Garrotxa: A Velvety Spanish Table Cheese

Garrotxa Cheese
Garrotxa Cheese

! SP-3011,IT-2010

I have a tendency to look past small, hard cheeses in favor of washed rinds, blues, and anything wrapped in lace or bark. On a recent cheese plate, however, Garrotxa – a vibrant Spanish goat cheese – caught my eye. It’s my new little velvetine rabbit.

Garrotxa (guh-ROACH-uh) is distinguished by a fine layer of gray-brown surface mold that looks like woven cloth. It smells — dare I say this? — like a stuffed animal that was propped under the cheek of a sleeping child. Imagine acorns, soft bedding, sweet milk.

In style, Garrotxa is similar to Italian goat cheeses like Pantaleo, but I find it a little more assertive. The flavor is bright on the front end with a round tartiness that turns walnutty on the finish, leaving a distinct taste of Brazil nuts in the back of your throat.

“There is simply no other goat cheese like it from anywhere,” writes Steven Jenkins in The Cheese Primer. Interestingly, Garrotxa is a rather new cheese, developed in the ‘80s, to great popularity in the Basque region. In the U.S., Garrotxa still seems like an anomaly.

Most Spanish cheeses that have gained favor in the firm-cheese department are made of sheep’s milk. Think of Manchego, Idiazabal, Ossau Iraty. While these are wonderful wedges, they can be oily and heavy. Because Garrotxa is made from goat’s milk, the texture is smooth and the flavors are light.

As a table cheese for October and November, Garrotxa is perfect. It pairs well with cured meats, plump Spanish olives, honey, and fruit. You can also grate it over roasted acorn squash or buttery pasta. Pour a glass of Rioja, and you’re golden.

For more glowing cheese reviews, please visit Madame Fromage.