On Day 2 of my European trek, I found this little jewel called Petit Brie, made by the century-old Fromagerie Gillot in Normandy, France, to have at breakfast, along with some herbed crème fraîche. Pumpernickel bread provided some hearty accompaniment.
The Petit Brie looks so innocuous, I almost didn’t buy it. The paste is smooth, a pale straw color, and has small eyes throughout. The rind is slightly tan. It is a soft-ripened cheese, so normally it would have a fluffy white rind, but since it was wrapped in plastic, the rind had flattened out and lost its whiteness. The nose is also benign, but with a definite mushroom element.
And the taste—the Petit Brie’s taste is surprisingly complex and subtle. It begins with a soft mushroom quality, then transitions to creaminess. Toward the end, an umami component emerges, along with some smokiness. At the very end, there is a slight funk, as though the rind has been lightly washed. You know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if the cheese actually had been lightly washed, and was mislabeled. I guess I will never know. The long finish is sweet and creamy, almost evocative of spring. Because of the nuances of flavor, I would place it early in the cheese plate. The mildness made it a great breakfast cheese.