JANUARY 2024: FISCALLY FRIENDLY FROMAGE
Great cheese doesn’t have to cost a lot of cheddar. (Sorry, couldn’t help ourselves.) In fact, some of our favorite cheeses are less expensive and more flavorful than those at twice the price.
To celebrate this, we are featuring four of our favorite budget-friendly cheeses, including a buttery cow from Holland, a smoky sheep and creamy goat from Spain, and a nutty caramely cow from France.
CAPRICHO DE CABRA
SPAIN | GOAT | PASTEURIZED
Capricho is our go-to fresh goat cheese at the French Market cheese counter, and the only one we carry year round.
Another wonderful example of the preservation of age-old techniques that support a region, this sweet and bright fresh cheese is made with milk from the Murciana breed of goat in the Murcia region of Southeast Spain. Murciana goats produce milk that is exceptionally rich in butterfat, making for a smooth, creamy goat that isn’t dry or chalky, as others tend to be.
With the breed having been established in the region since the 1600s, the infrastructure for breeding to the highest standards and maintaining profitability is preserved to this day. As a result, Capricho de Cabra remains an affordable, consistent option in the fresh goat game that consumers can feel good about supporting.
Equally at home as a salad ingredient or featured on a cheese board, Capricho lends itself to any application, and the cheesemakers offer it coated in many flavors, from herbs to fruit. Capricho’s sweet, delicate, creamy flavor will be on full display on this month’s board!
Flavor Profile: milk, pepper, tang
Food Pairing: honey, thyme
Accoutrement Pairing: salted nuts, fig jam
Wine Pairing: Prosecco DOC Frizzante, Amador Zinfandel
One of our all time favorites, and something we aim to have available at all times in the case, Vlaskaas is our preferred representation of Gouda style cheese.
Striking a perfect balance between the salty and sharp notes that come with age and the fresh creamy backbone of a young gouda, Vlaskaas is aged for 5 months in the Netherlands. The producer, Beemster, rediscovered the cheese in 2004 after reviewing recipes that had previously been made but forgotten. Vlaskaas had traditionally been produced only once a year — at the time of the flax harvest in the Netherlands — but Beemster found the cheese to be too delightful to only make once a year, and it is now available
Many a French Market employee has declared Vlaskaas their favorite all around cheese, and for good reason. We love Vlaskaas as a crowd pleasing addition to any cheese board, or (due to its sturdy nature) something to keep around the house as a utility cheese that can be melted into a dish or snacked on. Visit beemstercheese.us for cooking ideas!
Flavor Profile: butter, sweet milk, almond
Food Pairing: potato, cauliflower gratin
Accoutrement Pairing: fresh fruit, charcuterie
Wine Pairing: Muscadet, Beaujolais
Perhaps the most visually iconic cheese we carry at the French Market, a wheel of Mimolette is spherical in shape and, depending on the time of year, resembles a cantaloupe melon or pumpkin.
The cheese was originally commissioned by King Louis XIV, as he wanted a domestically produced cheese that was similar to the very popular Edam from the Netherlands. Mimolette is traditionally produced in Lille, in the far northeast of France, but often these days in Normandy as well. It is difficult to not be intrigued by the bright orange interior of Mimolette (the color is the result of natural annatto seed coloring added to the milk), and the flavor is equally unique, with a salty, umami character that makes it difficult to stop snacking upon.
The rind of Mimolette is created by adding cheese mites (yes, live mites) to the exterior of the cheese. The activity of the mites on the exterior of the cheese enhances the flavor of the cheese and gives it its signature aged look. Mimolette is available at several different ages, but we exclusively carry it at an age of 12 months or ‘vielle’ as we feel this is the most balanced point in its life.
Due to the lack of moisture in the cheese and tendency to become oily when heated, we prefer Mimolette as a snack with a glass of beer (like while watching a game) or on a cheese board with savory or sweet accoutrements.
Flavor Profile: fruit, nut, caramel
Food Pairing: pasta
Accoutrement Pairing: green olive, dried fruit
Wine Pairing: Vintage Port, Côtes du Rhône
SPAIN | SHEEP | UNPASTEURIZED
Hailing from Spain’s Basque region, where more famous cheeses such as Manchego are produced, Idiazabal maintains a good level of production and representation as a more compact wheel with a smoky flavor.
