Birchrun Hills Farm Red Cat

How does a cheese evolve from mere goodness into potential greatness? Over the last few months at Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County, cheesemaker Sue Miller transformed a version of her mild-mannered Fat Cat into something altogether more racy: Red Cat.

Inspired by washed-rind classics like Epoisses (Burgundy's international standard) and Red Hawk (California's dreamy stinker), Miller and fellow artisan Sebastian Upson bathed smaller one-pound wheels of the larger, powdery-skinned Fat Cat in a brine solution laced with brevibacterium linens. Known as "B. linens" in cheese-speak, this microbe helps promote a sticky orange rind on the cheese's exterior and stoke a deeper fermentation inside.

Miller is still tinkering to coax a creamier texture from Red Cat, made from the raw milk of her 80 Holsteins, but there's a reason this cheese is already the talk of the local cheese community: Its rich tang has the pungent swagger and magnetic power of an American classic in the making. Let it come to room temperature, inhale the aroma, and just try not to eat it in one sitting, orange rind and all.

- Craig LaBan

Limited Red Cat supplies are often available at the Fair Food stand in Reading Terminal ($20 a pound), the Italian Market location of Di Bruno Bros. ($27.99 a pound), and Birchrun Hills' farm market stand ($24 a pound) Saturdays at the Piazza at Schmidt's (and soon the Sunday market at Head House Square).