Petit Ardi Gasna: An Everyday Sheep Cheese

February 19, 2011

Petit Ardi Gasna is a lovely everyday cheese.  It is easy to eat, smooth on the palate and offers perfectly balanced flavors.  Ardi Gasna looks rather boring at the cheese counter, but we found it addictive on the plate.

Ardi Gasna is a semi-firm cheese from the Basque region in France.  It is made with raw sheep’s milk by Fromagerie Agour and has earned several awards.  The cheese is produced in small 700-gram drums (about 1.5 pounds), and is brushed with coulis de Piment d’Espelette, a puree of  espelette chili peppers  dry-rubbed with pimenton, a Spanish paprika.  Cheeses are aged for a minimum of 3 months before market.

petit-agour-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011 Ardi Gasna’s chili red rind gives it a fiery appearance.  The natural red-orange rind is thin, dry and scored with lines from its production.  The interior paste is dull yellow and has a greenish cast.  At the rind, the paste darkens into a light walnut.  To the touch, the paste is solid and greasy.

Ardi Gasna’s rind smells like toasted nuts.  The interior paste has light scents of  blueberries and rye.

Ardi Gasna has well-balanced flavor.  It has a sweet berry fruitiness that is matched by a rich nutty flavor.  The flavors are not too assertive and seem “just right.”  Ardi Gasna leaves a mildly nutty aftertaste in the mouth.  The cheese has a chewy texture that is not overly rich.  When eaten, the rind adds some spicy hotness to the cheese, but its grittiness is detracting.

We all liked this cheese and it was a big hit with my kids.  Ardi Gasna makes an excellent snacking cheese.  Its flavors and texture are so pleasing that this cheese was hard to stop eating.  While Ardi Gasna offers the casual simplicity of an everyday cheese, it would make a good addition to an outdoor meal.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Petit Ardi Gasna from Say Cheese (San Francisco); it was sold as Petit Agour.

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9 Responses to “Petit Ardi Gasna: An Everyday Sheep Cheese”

  1. Paul Says:

    Hi,

    A link to the producer’s website:

    http://www.agour.com

    I could find no mention of “pimentón” (nor pimenton), which is paprika in spanish (from my experience, and from the RAE), whether it comes from spain or not.

    http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltConsulta?TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=piment%F3n

    I find very useful your mentioning the cheese retailer for each of your purchases.

    I have seen the claim that the rind is rubbed with “pimenton”, on http://www.markethallfoods.com, and a blog, where did you find it?

    Thanks for the nice review as usual, though as you see there are plenty of details that bother me. (And I am not commenting on all of them. :))

    For instance it seems the cheese you have reviewed is actually called “petit ardi gasna” by the company Agour, while “petit agour” is a similar cheese not rubbed with paprika (“purée de piment d’Espelette” is the term used on the Agour’s website -save for the capital letters perhaps :)-, this paprika comes from France, not Spain).

    I have not reviewed the awards claims, but in general if you could give references for the facts that would be really great, really.

    Thanks for all the work,
    Paul


    • Paul, you are right! The cheese that we ate was the “Petit Ardi Gasna,” not the “Petit Agour Brebis” from Agour Fromagerie’s website. I’m amending this post to reflect this change as well as your correction about the paprika. Thanks for ensuring I am accurate. I get more false information at cheese shops than accurate facts–it’s really quite a problem, and it’s not something I wish to perpetuate.

  2. Paul Says:

    Well sorry for the couple of typos in my comment -no capital to Spain, etc.

    Regarding the awards the concours général agricole 2011 is running right now in Paris I think.

    In any case I have reviewed the years 2004-2010 and petit ardi gasna has won no award. Petit agour has won several as well as various ossau-iraty cheeses from Agour, during those years.

    Also Agour’s ossau-iraty won the World Cheese Awards’ supreme award in 2006.

    Those are the only competitions mentioned on Agour’s website. So my feeling is that the petit ardi gasna has won no award. But I guess Agour make good cheese. I will try to sample them.

    I am glad to see that you are concerned with getting accurate information and editing your posts for mistakes.

    In my experience few retailers know or even care much about the details of cheese making and marketing, they are not necessarily only interested in your money, they just tend not to bother much.
    I like and try to really know and as an exercise I communicate what I learn to others, like here criticizing.

    An interesting fact I have learned from this story, piment d’Espelette is PDO (protected…).

    Additional criticism, regarding the stinking bishop you say that “one has to ignore its odor to enjoy this fine cheese”, my wife and I love the smell of washed rind cheeses, and I guess that would apply to the stinking bishop, though we have not had it. I know some other people like it too.

    Also, pimentón without qualificative would usually refer to not spicy one, spanish-speakers would use “pimentón picante” for chili powder, and the Espelette pepper seems to be -about jalapeño-level- spicy.

    Pimentón dulce is used to refer explicitly to nonspicy paprika.

    …I cannot hide I am procrastinating.


