Matt says:
Sometimes I want a classic example of what Americans expect from cheese. For such a need, see my post about Landaff. On the other hand sometimes I want a cheese goo. Something that is such an outlier that most people would not recognize it as cheese. In other words, sometimes I want to visit the cheese freak show. For such a need, I can think of few examples better than Torta del Casar.

Torta del Casar is made with freaky breeds of sheep's milk, freaky coagulants and has a freaky texture and flavor. The Merina and Entrefina breeds of sheep in Extremadura, Spain produce only about 4 ounces of milk per animal per day. This is less than 1/4th of most dairy breeds. In addition they are grazing on some pretty freaky stuff and this cheese is made without pasteurizing the milk. Any sheep gaminess, musk or general funk is certainly amplified.

In addition, the common rennets used to coagulate the milk are abandoned here in preference of cardoon thistle buds. These wild bitter artichokes are ground up then added to the fresh milk as a thickening agent. It performs differently than animal rennet so after 60 days of aging the paste is still gooey and oozy. It should be served by cutting the top of the little wheels and spooning onto bread or crackers.

The flavors and aromas of the resulting Torta could not be more divergent from those in common cheeses. It is floral, buttery and tangy all at the same time. Interesting notes of wine, bitter artichoke, yeast and chocolate to name a few are all found in this crazy cheese. 

Serve with roasted tomatoes, membrillo (quince paste) and/or Serenity wine from Clearlake (in Lake County, north of Napa). It is 56% Pinot Grigio, 31% Sauvignon Blanc, 13% Gewürztraminer. An uncommon blend of grapes for an uncommon cheese. Together this is one freak show you don't want to miss.