Idiazabal packs a lot of flavor and is a great value that fits a distinct flavor profile among many homogeneous cheeses. Traditionally the smoking process is optional, with the smoky flavor coming from the fireplaces near the aging of the cheese, but most of the cheese is lightly smoked today.
The cheese is made with the milk of Latxa and Carranzana dairy sheep, which, due to their seasonal milking, do not produce as high of a volume of milk annually as other dairy breeds in the region. Using unpasteurized whole milk, the flavor is big and bold. (Lovers of smoked Gouda should definitely try!). And it pairs well with savory accoutrements, cured meats, or the traditional basque pairing of membrillo (quince paste).
Idiazabal is a wonderful addition to any board, sliced atop a burger, shaved over salad, or grated into a pasta dish!
Flavor Profile: smokey, buttery
Food Pairing: shaved over salad
Accoutrement Pairing: jamon serrano, fruit jam
Wine Pairing: Garnacha or Tempranillo, Txakoli
NOVEMBER 2023: ALPINE CHEESES
As cheesemongers, we have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to share a few examples of this diverse and versatile group of cheeses all year!
“Alpine” cheeses, primarily made in the Alps of Switzerland, span a broad range of flavor profiles and are unified by their dense, uniform texture. Since they melt evenly and complement a wide range of flavors, these cheeses are a key ingredient in many recipes, while equally at home on a cheese board or just for snacking.
This month, we are showcasing exemplary iterations of classic household names alongside newer, “boutique” varieties of Swiss Alpine cheese. Because there is such a range of flavors among these cheeses, we recommend starting mild and working up in intensity:
Of course, there’s no wrong way to eat cheese. So dig in and enjoy!
To learn more about Alpine cheese, as well as one of our favorite producers of it, visit:
Switzerland | Cow’s Milk | Unpasteurized
As with every cheese club selection, the location where a cheese is produced is inextricably linked with its taste. This family of cheese is no exception, as the nutrient-rich meadows of the surrounding mountains lead to exceptionally rich and flavorful cow’s milk.
Emmentaler has been produced in Langnau im Emmental, Switzerland, since the 16th century and still accounts for the bulk of this region’s production. However, the Gourmino Collective of cheesemakers has revived centuries-old production methods to make exceptional Emmentaler, as well as introduce new varieties of their own, like Rahmtaler. Rahmtaler begins with the same milk used to produce Emmentaler, but in addition to full-fat raw milk, cream is added to the mixture the evening before the cheese is made. The result is a texture and mouthfeel that is fuller, creamier, and smoother.
Rahmtaler can be used just like Emmentaler, but it is a bit more interesting to include on a cheese board or for snacking, especially for those who prefer a milder flavor and are working their way up to more robust cheeses, like those following on this month’s board.
Flavor Profile: mild, nutty, alpine meadow
Food Pairing: vegetable gratin, roasted tomato
Accoutrement Pairing: cured pork, mustard
Wine Pairing: Dolcetto, Willamette Pinot Noir
Le Gruyere AOP Spycher
Switzerland | Cow’s Milk | Unpasteurized
Perhaps the most widely known Swiss cheese next to Emmentaler, Gruyère is wonderfully balanced, exemplifying all the characteristics of the Alpine style of cheesemaking. For selecting a specific Gruyère, we have good reason to stay with the Gourmino Collective, as this Gruyère has won the world cheese championship three times, including last year.
Using a recipe dating back more than 900 years, Le Gruyère is made by three master cheesemakers, with one saying, “Looking out the window from the dairy, I can watch the cows of my milk suppliers grazing. They all graze within a radius of one kilometre.”
The Surchoix variety we receive is aged for 12 months, with a more robust flavor than Emmentaler, a bit less acidity, and a delightful stone-fruity punch through the toasted chestnut flavor. Due to their acidity and method of production, both Emmentaler and Gruyère melt evenly without the fats separating, which makes it ideal for fondue. It’s also one of the reasons we use it so extensively here at French Market, including on our Croque Monsieur, Onion Soup, Gruyère, Croissant, and Quiches.
Flavor Profile: roasted hazelnuts, cooked cream, vanilla
Food Pairing: croque monsieur, french onion soup
Accoutrement Pairing: hazelnuts, apricot jam
Wine Pairing: Vermentino, Crémant d’Alsace
Switzerland | Cow’s Milk | Unpasteurized
Our third cheese is relatively new, created by Gourmino master cheesemaker Michael Spycher 25 years ago. Naming the cheese after the small river flowing next to his dairy, Spycher makes and ages Hornbacher in his own cheese cellar, and until 2014, the cheese was only available in his small on-site shop.
With a wheel weighing in at just 12lbs (compared to 200 for Emmentaler and 70 for Gruyère), Hornbacher is one of the smaller, newer varieties of Alpine cheeses featuring more pinpointed, concentrated flavors. Gourmino describes Hornbacher as the “baked potato cheese,” and within the Alpine cheese flavor wheel it skews decidedly umami with notes of roasted nuts and caramelized onion.
Hornbacher is delightful shaved or sliced thinly atop country bread with caramelized onions or onion jam, or added to a mixture of Emmentaler and Gruyère in fondue. Savory flavors will do it well, but a salted caramel from France alongside Hornbacher might be an interesting combination! Hornbacher is one of our Alpine favorites and another class from Gourmino that deserves a spot on every holiday cheese board. Enjoy and find it at the counter all season long!
Flavor Profile: roasted nut, caramelized onion
Food Pairing: baked potato, root vegetables
Accoutrement Pairing: onion confit, blackberry jam, walnut
Wine Pairing: Gerwürtztraminer, Amontillado Sherry
Switzerland | Cow’s Milk | Unpasteurized
Last, but certainly not least, comes the “spiciest” of our Alpine cheese selections. Appenzeller hails from the Appenzell Innerrhoden canton in the East of Switzerland, and there are several varieties of Appenzeller produced, each identified by the color of its label.
Our preference has always been black-label Appenzeller, which has the sharpest and most robust flavor. Made from raw cow‘s milk, each wheel weighs about 15lbs and is washed with a secret herbal brine as it ages for at least 6 months in a damp 57°F cheese cellar. The texture and raw ingredients of this Appenzeller are similar to others on the board, but the flavor profile offers a completely different experience, with the influence of the aging environment evident. The Appenzeller trade association states that this one is a must for those who love tart cheese.
The Appenzeller trade association consists of four stakeholder groups responsible for the production and protection of cheese in the region,including the actual canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, 800 milk producers, 42 cheesemakers, and five distributors. The association operates as a non-profit and makes decisions democratically, demonstrating how regional unity and pride can preserve time-honored processes, support small-scale farmers, and offer traditional, high-quality products across the world. It’s also one of the main reasons why we are able to get exceptional cheeses like Appenzeller at prices even less than those produced here in the states.
Flavor Profile: nutty, clover spice
Food Pairing: ham, croissant
Accoutrement Pairing: fresh fruit, toasted notes
Wine Pairing: Dry Riesling, Chasselas
October 2023: To Brie, Or Not to Brie?
Fortunately, you don’t have to decide. This month, you get both: two distinct styles of brie and two equally rich and creamy brie-like cheeses from France and Italy.
In addition to the four cheeses, you receive a selection of cheese-loving accoutrements and a booklet with information on each cheese, tasting notes, and recommendations for pairing with food and wine.
BRIE DE MEAUX
France | Cow’s Milk | Pasteurized
While people often refer to any soft, spreadable cheese as “Brie” — and the term alone is not protected by the French government with an AOP designation — this is one of two that have protected status and embody what a true Brie is all about.
Brothers Luc and Jean-Philippe Dongé produce this “Brie de Meaux” in the town of Meuse in the Brie region of north-central France, just down the road from Meaux, where the cheese originated. With milk supplied by 30 local farms (pasteurized for the U.S. market), they use traditional production methods, like hand-ladling the milk into its molds, to produce what we consider the best representation of Brie available outside of France.
Brie de Meaux is produced in discs thinner and wider than Camembert, with an edible and flavorful bloomy rind. The flavor is earthy, savory, and vegetal, with a delightful buttery finish and a bit of a stronger flavor than the other cheeses on this month’s board. This staple is also incredibly versatile: bake it, snack on it, or make an amazing grilled cheese.
Flavor Profile: almond, mushroom, butter
Food Pairing: blackberry, sandwich bread (grilled cheese!)
Accoutrement Pairing: apple, honey
Wine Pairing: Loire Valley Chenin Blanc
France | Cow’s Milk | Pasteurized
The brothers Donge use the same 30 local farms to provide milk for this Triple Crème. Their interpretation of this relatively new (in cheese terms) style is supremely rich and creamy, boasting at least 75% butterfat in the dry matter of the cheese, which is more than any of the other cheeses featured this month.
Though the style originated in Normandy, similar Triple Crèmes are produced all over France, and the world, with great success, including several we carry on a rotating basis here at French Market: Brillat Savarin (hailed as the first ever produced), Delice de Bourgogne, Delice des Cremiers, Cambozola, and Pierre Robert. However, when it comes to buttery, creamy, and spreadable, this cheese is unmatched.
The rind really isn’t part of the fun here, but the tall interior paste makes it easy enough to scoop and spread onto a cracker or slice of baguette. And like most Triple Crèmes, this cheese goes well with sweet accompaniments, as well as tart ones that help cut through the seriously butter interior.
Flavor Profile: salt, butter, tang
Food Pairing: prosciutto, pear
Accoutrement Pairing: baguette, almond, green grape
Wine Pairing: Alsatian Riesling, Disznoko Tokaji
France | Cow’s Milk | Pasteurized
The spirit of cheese is a living thing ever evolving, just like cheese itself. As a result, new cheeses, and methods for its production, are being introduced all the time. Fromager d’Affinois from Fromagerie Guilloteau in the Rhone Alps of southeast France — perhaps the most ‘mass-produced’ cheese we’ve featured so far — is a perfect example.
Launched in the relatively near past of 1981, Fromager d’Affinois is produced using an innovative filtering process that yields milk richer in proteins and minerals. The result is an incomparably luscious and velvety texture that makes this cheese the ultimate crowd pleaser and consistently one of the most sought after cheeses in our case.
Despite being widely available, d’Affinois is a special cheese that you will always want to have around — whether for spreading on crackers or melting into a mind-blowing mac and cheese.
Flavor Profile: sweet, milky, mild
Food Pairing: cheesecake, strawberry
Accoutrement Pairing: raspberry conserve, flatbread cracker
Wine Pairing: Chablis Grand Cru, Beaujolais Gamay Noir
Italy | Cow’s Milk | Pasteurized
We have gone to great lengths to be able to carry cheeses from Caseficio Dell’Alta Langa, produced in the Piedmont region of Italy. And though it took about three years to figure out how to make it happen, it was worth it, as this Robiola Bosina is one of our absolute favorites in the case.
In the mountainous terrain adjacent to Switzerland and France, many cheeses here are made with milk from a combination of cows, goats, and sheep. In this case, the cheese is a blend of cow and sheep’s milk, resembling brie but offering a completely distinct flavor profile.
Robiola Bosina isn’t aged for long and retains a sweet cream flavor that balances against the nutty sheep’s milk beautifully. When young, the cheese is delightful at breakfast spread on an english muffin, with jam to accentuate its sweetness. As it ages, the texture becomes runnier and the flavor a bit more pungent, though it always retains a pleasant milkiness that makes it a great pairing for any number of accoutrements.
Flavor Profile: earthy, fresh cream, sea salt
Food Pairing: mushroom, shallot, flatbread
Accoutrement Pairing: raspberry jam, crostini
Wine Pairing: Franciacorta, Lambrusco
SEPTEMBER 2023: TASTE OF PLACE
For the second edition of the French Market Cheese Club, we bring you four fantastic cheeses from (or near) France — each with a flavor profile exhibiting distinct characteristics of its environment.
In addition to the four cheeses, we’ve included a selection of cheese-loving accoutrements and a booklet with information on each cheese, tasting notes, and recommendations for pairing with food and wine.