    • I get such bad information from cheese shops–it’s really criminal. The worst is mislabeling. When we took home Chabis Feuille, I spent half a day trying to figure out what we ate because it was mislabeled. I’m sure most consumers don’t care about this, but if I routinely get bad information, I go elsewhere. As for Stinking Bishop: you should try it, if you like washed rind cheeses. It’s good and we all liked it, but it was the first time that some in our group couldn’t get beyond a washed rind cheese’s aroma.

  3. Paul Says:

    I know, everyday client/salesperson relationships are tricky. Enough so that I will wish you luck and not try to advise you here. Good luck.

    Regarding the stinking bishop a short search tells me it looks very interesting. You probably guess that I try every cheese I can, if only for the sake of knowledge. But there are so many!

    Until now I have not had that many anglo-saxon cheeses (UK, US, Australia). I certainly plan to learn about them in the future. I think it has not been bad for me to learn first about french, spanish, italian cheese (this is still in progress) which have on average longer traditions and it seems less complexity.

    But yes, now I feel very curious about all those new cheeses from the US and Australia. You have had a sort of golden age, with the growth of artisan cheese in the US much had to be invented, despite much importation. It seems to me the US is the most interesting cheese country for a european like me.

    The stinking bishop is UK OK, but it’s a new cheese and it made me digress. 🙂

    It sounds great anyway, any cheese invention is.

    Further comments. I tried recently Graindorge (aka La Fromagerie de Livarot, Normandie)’s graindorge (they called the cheese the same as the brand) which is a livarot (mixed coagulation I believe, rennet/acid, curd cut rather small and agitated, but not pressed in the molds) without the “laîches”, washed with calvados du pays d’Auge (apple brandy). It did not match as well as the camembert au calvados (which they also produce) I would say, so I am curious how the stinking bishop comes out. (Of course we loved the cheese.)

    They released the results of the CGA, http://www.cga-paris.com/documents/pdf/2011_2.pdf .

    Agour did really well, I have to try their ossau-iratys. (Petit) Ardi gasna may be difficult or not interesting for them to enter in contests, though I know very little about this topic.

    Regarding searching information about cheese it is often interesting, there are many things to learn about society, the economy, marketing,… It is also useful practice, staying critical of the information we get and give, aware. But it is true that it would be nice if people were more careful, and honest. 🙂

  4. ScottC Says:

    These cheeses are confusingly labelled (or perhaps it’s only confusing because I speak only English!) I have just recently purchased the same cheese, definitely with paprika on the rind, and clearly labelled (by the manufacturer) with the following “Petit Agour” in large type, the main text on the label. In smaller letters below that, it reads “Fromages du Pays Basque” and “Euskal Herriko Gasnak”. In even smaller letters around the outside of the circular label it reads “Fromage pur Brebis du Pays Basque – Euskal Herriko Ardi Gasna”. So, not speaking the language, if I was to guess the name of the cheese from teh label, I’d assume (incorrectly, I expect)… Petit Agour!


    • I agree, ScottC! We had our own confusion with the labeling on “Petit Agour,” but I didn’t have the benefit of the label. Fortunately, one of my other readers set me straight. I wonder if this is the cheese’s marketing name in the States. Have you checked agour fromagerie’s web-site to compare labels to what you purchased? But labels aside, what about the cheese?

      • ScottC Says:

        It’s not a good advertising method when you’re confused even WITH the label… or, again, maybe it’s must me 🙂

        As for my opinion of the cheese; I largely agree with your review. It’s an ‘easy eating cheese’. Very nice, but not mind-blowing. I’d certainly recommend it and eat it again. I was expecting more of a paprika flavour, since the aroma of the paprika is what attracted me to it before I even saw it! I didn’t really taste it a great deal in the cheese though.

        I can’t comment about the marketing name in the USA… I’m from Melbourne, Australia! On that note: Do you have access to any/many Australian cheeses?

        Thanks for your blog, too. I’m about to start a blog quite similar to your’s. I’ve been meaning to do it for a few months now actually, but haven’t gotten around to it! I keep notes, but haven’t converted them to a blog yet 🙂 In fact, that’s how I came across your blog (and a couple of others that write on a similar theme). Perhaps I’ll include links to your reviews too, if we happen to sample the same cheeses. It’s always good to hear other opinions, I think!


  5. Ahh…I think we could get really off-topic if we start discussing “truth in advertising.” But, I do agree that the labeling (or lack thereof) is confusing, even when it is in one’s native language. There is a lot on a product label and it can be confusing to the average consumer (maybe they are designed for the above average?). I have seen diagrams akin to anatomical charts that detail the specifics of a cheese label.

    In the States, a lot of the labels on small cheeses are more about marketing, so I don’t pay much attention to them when I purchase cheese. Most cut-to-order cheese is unlabeled. It is only when I write up our comments that I can get into trouble with identification. My impression is that the labeling on European cheeses is more controlled than it is here.

    As for Australian cheese availability in the US, I have seen only one import from Tasmania (I cannot recall the name of the producer).

    Good luck with your blog! It has been a fun project for my family and I wish the same for you.

    Ann


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