I live in Oslo, but the rest of my family lives on the beautiful north west coast of Norway, which is a seven to eight hours drive from here, crossing the mountain range dividing east from west. I went for a brief visit to see my aging mother now living in an old folks home.
An extreme weather situation forced me to take another route across the mountains. Icy roads, gale winds and snow are not the best of conditions to drive in. But this deviation, which used to be the normal route, brought me to well known Avdem gardsysteri at Lesja. They now have their farm shop, Avdemsbue, by the road from Dombås to Åndalsnes which has fairly heavy traffic. They had announced tasting of a new alpine style cheese they are working on the next day, but I decided to try my luck. Alas, no samples of the new cheese, but a chunk of Fjelldronning (mountain queen) that brought home a bronze medal from the World Cheese Awards in London last month was available. I have tasted Fjelldronning many times, but never as mature as this.
Avdemsbue is a fine place to stop for some shopping of local, small scale produce and other edible stuff. Norway local I should say. Cheese, condiments, produce, local beers, cured foods, cordials and much more. But no tasting of any new apline style cheese. There is always a way, though.
So, after having shopped some cheese I drove the few yards to the dairy where Sigurd and Åse, fully engaged in making cheese and porridge respectively, took time to sit down for a long chat and, would you believe, tasting of the new cheese. Bufast as it is called. During that conversation we reflected on the development of local farmstead cheese making and what that has done to small local communities like Lesja. Avdem used to produce milk for the Norwegian coop dairy. That kept about one and a quarter person occupied. Now that they have started cheese making, launched the shop, started up growing vegetables at the farm beside the milk production, seven to eight people are engaged full time. These small enterprises like Avdem have become cornerstones in the small rural communities.
The reason for my visit was of course to taste the new cheese. Well, it is still young, but very promising. Fine texture, compact with absolutely no holes and a beautiful washed rind. Very appealing. But it will take some time, some fine tuning and maturing. The name honors the farmer, living at the same place for generations and taking care of mother earth.
I bought whatever was left. A chunk of almost a kilo. Did not taste, feeling very confident this was OK. Excellent taste, by the way. Made on March 21st 2016. 20 months of age. As I said, I have never tasted this mature Fjelldronning before, and the age becomes it. Sweetish on the palate, crispy crystals and a touch of caramel, even some burnt caramel. This was exceptionally good. I still have some left for Christmas.
I do not belong to those believing cheese only becomes better and better with age, irrespective of type. Up to a point all is well, but then a lot of cheeses start fading. These 20 months had done Fjelldronning well.
While Bufast is a tribute to the farmer, Fjelldronning is a tribute to all the women taking care of their herd at the chalets up in the mountains during summer. Mountain queens all of them.
My choice is a well developed Chablis. If you insist on something red, that is perfectly possible. Go for an east side Bordeaux, where the Merlot grape is dominant. Even a German Riesling Kabinett pairs well. As does a cup of good black tea. With milk, no sugar.