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The Cheese Diary: February 2012

The quest in cheese tasting continues. This month, there were a couple of French and a couple of Swiss cheeses on the plates. Given the spirit that kick started this project, you must be wondering why I am not devouring only French cheeses and have instead grabbed some Swiss produce at the same time. Well, some of these cheeses are popular and when it comes to food, sometimes, it is hard to stop at the modern border. Consider though, historically, by region, then I guess (or so I hope) I’m not too far off in my mission. ;)

Week 5: Gruyère
Originated from the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland, Gruyère is a hard pressed-and-washed cheese made from cow milk. Its aging time typically runs for a few months and the longer it’s cured, the more complex its flavour. With rusty brown rind and pale cream pâte, the cheese cracked relatively easily when cut into and its texture in the mouth felt dry and somewhat crumbly. It tasted nutty yet sweet, of which this sweetness reminded me of P’tit Basque from a couple of weeks ago. It is a handsome cheese by all means, although I suspect this wedge that we’ve got is a middle-age affinage variety. I should have grabbed some grand cru variety too for a comparison.

Week 6: Mimolette
There is a small disagreement of the origin of this cheese. A couple of my friends believe it’s Dutch but it’s supposed to be French, from the northern city of Lille. It is, however, made to imitate Edam, except it has orange flesh (Edam is in creamy shade of yellow) with rind of soft sand colour. Its shape is a tad particular, nearly melon-like when whole. Yet another hard cheese, and I think we’ve gone to the other extreme to last week, choosing one that was rather aged, because it was really hard to cut into it and likewise, eating it. Taste-wise, it was nutty but relatively mild nonetheless. Not particularly memorable, I’m afraid, but I was told this was not a good wedge of mimolette. Perhaps I shouldn’t write it off just yet.

Week 7: Tête de Moine
This cheese comes in a very pretty serving. Pretty? Yup. Pretty. Massive thanks to Chloé* for picking this up just so I can try it! carnation-like cuteness to boot. Swiss in origin, the name of the cheese means “a monk’s head”, a hat tip to the original producer of this cheese – monks of the abbey of Bellelay. It is cylindrical in shape, but in order for the flavour to develop, it is “cut” circularly using a girolle, then gathered together, resembling the flower carnation. The thin slicing method meant the texture of cheese in hold was soft and pliable, and it quite melt in your mouth. The flavour of the cheese was rather complex, aromatic yet nutty (sorry, I am not quite the turophile yet to be able to describe it properly). A joy to behold and a delight to taste.

Week 8: Beaufort
Back to another hard cheese this week (I need to expand to other type of cheese soon) Beaufort is a hard cheese from cow’s milk and it is very similar to Gruyère but with longer affinage time (double that of Gruyère). Its shape is a tad particular, as the mold in which Beaufort is pressed in has a concave shape to give it “heel”. In addition to the distinctive heel, its rind is brown in colour and it has yellow pâte. Texturally it is rather smooth in the mouth but there’s a spicy note to it, which took me by surprise. There’s complexity to the flavour too, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s to my taste. I’m on the fence for now.

* On an important note, I must also say many thanks to Frédéric. Between him and Chloé, they have been the biggest supporters of this project thus far. Not only are they going the extra mile to get cheeses for me to try, they’re essentially funding the cheese tasting for each and every time they bought yet another variety – which is pretty much all the time! I am a very very lucky girl. :D

The Cheese Diary: January 2012

Living in a country that boasts more variety of cheese than the number of days in a year, I really should take advantage of my good fortune and be better acquainted with the selection available at the local fromageries. Random taste-testing seems to be the way to go. I could possibly try a cheesy Project 365 but I fear what it will do to my svelte* (ahem) silhouette, not to mention my bank balance. Let’s just go with one a week and I’ll try to do a round-up every month in this quest of mine to be a turophile.

Week 1: Moelleux du Revard
Produced in the Savoie region (Mont Revard, hence the name) since 2008 (yes, this is a rather young production), this solid but soft cheese is made from raw cow milk, refined over a period of minimum 5 weeks. I bought just a small sliver from what’s normally a cheese in disc shape with orange-coloured washed-rind. It cut easily to reveal an ivory centre with some small eyes (i.e. the holes in cheeses). Its texture is creamy while its taste is rather mild. Not sure if this would be very memorable after a couple of weeks.

Week 2: Raclette
Raclette is no mere cheese, it makes a meal to be shared among friends. I was introduced to the joy of raclette by Chloé a few years ago, and it is one of the few perfect cheesy winter dish, melted over a plateful of boiled potatoes, charcuterie and some salads. A semi-firm cheese, a whole raclette is a large wheel of cheese of pale cream colour. As Chloé owns a proper raclette grill, a wedge of the wheel was duly purchased (about 200g per person) and mounted to the grille. The heating grill was then lowered close to the surface of the raclette, melting it and then scraped onto the plates. I love the slightly burnt rind – crunchy and caramelised – and the cheese itself is not for the faint-hearted when you see the amount of grease dripping down during the melting process. Everyone at the table takes turn to slid their plates under the grill, with chatters and laughter aplenty. Gimme more cold days for raclette please!

Week 3: P’tit Basque
A modern cheese (introduced in 1997), P’tit Basque is made from pasteurised sheep milk and aged over a period of 70 days. As the name implied, it is small in size and came from the Basque region (of France though, not Spain). The cheese has a smooth paste in pale cream without any eyes, enveloped by light brown rind. The cheese is quite firm to touch, but remains relatively soft and moist in texture. Creamy even. It is not particularly pungent and instead, mild to taste but with a hint of sweetness (akin to caramelised sugar which I’ve taken a real liking to) blending with saltiness. I’d quite happily eat more of these.

Week 4: Tomme fraîche / Aligot
Yet another winter favourite, aligot is a dish made using the cheese tomme fraîche although you could easily tell the cheesemonger you’re looking for aligot and s/he would know what you want anyway. Tomme fraîche often comes in big block which is then cut according to quantity required. It resembles feta at first glance, white in colour and without rind. It is also elastic to touch. To prepare aligot, the cheese is melted down while potatoes are boiled and mashed. They are then combined together with some butter and chopped garlic, which properly done would produced smooth and cheesy mash that can be pulled into long strings. Happy days. Serve with some good hearty (Toulouse) sausages, the mild and creamy mash pulls the flavour in together beautifully.

* Honestly, I have a slight built but not all that svelte – can anyone tell how much weight I’m putting this winter from all these decadent eating yet? ;) Good thing I have eating partners in crime. Hurrah for friends who do love their cheeses and willing to indulge me in my whims!

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