Weekend of Food, Day 2 dinner: Cheese platter by La Cave à Fromage (Part 2)
This is part 2 of our Weekend of Food cheese board, kindly provided by La Cave à Fromage. This is a guest post written by Craig McNee, who also wrote about our visit to La Cave à Fromage. You can read about the first three cheeses here.
We served the cheese board with a raisin and walnut loaf (also provided by La Cave à Fromage) and a simple green salad with toasted walnuts.
4. Vacherin/Mont d’Or (AOC): Writing this post has taught me much about the delicate business of naming cheeses. For example, I told you that the previous cheese belongs to the family of gruyère cheeses. But can French cheeses legitimately bear this title when Gruyère is in fact a protected Swiss name? The pretenders! Our present cheese is alternatively known as Vacherin du Haut-Doubs, plain old Vacherin, or Mont d’Or. However, it must not be confused with the nearly identical Swiss cheese Vacherin Mont d’Or. Sigh. No matter, if you see any of these names, I hasten you to pick it up as this cheese will please even the most cheese-averse. I can describe it no better than it would be described in the breathy, reverent tones of a French TV advert: Un fromage cremeux, onctueux, qui promet un grand moment de bonheur… (Creamy, unctuous, and which promises a real moment of pleasure.) Think of Brie, but maybe even milder and butterier. This cheese is so soft and runny that it has to be stored and sold in little boxes made of spruce. Whether or not this contributes to the flavour will need a second tasting, I think…
5. Munster (AOC): Now things start to get interesting. Munster, a speciality of the Alsace region, is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde. This soft cow cheese has a washed rind, meaning that during its maturation it’s periodically bathed in brine. This encourages certain types of mould growth that develop into the cheese’s distinctive orangey-red rind. But this rind is not just strikingly coloured; it stinks. It honks so badly. When I lived in France I once bought one of these from a farm in the Vosges mountains and took it on a hot, three hour train journey home with me. Big, smelly mistake. We quadruple wrapped this cheese to make sure that its odour didn’t seep into the delicate macarons. But the good news is that if you can get the cheese past your nose and into your mouth, the struggle will be rewarded. Nicolas told us that in Alsace, this cheese is typically paired with caraway seeds (confusingly called ‘cumin’ in Alsace). La Cave à Fromage got in touch with the producer and asked whether those fragrant little seeds could be incorporated into the cheese itself. Et voilà! This cheese converted even the non-believers. The caraway seeds lent the cheese a lightly fragrant flavour that reminded me of marrowfat peas. Nobody else agreed with this. They had flavours of herbs and aniseed, though. This isn’t the sort of cheese that you’d keep in the fridge to eat regularly, but as part of a cheeseboard at a soirée, it makes a statement. Munster’s usual wine partner is an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, but we thought it went not too shabbily with that other Alsatian classic, the Riesling, whose balance of sweetness and acidity refreshed after the rich fattiness of the cheese. If you prefer a red wine, I think a full-bodied red with a bit of spice to it like a French Syrah (generally known as Shiraz if it’s from anywhere else in the world) or a Malbec.
6. Vernières Roquefort Special Reserve: Now, for my personal favourite! I simply adore the salty creaminess of Roquefort. This one has lots of fruity flavours going on as well, and went excellently with the raisins in our Cave à Fromage bread. This green marbled sheep cheese is another example of a collaboration between La Cave à Fromage and the producer. Typically, Roquefort is matured for three months. La Cave wanted to know what happened when it was matured for longer. 3 months was too short, 9 months was too long but 6 months was juuust right. The result is that you’ll find this Roquefort noticeably creamier than its younger brothers. One of the rules protecting this cheese is that it must be aged in the caves near the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, and as there is limited space there are only seven producers of Roquefort cheese, Vernières being one of them. Like Munster, this cheese has so much character that it also has a well-established wine pairing: a sweet Sauternes from Bordeaux. The sweetness of the wine ensures the saltiness and creaminess doesn’t overwhelm it, something that makes dry reds taste a bit washed out with blue cheeses. Thankfully, the French dinner custom of progressively richer, creamier foods and heavier wines means that switching to a dessert wine at this stage is a good segue to the next course!
The wines that we paired with our cheeses were:
Dopff & Irion 2011 Riesling, Château de Riquewihr
Nuiton-Beaunoy 2012 Bourgogne Pinot Noir (AOC)
Château Grillon 2009 Sauternes (AOC)
If you would like to learn more about any of these cheeses, do visit La Cave à Fromage in one of their three locations: South Kensington, Notting Hill and Brighton.