The cheese of the day is one of my favorites in our selection, the Bleu des Basques.Country of Origin: France
Milk: Sheep (Basco-béarnaise or Manech)
Age: 65-90 days
This cheese is produced by the Berria de Onetik cooperative, which markets its cheeses under the ONETIK brand. Although the Basque region of France, in the Pyrenees mountains, has a long tradition of producing sheep and sheep’s milk cheese, the Bleu des Basques has a rather short history, dating to 2001 according to some sources. In any case, it won the Médaille d’Or in 2007 in the French Concours Général Agricole, which seals its place among other great French cheeses.
This cheese comes in 11 lb. wheels, covered by a natural beige rind with raised white lines radiating from the center. Its paste appears creamy in color and texture, and a bit darker toward the rind. The cheese’s blue veins are lightly scattered throughout the cheese, and sometimes create vertical streaks. Bleu des Basque’s aroma is very pleasant–lactic, with an underlying musty quality, and a hint of spice. On the tongue, the cheese’s flavor develops slowly. It begins slightly salty, but then becomes a bit tangy and just a touch spicy, and then, on the long finish, turns creamy. I must say, the long, creamy finish is quite pleasant! Over all, the Bleu des Basques strongly evokes the fresh fields of the Basque region, and with its smooth, velvety mouthfeel, makes it a blue cheese well worth your time.
After testing the cheese with the condiments currently in the work station, I found it pairs particularly well with the apricot/black currant chutney! It also paired quite well with fig chutney, but that pairing seems to make the Bleu’s flavors more assertive.
For the first time today, I decided to stick around the Cellar after work. Technically, I am allowed a beer, but since I don’t drink beer, I didn’t take it. Maybe I should start passing it out to a lucky customer instead . . . . In any case, I wanted to stay to watch Carlos and Cameron candy some apples, oranges, and lemons. They worked with all the excitement of young boys building a snow fort. The work, from what I could see, looked gorgeous, and the half of the candied lemon I tasted was delicious. I will see the fruits of their labors tomorrow!