On a recent trip to my old stomping grounds in Santa Monica, CA, I wandered down Montana Avenue and into a delightful, relatively new cheese enterprise, Andrew’s Cheese Shop. Not only was the Andrew on hand, along with some hearty cheese tasters, he personally recommended a Coolea cheese from Ireland’s County Cork. “Outfreakingstanding” was his word for it, and he was right.
Coolea (pronounced Coo-LAY) is hand-made on a small Irish farm (near the town of Coolea) by the Willems family, which is now into its second generation of cheesemakers. The family emigrated to Ireland from the Netherlands, and they employ their wonderful Dutch methods (and recipe) to produce a cheese that is indeed Gouda-like. It’s nutty and mild, with a nice semi-firm texture and a very pleasing mouth feel. Other flavors begin to come through as it sits on the tongue. There’s a hint of the Irish farm, of the earth, sweet grasses and flowers, which Andrew says make this cheese an outstanding example of Terroir — of its taste bearing the land from which it was produced. If that weren’t enough, a nice caramel note comes on from the back of the mouth, along with more earthen tastes, something a little damp.
This is a very nice cheese. It’s solid, with a medley of meadow-y flavors. Because of the caramel aspect, it pairs especially nicely with grapes or with my favorite cheese-partner, a Warre’s Otima 20-year Tawny Port. Andrew recommends having it with an Amontillado Sherry. You could also go the ale route, to bring out the sweetness of the cheese and the uniqueness of the terroir.
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman