Love bold flavor? You’ll want to meet our latest Caves experiment, Cavemaster Labs Finocchietto Blue, a fennel-coated version of Point Reyes Bay Blue. Inspired by traditional herb-coated Italian cheeses, our Caves team took this blue to a new level by infusing it with notes of anise and deeply savory profile that blends hints of soy sauce, chocolate, and a touch of tropical fruit. We sat down with Head Cavemaster Peter Jenkelunas to get the inside scoop on how this creamy flavor bomb came to fruition.
What was the inspiration for the cheese?
PJ: We were trying to think outside of the box when coming up with this cheese. We thought the flavor from the fennel would marry well with the fruitiness of the blue cheese, but we were going out on a limb. Luckily, this was one of the risks that paid off. When applying the fennel seed, I thought of Cabra Romero and how that cheese is encrusted with rosemary. We tried to do a similar thing with the fennel seed, but we used a slightly different process.
How did you decide on Bay Blue as the base?
A while ago we tried aging a few different varieties of blue cheeses in our Caves. Bay Blue (which is usually natural-rinded) came out amazing when aged it as a rindless blue in our Caves. We had this in the back of our minds when developing this concept. The Bay Blue is aged as a rindless blue in our Caves for a couple months before we apply the fennel seed.
Did you have a prediction of how the flavor profile was going to turn out, and were you correct?
We knew the licorice flavor of fennel seed, and we knew the tangy, earthy flavor of this blue cheese, we just didn’t know how well they would mesh. We were pleasantly surprised with how well the flavors complement each other.
Fennel can be a particularly bold (and sometimes divisive) flavor, how did you balance it out within the cheese?
The fennel is very bold, but so is the blue cheese. Neither one is overpowered, and neither one comes across as too strong. If you are going to try adding a flavor to a cheese like this, it better be bold or it will get lost.
Do you have any pairings you personally love with this cheese?
To me, this a great beer cheese. I would go with something simple like a pilsner.
Want to explore more Caves experiments like this bold blue? Take a deep dive into our Cavemaster collection to see how our team invents new and flavorful cheeses.