27 February 2008

Benito vs. the Cheese Board: Round Two

Here's another round of cheese reviews, based on picking up little wedges of cheeses I've never tried before. Will this be a recurring feature? Perhaps. There's a whole world of cheese out there with all sorts of individual flavors and backgrounds, much like wine. Maybe in ten years after I run out of wine, cheese, and food to write about, I'll start grousing about spatula design three times a week. Stay tuned!

As always, click on the photo for a larger version.

Mimolette was commissioned by Louis XIV and was a favorite of Charles de Gaulle. That thick tan rind is made by the actions of the cheese mites, who leave their dander and excrement behind while digging holes in the cheese. Sounds revolting but I've had worse. The cheese is delicious: rich and savory, slightly tangy, firm, dry, and much like aged Edam. The rind tastes like a handful of dirt and made me wonder if dried earthworms taste the same. Note: it is not recommended that you eat the rind on Mimolette. Even the rind-loving French find it tough and unpleasant.

Maître Moutardier is a relatively new Swiss-made cow's milk cheese that's blended with mustard seeds and meant for snacking. I'm a mustard fanatic, and always have at least three different styles in my fridge, and that's not counting the neon-yellow French's that The Roommate eats. This has a flavor of mild Swiss but the mustard flavor is extremely restrained. Only with strong chewing does the flavor start to emerge.

Cashel Blue is the first farmhouse bleu cheese from the Emerald Isle, and is made by hand in County Tipperary.

It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!

Our Scout Troop had a version of of this WWI song about going to camp. And then there were the unofficial lyrics about invading the girl's camp across the lake, which will not be printed here.

I picked it out because I didn't have any strong moldy cheese in the house. It performed admirably when smeared over a steak and allowed to melt slightly. While it definitely has a strong, pungent quality, it's also creamier and softer than many bleu cheeses out there. It would not crumble well, but sliced beautifully.

Idiazábal is a sheep's milk cheese from Spain. Hard and dry, initially mild in flavor but with a pronounced ovine aftertaste. Has a sort of piney tinge to it, which the article informs me comes from the smoking process. Glad to know I'm not crazy or that the cheese didn't get hit with Pine-Sol during an overzealous cleaning session at the grocery store. A good addition for a tapas bar, and I'd love to try it with a good Albariño.

Oka is made by monks at the Abbaye Cistercienne d'Oka in Québec. Now, what I don't know about Canadian cheese could fill a small government-subsidized bibliothèque des fromages in Montréal. The history of this cheese indicates that it's based on Port Salut but produced by a group that came to North America in the late 1800s after getting kicked out of France. It's a nutty, earthy semi-soft cow's milk cheese that that tastes somewhere between Jarlsberg and Brie. Quite nice with some fresh grapes and a bit of ham. Warning: in a hot Memphis summer I think this would last about ten minutes outside before melting and oozing off the plate.


Anonymous said...

Cheesy Comment - Never appreciated cheese till I went abroad. Oh how I long for that platter of different cheeses along with those black and green olives, of which I never entertained also until going abroad. Oh how I long to be be beside the seaside in sunny Portugal.


Allen said...

Having lived in the Netherlands for a year and traveled in Europe, cheese is a great food. Paired with great wine it can be a simple snack or a full meal.