Say Cheese: 3 from the Pyrenees
Last week, I found myself browsing the cheese counter at Arrowine, in Arlington, while I waited to pick my daughter up from a friend’s house. I struck up a conversation with Perry Soulos, Arrowine’s cheese and deli manager, in which I told him about my recent overdose on the rich cheeses of Alta Langa.
I asked him to recommend something completely different, but still appropriate for spring; subdued but not lacking in character. In response, he sent me to the French Pyrenees (not literally -- don’t I wish). I came home with three cheeses, each distinct from the others, all of them delicious.
Bleu de Basque (on sale for $22.99 per pound for the month of April; $25.99 per pound is the regular price): This sheep’s-milk blue is produced in the western Pyrenees, near the Spanish border. It has a lovely, butter-colored paste with blue veining. The cheese is creamy yet still a little crumbly, and there is a nice crunch when your teeth hit a blue pocket. Its flavor is not overwhelmingly ‘blue,’ which makes it a nice spring selection for a cheese plate. The rind is a bit hard but has lots of flavor, so don’t necessarily cut it away. Soulos recommends enjoying Bleu de Basque on a slice of baguette or a plain water cracker spread thinly with Stonewall Kitchen’s black raspberry jam. The combination of the intense sweet-tart jam and buttery, spicy blue is brilliant.
Tomme de Levezou ($26.99 per pound): a semi-firm, unpasteurized sheep’s-milk cheese, Tomme de Levezou is aged for two to four months. It has a dusty gray-brown rind and an ivory-colored paste that is shot through with small, irregular holes. It bears a passing resemblance to semi-aged pecorino but is less salty and more mellow in flavor. It has a pleasant “sheepy” aroma and a nutty flavor with a mildly tangy, almost sour finish.
Bethmale (on sale for $25.99 per pound for the month of April; $27.99 per pound is the regular price): This washed-rind cheese is made with either goat’s milk or cow’s milk, or sometimes a mixture of both. The version I tried was a semi-aged goat’s milk. It carries the familiar pungent aroma of a “stinky” cheese, though it is not at all overpowering. Beneath its hard orange-brown rind, however, is a rich, nutty flavored paste that has a sweet finish. The pale golden interior has lots of small holes and an appealing, creamy-supple texture. Although I didn’t try it, I suspect this would be a good melting cheese, either in a sandwich or a gratin.
-- Domenica Marchetti
(Follow me on Twitter.)
The Food Section
April 13, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Say Cheese | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, Pyrenees blue cheeses, Say Cheese
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