That is one weird name for a cheese, find out about it reading this article from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Under the mold, Pilota smells like a winner
Friday, July 18, 2008
The letter "k" is uncommon in French, so a French firm named Onetik readily reveals its Basque origins. Onetik is a medium-size dairy in the French Pyrenees, producing cow's and sheep's milk cheeses in roughly equal volume, plus a small amount of goat's milk cheese. The company created a sheep's milk blue cheese I have written about in the past - the mellow Bleu des Basques - and a cheese I have sonly recently discovered: the mixed-milk Pilota, a blend of pasteurized sheep's and cow's milk.
A wheel of Pilota weighs about 9 pounds and has a natural rind with some external mold growth. I am always happy to see that mold, because it suggests that the dairy has not used a mold inhibitor to keep the rind pristine. Mold inhibitors aren't harmful, but they prevent the cheese from developing naturally. Admittedly, nature doesn't always take a wheel of cheese in a desirable direction, but inhibiting external mold growth guarantees that there won't be any positive flavor contribution from mold.
Once you breach that natural rind, with its generous dappling of white and gray mold, you will find a butter-colored interior, or paste, with many small eyes the size of peppercorns. Pilota smells of nuts and sizzling melted butter; its aroma reminds me of a grilled cheese sandwich. The texture is semifirm to firm, yet more moist than you might expect from a wheel that has been aged more than 90 days,
Pilota has a mellow, sweet, cultured-milk taste, with enough salt to balance its sweetness. It doesn't have a challenging flavor profile and is likely to appeal to consumers who shy away from sharp or smelly cheeses. I don't know the proporation of sheep's milk to cow's milk, but neither character dominates.
Look for Pilota at Rainbow Grocery, 24th Street Cheese and Say Cheese in San Francisco; Woodlands Market in Kentfield; and Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa.
Serve Pilota before dinner with toasted almonds, green olives and some chilled fino sherry. Or put it on a cheese board at the end of a meal and open a bottle of medium-weight red wine. I enjoyed it with the 2004 Robert Sinskey Vandal Vineyard Los Carneros Pinot Noir, a generous Pinot with lots of spice and fruit intensity.
Next up: Ibores, a Spanish goat's milk cheese.
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