Sunday, January 26, 2014

Roquefort Review

Roquefort Cheese

Roquefort is is one of three French cheeses in the running to be crowned the ultimate king of the cheeses, Brie and Epoisse being the other two. Brie, the creamy white-rind cheese, and Epoisse, the stinky but lovable wash-rind cheese, were adored by Charlemagne and Napoleon respectively, but don’t quite have the history or reputation that Roquefort has. Revered by royalty and rebels alike, Roquefort stands out among all cheeses for its distinctive look, taste and aroma. Diderot and Henry Miller even made comments about this cheese, the former calling it the finest cheese in Europe and the latter claiming that "To eat this cheese one must have genius." (By the way, Charlemagne also loved Roquefort. Which cheese he preferred, Brie or Roquefort, isn't clear.) 

Roquefort, France

I can't mention Roquefort without bringing up the legend of how the cheese was first made. The story, whether true or not, is not unlike a fairy tale. Once upon a time, a young sheep-herder eating his lunch of bread and sheep's-milk cheese became distracted by a lovely young lady. He placed his lunch in one of the nearby caves and ran to meet the young lass. Apparently they hit it off, because the boy didn't return for several months. When he did, the bread from his lunch had turned moldy and had transformed the cheese into what would later become one of the most renowned cheeses in the world. This veiny blue-green mold in white or yellow cheese is what gives the blues their distinctive flavor and color.

Of course, leaving rye bread out to rot isn't a good way to consistently create the species of mold, Penicillium roqueforti, that goes into Roquefort. In fact, in uncontrolled environments, attempting to get this kind of mold can be dangerous -- the wrong strains can cause hallucinations or worse.

No matter how it was invented, the cheese unquestionably dates back remarkably far, some say as far back as 79 CE. By 1411, Charles IV made a stand and granted a monopoly to the people of Roquefort-Sur-Soulzon, a small town in southern France, ensuring that the ripening of the cheese could only take place there. In addition to the cheese ripening throughout Roquefort-Sur-Soulzon, all Roquefort cheeses are made with milk from the Lacaune “brebis” or ewes that live near Lacaune, a rugged town in the Midi-Pyrenees region.
Lacaune sheep grazing in France.
Today, fewer than 10 companies make Roquefort cheese, and each is labeled under Contrôlée or AOC guidelines that protect the cheese-making process, the ingredients and the origin of a product. Look for a red sheep or any label that specifically states Appellation D’Origine Protegee or Garanti D’Origine et De Qualite. Some of the more renowned companies include Societe, Papillon and Le Vieux Berger. 

Gabriel Coulet, though not the best-known of the Roquefort companies, is a family-run business that has been in operation since 1872. The operation started when Gabriel Coulet had plans to dig a cellar in his back yard to age a few bottles of wine. Shortly after he began digging, he stumbled upon a fleurine, a type of natural fault that runs through the Combalou mountain. It was at that moment that he seized an opportunity to turn his small cellar into a more substantial one for aging cheese.
Aging Roquefort.
 The reason Roquefort cheese ages so well in these natural caves is that the faults blow air either into or out of the caves as the atmospheric pressure changes, resulting in the perfect environment in terms of humidity and temperature. Most Roquefort cheeses are aged three to 15 months.
Roquefort on display.

If you haven't tried Roquefort, hold on to your chapeau. This cheese will wake you up and call all your senses to attention with the first whiff of its fragrant, strong aroma. Don't worry -- the odor it emits is not like the wash-rind stinky cheeses that most people either love or hate. This is a potent, slightly sour but pleasant smell. 

Sampling the cheese.
The cheese itself is rich and creamy with big salty, sharp, pungent and tangy flavors. This is a blue cheese like no other, and there's a reason why it's the most popular of all the blues. Stilton, Bleu D’Auvergne, Gorgonzola and Cabrales all have their strong points, but Roquefort stands out among them as a true leader. Some describe the French cheese as crumbly, which is only partly accurate. The white edges can sometimes have a drier texture that do crumble, but this isn't a hard cheese and doesn't have the characteristics of one. Both the outer edges and the veins of blue-green mold can have something of a grainy texture, but don't be concerned, as the cheese melts quickly and evenly on the tongue. The reality it that the interior is silky-smooth, especially toward the center.

