Cheese of the Week is a weekly feature on The Daily Meal, drawing on the expertise of internationally renowned cheese expert and consultant Raymond Hook. What follows is based on an interview with Hook.
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Red Row is produced at Caromont Farm in Esmont, a small town about 20 minutes south of Monticello, Va., by the husband-and-wife duo of Daniel and Gail Hobbs-Page. The cheese is made from locally sourced milk from Brown Swiss cows, and is a semi-pressed hard-rind cheese that’s cave-aged for two to three months and has a red, white, and brown mottled rind.
As the cheese ages, it’s washed with apple cider a couple of times a week, which gives it a distinct washed-rind flavor without being too powerful, according to Hook. "It’s about as close to a perfect cheese as you’ll find," he said. "A lot of washed-rind cheeses are very powerful, but this is very flavorful without being too pungent. There are no negative flavors — they’re all pure and clean — and there are undercurrents of sweetness from being washed in cider."
The cheese has a faint acidity and plenty of sweet overtones, including pineapple. The aroma is best described as "socks lost in hay," but is actually much milder than most firm cheeses you’ll find, like Parmesan or pecorino. For that reason, it works as a great substitute when you’re looking for something a bit more mellow.
Hook recommends pairing this cheese with hard cider; he’s an especially big fan of the well-balanced Albemarle Pippin Apple Cider.