Here’s the wedge every cheesemonger is talking about: Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Earlier this month, it won “Best in Show” at the American Cheese Society Awards – a.k.a. the Oscars of artisanal cheese.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve has taken this top honor not once, but three times. Incroyable. If you want to try the “it” cheese of the moment, hail a cab to the nearest cheese counter. Then call a handful of your closest friends, and sequester yourselves away like a jury. As with all small-batch cheeses, supplies are limited.
PR2 comes from Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. It’s a raw-milk cheese, similar in style to Gruyere but ten times more complex. What you’ll taste when you sink your teeth into this dense, golden wonder is pure Heartland – the result of cows pastured on lush prairie. Picture a happy cow munching on wildflowers.
What makes PR2 so fantastic? The cheesemaker, for one. Mike Gingrich is fanatical about what his cows eat. Back in the ‘90s, he and his business partner, Dan Patenaude, spent five years preparing the soil before they even let a hoof through the pasture gate. They are also master breeders; with careful planning, they cultivated a special herd that would thrive in southwestern Wisconsin and produce milk with just the right amount of protein and butterfat.
Today, PR2 is produced by a small team of cheesemakers, headed up by Andy Hatch. Rumor has it, the team has a new cheese in the works. Until now, PR2 was Uplands’ one and only.
Because PR2 is such a dazzler, you’ll want to try it straight up. Skip the crackers. Notice how the flavors brighten and evolve on your tongue – from buttery caramel to apricot. If you want to play around with pairings, try Mike Gingrich’s suggestion: serve it with rosemary bread, fall fruit, and dessert wine. I’ve also heard it sidles up nicely to a rye Manhattan.
I’m in Wisconsin and I haven’t tried this delectable. Crime! I’ll have to hoof it to my nearest cheese store.