I finally got through France in Steve Jenkins' Cheese Primer yesterday morning. Yea me! There is so much amazing cheese made in France, from Normandy to the Pyrnees to the Alps, not to mention the Loire Valley and Provence. And there is so much information! I'm not ready for a formal quiz, but I thought it was definitely a moment for celebration. And so I was off to Andrew's Cheese Shop to claim my discount from going to his Cheese 101 class and collect a few delectable French cheeses. Woo hoo!
I find that I learn better by doing (and tasting!). So, I wanted to taste a few of the cheeses that I had been reading about in hopes that I would remember details and tastes in order to better be able to talk about them. I tasted the washed rind Pont-L'Eveque from Normandy - a very sophisticated "stinky" cheese, with a mushroomy richness that filled my mouth and delicately crawled up my nose (and I mean that in a good way!). I tried the Epoisses de Bourgone from Burgandy, which had the most amazing creamy, goopy texture and a stronger "barnyard-y" taste that wasn't my favorite, but I could totally appreciate why it has legions of fans.
It was the hard cheeses today that I fell in love with yesterday. First, and most famously, was the Beaufort (bottom), made by happy, Alpine cows. It was so sweet and nutty, and the DH and I decided that it was a "confident" cheese. It was just delicious. The second was the Grands Causses (top) from the mountains of Auvergne in south, central region of France. This cheese comes to us from the happy sheep that wander up and down the mountains eating grass. It was sweet and smooth, and I just thought it tasted like mountains and sunshine. Just light and delicious, and full of joy. Finally, and the biggest surprise, was the ugly, but divine, Dalle Charentaise from Western Central France. The rind on this goat cheese was so dry, ripe and stinky, even I was afraid! But inside, this cheese was just amazing! Complex and sweet with a slightly mineral-y, stone taste (DH likened it to tasting "an old French cathedral" in a good way!). I didn't notice any of the tangy-ness that usually accompanies goat cheese. Under the rind, the cheese was almost translucent, and the center was chalk white and smooth. We sucked on this one, savored it, and just relished every moment! The find of the day!
Next stop - Italy!