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Chicagoist's Cheese Of The Month: Rogue River Blue

By Erika Kubick in Food on Dec 10, 2014 7:00PM

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Photography by Erika Kubick

There is one carnal sin on our minds this time of year: gluttony. We like to indulge in anything that comes our way, like peppermint hot chocolate or dates stuffed with brandy-soaked water chestnuts and wrapped with bacon. While you’re gathering the crackers and accoutrements for your holiday spread, discover the centerpiece cheese that expresses the decadence of December. Sure, you can go for any old triple-cream cheese—the kind with a butter fat content that falls just a smidge below that of actual butter—but alongside your rich, spiced ales and sweet wines, these cheeses might taste a little boring. This time of year calls for a fudgy, smoldering cheese with a grandiose savor. Let us introduce you, dear reader, to the most luxurious cheese from the best blue cheese producer in North America. Prepare your palette and offer yourself to Rogue River Blue.

The cheese comes from Rogue Creamery in Oregon. While inspired by the practices in Basque and Provencal, Rogue Creamery has made something entirely their own. Rogue River Blue is made only with summer milk, which many find superior in flavor and texture for certain cheeses because of the animals' fresh diet. The cheese is decked out with local Oregon offerings, wrapped in Carpenter Hill Vineyard Syrah leaves that have been macerated in Clear Creek pear brandy, imparting a rich, boozy savor. After being lovingly hand-wrapped, the cheeses are aged in facilities built to simulate the Roquefort caves in France, but imparting molds local to Rogue River Valley’s terroir. This cheese isn’t kidding around. This cheese is here to party.

Because of its seasonal nature, Rogue River Blue makes its annual debut in early autumn. The festive leaves and bright paste of this beautiful cheese call for celebration and indulgence, as does the hefty price tag of $42.99 per pound and up. Take your jaw off the floor: this cheese is worth it. The aroma is boozy and fruity, while the paste is velvety and soft like set buttercream frosting but with crunchy granules within the pockets of blue. It tastes like lemony fudge, with secondary flavors of yeast, spices and mission figs. Serve it with something a little sweet, like local honey, fig jam and port or barley wine.

Rogue River Blue is waiting for you now. Find it at Marion Street Cheese Market, Eataly or any of Pastoral's locations. Call ahead for availability.