Last month, I ran into a friend who was about to whisk his partner off on a trip to Paris, with plans to propose in front of the Eiffel Tower on Valentine’s Day. I was downright jealous – not because of the proposal or the Eiffel Tower, but because of all the amazing French cheese and butter they could be eating!!! Then I thought, why not bring some great French cheeses to Valente’s in February? Because, you know, while not all of us might be able to jet off to France for a February getaway, we CAN all give ourselves a Valentine’s treat in the form of a luscious French cheese plate! And that sounds pretty darned romantic to me!
All of our cheeses this month come from the caves of French master affineur Herve Mons. Just like Crown Finish Caves (featured last month), the Mons company does not make their own cheese, but takes very young cheese from select producers and ages them until they’re ripe enough to sell.
Tomme de la Chataigneraie
Aged by Herve Mons, France
Made in the Auvergne, France
Goat Milk, Pasteurized / $38/lb
Tomme de la Chataigneraie is made from the milk of goats that graze in chestnut groves in the Auvergne – a romantic scene if ever there was one! The cheese has a natural rind, and in keeping with the chestnut theme, sits on chestnut wood shelves during its ripening period. This is truly the kind of cheese I could eat all day long – it’s semi-firm, has wonderfully clean flavours enhanced with a pleasing hint of salt, and honestly goes with everything! It’s mild enough for a breakfast cheese, plays well with others on a lunch sandwich or salad, and is a great pre-dinner appetizer cheese – perhaps with a glass of rose!
Aged by Herve Mons, France
Sheep and Cow Milk, Pasteurized / $32/lb
When Roquefort became a name-protected cheese in 1925, regulation dictated that only cheeses made with 100% sheep milk could be classed as “Roquefort”. This cheese, 1924 Bleu, harkens back to the time before this ruling, when Roquefort was made with mixed milks too! I love this blue; it has a milky sweetness that’s a perfect counterpoint to its saltiness, and the addition of cows’ milk makes for a somewhat milder version of the all-sheep Roquefort. I’d recommend this as a good blue cheese for both beginners and blue fanatics. While delicious on a salad, this cheese shines best on a cheese board – with some sliced bosc pears or preserves as an accompaniment!
Camembert le Pommier
Aged by Herve Mons Normandy, France
Cow Milk, Pasteurized / $25/lb
I couldn’t have a French theme without including that most quintessential of French cheeses – a Normandy Camembert! Granted, “real” (i.e. raw milk) Camembert is not allowed in the States, but the pasteurized le Pommier was developed to come as close as possible to traditional, unpasteurized Camembert. It hits all the right notes: mushroomy, creamy, a tiny bit vegetal – and if you’re feeling the winter chill, you can warm this up in your oven and enjoy with a hearty loaf of bread. For best results (and to keep it regional), pair this with your favourite Normandy cider!