by Ashley Linkletter | Fuoco is a subtle cheese that is somehow both quietly delicate and richly memorable. Made by Fromagerie Fuoco in Quebec’s Laurentides region, it is the only water buffalo washed rind cheese currently being made in the province. Available in dainty 180g wheels or greedily sliced off of a large round, it has a lush interior that ranges from dense and springy to oozingly soft. When the cheese is young its crust has a tawny chalkiness to it; as it ages it transforms into a deep brown sticky rind.
Jason Fuoco, the young cheesemaker behind the cheese sharing his namesake, makes it using milk from a herd of 40 water buffalo. (Interestingly, Jason got his milk from Vancouver Island when he first began making cheese, from the same herd that supplies cheeses made by local BC cheesemakers Natural Pastures.) Because Fromagerie Fuoco makes only one cheese, Jason is able to concentrate on the quality and craftsmanship of a single product, which shows in the consistency of the formidable taste and complexity of the cheese.
Fans of buffalo milk cheeses will know that they possess a gentle sweetness; the milk is mild, lacking the pronounced flavours that distinguish goat and ewe’s milk cheeses. In this case, the sweetness is improved upon by the water buffalo’s steady diet of dried hay, resulting in a taste that only be described as warm sun and pastoral barnyard. Fuoco only improves as it ages, its salty sweet taste growing steadily more pronounced in the week before it begins its slow descent into over-ripeness.
I like to serve Fuoco on its own with a crusty baguette, or paired with Salty Date & Almond Raincoast Crisps and an apricot or other stone fruit preserve. Fuoco also makes for an exceptional dessert cheese; you can take it out of the fridge when you sit down to your first course and enjoy at room temperature with seasonal fruit and plain crackers at the end of a long summer meal.
My favourite wine pairing for Fuoco is a super light and mildly fruity Beaujolais served chilled, or a glass of Sangria if there is any in the offing.