Rush Creek Reserve is the second cheese made by the much-decorated Uplands Dairy in Wisconsin. The first and up-until-now only cheese made by Uplands is Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which has been the only cheese to win the American Cheese Society “Best of Show” more than once. Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve has, in fact, won that high recognition three times this decade, an unheard of achievement in cheese history.
To the best of my knowledge, the only way you can buy this new cheese from Uplands is by the whole wheel. It is so runny, that to buy a cut piece off a wheel would mean most of it would dribble out out before you got home.
So I bought a wheel at Marion Street Cheese market (around $26) and we ate it by dipping pieces of crusty bread into an opening created by peeling back the rind, kind of like a room temperature fondue (I gave it almost two hours outside the refrigerator before eating, so it was liquid but viscous when we cut into it). Andy Hatch, the youthful creator of his cheese, suggests you eat it with a spoon, but that didn’t appeal to me as much as eating it off thin slices of Red Hen baguette.
It’s a remarkable cheese.
Uplands is a dairy farm and a fromagerie. They trade heavily on the quality of their milk, which is typically grassy, as all cows are pastured, but unlike the Pleasant Ridge Reserve, this cheese is made from autumnal milk. In autumn, the cows are starting to eat hay, and the milk is higher in protein and fat.
The first bite of this bloomy rind raw milk cheese gave up a lot of grassiness, slight acidity, but also a kind of meaty back-note, almost offal, which I realized on my last bite was most reminiscent of bacon. This porcine tang could be the result of the spruce bark the cheese is wrapped in (as is Vacherin, which this cheese resembles). This wood wrapping gives the cheese a slight smokiness (which we associate with pork) and it also serves the very practical purpose of keeping it together -- this is one loose fromage.
The cheese has a very sophisticated, fungal earthiness and a lush, vanilla-ice cream like elegance, a soft, meaty mouth-filling richness that demands to be the center of attention. We ate our Rush Creek Reserve with the bread, a salad and a cup of veal consommé (which somehow seemed right for a cow cheese entrée). The cheese was at about 68 days when we ate it; it’s sold (by law) at 60 days, but I have to wonder what it would be like at, say, 28 days.
It’s very cool to try a cheese in its first year of production, just above the legal selling point, which I feel is going to go down in the record books as one of the great ones, certainly one of the best that Wisconsin has to offer, which is saying a lot.