Oh, Banon: You Had me at Bourbon
There's something special about a cheese that comes in its own packaging ready-made for the grill.
Wrapped with chestnut leaves soaked in Woodford Reserve Bourbon, O'Banon is an easy party pleaser, a grilling wonder, and an example of the deliciousness that Indiana has to offer the dairy-loving world.
A cheese named in honor of the French version that inspired its creation, O'Banon is six-ounce disc of fresh goat's milk cheese made by the Capriole Goat Cheese Company. When young, it has a fresh and slightly tangy taste paired with a sweetness imparted by the spicy, vanilla flavors in the bourbon. As it ages, the bourbon's flavors further marinate the cheese and it develops a stronger, spicier, earthier, richer taste that strongly differentiates it from the original version that's soaked in eu de vie.
The complexity of this fresh, seemingly simple cheese is no surprise to those who are familiar with Capriole. Situated in the hills of southern Indiana, the company was launched by a family who, after hearing the call of the pasture in the late seventies, moved from the suburbs to the farm. Focusing entirely on goats milk cheese, Capriole keeps a sustainably run farm, promotes the virtues of raw milk cheese, recently won a first place award in the American Cheese Society Competition for their bourbon beauty, and consistenly rocks the fromage world with anything that comes out of their dairy caves.
Keep your eye on Indiana. I foresee this region acquiring just as much attention for its cheese in the future as Texas, or in other words, as much press as Lady Gaga gets for walking around city streets without pants.
Serving, Storing, and Eating O'Banon
Storing: I take this cheese out of its plastic wrapping as soon as it hits my kitchen and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. Unless the cheese is not consumed in its entirety, there's no need to wrap it. Its leaves act as a natural wrapper.
Serving & Eating: O'Banon appreciates a little warmth in its life. Take it out of fridge half an hour before serving and let come to room temperature. Because of its strong bourbon flavors, keep it simple with food pairings. Accompany it with sliced, crisp apples, fresh fig or pear.
Or you can blow your guests out of the water by warming the cheese.
Tossing O'Banon on the grill or in the oven is as pleasing to goat cheese lovers as baked brie is to those who like it buttery. Place O'Banon, still wrapped in its leaves, on a cooler portion of the grill or in an oven heated to 375 degrees for five to ten minutes, or until the center of the cheese is very soft to the touch and leaves are hot and toasty. Then, set on a plate and slice open to reveal a tender, warm, and tangy center. Serve with crostini or fresh, crusty bread and fruit.
The bourbon in O'Banon conflicts with very complex wines. Stick with wines that are straight-to-the-point, like Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley, mineral Fiano D'Avellinos from Campania Italy, or high-acidity sparklings from around the globe.
Lastly, check out the recipes on the Capriole website! Goat Cheese Gougeres w/Katie's BBq Chicken Salad anyone? Or how about Cheese Enchiladas with Corn And Mole Sauce?
Coming soon: pistachio cream accouterment & ricotta gnocchi recipe.