For each week of American Cheese Month, Bi-Rite Market is celebrating one of our favorite American cheeses. Last week we discussed an excellent cheese made, in partnership with two of their neighboring dairies, by Vermont’s Spring Brook Farm. This week we’re celebrating Spring Brook’s very own farmstead cheese, Tarentaise.
With its unusual and sexy concave-curved rind, Tarentaise was inspired by the legendary French cheese Abondance, a gem from the Savoie. The first cheese made by Spring Brook Farm, it was originally produced at neighboring Thistle Hill Farm and proved so successful that Thistle Hill cheesemakers John and Janine Putnam partnered with Spring Brook (and the affiliated Farms for City Kids Foundation) to expand production.
Though Spring Brook’s central Vermont locale might seem a world away from the French Alps, Tarentaise and Abondance share a number of similarities. Both are made, using traditional recipes and equipment, with raw milk from cows that graze on fresh grass seasonally and on dried hay in the winter. Vermont even has a number of plants in common with the lower altitudes of the Savoie, including clover and buttercups. However, the two cheeses are made with milk from different breeds of cow and their different production environments and microbes ensure that, while Tarentaise pays dutiful tribute to the old-world cheese that inspired it, its personality and flavor are distinctly American.
This flavor is beautiful and delicate with creamy paste, notes of cooked cream and toasted nuts and a slightly spicy finish. It pairs beautifully with cured meats or with tomato, but is also great on a baguette or enjoyed as a decadent delight on its own. Stop by our Markets on 18th Street or Divisadero, see the unique curvature of the rind and ask us for a taste.