Entlebuch, Switzerland | Cow’s Milk | Unpasteurized
Rockflower comes from Gourmino, a collective of Swiss cheesemakers preserving time-honored production and focusing on quality over quantity. This wheel is named after the yellow flowers that grow on the slopes of the Kleinstein dairy’s “home mountain,” 2,500 feet above the hamlet of Werthenstein in central Switzerland.
The cheesemakers mostly produce large wheels of Emmentaler (Swiss cheese to us), whose production is limited by law. When they hit their limit, they use locally procured milk (“fresh raw milk from happy cows, grazing on lush flower meadows) to experiment with much smaller wheels like this Rockflower.
Since they are accustomed to producing extremely large wheels of cheese, all of that milky flavor gets concentrated in the smaller wheels. The result is an exceptional cheese with balanced salt, delicate earthiness, and floral flavor.
Flavor Profile: cooked cream, pine nuts, umami
Food Pairing: fresh fruit, fall vegetables
Accoutrement Pairing: dried apricot, pickled shallots
Wine Pairing: Sangiovese (Corsica, Sicily), Cab Franc (Hungary)
Bourgogne, France | Cow’s Milk | Unpasteurized
This delightfully pungent classic is a quintessential example of this month’s theme of “taste of place.” Named after the town (yes, Epoisses) where it originated at the start of the 16th century, it remains today the pride andj oy of its fewer than 1,000 residents. On first glance (or smell), Epoisses can be a bit intimidating, but it really is a quite simple, straightforward cheese, and not nearly as potent in flavor as it is in odor.
Made with just cow’s milk and salt, it ages for at least six weeks and is washed with a mixture of brine and Marc de Bourgogne, a local pomace (byproduct of winemaking) brandy that encourages the growth of bacteria and yeast to produce the distinct orange color and smell.
Even after working with Epoisses for years and experiencing in all stages of ripeness, I don’t think I fully appreciated or understood the allure of this cheese until a recent trip to Omaha, Nebraska, of all places. There, a friend and I stumbled upon a charming French bistro with a handwritten specials board listing an item simply called “Epoisses.” Of course, we ordered it and received a little wheel of Epoisses with sliced bread and a bit of jam (all it really needs). Allured by the creamy, round interior and rich umami of the crazy rind, I devoured far too quickly, without any regrets.
Flavor Profile: garlic, mushroom, fruit
Food Pairing: fresh baguette, cumin seed
Accoutrement Pairing: honeycrisp apple, spicy jam
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir (Burgundy), Merlot (Argentina)
Basque, France | Sheep’s Milk | Pasteurized
Last month we featured a cow’s milk cheese from the Basque region of France, a place where sheep’s milk reigns supreme. This time the milk is sheep, but the cheese is blue!
Urdiña is a new one for us, and a great exercise in experiencing “taste of place.” The Basque region is known for Manchego and other salty, nutty sheep’s milk cheeses, and Agour produces almost exclusively sheep’s milk cheese with natural rinds that impart a bit of umami flavor. When we went in for our first taste, we were prepared for the immediate salinity and delighted as it gave way to a creamy backbone and delightful tang from the blue. The natural rind reduces the overall moisture of the cheese a bit, but in turn provides a much more developed and full flavor profile that lends itself to this style of sheep’s milk cheese.
Urdiña is quickly becoming one of our favorites, with characteristics indicative of the place it is from, and a unique, approachable flavor.
Flavor Profile: nuts, spices, apricots
Food Pairing: green salad, grilled vegetables
Accoutrement Pairing: sour cherry, tart fruit compote
Wine Pairing: Trockenbeerenauslese, Reserve Tawny Port (Borges or Cruz House)
TOMME DE CHATAIGNERAIE
Pays de la Loire | Goat’s Milk | Pasteurized
One of our all-time favorites, Tomme de Chataigneraie is a beautiful cheese to behold on a board and backs up its good looks with a supremely distinct texture and wonderfully nuanced flavor. Produced on the western edge of the scenic Pays de la Loire in western France, the goats graze in a chestnut forest (chataigneraie).
