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From Crottin to Feta


In France, chevre simply means goat cheese. In the United States, terms are different. Here is a buyer's guide.

Chevre: Fresh goat cheese, drained to a soft, spreadable state, then sold loose in pots or rolled into logs. Sold in farmers markets at anywhere from a day to a week old. Perfect for spreading on a bagel or crostini. Supermarket versions will be older and drier. These are fine on bread or crumbled in salad, but they are excellent cooking cheeses that fluff up wonderfully and release the lactic perfume in an omelet or souffle.

Fresh chevre also comes shaped in discs and coated with cracked pepper or herbs.

Chevre from a farmers market should be treated like fruit: Buy small amounts and eat promptly. Always ask for a taste: It should be milky, bright and delicate.

Supermarket logs should be eaten within a week. Check the sell-by date, and beware of watery whey collecting in the plastic packaging. This signifies refrigeration failure or poor draining. Both mean a rank cheese.

Crottin: Made with buttery milk and mold-ripened from six weeks to three months. The inside, called the "pate," is smooth and glistening white. The rind-ripening will impart a sophisticated, earthy flavor, but the overall taste will be delicate.

The traditional way to serve it is oiled, rolled in bread crumbs, then baked for five to 10 minutes before being set in sharply dressed salads of peppery greens. Judge its ripeness as you would a camembert: It shouldn't feel rock-hard or completely soft--more like a well-toned stomach.

Goat feta: A fresh Greek-style cheese preserved in brine. The salt leaches the water from the cheese, which is dry and crumbly. Best in salad with plenty of olive oil.

Goat fromage blanc: This cream cheese consists of barely curdled milk that has been only lightly drained and remains unsalted. It is a rare pleasure to find it fresh, when it should taste like an adult version of milk, with the sweetness siphoned off, but a light milky flavor still intact. Perfect for desserts. A slight tang enlivens summer berries.

Marinated goat cheese: Fresh cheeses suspended in olive oil, often infused with rosemary. Perfect for spreading on toast or tossing in salads.

Tome, tomme, shepherd cheeses and Cheddar: Cheeses that have been made with rennet, then drained, dried and aged to become a hard or semihard cheese. Traditionally, a way of preserving summer milk throughout the winter. If the nutty and herbaceous notes are not immediate when the cheese is eaten cold, try melting it on toast and the perfume will rise.


Redwood Hill Farm, Sebastopol, (707) 823-8250; Chevre and mold-ripened cheeses sold in good supermarkets, by mail order or on Wednesday at Santa Monica farmers market.

Laura Chenel's Chevre, Sonoma, (707) 996-4477. Chevre, mold-ripened, ash-covered and marinated cheeses sold in good stores.

Yerba Santa Diary, Lakeport, (707) 263-8131. Chris and Jan Twohy's aged Alpine Shepherd cheese is available by phone or e-mail:

Goat's Leap, St. Helena. Barbara Backus' celebrated ash-coated goat cheeses, Sumi and Eclipse, and aged Carmela are available from Tomales Bay Foods, Point Reyes Station, (415) 663-9335.

Cypress Grove Chevre, McKinleyville, (707) 839-3168; Goat cheeses from chevre to Cheddar and the signature Humboldt Fog, available by mail order and in good stores.

Emily Thomson Fromage de Chevre, Ojai, (805) 649-4884. Fresh chevre, fromage blanc and marinated chevre sold at Santa Monica farmers market Saturday.

Harley Farms Goat Cheese, Pescadero, (650) 879-0480. Dee Harley makes a soft cream cheese filled with spicy condiments, such as sun-dried tomatoes and basil, imprinted on the top with edible flowers, and gives them merry names, such as Van Goat. By mail order, and in good stores.

Bodega Goat Cheese, Bodega, (707) 876-3483. Javier Salmon and Patty Karlin sell chevre and Peruvian-style goat cheeses at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market Saturday and the Marin County Civic Center farmers market Sunday.

Skyhill Farms, Napa Valley, (707) 255-4800. Yogurt, chevre and a ricotta-style cheese called "Ri-Goatta" sold at Trader Joe's and health-food stores.


Goat Cheese Souffle

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 40 minutes * Vegetarian

Mark Peel, chef at Campanile, didn't miss a beat when asked for a goat cheese recipe. "Why don't you do a goat cheese souffle?" he asked. "It's delicious." This version comes from the cookbook "Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Home" (Warner Books, 1994). The recipe calls for Montrachet goat cheese, a chevre-style cheese wrapped in a chestnut or grape leaf. A commercial log of chevre from the supermarket will do nicely. In two different tests, the souffle made with Emily Thomson's looser, fresher cheese had a 10-minute longer baking time than a second souffle made with denser commercial chevre. Depending on the cheese you use, adjust your baking time accordingly.

1 1/2 cups milk

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