Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Beaufort Été, Summer '17, or 'Easter Cheese'

OK, so in a recent post I may have spoken poorly of the style of cheese known as Bergkäse. Just like with most any other non name-controlled cheeses, there's a few gems out there and a lot of lemons. Or, like, ducks. End-tables? Whatever the accepted stand-in term is for something that is not good in the greater category of cheese.

Today, though, we are not dealing in ducks. We are dealing in high grade curd. AAA. Top Shelf. Handcrafted. Seasonal. Holiday themed.

Holiday themed?

Yes, dear reader, you read that right. We have here an Easter special! More specifically, today we have a Beaufort Été from the summer of 2017, cared for and watched over just to be ready for Easter 2019. This is, in any case, what my local cheesemonger said. Sounds good! How does it taste?

Origin: Savoie, France
Milk: Cow, raw
Affinage:  ~20mo

Notes: As everyone knows, there are three different kinds of Beaufort: Normal, Summer, and d'Alpage. This is the Summer variety, so the milking was only from the summer pastures between June 1st and October 31st in 2017. That sweet sweet summer grass, those fresh herbs and flowers? You had better believe they'll show up in the cheese.

Thoughts:  The smallest piece of this is a smack in the face of flavor. Truly every crumble of this packs a whole meal's worth of complexity. Starts off surprisingly sweet, grassy sweet like your favorite cheddar, but the longer you enjoy it the more layers reveal themselves. As the cheese breaks down on the palate it quickly becomes hauntingly dark, with hints of garlic shoots and raw notes playing off each other, the end of the flavor even teasingly toasted. The texture is perfect, full fat and the odd crunch here and there. This is as near as I know to a perfect cheese. This is art that you can eat. This is luxury, decadence, the absolute height of cheese indulgence, such that it seems a bargain at eur 4.80 for 100g. For the price of one gross Starbucks coffee drink, you can be transported through your tastebuds to a high meadow in the French alps. In Summer.

Coasters? It's a spare tires? Shirt collars? I don't know much about this, but I feel like calling an automobile a fruit is one thing but calling a food a food is just crazy. Clearly a cheese cannot be a fruit. That's absurd. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wiesenblumenkäse, or More German in These Titles!

If you are like me, you love cheese. If you are like me in additional ways, you also have a fairly skeptical eye when it comes to new cheeses. After a #blessed life of Taleggios, Comtés, Quadrello di Buffalos, Stiltons, Brie de Meaux, Cabra Romero, Montenebro, Farmhouse Cheddars, and, and… well I mean can it really get better? Is there better cheese out there? Forget better, is there other cheese out there that is still worth taking a financial risk on? What if it’s bad? Or, well, just forgettable? 

The world is on fire, and these are my concerns. 

I’ve ranted here before about how cheese + (alien substance x) generally gets the hard end of my judging judgment, as a truly great cheese would be able to stand by itself without adornment of bunches of black truffle, or seasonings thrown on top, etc etc. But! There are exceptions to this rule, and a good thing too. Otherwise we would not have the wonderful treat that is Wiesenblumenkäse, or the other Blumenkäse of its ilk. Yes, there is a whole ilk of this stuff. Wiese means field, Blume means flower, and Käse means cheese. I truly love the German language. 

In another rant, on another day, I’ll have to drop a little German language knowledge, and see how long and funny of a cheese name we can come up with. 

Origin: Switzerland? Thiesen?
Milk: Cow
Affinage: 6-8 months

There are really just dried flower petals pressed all over the rind. Not rotten, but dried. There are very sporadic and small holes in the paste and tiny calcium crystals, so there is a lot going on here. 

Butterfat is the first thing you notice, as it immediately washes the palate in a rich wave of creamy goodness. For a ‘schnittkäse’, it is really very soft and bursts with floral flavors, that very butterfat being the perfect solution to draw out the floral notes. Not sweet like some fatty cheeses, it is savory with a full mouth feel. Herbal, with an aftertaste of onions and chives. Every now and then you get a bite of a piece of dried flower petal that has fallen from the rind, adding texture and a reminder of the flower petals from which the cheese gets its name. It does not have the gooey texture and salty pungency of other savory delights like Taleggio, but still delivers a complex experience that demands your full attention. Keep a bit of apple or wine on hand, because you will want something to cut through the fat in order to enjoy the third bite as much as you do the first. That being said, your breath may smell richly like cheese after this one. Like dried flowers and dried milk and more curdled and cut and aged milk.

