This unusual red-rinded wheel is the Tomme de Liebrandt, a collaborative effort between Chef Paul Liebrandt, Chef and Owner at Corton, a restaurant a the forefront of the NYC scene and awarded two Michelin Stars, as well as three stars from the New York Times. Chef Liebrandt was also the subject of an HBO Documentary “A Matter of Taste”.
When Liebrandt told Murray’s he was interested in a St. Nectaire-style tomme that had been washed in Antica Vermouth — a richer and more complex, herb-infused vermouth often consumed on its own rather than as an ingredient in a mixed drink — the Tomme de Liebrandt was born. the Liebrandt is affinaged in the Murray’s caves and sold at their counter as well as appearing on the Corton menu, where it is frequently served with green mango membrillo.
The rind is an adobe red color — thanks in part to the deep red color of the vermouth — with a rough, textured exterior, lightly sticky to the touch. The straw-yellow interior is semi-firm and supple, lightly eyed, softening as it warms. In flavor it is tangy, meaty and fruity, with an earthy, musty quality and hints of wet hay, all classic for a St Nectaire, but there is an added layer of complexity, an herby, rich quality infused by the Antica Vermouth.
Purchased at Murray’s Cheese.
This gooey, fluffy ball is the Saint Nuage, a cow’s milk triple-creme from acclaimed French affineur Hervé Mons. “Nuage” actually means “cloud” in french, so this is the “Saint Cloud”, an appropriate name when you experience the texture.
The St. Nuage is a cow’s milk triple-creme, made by a Burgundy cheesemaker, and affinaged in the famous Mons tunnels before being sold exclusively through Whole Foods. I’m not sure if this is actually the first one, but I don’t recall seeing Mons cheeses with custom packaging and the Hervé Mons logo prominently displayed prior to this, at least on this side of the pond. I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled for others.
When warmed to room temperature, the St. Nuage is almost unmanageably soft and must be moved with care lest the skin tear open in your hands. The rind, butter-yellow with a thin white mold layer, rippled and puckered, opens to reveal an incredibly gooey, delicate interior, the texture almost whipped in consistency. If you’ve ever baked a cake, the texture is kind of like the room temperature butter after sixty seconds of creaming, it’s that soft and fluffy; pretty impressive for an aged cheese — albeit briefly aged from what I can tell.
The flavor is mild but intensely buttery and rich, milky, a little tangy, with hints of mushroom, a nice salt balance, the paste melting in your mouth. Terms like “decadent” tend to be abused in the cheese world (including, admittedly, by yours truly), but this is a cheese that truly deserves that descriptor. I usually prefer my cheese neat, no bread or crackers, but this is a cheese that is tailor-made for slathering on a crusty baguette or with fruit. This is not a challenging or complex cheese, but it definitely puts the “creme” in triple creme.
Pardou Ardi Gasna has an easily scrambled name (I kept remembering it as Asni Garda), but a memorable flavor. This Sheep’s milk Brebis hails from the Western Pyrenees of France, in Basque Country, and is made on a small farmstead and distributed by Fromagerie Pardou, Affineur in the Vallee d’Ossau in the town of Laruns. Pardou specializes in working with the small-scale cheesemakers of the region, who often are working with herds of just 20 or so sheep, often of rare heritage breeds of the region. The name, “Ardi Gasna” actually just means “sheep cheese” in Basque, the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. Basque is actually considered a “language isolate”, a descendant of the pre-Indo-European languages of Western Europe and with no linguistic ties to the Romance languages that surround it on all sides.
This pressed cheese, coming in 10lb wheels, is similar in style to the classic sheep’s milk Ossau-Iraty. The golden rind encloses an ivory-yellow, firm, supple, slightly eyed paste with the oily sheen of a sheep’s milk cheese. The aroma is nutty and buttery, while the flavor is sweet, grassy and lanolin, with flavors of toasted butter, hazelnuts, caramel and hay and notes of wild herbs.
Purchased at Formaggio Essex.
The Cheesemonger’s Invitational just announced on Twitter that two of the winners from their past events (see my posts from the 2012 Invitational here), Steve Jones of Portland’s Cheese Bar, and Matt Rubiner of Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Great Barrington, MA, will be headed to France in June to compete in the “World Contest of the Best Cheesemonger 2013”. There’s always been something a little 80’s-movie about the Cheesemonger’s Invitational (in the best sense: when will we get a cheese version of Cocktail?), and somehow the fact that Matt and Steve are headed to Europe to represent the US just amplified that quality by a factor of, oh, one thousand. I’m assuming they’ll be played by Andrew McCarthy and John Cusack and much of the humor will center around hilarious cross-cultural misunderstandings:
The International Best Cheesemonger Contest, organised by Tours événements in collaboration with the Contest’s Organising Committee and the support of its partners, will be held on Sunday 2 June 2013.
