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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.

Bethmale, Bleu de Basque, Tomme de Levezou. (Domenica Marchetti)

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.)

By 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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Sheep aroma? WTF! You do realize that the sheep's milk and sheep have a different aroma based on diet and breed.
Also it depends if they are hair or wool sheep.

Long night we have a few new predators out here in Upperville. Obviously mom kicked the older mountain lion cubs recently. At least three distinct and different tracks.
State of VA keeps telling us naw there aren't any mountain lions out this way. What about the carcass of the dead one you got from me after my LGDs took care of it.
My LGDs will either drive off or kill these mountain lions. Maybe the will drive them off to Fairfax County and help reduce the population of deer, small dogs and cats, and small and large unattended human spawn.

In another month or so we get the young bear roaming.

Posted by: sheepherder | April 13, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

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