Friday, September 16, 2011

French Cheeses

Cheese is probably the most perfect companion food for tasting wine, and I can't think of a better beverage than wine (mostly red, but also white) for tasting quality cheeses. Here are two favorite cheeses currently available at Trader Joe's. (I love shopping at TJ's. They have a good selection of both imported and domestic cheeses with very reasonable prices, and I often find something new.) 

First is a very typical cow's milk soft cheese from the Rhone-Alpes, called Le Petit Creme (left in the picture above). "It is a rich, smooth and creamy cheese that melts in your mouth," according to the label, but it's really true. However, it is best to leave it out a day or two at room temperature. This improves taste, texture, flavor and smell... until it says "Cheese!" 

Next (right in the picture above), is a semi-firm cheese made from cow's raw milk (not pasteurized) called Raclette. It's from the mountainous Savoy region of France near the Swiss border. This cheese is great when melted on rustic bread or over baked potatoes. Of course, you can just slice and eat without heating. It has nice texture and a slightly nutty flavor. However, the one I got recently at TJ's was not so great. In fact this one comes from Auvergne mountains (center of France). It was a little too salty and did not have good Raclette flavor and sweet/ fruity aroma when heated.

Le Petit Creme


 This picture shows how le Petit Creme will look when left for a couple days at room temperature as mentioned above. The irresistible creamy cheese comes out like molten chocolate cake as soon as you slice it.

France makes many wonderful cow's milk soft cheeses like this, such as Brie and Camembert....
French cheeses with rustic bread and a glass of wine is one of my favorite quick dinners. Enjoy!

For a good overview of international cheeses, with notes on tasting, storage, nutrition, creating cheese plates and more, see the Cheese Lovers' Manual.

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