September 29, 2010
Brillat Savarin is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. It is a luscious cheese that feels decadent yet has a simple appearance that belies its luxuriousness. This is a fantastic cheese.
Brillat Savarin is a triple cream, bloomy rind cheese from the Ile-de-France region of France. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and additional cream to achieve a 75% fat content. It comes to market young and in a small disc format that allows the cheese to continue ripening as it matures.
Brillat Savarin looks like a petite cheese pie. It has a thin yellow-white rind that shows lines and indentations from its cheese mold. The interior paste is milky white and looks like whipped butter. To the touch, the paste is very soft and wet.
Brillat Savarin has a sweet aroma that is wheaty and a bit like fresh bread. The rind has a clean mushroom aroma.
The consistency of Brillat Savarin is extremely creamy. The interior paste of our sample had a solid consistency similar to a chevre, yet the paste closer to the rind was more like thick yogurt. This cheese was easily spreadable.
Brillat Savarin has a relatively mild flavor. It is milky and pleasantly sour. There is also a buttery sweetness to the cheese. Its sour flavor lasts long on the tongue. The rind has a distinct bloomy rind flavor that nicely balances the paste’s flavors.
This cheese was a no-brainer at my house. My kids are partial to triple cream and double cream cheeses, so this was an easy sell. Both juvenile tasters liked this cheese and would be pleased to see it again.
Although this cheese was much loved, it was messy. Our sample was at a beautiful point of ripeness, yet it was sloppy on the plate and collapsed under knife pressure. This is a cheese for a casual meal and would work better served in individual portions rather than placed on a communal plate.
Notes on purchasing: We purchased Brillat Savarin at Whole Foods (San Francisco). Our sample was a quarter wedge of a whole cheese and was pre-wrapped.
September 28, 2010
French Tome de Chalosse could be a kissing cousin to Urgelia from Spain. These two washed rind cheeses have a similar look and feel, yet they differ in flavor. While Urgelia won several fans in our house, Tome de Chalosse did not.
We tasted Urgelia and Tome de Chalosse on the same evening and had a hard time keeping them separate on our plates. Typically, we try not to taste similar cheeses at the same time because comparisons are inevitable. However, Urgelia and Tome de Chalosse were purchased by separate shoppers for our tasting and it wasn’t until we assembled the evening’s cheese plate that we realized their similarity.
Like Urgelia, Tome de Chalosse is a semi-soft, washed rind cow’s milk cheese. It is produced in the Aquitaine region of southern France.
Tome de Chalosse has irregular, flat holes in its yellow-white paste. To the touch, the interior is firm, smooth and a bit greasy. The rind is very thin (more like a skin), dry and shows tan beneath a layer of white powder.
The exterior rind of Tome de Chalosse smells of minerals and dried flowers. Jacob mentioned a soap scent. The interior paste smells buttery.
The flavor profile of Tome de Chalosse is similar to Urgelia. It has a pronounced nuttiness, some sourness and ends with a light fruity bitterness. The natural rind adds to the bitterness so we did not eat it. This cheese coats the mouth with flavor. Compared to Urgelia, this cheese has a stronger nuttiness, lingering sourness, and less bitterness. Tome de Chalosse’s texture is more chewy, wet and rubbery than Urgelia.
Our tasters were mixed on Tome de Chalosse; two liked this cheese, one didn’t, and one thought it “just okay.” Between Urgelia and Tome de Chalosse, my family chose Urgelia because of its flavors. No one asked for a re-purchase of Tome de Chalosse.
Notes on purchasing: We purchased Tome de Chalosse at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).
September 22, 2010
Urgelia is a cheese that I had not heard of before our purchase, yet it seemed wholly familiar at the cheese counter. This cheese has the everyday appeal of Monterey Jack, with an appearance closer to Havarti. This Spanish cheese offers more interesting flavor than either of those American standards.
Urgelia is a washed rind, semi-soft cheese from the Catalan area of Northern Spain. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is also sold as L’Alt Urgell or Urgell.
Urgelia has a hard, orange-brown rind that looks as if it has been coated in flour. The interior paste is butter yellow and has uneven holes. The rind smells sweet and peanutty. The paste’s aroma is milky. To the touch, Urgelia is spongy and a bit greasy.
Urgelia has a nice combination of flavors. It is nutty, yet also has a sour, bitter fruit flavor similar to grapefruit. The cheese finishes with a bitter fruit flavor that lingers lightly in the mouth. This cheese is smooth and creamy.
We all liked this cheese and would purchase it again. One of my juvenile tasters asked for the remainder of Urgelia for his lunchbox the next day. Urgelia would make a nice everyday cheese, or one for a picnic or a casual meal. There is nothing fancy about this cheese, but it is quite tasty and is relatively inexpensive.
Notes on purchasing: We purchased Urgelia at Whole Foods (San Francisco).
September 22, 2010
It was hard to eat La Tur without thinking of dessert. When I first cut into La Tur, its density felt like cheesecake under my knife and that impression remained during our tasting. La Tur is a cheese that could replace dessert.
La Tur is a soft bloomy rind cheese made from a blend of cow, sheep and goat milks. This cheese is made in Italy by Caceificio dell’Alta Langa. It has a small dome-shaped format. La Tur arrives at market cloaked in a paper wrap like a cupcake and pre-packaged in a plastic cup.
La Tur looks rustic. It has a thin, soft yellow-white rind that shows indentations from its paper wrap and cheese form. The interior paste is creamy white, dense and looks like New York-style cheesecake. La Tur’s paste has sweet aromas of dried grass, honeycomb and whipping cream. The rind smells like wet animal.
