Last week, I was at Eataly hanging out with Greg Blais, Eataly’s head cheesemonger and a long-time buddy of mine. We were hovering near the cheese counter doing what two guys like us like to do — namely, talking and eating cheese — when Greg suddenly grinned and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, it’s Jos!” I knew I had to meet anyone who could make Greg light up like that.
Jos was Jos Vulto, owner and head cheesemaker at Vulto Creamery, a small cheese producer based in Walton, N.Y. (located in the Catskills). As Jos approached, Greg reached into the cheese case and sliced me off a piece of Jos’ Ouleout, a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese. After looking at and smelling it for a moment, my first thought was, “This guy is making real reblochon cheese!” It had the signature orange rind, was fudgy and gooey, and had a bit of a nose on it (read: it was smelly!). When I finally tasted it, it took me back to the days where every now and then a raw milk reblochon would find its way into America, and happily, into my hand. Those days may be long gone, but thankfully we Americans can now eat Ouleout instead.
When I asked Jos about his path into the cheese world, he said his trajectory was not a straightforward one. After initially moving to Brooklyn from Holland in order to pursue a career in the arts (he had been awarded an artist’s residency at the esteemed contemporary art institution PS1), he ended up discovering another passion: making cheese as a hobby in his Brooklyn home. After his cheeses’ popularity skyrocketed, he moved his operations to the country, where he now sources his milk from a small dairy farm of grass-fed Jersey cows. The milk is unpasteurized and his cheeses are aged between 60 and 90 days.
The Ouleout could be paired with a big red wine, sautéed garlic, herbed mushrooms, or marbled rye bread — anything with bold depth of flavor. However, one recipe in particular comes to mind as an incredible use for this cheese: tartiflette, a traditional French dish I’ve been craving for ages. To make a tartiflette, you cook potatoes and onions in herbs and garlic; then de-rind a reblochon, or in this case, an Ouleout cheese, and place it on top of the potatoes; then set the dish under a broiler until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly on top.