This weekend, an older couple came into the shop looking for Death & Taxes.
While I knew exactly what cheese they wanted, I had to report that we did not carry it; in fact, I do not know of a shop in Seattle that does (please let me know if I’m wrong, people!). At that point, it is my job as a cheesemonger to see if there isn’t something I can provide instead.
But, greedy curd nerd that I am, I first asked where they have been getting that cheese. Because maybe I wanted some myself.
“Oh, we get it at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco,” the man said.
My brain immediately imagined that they could afford the luxury of traveling to the Bay Area every week to procure all sorts of delightful cheeses not available farther north. It took me a moment to register that they were just visiting Seattle.
Now, I have been reading “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge.” It’s a memoir/cheese book written by Gordon Edgar, the cheese buyer at Rainbow Grocery. Rainbow Grocery is a worker-owned co-op; I work for PCC, which is a community (workers included)-owned co-op. Obviously, I had to do right by Gordon’s customers.
“We’re cheese snobs,” the man announced to me in a good-natured tone. “Have you got anything with a washed rind that’s really interesting?”
Painfully aware that our washed-rind section is pitifully small, I rushed around from behind the counter to look with them. Red Hawk, Ashbrook, Willoughby, Taleggio—old news. Port Salut? Please.
Coincidentally, we had recently gotten in our first wheels of the year of Cascadia Creamery’s Celilo. (It’s pronounced “Sell-lye-loh.”)
“Well, I said, it’s not going to be the funkiest washed-rind cheese out there, but this cheese is local, organic, and made with raw milk, it’s only made seasonally, and it just came in last week.” SOLD.
Well, actually, first I told them that it is washed with gin, and the man had to go ask their hosts if that was OK, because apparently the hosts were avoiding alcohol.
“There isn’t really any alcohol in it,” I said. “The cheese is just washed with gin, and then the yeast and cultures living on the outside eat it up and produce this delicious rind.”
“I know,” the lady said, “but I just want to be a mindful guest.”
Her husband rushed back, ecstatic.
“They said ‘of course!’” he announced.
And then they grabbed a large wedge of Celilo, a large wedge of Sleeping Beauty, and went about their Saturday shopping. I didn’t even get a chance to tell them that the Sleeping Beauty, also made by Cascadia Creamery, is aged in lava tubes.
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while is likely aware that I visited Cascadia Creamery in November 2017, and I raved and swooned about the trip on here.
That excitement hasn’t dissipated in the aftermath, and receiving a seasonal cheese from their line has only made things worse (in a good way).
Celilo is one of two washed-rind cheeses that Cascadia Creamery makes. These two cheeses look similar: about twice the size of a wheel of Reblochon, with a pinky, orangey rind and a yellow-beige paste.
Where Sawtooth’s flavor is more delicate, brothy, beefy and yeasty, Celilo is stronger. It is still brothy and meaty, and both cheeses share a delightful, fudgy texture.
Celilo is a little heavier, almost mushroomy and grassy in flavor, and I attribute that to the gin with which it is washed. (That gin is Bainbridge Distillers’ organic Doug Fir Gin, to be exact.) Celilo’s meatiness is more pork than beef, and it is oniony in the same, satisfying way of French onion soup.
Where Sawtooth smells yeasty, oniony, and brothy (kind of like how Celilo tastes), Celilo smells minerally, metallic, and mushroomy. These two cheeses are so interesting together.
They are also both really, really good. Side-by-side, they are hard to match. It might seem in writing that they taste almost the same, but your tongue would tell you that you are wrong think it.
I sampled both to my friend Janna, who was in the shop a few months ago, when we had the last of our wheels of Celilo for 2017. She felt that she could eat more of the Sawtooth in one sitting that the Celilo, because there was a lot more flavor to process in the Celilo that needed to be thought about while eating it; plus, she said, it felt “heavier” to the tongue than the Sawtooth.
Now I will sell you Sawtooth all day and all night. But while Celilo is in season, I will try to sell you Celilo first.
Why? Because I love them both, but I know that Celilo is a limited-batch, seasonal cheese; when you won’t be able to get it, you will be able to get Sawtooth. So take now what you may not be able to get later!
(And if you live in Seattle, come take all of our Celilo so we can order more and keep Cascadia Creamery in business.)