Roquefort goes with many foods and drinks. Toss it on salad, drizzle it with honey, serve it with fruit, cook it in tarts, or serve it plain on a crusty baguette. No matter how you serve it, you can't go wrong.

Rose goes well with Roquefort.
The bold flavor of Roquefort can tolerate a full-bodied red wine, but try pairing the cheese with a rose. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy National Cheese Lover's Day

Check out Cured in Boulder for wonderful cheeses, meats, wines and chocolate. See their calendar for upcoming classes and events: Be sure to note holiday closures and their daily hours of operation.

Cured in Boulder, Co.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Truffle Tremor® Review

In the rural county of Humboldt that sits just above San Francisco, California, cheese maker Mary Keehn runs Cypress Grove Chevere, an award-winning goat cheese company. Known primarily for its famous Humboldt Fog goat cheese, the company produces many other outstanding fresh and aged artisanal cheeses.
Humboldt County, California

From the Cypress Grove website:
Cypress Grove goat

The seeds of Cypress Grove Chevre were sown in the 1970s when Mary Keehn, a single mother of four daughters living in Humboldt County, began looking for a healthy source of milk for her family. As luck would have it, a neighbor had goats. When asked by Mary if she was interested in selling them, she told her, "Honey, if you can catch them, you can have them." Armed only with her resolve and a coffee can full of oats, Mary captured two does, and in doing so launched a unique place in American food history. Possessing a background in biology, Mary's interest turned to breeding her goats. Within a few years, the size of the herd had increased significantly and she found herself with excess goat milk. She started experimenting with cheese making in her kitchen and with a small customer-base already growing, she officially launched Cypress Grove Chevre in 1983. 
Truffle Tremor
Truffle Tremor is a ripened goat cheese loaded with black truffles flaked throughout the pristine white interior that's covered by a beautiful bloomy rind. Welcome to the Cadillac of goat cheeses. 

When you buy this cheese, it makes you feel like you are pampering yourself. It's a grand extravagance, and this cheese takes gourmet to a whole new level. Flaky goat cheese with black Italian truffles... what more could anyone ask for in a little gastronomic splurge?

This is one of the most addicting and intriguing cheeses on the planet. One bite will rock your world. Take the best goat cheese you can imagine, elevate ten fold, and you have Truffle Tremor.

Just under the white, fuzzy rind is a lovely gooey creamline that gets stronger in flavor as the cheese ages. Truffle Tremor has Brie-like qualities, but it's recognizable as a goat cheese. Biting into the soft, fluffy, cakey core, you will experience all the distinctive tang, sharp and slightly sour notes of most goat cheeses, but you will find that the truffles intensify and deepen the overall mushroomy flavor of the chewy, earthy rind. The texture ranges from dry to creamy, and the flavor evolves on your palate and leaves you with a lingering tangy aftertaste.

Pinot Noir

Truffle Tremor goat cheese is aged one month and made of pasteurized goat milk. It pairs well with a Pinot Noir or, when aged longer, a port wine. 

I was so excited about sampling this cheese that I forgot to take a picture and only remembered when there was one little bite left.

What's the most intriguing goat cheese you have tried?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Isle of Mull Cheddar Review

The town of Tobormory on the Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull is one of several small (both in population and square miles) islands off the West coast of Scotland. There is a tremendous amount of history on this island which has been inhabited since just after the last ice age. That was a long time ago! The rugged terrain that's a mix of moorland and rolling hills and the climate end up being the perfect environment for making aged cheeses, which is why cheddar cheese is so popular in this area and in Scotland in general. 

Aging Cheeses
The fact that there's very little grass for cows to eat on Mull doesn't deter cheese makers, as the nearby whisky distillery provides plenty of spent grain husks for the cows to savor. This diet is low in carotene and doesn't produce richly-colored milk products, so the cheeses are usually a little anemic looking, not golden or tinged with yellow. 

Isle of Mull Cheddar
Typically the cheeses of Mull are a tad more colorful in the summer months when the cows have better access to grass. 

Not quite as lush as some of the cheese-making towns in the Alps and Pyrenees.

A little bit about the cheese makers...

