by Corin Hirsch
The raw milk cheeses of Robie Farm are intense. In fact, the entire place is kind of intense, in its own bucolic way: a 140-year-old dairy farm on a windswept plain in Piermont, N.H. (just across from Bradford, Vt.).
The family ages and hand-turns their cheeses on white-ash-tree planks, and then sells them inside a rustic, generally unmanned farm store that's also stocked with raw milk, eggs and frozen cuts of pork and veal (including swoonworthy bacon). The dairy case holds tangy, powerful cheeses with names such as Piermont, Swaledale and Echo Hill Gervais, an herbed, spreadable, pungent and scumptious cheese made in collaboration with neighboring Bunten Farm.
Sometimes you'll run into chatty cheesemaker Mark Robie inside the shop; otherwise, you leave your cash or check on the honor system, which is still pretty common across the Upper Valley.
Robie Farm's golden Toma is exquisite, with heady flavors of lemon curd and funk. The Smoked Toma has incited widespread love (it was fêted in the Wall Street Journal), but I like the unadulterated kind. When Toma is melted — which happens quickly and gooily — it grows milder and more citrusy. Melted on top of a slice of dark Harpoon Miche (from King Arthur Flour), with some arugula and a layer of Woods Cider Mill Jelly ... well.
You can make this sandwich with any meltable cheese; you can even sub apple slices for cider jelly, perhaps adding a touch of honey. But the day you get your hands on the Toma and the jelly and the miche all at once is a good day.
The method: Turn on the broiler. In a bowl, toss a handful of arugula with a dribble of olive oil and salt and pepper. Cut off a slice of fresh, crusty bread (preferably miche), then place on foil under the broiler until it begins to toast, about three minutes. Flip and slightly toast the other side, about two minutes.
Remove from the oven and slather on a layer of cider jelly, then pile on the arugula and cover the top with sliced Robie Farm Toma (or another Alpine-style cheese). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil until the cheese melts and begins to bubble, about four minutes. Remove, and tuck in.