Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bleu de Basque

"An artisan sheep’s milk blue cheese made in the Pyrenées mountains, ... Bleu des Basques has a wonderful combination of earthy spiciness and hints of apricot." -Artisanal Cheese

Bleu de Basques is another brebis cheese from the southwest of France. Believing that I had discovered something lovely and delicious in all Basque brebis cheeses, I put my faith into buying a 250 gram slice of blue brebis at the local supermarket.

I have been a fan of blue cheese and its spicy flavor since I lived in Lyon a couple years ago, but sometimes the smell still gets to me. Surprisingly, many cheeses can have a horrible stench, but still have a delicate taste. (Muenster is one of those.)

To put it nicely, this blue brebis smells like rotten fish. Unfortunately, I am having trouble getting the smell out of my head when I taste the cheese. In large quantities, its taste reminds me too much of its smell; it is musty and salty, with a bit of creaminess. As it has been aging, we have been cutting it into smaller pieces and eating it with bread or crackers. Thankfully, this routine before dinner has allowed me to taste and appreciate the spicy, "blue" flavor, while not being overwhelmed by the odor. Although I have enjoyed trying this variety of blue cheese, I don't see myself buying it again. However, that doesn't mean I'm going to let it go to waste...

I don't know if it's possible to buy Bleu de Basque in the US, but it would make a wonderful appetizer at a dinner party. Cut into small pieces beforehand and placed on small, salty crackers, it would certainly please the fans of blue cheese.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mont d'Or

"There are strict rules for the production of this cheese. The raw milk can only be from the cows of the Montbéliard and Simmentaler breeds. To shape the Vacherin, it is rounded using a ring of Spruce bark. It is ripened on a Spruce wood board for at least three weeks and is rotated several times before it is placed in its characteristic box made from Spruce wood." -Frencheese

Sounds pretty French to me. It's not Mont d'Or unless the producer follows the protocol to the tee.

But that doesn't matter. This cheese is so delicious that anything jeopardizing its ultimate flavor must be prevented at all costs.

I had a chance to dig a spoon into this creamy white gold while visiting friends in
Lyon. The Thierry family brought out the little box after a big dinner of lasagna and roasted lamb shank. I was stuffed, but temptation got the best of me. I dipped a little spoon in the cheese each time we dined with them that week. It really is perfect on a piece of fluffy country bread after a hearty meal.

We have yet to buy some in Mont de Marsan, but I plan on finding it soon. They only make
Mont d'Or during the autumn and winter months. In keeping with French tradition and the AOC (Appellation d'origine controlée) regulations, the production dates are very precise. My guess is that it's more expensive than the cheese we usually buy, so I have to save up. Maybe I'll splurge after we return from the holiday vacation. It will be our reward for coming back to Mont de Marsan after spending Christmas and New Year's in places like Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. I can't wait!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Etorki (Brebis)

"It is truly a treat if you've ever had the opportunity to taste true is nutty, mellow, and fruity with a beige to gold paste and a rind that ranges from orange-yellow to brownish-gray. The prominent feature is the texture, which gives an almost taffy-like feel to the tongue." - Di Bruno Bros.

Since I live very close to Basque country, I constantly find Basque treats in most of the stores in my city. Like the delicious cheese I finally decided to taste, I have also enjoyed Basque Gateau (like a cherry pie), Basque sausages (a bit bloody), Basque-style dishes (lots of tomatos), and Basque beer. It seems that sheep and black cherries are specialties in this part of France and Spain, so I am looking forward to trying some black cherry jam, preferably homemade. So far, the Brebis is my favorite of all the Basque treats I've stumbled upon.

It's saltier than the other cheeses I like, which adds variety to my life, but also reminds me of the comfort of aged cheddar from home. I try not to shovel it into my mouth; instead, I eat little pieces with crackers. Dave and I have been enjoying it as an aperitif before we start cooking dinner. A little plate with some crackers, bread, peanuts, and brebis warms me up, especially when accompanied by a glass of red wine. I'm glad I have finally started to see the genius of the French aperitif!

The other day, we stepped into a small Basque store around the corner from our apartment. The man had aged brebis, mixed brebis and chevre cheese, mixed brebis and cow milk cheese, a bunch of different sausages, and other Basque specialties. We had just bought a block of brebis from the supermarket, but next time, we will certainly go to this man for our brebis.

I would recommend this cheese to anyone, even if they don't particularly like cheese. (Just take a lactaid pill beforehand, if lactose-intolerant. I promise! It's worth it.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

While in France... (Intro post)

This afternoon, while devouring a few pieces of Brebis cheese with lunch, a wave of clarity splashed me in the face. I decided to create a little blog about my adventures with cheese. And how appropriate?! If I have finally returned to the eden of cheese, then I should take advantage of it and share some of the notes that pop into my head when I taste this delicious penicillin-producing delight. I can't claim to know much about cheese or how it is made or even what beverage is best paired with it, but I can still use my taste buds to tell other average-tasters what I think about le fromage.

Thus, if you find any interest in what I just stated above, have a look at the other entries and please return for a visit.