Best Picture Cheeses: 'Philomena'

Ardrahan Farmstead Cheese

Ardrahan Farmstead Cheese

Across the wide Atlantic in a place called County Cork, Mary Burns has been making Ardrahan Farmstead Cheese for the past 30 years. Ardrahan, the pride of the Burns family and one of the great Irish cheeses, feels traditional, like a common lullaby or a national dish. Its friendly coating of rusty-orange B. linens creates a mild pungency—think aromas of barnyard and gym socks—while underneath lies a buttery, meaty paste evoking milk from happy cows and summer days spent skipping stones at the seashore.

If that's a little too idyllic for you, you're in luck. Ardrahan is also pleasantly subversive. The hallmark grittiness of washed rinds (Ardrahan being one of many) reminds us that where there is sea, there is stone, rock, and sand. A bold bitterness courses through the cheese, at first obscuring the milder flavors but ultimately rounding them out. The milk of the Burns family’s cows is rich, with a sweet creaminess that shines through and renders the finished product eminently edible. As the Daily Telegraph once put it, Ardrahan is fit for the large appetite of a trencherman.

Philomena reminds us of the grave importance of portion control

Speaking of Philomena, a traditional yet open-to-new-ways-of-thinking Irish woman played to annoying perfection by Dame Judi Dench, she (I’m sure of it) loves Ardrahan. A wholesome classic that’s just enough outside the box to send a thrill down Philomena’s spine? Nachos, omelettes, and romance novels be damned, artisan cheese is next on her list (in moderation, of course).

For exemplifying the gustatory spirit of Ireland and being a radical-traditional product the whole family can enjoy, my cheese for Philomena is Ardrahan.