From Neal's yard Dairy: Jeff and Chris Reade moved from Somerset, where they had been making cheddar, to Scriob Ruadh Farm (pronounced Ski-Brua and meaning Red Furrow) in 1979. At that time, the farm was a shell: the farmhouse had no roof and the first thing they had to do was put a roof over the cowshed (it promptly blew off in a storm). It was 1999 before they had fully roofed the farmhouse as housing their herd and building a dairy took precedence. The Reades milk about 100 cows, mainly Friesian but with some Jersey, Ayrshire and Brown Swiss too.

The Isle of Mull Cheddar is a quiet cheese, but one that still warms the heart, especially after reading the history of the cheese makers. I keep wanting to say it's a sad cheese, but when I say the cheese is sad, I just mean that it's not robust, memorably creamy or outrageously stinky. It makes a statement only in it's subtlety, but in this subtlety, it becomes an intriguing little dairy product. Still, it doesn't scream out in any way or command attention. It makes you go, "Aww." instead of "Oooo!" 

Right away I noticed the cheese's sweet flavor. Toward the edges, the taste changes from mild and milky to something similar to a tomme-style cheese. At the center, it tastes more like a mild but flavorful traditional cheddar. Though the flavor is more subtle than any of the classic stinky cheeses or even most aged cheddar cheeses, there are still profound notes of grass and nuts, specifically Brazil nuts, reminiscent of these other cheeses. There's a nice hint of delicately toasted bread too. It's just missing any powerful tang or zest. 
Isle of Mull Cheddar

I found the texture to be dry and flaky, not creamy. It's somewhat gritty without being unpleasant. Warmed, both the flavors and texture become smoother and more even. 
Single Malt

The Isle of Mull Cheddar is made with unpasteurized cow's milk and standard animal rennet. It's aged 12 to 18 months. This shy cheese pairs well with many wines, but a single malt will elevate it and coax out its better qualities. It's likely that the malt will help people recognize that, in the end, this cheese does deserve attention. 

Jeff and Chris Reade

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lou Bergier Review


Though the name sounds French, it's actually an Italian cheese from the Piedmont area. Piedmont is in Northern Italy, bordering both France and Switzerland and not all that far from Grenoble. As you might expect, the region is somewhat mountainous, as it is nestled right up against the Alps on two sides. Long ago, France used to control the Piedmont region, but that changed in 1802 when the Subalpine Republic was created and later annexed by the Italians in place of the Republic of Alba. 

marioegidio6 [320x200]
Egidio and Mario Fiandino

For brothers Egidio and Mario Fiandino, keeping their cheese-making methods as traditional as possible in these modern times is essential for making good cheese. They state:

"We focus on the future without sacrificing the magic of the past. Our philosophy is passion and patience. While the cream is resting to give us a perfect butter “il burro riposino”, and a “Selezione” cheese perfectly aged, we take the opportunity to play a game of cards, allowing plenty of time for our products to develop their unique characteristics. In a world of mass-produced food we are proud to offer a true handcrafted work of art."

Though the cheese-making process at Fattorie Fiandino is steeped in tradition, there are some modern additions to the company such as solar panels installed that generate nearly 1/3 of their power.

Lou Bergier means "Shephard" in Occitan.

Lou Bergier is a creamy and tender medium-hard cheese made with raw cow's milk. Vegetarians will jump for joy when they find out that this charming little cheese is made using the thistle flower as rennet. The ingredients are: raw cow's milk, whole sea salt from Culcasi salt mines (presided over by Slow food), vegetable rennet (Cynara Cardunculus)

People call this product a "tomme-style cheese," but you won't get a strong barnyard bouquet with Lou Bergier. The aroma is delicate, and the flavor is subtle to match. It has a superb mouthfeel, because the cheese is rich but not overly heavy or oily. It comes off as lighter and more refreshing than something like Gruyere.

I ended up calling this a semi-hard cheese. I'm finding out that the lines between soft, semi-soft and hard get blurred easily. Some say that these lines are arbitrary, and I usually call a cheese semi-soft unless it's very obviously hard or soft. I like the distinction of a semi-hard cheese, though, so I think I will start using that term when appropriate. 

Lou Bergier

Take the best mild cheddar you can think of and cross it with a young Brie, and you have Lou Bergier. It reminds me of a sophisticated, more refined mellow cheddar hiding inside a light Brie shawl that has been bruised and battered. Despite the rind looking a little bit disheveled, it's not unpleasant tasting. It goes to show that you never know what beauty hides beneath a homely exterior. The overall flavor is very smooth, but it has sharp and mildly tangy undertones. Unlike some Brie that's beyond a proper serving age, there's not a hint of ammonia or bitterness with the Lou Bergier. The flavor of the cheese itself is even and fresh with hints of citrus and clarified butter, and the thin bloomy rind has a stronger earthy flavor reminiscent of shiitake mushrooms. 


I found this odd little bit of information when doing some research on Fattorie Fiandino:

Italian history comic book cheese from Fattorie Fiandino


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tomato, Leek and Feta Tartlets

I don't want to get too distracted with recipes, but I can't resist posting this one that looks so good:

Tomato, Leek and Feta Tartlets

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mons Bethmale Review

Tour de France

Ahhh the Pyrenees. For those of you who watch the Tour de France, this is where you see stunning mountain scenery, incredible athletes giving their all, world-famous bike crashes and maybe this:

Road Block in the Pyrenees
These mountains are also where some of the most distinctive cheeses in the world are made. Some people incorrectly claim that all of the cheeses in this area are made with sheep milk, but some are made with cow, goat or even a mixture of different types of milk. Like the Alps, this region is famous for Tomme or Tome cheese, but you can find blues and wash-rind cheeses ripening in caves all along the Ossau-Iraty appellation of France. In addition to sampling the various cheeses, you can even watch cheese-making demos in some of the fromageries in the area.

Since I already talked a little bit about the affineur, Herve Mons, in the previous post, I will get straight to the cheese review. 


Bethmale is one of those cheeses that will make you think of the country. When my mom and I were in France visiting one of the mountain towns, a lady stepped out of her car, took in a grand breath of air and proclaimed, "Ohh, Ça sent la vache!" Which translates as "Ohh, It smells like cows!" Of course it sounds much nicer in French. She and her companion did happen to be parked right near a cow pasture when this occurred, and yes, the air did smell like a farmyard.

I know not everyone loves the smell of the country, but it's an aroma that nearly everyone can recognize. During the winters in Boulder, we get a stronger, slightly repugnant smell just before it snows when there's a temperature inversion that allows the stench from the slaughter house in Greeley to waft in our general direction. Unlike so many wonderful handcrafted cheeses, that odor is not pleasant.   

It's not so much that Bethmale has a strong bouquet, it's more that the entire experience of eating the cheese transports you to towns in these majestic mountain settings.

Like so many cheeses made in South Western France, Bethmale is made in a traditional way, with raw milk from small local dairies and aged in caves. Don't worry, though, the caves of Herve Mons are more like rooms than actual caves, and they are watched over diligently. This cheese happens to be made with cow's milk.
Herve Mons caves. 

Many people will claim that Bethmale has a mild, nutty and earthy flavors, but I have to say that it's a little bit like licking the ground of a barnyard. I know that SOUNDS bad, but I don't mean this in a bad way. Of course, I have never actually licked the floor of a barnyard; what I mean is that the flavor is not as delicate as something like Le Chartreux, a similar cheese that's much more refined. The Bethmale is stronger, more primitive with hints of bitterness that linger long after the cheese has passed your gullet. I don't want to give the impression that I don't like the cheese, I just prefer Le Chartreux. If nothing more, the cheese has a memorable taste.

I found this bit of information from

Bethmale cheese dates back to the early 12th century, when Louis VI of France tasted it during a visit to the region. At the time, it was described as ‘the fat cheese of Saint-Girons’, a description that could still apply today since, when cut, the interior paste glows with fat and is distinctive for its horizontal slits.

The fat glistening can be seen the more the cheese is warmed.

Bethmale cheeses glisten as the get warm. 

What I like about this cheese is that it grows on you. The first bite might cause your nostrils to flare and your eyebrows to rise, but take a few more bites to let the milder notes emerge. Let the cheese linger in your mouth. You will like the earthy, nutty, floral and almost spicy bouquet. The rind is salted and washed. Its flavor is strong, so if you haven't tried this cheese, you might want to start with the softer, less pungent interior, though be prepared for at least some pungency.

Half eaten Bethmale that I should have wrapped better.

This cheese can stand up to a full-bodied read wine such as a Malbec or Bordeaux.
This red goes well with Herve Mons Bethmale.