I gush about Andy Hatch and his crew at Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin all the time. Partly because they're awesome people, but also because they make one of my favorite cheeses in the world, Pleasant Ridge Reserve. They use the milk from their own small herd of pastured Holsteins, Brown Swiss and Jersey cows and they only make that one cheese.
Except for one special moment each year when they make Rush Creek Reserve.
As the seasons change, the cows' diet transitions along with the cooler weather. The lush, green rolling pastures of myriad grasses and wildflowers that has been the herd's buffet all summer begins to settle down for winter, when the cows switch to a diet of hay. This cheese captures that moment of transition, when the milk is at its richest, most decadent reaches of butteriness. That's the flavor Andy captures in each small round of Rush Creek.
Each palm-sized cheese is wrapped in spruce bark which helps it hold its shape and gives the cheese inside a woody, roasty, toasty note or two. The interior is luscious, what Andy refers to as "savory custard" for its consistency and punch of flavor.
One of my favorite aspects of Rush Creek is the table theater it creates when it's time to serve. Let the cheese come up to room temperature and then carefully cut off the top 'lid' of the cheese. The creamy, spoonable cheese inside awaits and can be served with accoutrements from crusty bread to even roasted vegetables. Great with a crisp glass of white wine served before the holiday feast.
"Back before there was bark-wrapped cheese everywhere you looked, which is how it can feel these days, there was Andy Hatch and his homage to Vacherin Mont d'Or, a very grown-up, very raw cheese from Switzerland that you eat with a spoon. Rush Creek Reserve... was one of those high-profile stunners from the early days (yes, 2010 was pretty long ago in cheese years) that showed us just what we Americans were actually capable of."
David Landsel, Food & Wine
"Earthy and spoonably creamy when fully ripe, with a hint of spruce near the bark."
Ed Behr, The Art of Eating