By Aaron Estes, Cheese Editor
I still remember the first time that I ever had a Rolf Beeler (incredibly important Swiss affineur) 18 month aged Gruyère and it changed my outlook on everything regarding cheese.
I was sitting at my kitchen table in Queens when I had my first taste. It immediately took me back to my time spent in Switzerland while studying and singing in Europe. The crisp, mountain air, the white snow interspersed with patches of green grass, the picture-perfect chalets… That first bite hit me with the realization that good cheese shows us a “sense of place.”
Traditionally these cheeses were made with summer milk from collective herds that graze high in the Alps. The herds and the people tending them would travel short distances from the valleys into the mountains to graze on the new and fresh flowers and grasses throughout the area. This seasonal tradition of Transhumance had a direct effect on the quality, taste and unique character of the milk that the cheesemakers had to work with.
Sigit is Mecox Bay Dairy’s foray into this particular style. Situated in Bridgehampton, NY, the Ludlow family (originally potato farmers) set their sights on making small batch, artisanal cheese in 2003. Their small herd of Jersey cows and location near Mecox bay and Swan Creek provides that perfect “sense of place” for the Eastern Long Island community.
The golden color of the paste indicates to me that this cheese is made from summer milk. The high levels of beta carotene in spring and summer grasses give the milk a golden-yellow color. Although the paste is drier than I would have thought (even for a cheese aged approximately 18 months), the amino acid crystallization (the crunchy bits that we all know and love) spreads throughout.
I don’t get much on the nose…maybe a hint of grass, but nothing very pronounced or overwhelming for me with this wedge.
The taste is exactly what I expect: roasted almonds, rich cream and even a touch of buttered toast. The only thing lacking for me is that I would like more salt. An extra touch of salt for me would allow the complexity to develop on the tongue, and provide an even longer finish.
Chances are that most people who are well-versed in the Long Island food and wine scene have had some exposure to the cheeses from Mecox. I have to say that up until I moved to Queens and began my frequent trips out to the East End, I had not heard of the Ludlow family, Mecox Dairy, or the quality cheeses that they make. A travesty really…
I don’t know if it was a question of distribution, supply, or even both, but the cheeses from Mecox (Sigit included) deserve the opportunity to give everyone a chance to taste a little piece of Mecox Bay in Eastern Long Island.