Carboncino: My Mixed-Milk Comfort Cheese
Perhaps because my family has always based our trips around going to spots where we could pull over for a cheese tour or wheel, our car drives normally started in my home town of Sacramento, and ended in Sonoma or Marin. So even though I grew up in northern California, I had only been to the Mendocino coast once.
But two Sundays ago, I hopped in my car, packed my computer, a pilates roller to get those laptop writing kinks out, hiking boots, comfort cheese, other less necessary food provisions, and drove to a friend's cabin overlooking the sea. I wanted to work on a writing sample for a upcoming project (which I would love to share soon) near nature. The cheese? Well I brought it because I obviously needed it.
It was a gorgeous drive. Once past the Bay Area, Sonoma greeted me with rolling hills, vines, cows of all sizes and colors, and short, roaming trees. After I turned the Russian River corner leading to Jenner, my drive was flanked by Highway 1's drastic Pacific ocean views, cliffs, and redwoods. Then once I arrived to my little corner of Mendocino, I unpacked, grabbed my cheese and a plate, and pulled a chair onto the deck overlooking the ocean. I had underestimated the drive and was ready for fresh air and food.
The cheese I unpacked was Carboncino. Whenever I take a trip that I'd like to be as effortless as possible when I'm not writing, hiking, etc..., I bring comfort cheese. What is comfort cheese? Well, its basically whatever cheese offers you respite and simple pleasures when you need it to. What cheese do you like in your grattins, your grilled cheese, your mac n cheese, or just spread over a cracker with little else? That's your comfort cheese. It can change.
Last week Carboncino was mine. A couple weeks prior when I went on a hike I packed Comté (holds well in a back-pack). Other times I've brought Garrotxa, PennyRoyal's Boont Corners, and …. whatever felt good to me at the moment. This time I wanted something spreadable and unctuous.
A goat, sheep, and cow's milk hybrid, Carboncino is a mild, creamy cheese with lemony and often mushroomy notes, and an ashed rind. I've served it to picky family members, friends who like their cheese as soft as butter, and to myself when I want a cheese that's all about the simple pleasures.
It's made by Alta Langha, the same blessed mixed-milk people who make La Tur and Rochetta in Piedmont, Italy. I picked up this lovely disk from my friends at The Pasta Shop in Oakland. It's wonderful with a sparkling wine, an Italian Trebbiano or Vermentino, or a porch overlooking the sea.
What's your comfort cheese?