Hello, my friends! This week, I am bringing you a blog post that is very dear to my heart! As you may know, M. Cheesemonger is from a little town in Normandy, and for two weeks this month, we are hosting some of our dearest friends who are visiting us from there.
I love all of the medieval structures you can find throughout the town, which you can see in the postcards and photos of this post’s main image! The Tour de la Madeleine (under construction from the 12th-16th centuries), is visible from far away, but my favorite memories of it involve seeing it while walking around the old town’s moat, or milling around its feet on market day, and taking in town gossip and fresh produce. The large round tower in the top right corner is the Tour Grise, a 13th century tower, a vestige of the original keep. Today, you can even see the little messenger pigeon homes from the time. The last image, a thatched roof house, is an example of traditional Norman residential architecture.
Cow, raw, Normandy, France
Normandy also happens to be the birthplace of one of my favorite cheeses (maybe my favorite?), Camembert. No, I’m not talking about grocery store generic “camembert,” but the raw milk stuff made in and around the town of Camembert in Normandy. With its signature deep mushroom and barnyard aroma, I am undone! Its fluffy white rind, usually with little striations from the aging shelves, hides a marvelously yellow rind that, with time, ages to a glorious goop that you can suck off your fingers. Tasting it, the deep mushroom and umami notes envelope your entire being, keeping you perfectly warm during those chilly Norman nights. The flavors develop for many minutes after the cheese leaves your mouth. It is perfect. I can eat a whole wheel in one sitting, which I have found shocks my French friends.
Cow, raw, Normandy, France
A few years ago, we visited the Graindorge cheese company (and more recently, met its owner) to see classic cheeses like Pont L’Evêque and Livarot being made. If I can’t have a Camembert, my second place cheese is Pont L’Evêque. Its pale orange rind, square form, and oozing paste dotted with tiny eyes throughout all combine to create a delicious lesson in terroir and history. Indeed, Pont l’Evêque, among other cheeses, were historically used as currency. Its mouthfeel is different from Camembert, which sort of coats everything it touches. Pont l’Evêque slips down the throughout; where Pont l’Evêque slips, Camembert slides. Don’t let that slightly sweaty feet smell fool you. This cheese tastes more like fresh butter than anything else, with only a slight hint of funk at the end.
Goat, pasteurized, Perigord, France
My original plan for this board was to include 2 French cheeses and 2 American cheeses, but then my stomach got the better of me, and I found this French cheese that I wanted to balance the board out with. Fleur Verte from the Perigord region, is a fresh goat milk cheese coated with tarragon, thyme, and pink peppercorns. It’s a gorgeous addition to the cheeseboard, resembling a bouquet with all that pink and green! Its smooth, ivory paste is clean and inviting. It has a very slight tang, but rather tamped down. It is almost like goat cheese in suede— gentle with notes of citrus and herbs. This feels like a refreshing choice for a warm spring or summer day, although I would eat it quickly, as it will likely melt.
Cow, raw, Von Trapp Farmstead, The Cellars at Jasper Hill, Vermont, USA
The one American cheese on the board. I always like introducing American artisan cheeses to guests, and this one was begging for the attention. One of my favorite American cheeses, it is made in Vermont by Von Trapp Farmstead, and aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. This was the most pungent-smelling cheese of the board, since it is washed to encourage those stinky, delicious, red b. linens molds. Its mottled orange rind was breaking up, as that runny paste wanted to escape through any cracks it could find! Tasting it is like tasting the sirloin steak of cheeses. This is a cheese you want when you’re starving after a long hike; it sticks to your ribs, and has complex meaty, toasted, funky flavors. Our French friends loved it!
I went with a French touch on the accompaniments, primarily from my affiliate partner The French Farm.
Cider, Apple, and Calvados: this confit from L’Epicurien Ctakes the classic flavors of Normandy and puts them in a jar. I joyed it with the Camembert particularly. Ahh, Normandy . . . Purchase your own cider, apple, and calvados confit here. [affiliate link]
Confiture of Morello Cherry: this tart French confiture reminds me of summer afternoons spent with a barbecue and some good friends. I thought it made for a great pair with the Pont l’Evêque, as somehow it brought out an extra funkiness in the cheese. Purchase the Morello cherry jam here. [affiliate link]
Les Grisons: Remember that big 13th century tower I talked about in the beginning of the article? The type of stone used to make it is called “grison,” and so a local confectioner has decided to make chocolates named after those old stones with chocolate, walnuts, and praline. Find them at Aux Délices de la Tour; 140 Place de la Madeleine, 27130, Verneuil-sur-Avre, France.
There you have it! A little taste of Normandy, with a little Miss Cheesemonger touch thrown in. What cheeses have you discovered lately? I want to know! Let me know on my Instagram @misscheesemonger!
Fleur Verte and Oma were purchased at Cheese Plus.