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Jun 6, 2011 05:45 PM

Saint Albrey Cheese?

A friend served a pleasant cheese that I did not recognize. He said it is called "Saint Albray" and is from France. I've not heard of this cheese which is soft and resembles a Camembert without the nose. Does anyone know about St. Albrey cheese? None of my local stores carry it and, so far, I haven't gone to great lengths to locate it but as I said, it was a pleasant cheese.

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  1. The Ile de France Cheese site has this to say:
    Made with pasteurized cow's milk, this popular cheese is ripened for two weeks and formed into a shape similar to that of a flower with each "petal" forming a half pound of cheese. The six "petals" are centered around a disk which, when removed, creates a hollow center resembling the center of the flower. Only St. Albray offers a flavor experience as unique as its scalloped silhouette. When the whole wheel, or flower, is displayed, the cheese makes an attractive centerpiece to a table.

    Saint Albray slices beautifully and is mild and moist, but still retains its body despite its creamy nature. Saint Albray's enduring success comes from its distinctive taste. As a young soft ripened cheese, St. Albray resembles a rich and mellow Camembert, but with a less intense flavor. Within its mysterious aging process, St. Albray develops the hearty, robust flavor of a traditional washed-rind cheese. St. Albray has a rich aroma and a rich flavor that can be enhanced by eating it with its ginger/reddish-white rind. Its ivory center contrasts well with its colorful rind. Serve Saint Albray with a Pinot Noir or Chianti. It also goes well with white or nut breads.

    However Steven Jenkins Cheese Primer, which I usually find pretty accurate says about Pyrenees cow milk cheese (including St. Albray): Semisoft and vapid with virtually no descernible flavor, they offer the same meager level of taste as Danish Havarti.
    Hmm. Something tells me he doesn't like it. Too bad, I like some Havarti's, so Steven, we may have come to the parting of the ways. The IdF description sounds as if St. Albray's is worth a try at least..

    4 Replies
    1. re: DonShirer

      I had it, and maybe I just got a really bad one from my local store but it was beyond terrible. I'd make sure you go get one of these at a reputable cheese monger instead of a grocery store.

      Mine had a really strong off-putting smell, but I didn't know if that was just the way it was supposed to smell or if it had gone bad. One bite, and there were all these disgusting ammonia notes that I just ended up throwing the rest out instead of finishing it.

      1. re: hobbess

        This cheese when 'new' is an ivory color. If the outer rind is more of a brownish color, it is heading south. It seems to do this more rapidly than a pasteurized milk cheese should, but it does. If you want something similar, but IMO, far more flavor and texture get L'Edel de Cleron, a faux Vacherin wrapped in wood, excellent product and due to pasteurization, available in most market areas.

        1. re: hobbess

          I have to agree with you. In fact I picked some up from the store yesterday, and after trying it, I had to do an online search to see if it was supposed to taste and smell like that. I understand that some cheeses are supposed to smell terrible, but this seriously smelled like a pair of shoes that had been left out in the rain overnight and then brought inside and left in a small closet for weeks. I tried to eat it anyway (with crackers) but i had to stop, and it took a long time and a few other snacks to finally get the taste out of my mouth. I threw the rest of the cheese away as well.

          1. re: TommyBuckley

            I'm also a fan of St Albray cheese, but with a lot of conditions. It's gotta be ripe, but not overripe. In its fresh state, it can be, as Steve Jenkins describes it above, vapid with little flavor. Without knowing at what point of ripeness you bought your cheese, leaving it out for a couple hours doesn't seem to be enough time to ripen. The ideal look of St Albray is when the sides are bursting out from the sides like pillows of oozy goodness. There is a small window between not ripe enough and overripe as someone else mentioned (and this is true of most soft cheeses), but St Albray provides a nutty flavor that I enjoy over camemberts, that I find similar to more expensive cheeses like Livarot or Pont l'Eveque. You should give these a try as well. While I enjoy L'edel de Cleron as a substitute for vacherin, I tend to put it in a separate category from St Albray and the other Normandy cheeses I just mentioned.

      2. Omg another St Albray lover! This is hands down my favourite cheese ( favourite with a good, room temp stilton). I buy mine at my local grocery store here in Montreal, and I buy a LOT. Last week I went in and discovered they had saved me a whole half wheel that was about to go past its sell by date. I snapped it up. St Albray will stink up your house - not in a bad way (at least, not to me), but it is an oddly gentle but pervasive smell that I might liken to smelly feet. My favourite way to eat it is warm room temp (it's best when it's been sitting out on a hot summer day long enough to get oozy) with a fresh baguette.

        I really cannot overstate how delicious this cheese is. LOVE.

        1. I finally found some at the third cheese shop I tried. I can't say I was too impressed, ok but not outstanding, but since the color was still creamy and it did not have the "smelly feet" odor Montrealeater described, I'm guessing it is not ripe yet. I'll check back later.
          (And I didn't like L'Edel de Cleron either, but that might be because it was too ripe.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: DonShirer

            Don, did you leave it out of the fridge? It needs to sit on the counter for a few hours and preferably you need to leave the house so it hits you when you walk back in. Besides smelly feet I have had people accuse me of needing to take out the garbage when they smelled it. :)

            FWIW, when I eat it it is creamy in colour - off-white - is that what you mean? I havent noticed that it changes colour, altho the rind does get brown and strangely crunchy when it gets old.

            1. re: montrealeater

              Yep, left it out for 2 hours. Just started to smell. I admit the flavor improved, but not enough for me to put it on my "buy again" list. Maybe the "smelly feet" description got into my head and put me off it. