They may look similar, but these two cheeses, Comté and Ossau-Iraty, produced on opposite sides of France, are quite different.
Comté, on the right, is one of France's most popular cheeses. After production in cooperatives, called fruitières, in the villages of the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, each cheese must pass strict quality tests before being allowed into the marketplace. It takes the daily production of 30 cows to make one 80 pound (35 kilo) wheel of Comté.
It's flavor is sweet and caramelized with a slightly nutty and salty tang, and it melts in your mouth. In the kitchen, this is an extremely versatile cheese. It is delicious cut into cubes and added to salads, eaten with fruit, melted in a sandwich or used to make fondue.
A glass of fruity Beaujolais or white Sancerre pair nicely with Comté.
Ossau-Iraty, on the left, is an unpasteurized ewe's milk cheese that is produced in two areas of the Pyrénées in southwestern France: Ossau Valley in the Béarn and the hills of Iraty in the Basque country. Historians maintain that this cheese has been produced for more than a thousand years.
It has a soft, supple texture with a mild, nutty flavor that we both loved. I wasn't expecting much from Ossau-Iraty, but it is scrumptious!
Savor a cold glass of Jurançon or a red Madiran with this cheese.