Much like pigs eating acorns to produce nutty, delicious ham, the chestnuts contribute to the nutty flavor of this cheese. In our experience, the texture is uncommon for goat’s milk cheeses. It is firm enough to slice, but still soft and unctuous. The rind is a real showstopper on a board, with a vibrant orange-yellow rind attributed to the aging by Herve Mons, a cheese affineur we consider one of the true “rockstars” of the cheese world. To achieve this perfect crust, he acquires the cheese young and ages it for about three months.
We don’t carry anything else quite like this one, and it is one of the most approachable cheeses in the case, despite the intimidating rind!
Flavor Profile: smooth, herbal, chestnut, chestnut, and more chestnut
Food Pairing: mushroom, sage
Accoutrement Pairing: dried cranberry, dried cherry, almonds
Wine Pairing: Brut Champagne, Chablis
AUGUST 2023: FRENCH (AND CROATIAN) CHEESE
For the first edition of the French Market Cheese Club, we bring you four fantastic cheeses — each distinct in region and style — with three from France and one from Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.
To accompany your cheeses, we’ve also included sweet-and-spicy pecans, dried mission figs, baguette, and a sensational mirabelle plum jam by Maison Perrotte in France.
But don’t let your imagination stop there. While cheese is certainly delicious on its own, there’s also no limit to what you can pair with it. We’ve provided some recommendations, but feel free to experiment and find your own favorite combinations.
VALENCAY, PYRAMID TRADITION WITH ASH
Loire Valley, France | Goat’s Milk | Pasteurized
Valencay is a great example of French goat cheese from the Loire Valley, which is known for its vineyards, orchards, and production of various goods.
The quality of the grass that these goats graze upon is reflected in the rich, round fullness of every bite of this classic cheese. This particular pyramid is produced by Jacquin and Sons. They collect all of their milk from 50 local farms within a 30-mile radius of their production facility, which hits a sweet spot in terms of artisan, local production on a scale large enough for the product to be exported, all at a reasonable price.
The original story of the Valencay ‘pyramid’ is that the cheese was altered when Napoleon returned from his defeat in Egypt. As to not offend him and remind him of the defeat, the pyramid was truncated.
The cheese is balanced, with a natural ‘goat-y’ tang matched by its creamy backbone. The exterior is coated with a fully edible vegetable ash, which has many benefits in the production of the cheese, including: keeping insects and unwanted molds and microbes from calling the rind home, drying out the exterior of the rind, and balancing the pH of the rind which helps in the ripening process. In other words, ashed goat cheeses are great! Enjoy with a wide variety of accoutrements, dried fruit, nuts, jams, etc.
Flavor Profile: tangy, salty, creamy
Food Pairing: fresh beets, root vegetables, fresh greens, salad
Accoutrement Pairing: dried figs, honey, almonds
Wine Pairing: Loire Valley whites, Pinot Noir
Auvergne, France | Cow’s Milk | Pasteurized
This is one of our favorite blue cheeses. There are few blues that are so perfectly balanced and equally at home as an ingredient in a dish, topping for a salad, component of a cheeseboard, or spread on a piece of baguette as an afternoon snack.
It is also a great example of a few idiosyncrasies of the world of cheese today. As with many European cheeses, the name is simple and refers to the shape of the wheel (the ‘fourme’ a distinct tall narrow cylinder in this case) and the town where the cheese originated: Ambert. There it is! A cylinder of cheese from Ambert.
Fourme D’ambert also highlights the difference in price between a high-quality cheese produced in Europe and one produced right here in the United States. It’s difficult to imagine how a cheese that is produced in France, packaged, shipped across the ocean, shipped again to the midwest, and cut and packaged here before sale could cost about half of what many cheeses that are produced in this very country cost us.
Though the process and reasons for this are complex, I like to boil this down to one simple reason: Europe has been doing this a lot longer than we have! This is one of the oldest cheeses being produced in France and dates back as far as Roman times! Because they have been producing this cheese for so long in this same area, there is a great deal of infrastructure, knowledge, and support for its production. Essentially, the more volume of something you produce and sell, the less costly it becomes to make it. The French invest heavily in the production of cheese, protect certain varieties from becoming too industrialized, and eat lots of it! This makes the production of cheese akin to us growing corn, and keeps the cost low for a high-quality product. While this is all the more reason to buy more American made cheese and support producers of a high-quality product in our country, there’s no reason to not enjoy something that has been time-tested and has remained a favorite for so long.
