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This Christmas, think cheese'

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Oct. 29, 2003
Mississippi State University has been in the cheese-making business for years. Retired U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery would send a box of their product to his friends at Christmas, and it was always well-received, fresh and tasty.
But good as it was, MSU restricts itself to cheddar and gouda, as I remember. Washington State University has gone a step further. They make 10 different varieties and they are delicious.
I discovered them when corresponding with that state's winemakers on the Internet. Curiosity got the better of me, it always does when good wine or good food is involved, and I placed an order. It turned out to be one of my better moves.
The student employees of Washington State University Creamery are making gourmet cheeses, packaged in unique, distinctive, flat, easy-to-ship, easy-to-store cans. They call it Cougar Cheese in honor of the school's mascot and it is so good and so well made I don't know when they have time to go to class.
Here's the list of available flavors:
Cougar Gold, a white sharp cheddar with a taste resembling Swiss or Gouda. Aged for at least one year.
American Cheddar, a sharp traditional orange cheddar cheese also aged for at least one year.
Smoky Cheddar, an American cheddar with a smoky flavor added. Wonderful with crackers.
Viking, a mild flavored, semi-soft cheese comparable to monterey jack. Great with pasta, in sandwiches, on crackers or alone as a snack.
Crimson Fire, a hot pepper cheese spiked with cayenne pepper and you've got it. They've taken out 33 percent of the fat but it has so much flavor you'll never miss it.
Hot Pepper, a touch of jalapeo peppers added to their Viking cheese for a medium flavor that's not too hot. Great in omelets.
Dill Garlic, a racy blend of dill weed, dill seed and mild garlic added to their Viking cheese. Terrific with pasta or chicken, but best alone.
Sweet basil, the Viking seasoned with flakes of sweet basil. Very flavorful cheese.
Italian, this time they add oregano and basil to the Viking. Think pizza topping.
Cracked Pepper and Chive, the Viking cheese spiced up with bits of cracked pepper and chive. Black pepper fans will love it.
Your order is shipped to your door vacuum-packed in cans that, when unopened, can be stored in your refrigerator for long periods of time.
They are very fussy about shipping. For example, I placed my first order in July and they refused to ship until October when the weather had cooled down in order to protect the quality of the cheese. I understood. This cheese is different and it is some kind of good. Highly recommended. I'm working on the Cougar Gold right now with three other varieties awaiting their turn.
The vacuum-sealed cans contain almost two pounds of wonderful cheese and cost $14 each regardless of the variety. There is a $5 per order shipping charge, plus $1 for each can over the first one.
To order online go to www.wsu.edu/creamery. The phone number is (800) 457-5442, the fax (800) 572-3289 and the mailing address is WSU Creamery, P.O. Box 641122, Pullman, WA 99164-1122.
I'm not in the custom of recommending the ordinary and, believe me, Cougar Cheese is not ordinary.
This cheese would make marvelous Christmas presents if you can keep your own hands off it long enough to give it away. And with a good bottle of wine, believe me, it is a marriage made in gourmet heaven. I've given that particular twosome several personal blessings over the past two weeks since it arrived.
Next tasting
Thursday's blind tasting of six different red wines has draw a good crowd but there are still a few seats available. We will disguise bottles of cabernet, zinfandel, merlot, grennache, shiraz and chianti and taste them blind.
Your job will be to decide what the varietal is and give it a rating. Tables of eight will work as teams and the team with the highest score will win for each member a half-pound of French F'romage, the wonderful double cream white cheese that was the hit of the last wine and cheese tasting.
The fee for this tasting is $30, and it starts at 6:30 p.m. at Northwood Country Club. To reserve a place, call 482-0930.
I know we repeat this often, that you do not have to be a member of the club to attend, but many people are still under the impression it is a function of the club. It is not and the public is invited to attend.

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