Petit Frère with Truffles from Crave Brothers

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

It’s no surprise that Wisconsin kicked all other states’ collective cheese-making booties at the 2012 American Cheese Society competition held earlier this month in Raleigh, NC. Its 94 awards placed it so far ahead of the pack that runner-up California, with 46 nods, only could brag that it had won fewer than half of Wisconsin’s total. But what was somewhat unexpected is that a cheese that hasn’t traveled farther than a few Wisconsin farmers markets won the prestigious (and long-winded) “cheeses flavored with herbs, fruits, vegetables, truffles, flowers, syrups – all milks” category. This year Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese of Waterloo, WI, topped the field with a truffled version of its popular washed-rind Petit Frère.

Washed-rind cheeses are known for their pungent aroma and complex flavor, and Petit Frère with Truffles is no exception. It’s not the stinkiest cheese on the block by any means, but it definitely brings the funk. Since truffles tend to bring any flavor profile to the extreme — sometimes to the detriment of the dish — any cheese featuring the fungi should proceed with caution. Luckily, Crave Brothers developed the right balance between the earthiness of the truffles and taste / smell roller coaster of the pinky-orange wind. Left on the counter for a good hour or two, the paste will ooze and pool with a luxuriousness that suits the truffles perfectly. Pour a glass of a full-bodied wine — either white or red can hold up to the power of Petit Frère — and enjoy with crackers and early-season apples.

Next year the American Cheese Society conference is on Crave Brothers’ turf — Madison. Think Wisconsin cheesemakers can hit the 100-award mark? We think it’s a worthy goal.

Petit Frère with Truffles’ availability varies, but look for other Crave Brothers cheese locally at Lunds / Byerly’s, Kowalski’s, Whole Foods, or area co-ops.