These two goat cheeses from the Catalonia (Spain) region come highly recommended by the cheese world. One, Pau (pronounced poh, full name Pau Sant Mateu), won the award for outstanding cheese at the Fancy Food Show in New York in 2003. The other, Garrotxa (pronounced Garrocha) is one of Spain's finest, according to afficianados Max McCalman and Steve Jenkins. My tastings proved one far greater than the other.
Garrotxa, aged a bit longer than Pau, has a unique taste: while it has an overall satisfyingly mellow taste, I did notice a hint of tang. I liked the firmer texture, compared to the Pau, which I found to have a creamier mouthfeel. The Pau had a very unpleasant mushroomy smell, much more offensive than the Garrotxa. Even after multiple tastings, I never really enjoyed the Pau alone because of the noxious smell, and the taste itself was pretty pungent. It is possible that the piece I had may have been past its peak, causing the offensive smell and taste. (I found that I could only enjoy the cheese if accompanied with a piece of bread.)
I recently picked-up McCalman's The Cheese Plate from a local library, and what a resource it has been. Whereas Jenkins's Cheese Primer provides a comprehensive array of factoids along with some strong proclivities, McCalman's book contains a prose that is succint and passionate, providing a more readable combination. I urge anyone with a slight interest in cheese and its facets to read through the first few chapters and prepare to be proselytized...you won't regret it. He has a great depth of knowledge about cheese, suprising, being that he acquired most of his knowledge within the past decade. I suppose it's a testament to the strong appeal and variety of the fine dairy product, with all of its intriguing nuances.
Be it a positive or negative, he has caused me to seek out cheese made only with the utmost care. With all the various intangibles needed to make a fine cheeses, I can only condone patronizing the work of artisan cheese-makers. It may seem arrogant, but my desicion comes more out of support for the dedicated individuals making the cheese. McCalman details the process of cheese well, and elicits respect for the time involved in the process. Cheese-making is no mere job, it's a lifetime endeavor.
If ceramics had someone with such bravura and knowledge as McCalman, I am sure I would never hold my mug the same way again.