Bonnie: Yes, it’s true. The Bite of the Best team loves cheese.

When I’m fantasizing about those foods I must have on my desert island, goat’s milk cheese (chèvre) is on that list.  I smartened up recently thinking that instead of cheese, I should have a goat or two for an endless supply, but then I’d need to learn both how to milk the goat and make the cheese. Nah!

For now, I’ll just get some chèvre already made from Cypress Grove. I love all its chèvres but especially the signature soft, surface-ripened, creamy Humboldt Fog cheese. Uncut, it has a white cake-like appearance; when it’s cut, you’ll notice the ribbon of edible ash in the center.

This cheese has a shelf life of about four weeks in your refrigerator – depending on the stage it is when purchased, the temperature of your fridge and so on.

It begins as a young cheese with a fresh, cream flavor and — in about 10 to 14 days — changes both in texture and appearance to a ripe cheese. All of this is normal. In the “ripe” stage, the ridge just under the rind widens and becomes even more succulent with a tangy flavor. It also darkens and turns yellowish. (For you scientists in the audience, the process is called proteolysis – or a breakdown of the proteins.)

The young, fresh cheese pairs well with a crisp white wine (sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio); the ripe with a light red wine (pinot noir or rosé).

The last stage is the mature cheese, which takes another 10 to 14 days to complete. At this point, many people think the cheese is no longer good, as the rind may look marbled and grey. Wrong! The cheese is just drier and more dense with a tart, earthy, herbal flavor. As you might guess, this pairs best with a fuller-bodied red than the others (an aged pinot noir or zinfandel.

Cypress Grove has illustrations on its site that show and explain this aging process. To see that, click here.

Whether young, ripe or mature, I suggest serving it along with fruit slices and honeycomb, using it in a salad or just nibbling with a glass of wine. Be careful, though; it is addictive.

Did I forget to mention that also on my desert island list is, of course, red wine?

Bryan: What an absolute delight it is to taste-test cheese for a living! So many different types, different flavors, textures and smells. Did you know that there are more than a thousand different types of recognized cheese and cheese products in the world? And though there are terrible ones (Cheez Whiz), there are also wonderful ones… like today’s offering from Cypress Grove, Humboldt Fog.

So what, you ask, is on the cheese menu tonight? An exquisite soft-ripened goat cheese. What’s that, you ask? Some quick facts…

The main factor in the categorization of any cheese is its age. When it comes to “goat cheese,” most people will immediately think of the creamy chèvre. This is an example of a “fresh cheese,” one that is made when milk is curdled and drained, with very little further processing. Cottage cheese, cream cheese and most chèvres are good examples.

Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese falls into an entirely different category. Soft-ripened cheeses have a distinctive flavor far beyond mild fresh cheeses because of the presence of mold during the aging process.

Aged for varying amounts of time, soft-ripened cheeses are similar to each other only in that the cheeses’ exterior is exposed to mold. This process helps to form a white crust on the cheese while contributing to a gooey texture inside. The resulting intense flavors (often called “barnyard flavor”) are what signify a soft-ripened cheese. Brie and Camembert are the most famous examples of such cows’ milk cheeses. Today’s Humboldt Fog is a simply divine goats’ milk version. The texture is creamy with a subtle “bleu” flavor. (Blue cheeses are another category, one that has mold injected during maturation, rather than being on the exterior.)

Humboldt Fog is a delectable example of a soft-ripened cheese. Though my palate is sometimes overwhelmed by “bleu” flavors, Humboldt’s core of fresh goat cheese is creamy and light, balancing the acidity of the tangy rind. A real winner, and awarded as such!

This cheese won first-place awards from the American Cheese Society in 1998, 2002 and 2005.

Eric: All bleu cheese is not created equal, but I imagine you’re aware of that. As fellow foodies, I’m sure you’ve encountered a variety of cheeses that have made you question your palate. And that’s great. That’s what being a true epicure is all about — the process of trial and error in finding the tastes that delight your senses and make you hungry for more.

Cheese, like wine, is a product of many different influences. From the pasture the animals graze on to the moisture in the cave where the aging takes place, there are an amazing amount of characteristics that help form the essence of a cheese. Cypress Grove makes no exception when crafting its catalog of amazing goats’ milk cheeses. Its signature cheese, Humboldt Fog, is creamy, handcrafted and cake-like in appearance.

The look comes from a ribbon of edible vegetable ash along its center and a coating of ash under its exterior.

From farm-raised Alpine goats (the source of the milk) to a workforce straight out of the days of Woodstock (check out its “Purple Haze” cheese), Cypress Grove is an amazing institution that’s a leading force behind America’s love affair with goat cheese.