Gorging ourselves on French cheese

When my friend Charlie moved to France to become an apple trader (!) he announced that he was going to try a different cheese each day.

This is Charlie. He knows a lot about apples.

I pointed out that this mightn’t be the healthiest approach to life on the continent. He acquiesced, and settled for a different cheese each week instead.

I jumped on the idea and appointed him as The Food I Eat’s foreign correspondent. The plan was that Charlie would photograph and write about each cheese, and I’d post it on the blog—a sort of cheese columnist, sending overseas news to the ‘office’ in Bethnal Green.

The main stumbling block in this plan was that Charlie never photographed the cheeses. He didn’t write about them either—though I do gather that he ate a lot, so he didn’t entirely diverge from the initial plan.

I began to grumble a bit about his lack of cheese posts, and tried to persuade him to restrain himself enough to photograph the cheese before wolfing it down, or to pen some notes before drifting into a cheese-induced stupor. But it’s hard to get boys to do what you want.

So, Charlie found his own solution to the problem, and turned up on my doorstep yesterday with four cheeses in his hand luggage. Well, it was hand luggage until he was made to check it into the hold—something to do with stinking out the cabin, or the fact that the centre of a Mont d’Or was technically over the 100ml liquid limit…

So, lastnight Charlie, Tom and I unleashed the cheeses, and had a little smackeral of each — two for starter, and two for pudding. By flying over the cheeses himself, I’ve let Charlie off the writing and photography, so here are the results of the long-awaited cheese tasting:

Petit Livarot

petit-livarot

This cheese honked like a farmyard, and tasted a little bit of manure too…but a sweet, sweet manure—Tom announced that he loved it so much he’d like a Petit Livarot enema, but we ignored him because, frankly, that’s revolting.

The Normandy cheese is known as The Colonel because the reed strips that hold it together and stop it from escaping are (apparently) a little like uniform stripes…though to be honest, you’ve got to have eaten a hell of a lot of Petit Livarot before you reach such a cheese frenzy you start to notice its resemblance to army officers.

It’s made from cow’s milk, has ‘long legs’ (in the wine drinking sense), and tasted of dreams…and faintly of cows’ bottom. Highly recommended.

Sainte Maure de Touraine

saint-maure

This is Charlie’s local cheese, and was my favourite of the four. While a cheese connoisseur might deem a crumbly Tesco’s goat’s cheese an imposter on the cheeseboard, the Sainte Maure de Touraine bridges the gap between a goaty goat’s cheese and a high end cheeseboard cheese.

It’s faintly sticky on the outside, and has a straw in it—not a drinking straw to slurp up its cheesy goodness, but a piece of straw running through it to hold it all together.

Traditionally the Sainte Maure de Touraine is rolled into a 12” log. According to local legend, cheese eaters shouldn’t start with the narrow end of the log —apparently it’s like cutting off the udder of a goat which, of course, isn’t a good thing if you’re into goats’ cheese. The cheese itself was pleasantly nutty, and had a definite hint of the goat about it. Highly recommended.

Pont L’Eveque AOC

pont-leveque

Charlie took a big whiff, announced that The Pont smelt like ammonia. To be fair, it did sting the nostrils.

Apparently this is the oldest Norman cheese still in production—dating back to the 12th century when it was made by monks. It smelt and tasted of the olden days, a bit like the Jorvik Viking Centre and battle reenactment societies.

It’s a meaty cheese—a meal in itself, with a long and bitter aftertaste. An acquired taste, but still a highly recommended cheese.

Mont d’Or

mont-dor

“I can feel it clogging my arteries” Tom said, “…in a good way”. Three biscuits in he clutched his chest and thought he was having a heart attack. But then I watched him snaffle a forth biscuit loaded with Mont d’Or when he thought I wasn’t looking.

This really is the cheese of dreams—more robust and nuttier than brie, and often eaten with a spoon, which is an excellent way to tackle such a more-ish cheese.

Mont d’Or is best enjoyed after a long, hard day of exercise because then you can polish off an entire pot without being quite so wracked with guilt. Highly recommended.

Comments

  1. Roddy Riddell says

    As the father of “Le grand fromage” Charlie I am not surprised that he did not manage to take the photos or even write about them but I am pleased that he did bring you some cheese….and I thought that he was bringing me a present as he was on his way home! Just a tad of favouritism?

  2. says

    You have no idea how jealous I am. I work at a Cheese Room here in Sydney but we do not get all of those beautiful washed rinds here, and of course all the cheese we import here is pasturized sadly. BUT I am enjoying epoisses at the moment which are great slightly warmed in the oven and drizzled with warm maple syrup, capers and thyme.

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