This is the second part of my 11-cheese tasting on my last day in Germany. You can find the first part here.
Bouyguette: This was the happiest discovery of the tasting for me. Its lozenge shape, wrinkly rind and sprig of rosemary intrigued me at the shop, and I can never say no to goat. Opening it to reveal the bone-white paste within was such a delight! It had a slightly tangy nose that was complemented by an underlying sweetness. Tasting the cheese was an absolute delight. It was well-rounded and mild, with a slight citrus tang. The mouthfeel was silky smooth, almost like goat cheese sauce. The rind was so fine it just sort of slid out of the way across the tongue to yield the paste.
Valençay: Because I had just made a Valençay-style cheese with Sacha Laurin of Winters Cheese Company, I needed to eat some in Europe. This light grey, mottled, wrinkly pyramid always makes a striking impression on the cheese plate. This Valençay had a particularly strong vegetable essence, something very much like cooked asparagus. Its mouthfeel was fabulous—I always love that creamy ridge between the light, thin rind and slightly crumbly paste of Valençay, and this was no exception!
Taleggio: Taleggio’s familiar face made an appearance on the cheese plate—this piece smelled as pungent as ever, but it was oh so good to eat! Its smooth, slightly springy paste almost seems to shine on the tongue. The flavor wasn’t quite as strong as its nose, but it was pretty striking, with pronounced mushroom and earth with quite a bit of salt. Mmmm. I would totally melt this on a pizza. Yes I would.
Aged Gouda: My friends had not had a real, aged Dutch gouda before this tasting, so here we found ourselves with a specimen aged 3 years. The bright orange paste with small protein crystals dotted throughout was a novelty for them. The almost-distant aroma of fish sauce and cheese crisps in the nose was a novelty for me. I think we could agree, though, that the salty, caramel/butterscotch flavor and crunchy crystals were to be expected. I didn’t catch the particular maker of this piece, but hey, there are lots of good goudas out there.
Epoisses: For whatever reason, two weeks later, the Epoisses is the other cheese, besides Bouygette, that lingers in my mind. It doesn’t always look appetizing, thanks to its almost slimy, rusty orange rind and blobby rind. Its basement-like, sweaty nose can also deter people. But eat it, and this cheese can change your life! I loved how complex the flavors were, dominated by beefy umami. I could also sense something not unlike horseradish or mustard notes. The most surprising part was the sweetness that became apparent at the tail end of the taste, reminiscent of apricots. Mind blowing. I’ve tasted my fair share of Epoisses in the States, but this was something entirely different. I might actually cross a continent and Atlantic ocean again just to have a second taste.
Roquefort: To close out the tasting, we had to include the king of all blue cheeses—Roquefort. Its alabaster paste with blue veins, wrapped in a delicate layer of foil is classic and unforgettable! It smelled creamy and milky, despite aging for about five months. While it is strong, thanks to the blue penicillium roqueforti bacteria, I found it to possess strong umami elements, notes of sweet butter. It was well-rounded on the whole. I loved the way it crumbled in my mouth, and then how each little crumbled bit burst to reveal more flavor.
Talk about a whirlwind of flavor. Now that I look back at the tasting, I realize I really skimped on the sheep cheeses . . . my true goat-loving nature just took over. By this point, we were all very full, thanks to some large sampler portions. Plus, we needed to head off to the opera house to see my favorite work of all time, Giulio Cesare in Egitto by Handel. Caesar waits for no one!
That about wraps up my trip! Thanks, Germany, for the cheese, music, and friends. Until next time!