Sir Francis Drake from Eats by ME.
                The Sir Francis Drake only comes out when "the bacteria is good," says our cheesepusher. Oh it's good. Whenever we spot it, we HAVE to buy a round.
                "Smells like wet seashells and dirty feet,"

                1. re: wolfe

                  Ah, this reminds me of one of my favorite bits from Harper's "Readings". I have it stuck on my fridge. It was called "Quel Fromage" and was a segment of a paper "Adapting a Lexicon for the Flavor Description of French Cheeses"...
                  .
                  Sweaty: sour, stale, somewhat cheesy aromatics
                  reminiscent of perspiration-generated foot
                  odor, found in unwashed gym socks and shoes
                  .
                  Goaty: pungent, musty, and somewhat sour,
                  reminiscent of wet animal hair (fur)
                  .
                  Animalic: a combination of aromatics associated
                  with farm animals and the inside of a barn
                  .
                  Musty/earthy: a slight musty aromatic associated
                  with raw potatoes and damp humus
                  .
                  Musty/dry: aromatics associated with closed air
                  spaces, such as attics and closets
                  .
                  Ashy/sooty: bark-like lingering aromatics associated
                  with a cold campfire
                  .
                  Fermented: combination of sour aromatics associated
                  with green vegetation, sauerkraut, soured
                  hay, or composted grass
                  .
                  Green/herbaceous: fresh, green, slightly sour
                  aromatics associated with green vegetables,
                  newly cut vines, snap peas
                  .
                  Chemical: an aromatic associated with a broad
                  range of compounds, which mayor may not
                  include chlorine, ammonia, aldehydes, etc.
                  .
                  Biting: a slight burning, prickling, and/or numbness
                  of the tongue and/or mouth surface
                  .
                  Butyric: an aromatic that is sour and cheesy,
                  reminiscent of baby vomit

                  1. re: pauliface

                    Thank you for this list of descriptors. I'd never seen it.

            2. Strong cheeses can often have some ammoniated aromas. May not mean it's bad. The RH varies and some batches can be quite strong. This may have been a really strong batch.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Ridge

                I tried Red Hawk only once. It smelled great, kind of like an epoisse. But it tasted bland and creamy. I felt like I was wasting calories and stomach room, so I didn't even finish it...

                1. re: pauliface

                  Never found it to be "bland."

              2. Since the cheese cost him @ $ 10 it was a chunk of the $25 whole. Thus original plastic wrap, excellent wrap, was removed and who knows what was then wrapping the cheese.
                Red Hawk generally should be purchased whole and aged, by doing nothing, until a week or two past the use by date. It has always been perfect for me. W(t)F always has very young ones, thus you must plan in advance. They do taste bland and chalky if too young, but glorious when aged properly.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Ah. Thanks for this. Perhaps I'll take your advice -- buy one and store it. If I do so, I'll report back on whether, to my taste, it's an improvement...

                  1. re: pauliface

                    Better cheese shops may hold the cheeses until they're ripe and cut them to order.

                2. I generally agree that the retailer was likely at fault and with the commentary that it relates to how the cheese is stored and aged and the saran wrap was probably the issue. I personally will only buy Redhawk directly from Cowgirl as I've found that secondary retailers are very inconsistent in how they store/age the cheese and am often disappointed in rounds bought elsewhere.

                  With that said, it would have been a nice gesture on Cowgirl's part to offer some kind of restitution in this situation.

                  1. I've never thought that RH was worthy of the hype, let alone the price. There are much more interesting cheeses out there, for sure, but they don't come wrapped in West Marin organic allure.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mr_morcilla

                      Have you ever had a perfectly ripe one? Or a Mt. Tam, Pierce Point or St. Pat's? I ask because I find aging and storage errors so often with CC cheeses -- they're sold either two young or poorly wrapped so that they become ammoniated -- that I sometimes wonder if the taster has had a good example of what they're supposed to be like.

                      I understand cheese preferences vary widely -- and one may vastly prefer French, Italian or Swiss cheeses to US artisan cheeses -- but the CC cheeses can be rather lovely if they're aged and stored properly, or at least aired before eating.