Sunday, 13 May 2012

Vieux Lille - 'Old Stinker'

Possibly the stinkiest cheese I have ever had (!), the Vieux Lille (or Old Stinker) is the skunk of the cheese world. I bought this one because I had read on the blurb just how pungent it is, but more importantly... because apparently it is SO strong that it is banned from public transport in the region where it's born. And like a curious little boy told not to touch something, I just had to have it!

I waited a couple of days for the cheese to arrive in the post, and chuckled when I imagined a young Inspector Clouseau lookalike [Pierre] sneaking onto the number 57 bus in Northern France with sunglasses on and a wedge of cheese wrapped in tin foil stuffed down his pants. Within two blocks, even old 'Mr and Mrs LeFlandre' sitting five rows back to the left (with their worn senses) would be cursing, holding their noses and calling for the police. Pierre had no chance, although he may have had some convincing arguments for the cops with the smell emanating from his pants!

The Vieux Lille comes from Flanders in France and is also known locally as the 'Puant de Lille' - 'puant' meaning "strong smelling". The cheese is actually a type of cheese called the 'Mariolles', which I have yet to try. The ripening Mariolles is soaked in brine for about three months to make it, and which contributes to its salty taste. It is a semi-soft, unpasteurised cow's milk cheese and is free of any rind because of the brining process.

Knowing what I know, I was rather apprehensive in opening the vacuum sealed packet. I thought that, just like in Hollywood films entertaining viewers about the end of the earth by some lethal airborne virus, the plants around the kitchen would wilt, my eyes would begin to burn, and dogs within a 5 mile radius would whimper and run for their lives. It was nearly that bad. Having sliced it open, I shouted "Whoaaahhh!", as I stuck my nose in, "Zoe! ...It smells of bum!!". And it did. To my surprise I then realised that it was still within another layer of wrapping - that's how strong it is.

I did like this one but it is saying something about the potency of a cheese when you have to give it its own individual quarantine pod. In fact you have to feel a little bit of pity for it, the leper-like outcast of the cheeses, sitting alone on a shelf in this casing. The Old Stinker, as we speak, is contained within three protective layers in the fridge in its box, giving off a low flourescent green glow in the dark. But that said, it is still quite tasty and has a soft salty smokiness about it. The pungency is actually appreciated more when you have it in your mouth as it adds a lot to the taste.

I will give this one a 6 though - it is high maintenance when you have to get through three layers of casing every time you want a slice of it. And it's not the kind of cheese that you want to put on the cheese board when entertaining (for more than five minutes).... unless you feel like handing out nose pegs to your guests also (in fact - that can be quite entertaining. It makes your voice sound funny!). I must say as well, I was a little disappointed that 'houseofcheese' had it delivered in a box, rather than having it suspended in a glass container delivered by a faceless courier in a radioactive suit. That is just an open taunt in the face of health and safety!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Chaource - Smooth and Mushroomy!

I started writing this cheese blog so that I had a record of all of the wondrous flavours that I have tasted and so that I could remember them and EAT THEM AGAIN! Having tasted this one tonight I wanted to log-on and capture thoughts about it straight away so that I would remember it - but now that I have got going and my fingers tap-dance across the keys, I realise that I will remember it... cos it's ace! The more memorable cheeses are starting to stick in my mind like a thick, slow-flow honey that's hard to get out of crevasses.

The cheese is named after the northerly French town in the Champagne region of France from whence it came, created by the Lincet family, and is enjoyed at all of the stages of its maturity. The first thing I noticed was the thick rind and smooth creamy cheese as you burst into it. I was impressed by the raw....I want to say muddiness... of it. But the best was yet to come.

It is very distinct in flavour with some light undertones of a nutty kind. As you get with a few of the brie-like cheeses ['bloomy' cheeses - the ones that have the white fluffy rinds], this had a chalkier, harder centre and was super smooth and soft around the rind (please see picture). Oh baby! This is apparently because of  its thick rind which delays the speed at which it ripens all the way through. Love that texture, but what really stood out for me was the tingly, slightly salty, and earthy type aftertaste. There is also a slight mushroom fragrance and delicate bitterness about it.  Loved it. Loved it. 7.5 out 10 for me on this one.

P.S. - it's also good on bread:

Friday, 4 May 2012

Marmite Cheese - Love it or Hate it!

Even though this is not a classic cheese, I bought this one with high hopes. It was one of those situations when you inwardly prepare yourself for a rush of enjoyment. After all, I LOVE Marmite, and I LUUUUUURRRVVVEEE [Yahoo! Boom!! Brrrat-brat-brat! Boiiinngggg!!] cheese! (I’m sure you didn’t need me to impart that knowledge again!)

They say that when you eat Marmite, you either love or you hate it. My mum used to find me sitting on the side with my legs crossed and a tub in front of me, eating the gloopy black goodness with a spoon. I’d look up, twitching on a yeast high, “I know… I’m naughty…” my return glance would seem to say. To me it’s like black gold (thick black gold), Texas tea (I’m guessing they drink tea black in Texas). Throughout the years in between then and now, I have used it on dippy soldiers with my soft boiled eggs and in numerous sandwich combinations and it has never failed to improve what it was added to.

My presumption was obvious then. Marmite and Cheddar cheese fused together would more than equal the sum of its parts and create a new British beauty – just like the blue cheese flavours dispersed through a brie-like cheese gives you something like the Cambozola. This apparently is not always correct. Something not so perfect happens when they come together like this. It’s not that I hated or even disliked the cheese, but I would much rather jam a wedge of cheddar and a splodge [good word!] of Marmite into a bun. It is made with a mild cheddar from Somerset and I can imagine tastes very good melted in toasties, but I think needs to be 'suited' in that way. That said, when it was introduced to the British public during Christmas 2009 as a gimmic, it proved a great success, so don't just take my word for it!

That said, it was worth the try, and I would still probably give it a 5/10 on the basis that I love Marmite so much. The cheese puritans out there are probably laughing and saying “I told you so”. Well you win this round ‘pureys’! But some of these new blends give the ancient cheeses a run for their money. And I will seek and find them - mark my words...