December 16, 2008

La Fête du Fromage - Vieux-Boulogne

La factrice* screeched to a halt in front of the house the other day and presented me with a small, white paper wrapped box that she was holding at arm's length. "C'est du fromage, oui?" she asked. I saw Jean-Pierre and Agnès's return address on the box, shrugged and responded, "Je ne sais pas." "My van stinks of cheese and the odor is coming from that box," she replied. I offered my sincere apologies and she wobbled off in her black stiletto boots, mumbling about the offensive smell. I brought the box up to my nose and took a sniff. 
 WOW! It did stink!

The box revealed a real treasure; Vieux-Boulogne from the famous Maître Fromager/Affineur, Philippe Olivier, in Boulogne-sur-Mer. What a fantastic gift! Jean-Pierre and Agnès left for Boulogne early last week to visit family before flying off to Thailand for a well deserved vacation. They went to Philippe Olivier to buy some cheese for their daughter who lives in Thailand, and decided to surprise us with some too. These two have been incredibly supportive of our French food education over the last 8 years, introducing us to frog's legs, rabbit, Boulette d'Avesnes and Époisses. I hope they didn't try to take Vieux-Boulogne on the airplane. Their fellow passengers would have suffered!

Vieux-Boulogne was voted the smelliest cheese in the world a few years ago. No wonder! I doubt that la factrice's olfactory receptors will easily forget its pungent odor. However, this cheese's bark is much worse that its bite. While it isn't the mildest cheese I've ever tasted, its flavor definitely doesn't match the strength of its aroma.

Vieux-Boulogne, also called Sablé du Boulonnais, is produced in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. The cheese is described as pré-salé, meaning "salted pasture," as the cows graze in pastureland near the sea outside of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The salt flavor comes through, adding another layer to its substantial, mushroomy, rich flavor. The pale orange rind is continuously washed in beer during its affinage, but neither the smell nor flavor of beer is apparent. This one pairs perfectly with Champagne or a Côteaux-du-Layon. I wish I could buy another piece of this memorable cheese to add to the cheese platter I'm composing for Christmas dinner. Vieux-Boulogne is delicious! 

Merci Jean-Pierre and Agnès! 

 *The mailwoman

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Unknown said...

You're right, stinky wash-rind cheeses have the power to overcome vans and warehouses, but are often so mellow and sweet inside that if one had their nose pinched while eating, they might never know the strength of the morsel. Did this one taste like Epoisse?

spacedlaw said...

I could imagine your postière's face if Boulette d'Avesne had come in the mail! It is probably the stinkiest cheese in France (and Vieux Lille is not bad, but a whiff of Boulette d'Avesne would raise the dead).

Jennifer said...

Vin de la Table
Isn't it surprising how mild tasting these overpowering, unbelievably smelly cheeses can be?
This was very different from Époisses. But they are both delicious!

Someone told me about Vieux-Lille recently. I hope I can find some someday.
We tasted Boulette d'Avesnes last year. It would raise the dead!

spacedlaw said...

Try Maroilles also if you have not done so already (it is easier to find). Maybe a local crèmerie might not have it - since it is not local to your parts - but most big supermarkets usually have a great spread of fromages à la coupe which usually spreads over French territory.

Anonymous said...

I love la factrice in stiletto boots! Ha!

And I am a huge fan of washed-rind cheeses - the stinkier, the better!

Jennifer said...

maroilles was recommended to us by the same friends who sent us the Vieux-Boulogne. It is a really good cheese! And great to cook with.

She's always very over dressed. It cracks us up. :)
I'm a huge fan of washed rind cheeses too. Yum!