June 19, 2007

I've Waited For This Cheese

Several years ago we went out with Jean-Pierre and Agnès to a lovely little place near Béziers for dinner. After our main course a gorgeous and very heavily laden cheese cart was rolled over to our table and since we didn't know many cheeses at the time and chose most of them based on looks, I asked for a piece of a very interesting looking, bright orange, conical shaped one but was promptly told "non, madame, il est trop fort, choisissez un autre."*
I insisted that I liked strong cheese, but to no avail. I looked and Jean-Pierre and Agnès for help but they too shook their heads and said, "no, choose another."
So I did.
We were just getting to know Jean-Pierre and Agnès so I didn't want to cause a scene by fighting with the server and grabbing my own piece off the cart or anything.

But let me tell you, that vividly colored cheese and being denied the right to taste it left an impression. I've looked for that cheese ever since, not knowing it's name didn't help me much, but I figured I would recognize it when I came across it.
We ate dinner at their house last night and Jean-Pierre presented me with "the denied cheese." Recently the four of us had laughed about that dinner and that cheese and he went out and found some for me!

It is called Boulette d'Avesnes. With it we tasted a nice little Brillat Savarin.

Boulette d'Avesnes is smelly, pungent, fiery and very unique. It is made from Maroilles curd which is flavored with tarragon, cloves, parsley and pepper, then it's rind is washed in beer.  I found it acrid and pretty awful, actually. The little cones are shaped by hand then sprinkled with annatto or paprika, giving it the bright orange appearance.  This cheese is not for the faint of heart!
If you dare to taste it, pair with a full-bodied red such as Côte de Nuits, Côtes du Rhône or a Chateauneuf du Pape.

Brillat Savarin was named for the famous 18th Century French gourmand, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in 1930 by it's creator, Henri Androuët, a well known Parisian cheese seller. It is a triple cream, 75% fat, over the top, cow's milk cheese from Normandy. It was lush, super creamy and sweet and was a perfect contrast to the robust little Boulette. Pair with a Saint Emilion.

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1825

*No, ma'am, it is too strong, choose another. Pin It


roger said...

So what did it taste of?

Brunofrance said...

I thought it had a chemical taste. Like nuclear waste.

Loulou said...

the taste? how do I even describe it? I see my husband, Bruno, used the term "nuclear waste." That did make me laugh!
It was strong, really really strong, with hints of knock-you-on-your-ass, piercing flavor.
it would appeal to some, but I never need to eat it again. And here I'd waited all these years...

Susan in Italy said...

Wow. At first i was indignant that the waiter would show you something and then deny you your choice but I guess they were kinda right. makes you wonder why they offer such things.

Loulou said...

I know!
But maybe somewhere out there, there exists lovers of this cheese. A bizarre concept!

Jacqui U said...

Our whole family loves this cheese but there are only a few shops that sell it down here. We think it has a slightly curry like taste (some versions have cumin). Coincidentally I mentioned it in my blog on 15.06.2007! A few days previously I had read your blog where you talked about the cheese Selles-sur-Cher which I then saw in a shop, bought and loved.

Loulou said...

I'm happy to know that there are people out there who enjoy Boulette! Thanks for mentioning my cheese days on your site.

Betty C. said...

I've only tasted "Boulette d'Avesnes" once or twice - -thanks for reminding me of it.

Loulou said...

I guess if you've had it more than once, you must like it...

spacedlaw said...

You'd need to taste the Brillat Savarin first of course, otherwise you'd never feel the lovely flavours...

I wonder why they bothered having it in that restaurant only to tell the customers NOT to have it. The mind boggles.

Loulou said...

Yes, the triple cream cheese first!
I couldn't understand why they wouldn't let me taste the cheese. Why did they bother having it on the cart if it was off limits to the diners?

Forest said...

Funny...i was just listening to the France Project podcast with you this morning which encouraged me to come over to the site and day dream about some cheese. I clicked on the Brillat Savarin because I just love that one...and here's the story about the denied cheese that I just heard you talking about an hour ago. Of course, now I"m really curious to try it. (apparently I'm one of those people who you tell not to do something and it's the first thing they want to do) :/

Loulou in France said...

Of course hearing that I "couldn't" have the cheese made me want it even more. :)
Let me know when you do...and what you think!