Though often harder to find in California then the size/color/style of the thing you’re seeking in an Ikea store- anywhere, Twig Farm’s Mixed Drum cheese is one my favorite wheels around. Any of their cheeses charm, really, but the Mixed Drum is instantly seductive. I watch for its presence on my distributer lists like a wine geek watches for the latest unfiltered, amphora-aged wine release from Slovenia.
While writing my “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” book, I had a chance to visit the Twig Farm family in Vermont about ten miles from Middleton, in West Cornwall. Much like cheesemaker Michael Lee himself whose focus is intently on his goats and wheels since the responsibility for his ladies, farm, and making and aging the cheese falls solely on his and an assistant’s shoulders, the farm is busy yet quiet. It’s surrounded by a forest of tall, slim birch-like trees and oaks that shed acorns for goat snacks.
About nine miles away from Twig Farm is the Crawford Family, the makers of Vermont Ayr. When the Crawford’s Ayrshires are out grazing the field, Twig buys some of their rich milk and mixes it with about twenty percent of their own goat’s milk. Four to six month’s later (hence winter cheese releases after being aged), viola, Mixed Drum!
Mixed Drum is a wonderful collaboration between the two farms. Many of the flavors shout Crawford, and the shape, natural rind, and the splash of goat’s milk are all Twig.
The rich, earthy, melted butter, and lightly peanut notes of the cheese are reminiscent of those found in the Crawford’s Vermont Ayr. As is the silky texture provided by the high-butterfat content of their cows. The little lively punch? That’s the goat’s milk- keeping it real, keeping it fresh. The natural rind and squishy shape? That’s cheesemaker’s Micheal Lee’s touch- he keeps it real and fresh too. If the cheese wants to look like a Flintsone car wheel, so be it. It’s cute and delicious.
I loved this beauty with a light, un-oaked malolactic white like a white wine from the Savoie region, a Muscadet from the Loire, or a lightly oaked Marsanne or Roussanne. Wasn’t a big fan of the citrusy Sauv Blancs with this one.
If I were in an area that wasn’t experiencing record highs in January and wanted to try this cheese in another way besides au naturel, I’d take this, some semi-soft Alpine-type cheese, and melt them raclette style, on ham and potatoes. Or anything I could think of.