Thursday, November 30, 2006

It’s Vacherin Mont D’Or Season

One of the benefits of the American cheese revolution is that the specialty stores carrying all these great new cheeses are now serious about selling them at their proper ripeness. Cheese varies in the time it takes to ripen and in the temperature that is best for it. Treating it well and serving it at the right moment is essential to savoring its greatness. Many of the best stores in this country now have aging caves. In France people who age cheese are known as affineurs. The first affineur I met was Jean D’Alos who has a famous shop in Bordeaux. He has three floors below street level where he ages his cheeses, with special rooms for fresh young chevre, or comte, and of course for Vacherin Mont D’Or.
On a recent visit to the cheese counter in the restaurant Artisanal in New York, I spied my favorite cheese and my heart started beating faster. It wasn’t labeled so I wasn’t sure. “Is this a real Vacherin?” I asked the man behind the counter who replied that it was. I almost fainted. Vacherin Mont D’Or is a cow’s milk cheese made with raw milk and wrapped in a band of spruce wood which infuses the cheese with its flavor. In Paris around this time Vacherins are piled high in stores. When it is perfectly ripe the cheese will be runny, or a point as the French say.

I serve this cheese with steamed potatoes, and I was lucky enough to have some fingerlings that a friend had just dug from her vegetable garden. All you need to do is steam the potatoes, sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper over them, and serve them warm alongside the vacherin. I often make a simple bibb salad and serve that as well.

One of the great joys in my life is enjoying the foods that different seasons bring and there is nothing I look forward to more in November than Vacherin.

Artisanal Premium Cheese


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