One of my favorite things about Cheesetique is the level of personal attention they give to every customer. They are generous with their samples, and they take the time to find out what you like so they can offer recommendations...and those are usually spot-on.
On my most recent visit, I asked them to point me toward something fresh and local. Without hesitation, they recommended I check out Monocacy Ash. A fresh goat's milk cheese from Cherry Glen Farm in Montgomery County, Monocacy Ash comes encased in a rind of vegetable ash and features a thin line of ash running horizontally throughout. It is an artisanal cheese, produced in small batches by Diane Kirsch (the last name is German for "Cherry") and her herd of American Alpine and Toggenburg goats.
This is a super-creamy cheese with a far milder tang than most goat's milk cheeses. The manager on duty at Cheesetique described it as similar to Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog, but I found it to the taste to be smoother and softer despite the similar mouth feel from the ash ribbon. And the price of $17.95 for a full round ($8.98 for a half) was a few dollars cheaper than the price at which I've found Humboldt Fog in retail shops, making it easier on the wallet, as well.
Perhaps the most distinct feature of Monocacy Ash, however, was the speed with which it softened. Even on the short drive home, the half-crottin that we purchased had begun to liquefy along its rind. Refrigeration firmed it up a bit, but as soon as we set the cheese on the counter to warm to room temperature it literally began to ooze along the edges. By the time we had brought the cheese plate to the table, the soft disc of cheese had separated itself from the ashy rind and was migrating toward the center of the plate. This is not a cheese that lends itself to lengthy savoring - its soft, creamy texture begs to be dug into immediately, and it spreads beautifully on baguettes, crackers, or pretty much anything.
It was interesting to see that the rind held its shape despite the loss of its interior goodness. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I may have scooped at the walls with a cracker or two to get at some of the tangy-sweet, gooey remnants that the main disc left behind when it oozed out.
My experience with Monocacy Ash was decidedly positive, if a bit messy. I am looking forward to trying the other offerings from Cherry Glen - Monocacy Gold and Monocacy Silver. The small batches in which they are produced tends to limit availability, but I have found Monocacy cheeses for sale at Cheesetique as well as some local Whole Foods (try their Georgetown location, but availability can be a bit hit or miss). If you like your goat's milk cheese on the milder side with the added flavor that the vegetable ash contributes, you should definitely give this one a try.