Numerous applications have been registered,
10 candidates were selected:
- Fabien DEGOULET - France
- Pascal FAUVILLE - Belgium
- Antony FEMIA -Australia
- Steve JONES - USA
- Frédéric LEDOUX - France
- Miyuki MURASE - Japan
- Jean-Charles OUVRAT - France
- Andrea RIPAMONTI - Italy
- Matthew Jeremy RUBINER - USA
- Nathalie VANHAVER - Belgium
Trade-Show visitors will be able to attend all the “2013 International Best Cheesemonger Contest” tests.
In all seriousness, congratulations to Steve and Matt, this is a huge honor, and they’re sure to rep the US proud. Learn more and get tickets here.
This brick-red, hybrid-rinded beauty is Saintalain, also known as Le Drean. Made by Laiterie Garmy, and now affinaged by the famed Rodolphe Le Meunier, the name, Le Drean, comes from a play on the name of Andrew, the cheesemaker’s grandfather (the scrambling of syllables resulted in Drean); the other name, Saintalain, seems to be a play on Alain Garmy, who currently runs things.
Ok, the double naming thing is a little confusing, but bear with me, as the cheese itself makes up for it in flavor. The Saintalain comes from Pont-astier in the Auvergne region of France. The Auvergne is well-known for another sainted cheese, the St. Nectaire, one of France’s signature wheels, and the Saintalain is a variation on the traditional St. Nectaire recipe. Most St Nectaire producers get their milk from larger cooperatives these days, drawing the milk from around the region, but the Laiterie Garmy is a farmstead operation, supplying all the milk for the makes on their own. In addition, the rind is lightly washed, resulting in the appearance, which is of a natural-rinded cheese with a dusty red exterior. At first I was convinced the exterior was a result of annatto coloring, due to the deep, even red color, but apparently it’s just the b.linens and other cultures resulting from a light brine wash.
The hard rind is a brick red color with a stony, textured exterior, with occasional patches of bright white mold scattered around the mold. The interior, ivory-colored, is semi-firm, lightly eyed, oozing slightly as it warms but retaining a springy, slightly marshmallowy texture. In flavor it is tangy, fruity and a little beat meaty, mild wth a distinctly musty, earthy quality, and a bit of wet hay and barnyard from the washing. It’s similar to a St Nectaire but with a little more complexity.
Purchased at Murray’s Cheese.
French cheese blog SoCheese.fr has a post about Paul Georgelet, cheesemaker in the Charente-Poitou region. The region is best known for Chabichou du Poitou, but his specialty is the Mothais-Sur-Feuille (the oozing wheel photo is from my review of the Mothais), which, if Paul Georgelet has his way, will soon have AOC recognition:
Paul Georgelet has been fighting for several years for the official recognition of Mothais-sur-Feuille, a goat’s cheese served on a chestnut leaf. ‘This custom comes from an ancient tradition in the Deux-Sévres region. My mother and her friends used to put their cheeses on leaves,’ tells the cheesemonger.
It is largely thanks to Paul Georgelet, here in the production room, that Mothais-sur-Feuille is currently in the process of trying to gain AOC recognition. At the age of 19, in 1975, this articulate enthusiast created his production site and brought out his first creation a year later, Saint-Paul, a little goat’s cheese disc about the size of a Pélardon. ‘At the time, in the region, nearly everyone who produced milk, did so to sell it. Transforming it (into cheese) was secondary. My parents, farmers and breeders, sold their milk to the Chef Boutonne co-operative.’ His father wanted him to become a civil servant, ‘it’s less difficult than being a farmer’. He never succeeded at detaching himself from the earth. And therefore, set out at giving the Mothais-sur-Feuille a new lease of life, at the start of the 80s, with the support of big name in cheese at the time, Pierre Androuët, who would open up doors of opportunity in the Parisian market. It was the beginning of a long story.
check out the full post here.
(Some Photos ©2013 SoCheese.fr)
From FarmerGeneral.com, which describes itself as “An Epicurean Review Emanating from Portland, Oregon and Points East”, a piece that actually was first published in February of 2011 but is worth revisiting. In it, Marie-Laure Couet (who also blogs at The Cheesestead) discusses the science and mystery of the delicate craft of Affinage, which she learned as an apprentice with the great Mons Affineurs:
…my education in refining cheese is much more subtle than chemistry and microbiology. I must develop le toucher or “the touch” that will serve me in determining the stage of life of a cheese. Because no matter how many mushrooms, moulds and bacteria I can identify, none of it matters if I can’t decide whether or not to take a cheese out of the Haloir, or drying room. A few hours too many in the Haloir and a cheese splits open, or is rock-hard. A few hours too little, and a cheese may “skin” (faire la peau) when touched: the skin sticks to your fingers and comes off of the cheese. Common with excess humidity, a cheese can also develop bitterness or rancidity…
Talking about the challenges and the pleasures of aging cheese with a few of the affineurs, it would seem that the fact that cheese is a living organism is what gets them going. Gaining le toucher, reading the cheeses and seeing their variation with the seasons is at once difficult and exciting. One week you could taste a cheese at its very best, and “it’s possible that next week the same cheese is inedible. This is why affinage is complicated. This is why it’s fun,” Guillaume Barthassot remarks when I wonder at the trickiness of cheese. On the other hand, Eric Meredith, MonS Operations Manager, tells me about how problematic affinage can be without solid communication between the cheesemaker and the affineur.