Schnittkäse is one of a number of German language terms for cheese that do not translate directly into the English I grew up with. Cutting cheese? Cheese that can be sliced? Semi-firm cheese that lends itself well to slicing? There is a similar question about as to what Bergkäse means. What is and what is not a Bergkäse. Then again... myself and others grew up with the phrase 'Swiss Cheese', which is about as airtight a designator as... well... as Swiss cheese? 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hallertauer Ziegenhof Kreuzkümmel 2yr, or Adventures in Buying Local

I've decided to work my way through some of Hallertauer's lineup, because it's not every day you have the privilege of getting to know a local goat dairy through its lineup. They claim over 100 kinds of cheese, impressive for an organic and natural goat dairy. Actually, that'd be impressive for an industrial sized setup. Many of these products are admittedly variations on a theme, fresh goat cheese with _______ on top. Some, though, are surprising, challenging, dare I say delightful?

I dare.

Origin: Oberbayern, Germany
Milk: Goat, pasteurized
Affinage: 2 years

Notes:  Crumbles beautifully into great gorgeous slabs of goat cheese. Great. Gorgeous. Slabs.

Thoughts: Ooooh, this is tasty. Where to start... Obviously the cumin seed is pretty pervasive here, but far from being a one trick pony it is a wonderfully complex cheese. This cheese has a lot to say, it fights its own battles. Starts off with a zing in the beginning, and is dry at first, but as the paste breaks down a buttery sweetness emerges. Hints of apricot pop up here and there, defying expectations. 

Don't you just love it when a cheese defies expectations? You know, all of those cheese expectations we have. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Le Petit Fuxéen, or How do you Say That?

Seriously, I think it is fair to say I chose the wrong language to learn if I wanted to sound real clever and convincing while talking about cheeses. I mean, the newcomer to the blog could be forgiven for thinking I only write about cheeses with German names, but I do in fact love French cheeses as well! It just so happens that knowing German, a phonetic language where every letter is pronounced, does one little good when trying to pronounce French cheese names where... seriously what am I supposed to pronounce again? I can do pretty well with 'le petit'. Maybe I need to do another exchange year, just work in a cheese store in Strasbourg or, I don't know, Toulouse? I hear it's alright there.

Origin: France
Milk: Cow, raw
Affinage: 45 days

Notes: What I want to know is, where are the gran versions of all of these petit cheeses? OK, seriously. It is a washed rind cheese from the Pyrenees region of France, although it does not smell nearly as, ehm, voluminous as some washed rind cheeses. Quite the contrary. Pretty rind though!

Thoughts: Hints of cream and garlic make up a very mild cheese, much milder than it looks and even milder than it smells. As with so many washed rind cheeses the bark is worse than the bite. The rind is perhaps the only caveat there, as it is quite thick and gritty for such a thin cheese. Get a rind-heavy bite of le petit Fuxéen and you will be quickly reminded of the style of cheese you are indulging in. The smoothy mouthfeel of the paste is the dominant expression in the cheese, carrying the flavor notes along in a pleasant but not overwhelming wave of cream.

Anyone know a French tutor that accepts payment in cheese? Or, say, mildly cheese related musings? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Époisses de Bourgogne, or 'Holy Moses, kid!'

Sometimes, living in Germany, I start to get complacent. I mean, if you based your view of the cheese world on typically Swiss, Austrian, and German cheeses (typically what is on deep sale at my local stand), then you would be forgiven for thinking that all cheese is firm, made from cow's milk, and ranging in flavor from mildly buttery to sweet and nutty to, on occasion, sharp. I don't mean to insult the culinary credentials of my current country of residence, I am learning every week to appreciate the cheeses of the alps more and more. But, if the whole world of cheese flavors is a cathedral organ, then limiting yourself to eating only the cheeses from three countries is playing on only half an octave.

Sometimes, sometimes you have to remind yourself of the depth and breadth of what mankind can do with a little milk, a bit of patience, and a lot of skill. France is never a bad place to start. To that end we are tackling a legend of the French cheese scene, a cheese so renowned that it is actually embarrassing to not already have a post for it here on the blog: Époisses de Bourgogne.

Origin: Côte-d'Or, France
Milk: Cow, raw
Affinage: 4 weeks

Notes: Washed rind, brandy washed rind to be exact. What style, what class. This was a young one, still with a defined and firm white paste.

Thoughts: Hot dog. This is good. How good? As my grandma used to say "Holy Moses, kid!" We're talking mushrooms. We're talking roasted garlic. We're talking black pepper. This particular example was also sweet, and creamy, with a firm and defined paste that holds its own against all of the pep and power of creamline and rind. This is a balanced and delicious cheese, every bite a piece of culinary delight. Every element of this cheese, paste, creamline, and rind, come together in distinctly delicious ways to create a symphony of flavor. It is in balance, it is elegant.  This cheese deserves epic poems and entire 5 course meals based on it.

New challenge for next dinner party: Five-course Epoisses inspired menu.