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Say Cheese: Splurging on Saint-Marcellin

All Saint-Marcellin really needs is a good baguette. (Domenica Marchetti)

I guess it is a good thing I am a sucker for packaging. Otherwise I might have walked right by the little round of Saint-Marcellin. But it was tucked so perfectly inside its tiny blue terra cotta pot that I couldn’t stop my hand from grabbing it and putting it in my shopping cart.

At $7.99 for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cheese, my impulsive purchase did not come cheap. But it was a worthwhile splurge. Saint-Marcellin is considered one of the best cheeses produced in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France.

Its “intensely nutty (imagine black walnuts) and rustic flavor combined with an unctuous texture represent to me the very essence of France,” writes Steven Jenkins in his "Cheese Primer" (Workman Publishing, 1996).

Indeed, Saint-Marcellin is a soft-ripened, pasteurized cow’s-milk cheese with a rind so delicate that, once you puncture it with a knife or a spoon, it practically melts into the runny interior paste. That crock, you see, serves a purpose.

The cheese is at its runniest when it is fairly young, and in fact it should be enjoyed within a month or two of production, as it loses its extravagantly silky texture and gooeyness as it ages. Its flavor is reminiscent of good brie, but with lots more character. It tastes, as Jenkins describes, of black walnuts, as well as mushrooms and earth. It is buttery, but with a slightly bitter finish.

All of these characteristics make it — to me, at least — a perfect cheese to enjoy on a crisp early-fall afternoon. The first time I bought Saint-Marcellin, I served it with ripe Black Mission figs, which I sliced in half and arranged on a plate, with the crock of cheese in the center. The second time I decided I wanted nothing more than a fresh baguette, slightly warm, to accompany the cheese. I let the cheese sit out for a couple of hours and by the time I served it, it was so runny a spoon was required to scoop it onto the bread.

(Yes, I splurged twice. But now I have two baby crocks in my pantry!)

What is your most recent cheese discovery?

-- Domenica Marchetti

By The Food Section  |  September 29, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Say Cheese  | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, cheese  
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It sounds very good, and as you said, perfect for a fall day. Where did you find Saint-Marcellin?

Posted by: cf07 | September 29, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Hi cf07,
I found it at Balducci, in Old Town, which is close to my home. But I would guess that a supermarket with a good cheese department, such as Wegmans or Whole Foods, might carry it as well.

Posted by: Domenica1 | September 29, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I was planning a special meal pairing Virginia wines with various courses and for dessert, planned on baked Bosc pears with some candied nuts and wedge of blue cheese. I dropped by Cheesetique and came across Rogue River. It's a soft blue cheese wrapped in grape leaves that have been soaked in pear brandy. It's the pear brandy that caught my eye since I thought it would make a good pearing (heh) with the dessert. The cheese was exquisite. Not cheap though, probably around $30/pound.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 29, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Hi BB,
Thanks for the tip on rogue river blue. I think I might have tried it once or twice. I just looked it up and found that it won a World Cheese Award for best blue in 2003.

Your dessert of pears, candied nuts, and blue sounds divine.

Posted by: Domenica1 | September 29, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

St. Marcellin is one of my favorite recent discoveries! We reviewed it on Cheese+Champagne last month -

Posted by: golda78 | September 29, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Domenica We paired it with our favorite dessert wine-Barboursville Phileo.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 30, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

Rogue River Blue also won Best in Show at the American Cheese Society awards this year -- it's only made for a limited time each year, so definitely get it while you can!

As for new discoveries, I just had Bellwether Farms Carmody while in California last week, mild but buttery -- delightful.

Colleen (also of

Posted by: ColleenFoodieTots | September 30, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm extremely late to the cheese party, but I've never really been a fromage fan (can't stand anything bleu or stinky!). However, at a birthday dinner at Proof I got to try Mt. Tam for the first time - what a treat!

Posted by: KS8284 | September 30, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

KS8284--it is never to late to join the cheese party! I agree with you about Mt. Tam, Cowgirl Creamery's signature cheese. Have you made it to their shop in DC? (919 F Street NW)

Posted by: Domenica1 | October 2, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Colleen--I don't believe I've had Carmody--yet. I will definitely check it out.
Thanks for chiming in.
p.s. I really enjoy both of your blogs.

Posted by: Domenica1 | October 2, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

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