Best New Local Cheese

Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.'s Nicasio Square

Although the Lafranchi family has been raising dairy cattle on the West Marin hills for more than 80 years, it has been selling cheese — certified organic, farmstead cheese — for only a little more than a year. The Lafranchis traveled back to their ancestral home, the Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland, and persuaded a local cheesemaker to teach them to make styles traditional to the region. Their full line includes the Foggy Morning, a creamy fresh cheese with a subtle tang, and the Formagella, an extremely mild, Chaource-like wheel with a bloomy rind. But their best, and most distinctive, offering is the Nicasio Square. The washed-rind cheese resembles a Taleggio in its shape, reddish rind, and that ripe, rolling aroma. Eat a hunk straight off the knife and you'll notice a subtle tang; smear it on a warm piece of toasted bread, and that yeasty, barnyard smell fills the nose. Yet it's a stinky cheese that won't overpower, and underneath the funk you can still taste the sweet cream it's made from.

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