The producer-affineur relationship is paramount if the goal is to make great cheese because affinage will never make a bad cheese good; it can only make a good cheese better. Therefore, if a cheesemaker notices a problem, he or she will ideally notify the affineur in order for the affineur to take preventative steps.
Read the full piece here.
Allison Hooper, of Vermont Butter & Cheese fame, has a great blog entry about the long tradition of Geotrichum-rinded cheeses in France, and VB&C’s many-year efforts to perfect their own versions of these quintessential cheeses. One of their recent cheeses, the Torus — check back tomorrow for my tasting — is a Couronne-shaped version that they collaborated on with Murray’s Cheese. As someone who’s been experimenting with Couronne shapes recently, using a rind that includes Geo (paired with P. Candidum), it’s an inspiring and interesting read:
If you have ever had the good fortune to find yourself at an open air market or a cremerie (cheese shop) in France’s important goat cheese regions of Provence or the Loire Valley, this photo is not foreign to you: Small and delicate wrinkled goat cheeses proudly displayed begging to be plucked out of the herd to be paired with some olives and a glass of Rose.
Such are the goat cheeses that I devoured as a student in France and made during a summer internship on a Diary farm in Brittany. There, the cheeses were all made from raw milk. they miraculously developed a uniform opaque rind that wrinkled as it aged and dried out. Geotricum is a yeast and is in the air around us. Providing just the right conditions in which geo likes to grow , we can promote its growth on the cheese to create these beautiful and iconic rinds for which many of the traditional cheeses of France are known.
Allison goes into detail on the technical challenges in creating these cheeses, and the aging spaces necessary to develop them properly:
It took three years to design, finance, and build the creamery which required sophisticated French Aging room technology to connect with the very dubious American Engineers’ design. It has taken another six years to revise the cheese technology (recipe) , the packaging, and aging rooms to have the cheese that we sell today. With help from former teachers, equipment suppliers, Adeline’s husband and cheese expert Marc Druart (another one of those French interns at the creamery) and a production team that is maniacal about quality and getting it right, Adeline managed a project fraught with challenges. Keeping the cheesemakers and sales team motivated and resilient required tenacity and a passion for making a cheese that we love and knew would succeed. We were the first in the US to make geo cheeses that had to travel to the West Coast ripening along the way. We couldn’t tell each consumer and chef that a spot of blue mold on a geo rind is okay,not harmful, and normal in France. If we were going to be the first and pioneer geo cheeses we had no choice but to reformulate and augment our aging room technology to assure a pristine cheese without mold.
Read the full post over on the VB&C blog.
(Photo ©2013 vermontcreamery.com)
Culture Magazine has an interesting look at the invention of that most essential arrow in the quivers of both cheesemongers and cheesemakers: cheese paper. Thomas Edison even plays a role, although in typical Edisonian fashion it wasn’t that he invented the new product so much as saw the unrealized potential in someone else’s work (which is itself, of course, a particular kind of genius). And in the end, it was the French, not surprisingly, who perfected the new technology and put it to widespread use with cheese:
In 1851 photographer Gustave Le Gray discovered how to make better negatives by creating a prewaxed paper film. Being French, he of course loved cheese, but history reveals that his discovery never left the camera. It was not until 1890, when Thomas Edison rediscovered Le Gray’s waxed-paper film, that its potential was realized. Edison was trying to develop a working movie camera and found that he couldn’t get the lightweight paper film to move intact through the metal gears of his new motion picture camera. Of course, being Edison, he had a solution: why not widen Le Gray’s thicker waxed film and see if it would work? In the process of widening the waxed film, Edison quickly saw another opportunity: remove the photography chemicals and create a new wrapping for food.
Initially, Edison’s new paper was not porous enough to allow the cheese to breathe. But cheese vendors in France eventually solved that problem, and the resulting two-ply waxed paper became Europe’s favorite way to protect a cheese.
(Pictured above is Formaticum’s cheese paper.)
Brie Fermier, from Ferme de la Tremblaye, located in the commune of Rambouillet, 45 kilometers south-west of Paris. Ferme de la Tremblaye is a sustainable, organic dairy, with both cows and goats and producing cheeses from the milk of both.
Brie is one of those quintessential French cheeses that we, living in the raw-milk challenged United States, can’t experience in it’s proper form, as the traditional, farmstead versions of Brie (and Camembert, Coulommiers and many, many others), made with raw milk and aged well under 60 days, are very rarely found on this side of the pond. That being said, there are some quality pasteurized milk versions, made by some of the same farmstead makers as the best raws, if you look for them, and Brie Fermier de la Tremblaye is one of such cheese.
Aged to perfection in the Artisanal caves, this wheel was soft and pillowy to the touch, the snowy rind collapsing as the cheese warmed and oozed on the slate. The aroma is milky and fungal, and the the flavor is buttery, earthy and mushroomy, the velvety, gooey paste almost scoopable and with notes of hay, damp stone, and broth.
Purchased at Artisanal.