The cheese itself is ‘semi-firm’ and easily spreadable, but structurally sound enough to be cubed. The mouth feel is unctuous and creamy, with all the richness of a triple creme balanced by the sharp bite of the ‘blue.’ Extremely versatile, enjoy it with dried or fresh fruit, honey, and baguette.
Flavor Profile: sharp, tangy, buttery, mushroom
Food Pairing: fresh fruit, salad topping
Accoutrement Pairing: honey
Wine Pairing: Port, Chenin Blanc
Pyrénées, France | Cow’s Milk | Pasteurized
The most obscure cheese of this month’s offering, Coeur Basque is a unique cheese with a very distinctive flavor profile. It is made in the very southwest of France, in the Iraty valley, which is known for its sheep’s milk cheeses. Sheep are the livestock animal of choice in these mountains, in the same region that Manchego is produced in Spain, so a cow’s milk cheese from this area is somewhat of an anomaly.
Coeur Basque is extremely difficult to find information about, and when searching the internet we have come across different sources that claim the cheese is aged for over a year. The producer, Onetik says “This is a one of a kind cheese with a dry texture, rough and pungent yet with a subtle charm much like the Basque country where it’s made.” They also state that it is aged for 6 months…
The flavor is a bit vegetal, with a creamy mouthfeel that lingers. Grilled vegetables would compliment it well, and nuts will bring out a different side to this one. Enjoy something that may or may not be available to us for long.
Flavor Profile: tangy, milky, earthy
Food Pairing: fresh fruit, grilled vegetables (e.g. zucchini, asparagus)
Accoutrement Pairing: cured meats, spiced niuts, tart dried fruits
Wine Pairing: Loir Valley reds
Pag Island, Croatia | Sheep and Cow’s Milk | Pasteurized
The original plan for this month’s cheese club was to highlight exclusively French cheeses, and in this slot we had a cheese called Fleur du Maquis produced in Corsica.
Fleur du Maquis is a wonderful semi-firm cheese coated in herbs. We had been getting it regularly for a couple of months at French Market, and it had become a customer favorite that we were excited to feature in the club … until the FDA (or maybe USDA?) stepped in. Due to an unknown issue, probably having something to do with the herbs on the outside of the cheese, or a seemingly arbitrary production issue that the FDA had an issue with, Fleur du Maquis is now not being imported to the country and we have no idea when or if it will be back! We mention this to show that the world of cheese is complicated, and things come and go frequently. There are thousands and thousands of cheeses being produced all over the world that we will never taste in our lifetime, and though we are featuring specific cheeses through this club, cheese is an idea and should be approached with an open mind.
If there is a specific cheese you are after, especially something more obscure of course, keep in mind that it may not be available for any number of reasons, but also know that a good cheesemonger should be able to help you find something that is similar and may provide you with the joy that the one you sought gave you.
In this case, the most appropriate substitute we could think of comes from another island off the Southern coast of Europe (Croatia), and is a blend of cow and sheep’s milk. Pag Island produces mostly sheep’s milk, with its location contributing to the salty, brine-y flavor of the cheese. Dalmatinac is a great find, easy to eat with a variety of accoutrements, and a favorite of anyone that ends up trying it in lieu of something more familiar, like Gouda. The salty bite is so pleasant, and balanced by the addition of creamy cow’s milk, that the cheese could lend itself to anything from a sandwich to being featured on a global cheese board. To the point of our inability to procure the Fleur du Maquis, there is a thriving cheese culture and economy in virtually every European country, Croatia included, each with its unique characteristics. Enjoy!
Flavor Profile: buttery, nutty, sharp, herbal
Food Pairing: prosciutto, bruschetta, anything with tomato
Accoutrement Pairing: rosemary crackers, cured meat
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, brown ale
6943 TOMAHAWK ROAD
PRAIRIE VILLAGE, KS
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