This cheese’s interior texture is similar to a chevre-style goat cheese. It has a dense and creamy consistency; it is not dry or chalky. It feels rich and luxurious in the mouth.
The flavors of La Tur are relatively delicate. The dominant flavor is sweet and akin to honey. There is a light tart goat cheese flavor, too, but La Tur’s sweetness lingers.
Most of our tasters liked this cheese; one adult found it boring and without flavor. Our two juvenile tasters liked La Tur a lot, and one wrote that it reached the Mt. Tam gold-standard range.
La Tur would make a nice cheese to share at the end of a meal with fruit, in lieu of dessert. Our sample retained its form out of refrigeration for over an hour. Its soft format and packaging doesn’t lend itself well to a picnic, unless one intends to eat the whole cheese.
Notes on purchasing: La Tur is pre-packaged in a small plastic cup and is purchased whole. Its size allows for 8 small servings. We purchased this cheese at Whole Foods (San Francisco). This is a young cheese that continues to ripen over time, so its flavor and consistency may change.
September 20, 2010
Iberico is an easy eater that practically screams everyday cheese. This popular Spanish cheese is the second mixed-milk cheese we have tasted. Iberico is not a splashy cheese, yet its nutty flavor and chewy texture make it an appealing go-to cheese for many occasions.
Iberico is a firm cheese made from a combination of raw cow, goat and sheep milks. The rind of Iberico is black, hard and patterned with herringbone. The interior paste is a pale creamy yellow with tiny irregular holes. The cheese has fresh aromas of meadow grass and butter.
Iberico has a mild nutty flavor. It also has the buttery richness found in sheep’s milk cheeses. It does not have a strong finish, but its nutty flavor lingers long in the mouth. Iberico has a chewy texture.
We all liked this cheese. I purchased a large chunk for our tasting and we ate all but a tiny sliver. Iberico does not overwhelm the senses, nor is it the kind of cheese that creates long memories. Yet its flavor and texture make it a versatile cheese. Iberico would make a nice cheese for everyday, a picnic, day-hikes, kid’s meals, and casual entertaining. This cheese can sit out of refrigeration without degradation for a long time.
Notes on purchasing: Our purchase source was Country Cheese Co. (San Francisco).
September 17, 2010
We have gone all summer without a dip into blue cheese, so it was time for an introduction to the blues. We have shied away from blue cheese since our Monte Enebro tasting (both kids detested this cheese and Jacob went so far as to simulate death). Fromager d’Affinois Blue offered just the right introduction to blue cheese: a luscious creamy texture with immediate appeal and just a sprinkling of blue.
Fromager d’Affinois Blue is a soft cheese from France that is made with pasteurized cow’s milk. The interior cheese paste is butter yellow with specks of gray-blue. The exterior rind is white and light tan. The cheese has a vegetal odor like broccoli.
This cheese is soft, sticky and spreadable with a finger. It has a texture and consistency similar to buttercream icing.
Fromager d’Affinois Blue has a nice combination of buttery sweet and tangy blue flavors. The cheese also has a slightly ashy or smoky flavor from the blue. The blue flavor is not as dominant in this cheese as it is in a Gorgonzola or Point Reyes Blue and it doesn’t have the clean saltiness of those cheeses. The blue flavor is much lighter in Fromage d’Affinois Blue and it balances well with the buttery sweetness of the cheese. Fromager d’Affinois Blue is super creamy and has excellent mouth feel.
At our tasting, Jacob rejected this cheese and its blue flavors (but this cheese didn’t kill him like Monte Enebro). Ben really liked this cheese and suggested we purchase it again.
Fromager d’Affinois Blue is a relatively light blue and it has such a lovely texture that it makes the perfect introductory blue cheese. This cheese held up beautifully out of refrigeration. Fromager d’Affinois Blue would make a nice cheese for a party or a communal cheese plate.
Notes on purchasing: Our sample of Fromager d’Affinois Blue was purchased at Country Cheese Co. (San Francisco).
September 17, 2010
Gres des Vosges is a beautiful cheese that seduced me in the cheese shop. This is not a casual picnic cheese or one for a day-hike. Gres des Vosges is a visually elegant cheese that seems more “special occasion” than everyday fare.
Gres des Vosges is a soft, washed rind cheese from the Alsace region of France. Gres des Vosges has a small oval format and is pre-packaged in a wood box. It is made with pasteurized cow’s milk by Maison Fischer.
Gres des Vosges’ appearance evokes autumn and seasonal change. It has a light orange rind that is gently lined and decorated with a single dried fern. The rind’s surface looks as if it has been sprinkled with granulated sugar. The interior paste of the cheese is yellow-white and looks wet and gooey.
Gres des Vosges has a pungent smoky aroma that is unpleasant. Both kids compared the odor to cigar smoke.
The cheese has both sweet and sour milk flavors. The cheese finishes salty, yet its sour milk flavor lasts long in the mouth. Gres des Vosges’ texture is smooth, creamy and a bit runny near the rind.
Gres des Vosges is a delicious cheese. One of my juvenile tasters did not like this cheese, but the other did and was happy to get his brother’s discarded sample. Once the rind of Gres des Vosges is penetrated, the whole cheese collapses a bit and gets quite messy. We opted not to eat the rind, and separating the cheese from its rind required some handy knife work.
Gres des Vosges is such a visually appealing cheese that it almost demands sharing with friends. Its small format is the perfect size for four, 1-ounce servings. Its packaging also makes it a good cheese to take to a party as a hostess gift.
Notes on purchasing: Gres des Vosges is purchased as a whole cheese; be prepared to eat the whole cheese in one sitting. Our purchase source was Country Cheese (San Francisco).