You Say Tomato I say Pata de Cabra… or Pata Cabra… or patacabra… and the cheese varies as much as its name. We’ll call it Pata de Cabra:
Pata de Cabra comes to us from near Zaragoza, Spain where Julian Cidraque, the only one crafting this unusual and unusually variable goat milk cheese in the world, has been making queso for about 20 years; he’s third generation cheesemaker in the Aragon region of Spain. I’ve known of the cheese for a while but have only run across it once before. In that version, its rind was white and bloomy and the interior was brighter, chalkier and more like a young chèvre. It’s squashed, round-cornered form being the most consistent trait, the washed, salmon-colored and craggy rind of today’s example is quite different. And it’s not simply age that alters the rind, the color and the texture; Cidraque cites seasonality in his goat herd’s habits as the biggest factor. Truly farmstead but the variability you might find challenging.
As a washed-rind cheese, stinky it certainly is. Fresh out of the wrapping that typical litterbox odor is pretty strong. Once it warms up and blows off, the odor of the rind recedes and the scent of dairy in the paste comes into the foreground. Blindfolded, you might think sheep milk at first, both in odor and flavor. It is goaty- but more rustic and earthy while still tangy, almost sourdough-like with a decided lemony note. The rind is much stronger than the paste and that bacterial flavor of the wash dominates the paste. Eat if you want but it make a very different bite.
The almost-crumbly texture is a clue to its goat milk origins. Despite that, it’s not dry; rather it’s creamy and buttery and quick to melt in your mouth.
Exotic.Innovative. It’s both mild and daring, light and lingering. But take what I say with a grain
of salt, for the next time you run across Pata de Cabra, it might be a very different cheese.
Pata needs a wine with some backbone to hold up to the rind and the creaminess of the paste. Not a strongly-flavored wine but rather something with enough texture of its own. This week’s cheeses were all tried against Parés Baltà’s 2009 Blanc de Pacs, a light white from well south of Zaragoza, a blend of Parellada, Xarel.lo, Macabeo that is fresh and fruity with good acidity and minerality. Acids in the cheese and wine balance pretty well and the minerality helps scrub the palate.
Cheese: Pata de Cabra
WHO: Julian Cidraque
Where: Zaragoza, Spain
Milk Type: goat (pasteurized)
Shape: 5lb rounded brick
Tasting notes: sourdough, funk, lemon,