bonnie_webBonnie: I’m always on the hunt for Bites to share with you. Some we select are tasty morsels from big companies, and others — like this Schloss Marin French Cheese  — are artisan handcrafted delights with cult followings.

The Marin French Cheese Company from Petaluma, CA, makes and ages this soft-ripened, washed-rind cheese with a non-animal rennet using a process it created in 1901.

“It’s our cult cheese,” said Maxx Sherman, the national sales director. Those who’ve moved east still order it. “It’s the best-selling cheese on our site. If you’ve enjoyed Liederkranz (American re-creation of Limburger cheese), you’ll love Schloss!”

There is lots I like about the Schloss European-style cow’s milk cheese. Its hearty aroma, — or that what some call “stinky” cheese — for one. I also like the creamy texture and sweet, nutty flavor with hints of caramel and toasted almonds. This pungent cheese marries well with full-bodied red wines, fruit-forward white wines and dark beer.

Schloss, which means “castle” in German, is not widely available in stores. You’ll need to order this one online, as do many others who used to buy it when living in California.

BiteoftheBest bloggerBryan: Though the washed-rind heritage of Schloss cheese originated in Austria, its creation is totally one of Northern California, a product of the Marin French Cheese Co. You may not have heard of it before, but Marin has been specializing in soft-ripened cheeses since 1865 when it first produced “breakfast cheese,” a unique bar treat for San Francisco gold miners. The company’s current selection has expanded a bit to include more classic favorites like brie, Camembert and Schloss; a sharp and certainly pungent cheese balanced by a subtle sweet, toasted nuttiness. The cheese was even awarded “Best American Original” by the American Cheese Society.

Marin is no one-trick pony, with cheeses coming in all shapes and sizes. At its best, it is masterfully emulating the flavors of a number of familiar, soft-ripened European cheeses. Its artisan cheeses tastefully tantalize the imagination, evoking French flavors at domestic prices. A triple cream cow, a triple cream blue veined cow, a goats’ milk brie, a goats’ milk Camembert… is your mouth watering yet? If not, I can go on, as Marin produces so many different soft-ripened cheeses! If so, just know that you can buy its cheese online (woohoo Internet!), or at some specialty grocery stores near you.

This is quality cheese. Marin French Cheese Co. is nearly 150 years old as I write this, making it the oldest cheese producer in the United States specializing in soft-ripened cheeses. Just making it that long means it’s worth giving their products a try. How many other food companies do you know that have been around that long? Don’t be confused, by the way, when you go to eat your Marin cheese and it says “Rouge et Noir” all over it; that is simply the name given to the line of cheeses produced by Marin.  The company likes to say that it “is both the history and future of American Artisanal Cheese production.” I would have to agree with it. Keep it up! Or, I guess, more aptly stated, keep it soft!

eric...Eric: I have an easy analogy for you: Sugar is to sweet as Schloss cheese is to barnyard.

It might not be the most palate-pleasing analogy, but it certainly helps to identify the flavor profile of Schloss; an Austrian-style washed-rind cheese. Schloss is just one of the “world champion cheeses” from the Marin French Cheese Co. portfolio. Marin French Cheese has been producing exceptionally delicious cheese stateside, since 1865. Its portfolio of cheese would rival any fromagerie, producing such classics as brie and Camembert, and focusing on artisanal chèvre-based cheese that has been recognized in years past as “Best in Class.”

Its Schloss cheese is no exception; yield to your temptation to take a big bite out of this pungent little beauty. Schloss has a sweet, nutty flavor, but only after you get through the barnyard golden-hay outer layer. This is a big cheese — rivaled only by those European powerhouses that can make the room smell while inside the fridge. Pair Schloss with your favorite dark beer or big California Cabernet and don’t expect any big smooches from your loved ones.
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