The first thing I noticed about Little Darling was its great rind -- it has the look of a champagne cork, with a golden paste inside that is firm and crumbly. I requested a sample of this cheese when I heard a Philadelphia cheesemonger sing its praises after tasting it in a Chicago restaurant. With a name like Little Darling, it wasn't hard to remember.
Little Darling is made by Brunkow Cheese, a family-run dairy cooperative in the wee town of Fayette, Wis. with over 100 years experience in cheesemaking. Brunkow was big into "commodity" cheeses (read: processed cheese) until around 2006, when it released a line of Old World goodies, like Avondale Truckle, Little Darling, and English-style cheddars. Thanks to quality raw milk from Lafayette County and a hand-dug aging cellar, the new line has become a head-turner. Back in 2007, Time Out Chicago listed Little Darling among its "100 Best Eats of the Year."
Little Darling is earthy and alluring. It gives off the fruity perfume of a Parm, but the taste is slightly more tart, with nutty, caramel notes. Near the rind, it tastes positively cavey -- a rustic trait I happen to like. The powerful flavor of this cheese suggests it would be great for baking. Try grating it into a potato gratin or shaving it over roasted cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, or acorn squash. On a fall picnic, it would also pair well with dark bread and a nutty brown ale.
Tenaya Darlington blogs about cheese at Madame Fromage.