8 Aug 2008

Mobile Monger

‘I don't want the cheese, I just want to get out of the trap...’
[Spanish Proverb]
I INDULGED in a little cheese for breakfast. The supplier on show: Premier Cheese who operate a fleet of van shops pinballing between London's better restaurants (including Claridge's and Le Gavroche). I sampled a dozen, predominantly unpasteurised French segments...
From the Languedoc, St. Nicolas (goats) was succulent, lactic, tender and bright, with traces of cud on the palate, pleasantly stained by dried herbs. Unhurriedly made in an abbey.
From the Loire, a donut crown 'coit' of Couronne Lochoise (goats) possessed the texture of smooth pâté with a youthful woodiness, ultimately suggesting water chestnuts.
From the milk of Rove’s goats, once threatened with extinction, an oval of Thym Tamarre was very ripe, subtly infused with a spine of rosemary splinters.
A circle of St. Felicien (cow’s) was in effect a larger version of Saint-Marcellin. Runny, supple, melty even, with a protracted finish of salted nuts.
The gregariously titled, bubbbled strip of Abondance was Colman's Mustard in colour. It comes from the eponymous cows in the Haute Savoie. Powerful with damp salt crystals, proper vintage cheddar like overtones and a dab of caramel. Long-lived with a sweet fragrance.
Cantal comes from hardy Salers cattle grazing in Auvergne. Fresh, mellow, engaging with a firm texture. Expressive.
^Say Cheese: one side of the mobile showroom
Ossau Iraty was a sweet, buttery, Yew’s milk cheese from the Pays Basque. This former winner of the World Cheese Awards had a flavour spectrum including feint nuts.
Coeur de Neufchatel was the most intriguing of the selection, both in shape (made to look like a heart) and flavour. The Normandy cow’s milk cheese was moist and melty with a trace of ammonia. The palate was tense: freshly grassy with an acutely sharp finish eventually softened by secondary flavours of mushroom.
From the same family as the infamous Epoisses and Munster comes the carrot tinted collapsing pillow of Langres. Whilst sufficiently malodorous to clear a carriage, the palate of this cow’s milk cheese from Champagne was more delicate. Simultaneously earthy and sweet with a mushy, caressing texture. Apparently you can dimple Champagne or Marc (a strong distillation of the remnants of winemaking) within, for an almost noxiously sturdy treat.
Livarot, from Normandy is a cow’s milk cheese encircled during maturing by five straps of rush leaves. Intriguingly it had the perhaps undesirable perfume of marker pen nib, followed up by salt crystals on the creamy palate. Once undressed, it threatened to flow like lava, but somehow maintained integrity over the course of the tasting.
The legendary Vouvray-dabbed Forme d’Ambert (cow’s) was a smooth, reassuring and salty blue with a certain bounce. No match for England's Stichleton, however.
And finally, Bleu des Basques (sheep’s) from the Pyrenées was brittle and sweet, succulently evoking Marrons Glacés. Creamy on the tongue, with a mild earthy spiciness...
^ Cheese trolley, Auberge du Lac
FURTHER LINK: Gloucester 'Cheese Rolling' (parental warning)