Wednesday, January 23, 2008


"Roquefort, or similar style cheese, is mentioned in literature as far back as AD 79, when Pliny the Elder remarked upon its rich flavor." -Kindersley, French Cheeses

Dave's brother visited us in Mont de Marsan for a few days. Saturday morning we went to the market and bought two types of cheese to share with him: Mont d'or and Roquefort. I've already discussed the former; we all enjoyed it. I have to mention we asked for a "light" Roquefort. It's easier for someone to taste when they've never tried real blue cheese before. His brother is a big fan of cheese, so I made sure he tried all the big ones: chevre sec, brebis, Camembert, Mont d'or, and Roquefort. I'm such a good hostess.

I stole this from Wikipedia because it makes this cheese's past interesting and helps illustrate how the Frenchman's mind works: "Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a young shepherd, eating his lunch of bread and ewes' milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold had transformed his plain cheese into roquefort." Roquefort is such an essential part of French food that they have fables about its creation and have the tools preserved in museums that Roquefort-makers used centuries ago.

I used to hate blue cheese, including Roquefort, up through the time I lived in Lyon with a French family. After numerous nights of heckling and pressuring by many French peoples, the cheese began to grow on me like the blue mold that gives it that special tang. Even when I returned to the U.S., I was still not a fan of Roquefort and other blue cheeses. But, like with beer and wine, I've grown more accustomed to the spiciness of Roquefort. And when I am in the mood for a taste that it can only offer, I am very happy to be in France within close reach of true, delicious, and inexpensive Roquefort.

This slice of cheese is perfect! It has the usual kick, but not so much that you feel you're eating metal; it doesn't overpower the creaminess. They must not have aged this cheese for long (6 weeks or so). I'm sure there are certain "correct" ways to eat Roquefort, but I ate some with almonds tonight. They complemented the cheese well. A little bit on a piece of fresh baguette, then chased with a couple almonds. Delish! When slightly salty, creamy brebis isn't enough to satisfy your lust for tasty cheese, I suggest a wedge of tangy Roquefort.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Black Tomme des Pyrenees

"The black tomme of the Pyrenees has been manufactured since the 12th century in the area of Saint-Girons. It grew in local popularity during the 19th century, then its reputation extended to the whole country." -911 Chef Eric (Someone had done a poor translation, so I fixed it up a bit.)

I kept eying this cheese at the store. I've never had cheese that comes in a black rind before. I was very curious. When we returned from our big holiday, I decided to buy a slice.

The black wax peeled off easily and I was left with a pale cheese with small holes throughout. It's pretty. And it tastes good, too. The flavor is not very strong; it's not even that creamy or rich. We've been munching away at it like little cartoon mice. It serves well as a part of our daily aperitif snack. In fact, I like to take a bite of the cheese, then a few salty crackers to chase it. They go well together.

I have to admit that I'm becoming less and less inclined to buy cheese made from cow's milk. It seems more and more boring. Compared to sheep's milk cheese, it has much less flavor. I'm sure this is because I am not trying the right cheeses anymore. This black tomme is actually nice for its lightness, but I guess I'm in the mood for something more rich and spicy. Maybe I need to buy another slice of Roquefort.

Tonight, I had a sample of three different cheeses (black tomme, Camembert, and Parmesean) for dinner. I kept craving the saltiness of the Parmesean. The Camembert was nothing special. But the black tomme was my "break" cheese. When the other two overwhelmed me, I went for the easy-going one.

I don't want to say that the black tomme has no flavor; that's unfair. I also can't easily describe it because of my lack in that art. Maybe I should take a French cheese tasting course while I'm here. And French wine, too...