For over two years, I have been on the hunt for my favorite cheese, Stinking Bishop. I badgered my cheesemongers, scoured the Internet and made several futile attempts to contact Neal’s Yard, all to no avail. Then I met Samantha, the cheese and charcuterie buyer for Cheese Plus in San Francisco, California. Well, actually I spoke with her on the phone, as I live across the country in the Midwest.
Cheese Plus is owned by Ray Bair, former director of cheese, wine, and specialty foods for Whole Foods Market. Ray opened his shop about five years ago, and it is touted as San Francisco’s premier cheese and specialty food source – no mean feat. Although they don’t have an official online storefront, anyone can call and request items shipped.
My initial contact with Samantha had nothing to do with my frustrating search and everything to do with learning about new cheeses on the market. Sam’s vast knowledge of what’s hot and happening in the cheese world is second-to-none and she began to prepare a personalized selection to send out to me. As our conversation went along, we began to discuss favorites and I, of course, mentioned my Bishop love and desperate quest. “I have that. You want me to send it along?” she said. Um, heck yeah! Sam had just become my new Cheese Superhero!
So what is this coveted cheese? Stinking Bishop is a vegetarian cheese that comes from England, Gloucestershire. This cheese was created by Charles Martell. It is similar to munster, albeit washed and rubbed with perry, an alcoholic drink made with a local variety of pear. It is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and reaches full maturity after just four months.
Does it taste as good as I had remember? Honestly, no. It’s even better! The initial funk smell from the rind is a bit off-putting, but don’t be scared. Underneath its pastry-like exterior is the beefy-yet-slightly-sweet paste I remember. At room temperature, it becomes runny and spreadable – perfect for a crusty baguette or even spread on apple slices.
If you are on a quest for a hard-to-find cheese, give Samantha a buzz. Tell her The House Mouse sent you and she’ll be sure to hook you up. She’ll probably take care of you even if you don’t… but why risk it?