A foodie friend of mine recently tipped me off that Finca Pascualete, an Extremaduran cheese company, is currently front and center in world food news, more specifically centerfold of the magazine Culture: the word on cheese. They are the royal family of artisan cheese production in Spain; generations of noblemen living in the countryside since the Moors were "directed to leave" the region in the 13th century. Yes, indeed it's a fairy-tale of curds and whey, an American CIA agent beauty meets Luis Figueroa y Perez de Guzman el Bueno, in a setting of never-ending grey-green tones of olive groves and acorn trees. In Trujillo, Extremadura, one of the few Spanish provinces that to this day is seldom obscured by tourists or development, you can find this incredible Spanish delicacy.
The finca is located on 10,000 acres of pristine grazing area, in the heart of la dehesa extremeña (famous ecosystem in southwestern Spain; same place where much of Spain's best ham comes from). The Torta de Trujillo (mini) raw sheep's milk cheese receives its texture from the vegetable coagulant agent known as cardoon rennet. The flavor from wild growing juniper, thyme, rosemary and blackberry bushes, of which their flocks of Extremaduran Merino and French Lacaune sheep produce 750,000 liters of milk per year. Some call the flavor complex, on the nose it most certainly is; this clearly isn't your standard provolone. The traditional way of serving is to slice off the top rind and serve the cheese from the round - and always at room temperature to balance the notes. What awaits the cheese consumer is a creamy almost soupy consistency. I'd pair with raisin toasts and a Belgian beer.
The grandson of the above love story, Juan Figueroa, is a bilingual businessman and Finca Pascualete's general manager. He could easily pass for a Ralph Lauren catalogue model, which makes sense when you see the packaging, and realize the color coordination and design put into their rustic yet classy wrappings. In the last 9 years they have worked to become a popular international name. In 2011, the Torta de Trujillo mini (pictured above) won gold at the World Cheese Awards.
You can find this queso at various outlets within Spain and abroad.
Where to buy in the US:
The Rogers Collection, a responsibly sourced artisan foods company based in Portland, Maine; fact sheet on the Torta de Trujillo Mini
La Tienda online
Brooklyn Larder New York
Central Market locations in Texas
Cowgirl Creamery in the San Francisco Ferry Building
Buying in Spain:
El Corte Ingles and/or El Club del Gourmet
La Boulette Madrid
Los Quesos de L'Amelie Madrid
And the following national locations
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