When I purchased this wedge of Tome Basque from my favorite cheese guy at the Olonzac market, I expected a pleasant, rustic tasting mountain cheese. What I didn't expect was to be completely blown away by a cheese with such a refined, sophisticated character.
I just love surprises, don't you?
During our tasting, the flavor of Tome Basque reminded us both of some other cheese, though we couldn't quite put our finger on it. After a bit more nibbling, another sip of wine, a bit more bread and another taste of the cheese, we agreed that the flavor resembled an English (shhhh...don't tell the locals) farmhouse Cheddar, but with a slightly different texture.
The full, well developed flavors are bracingly sharp and tangy with buttery overtones. We also noticed delicious toasted hazelnuts and a bit of salt. The texture is firm and delightfully melt-in-your-mouth smooth, with a very rich mouthfeel.
Tome Basque, as the name implies, is produced the pays Basque in southwestern France. Some well known French ewe's milk cheeses come from this region; Ossau-Iraty, Bleu de Basques and Etorki immediately come to mind. Cow's milk cheeses seem to be less popular, but after tasting this little gem I have to wonder why?
This cheese is perfect when served with some crusty bread and a glass of local Minervois red. I could happily tuck into a piece of Tome Basque every day.