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!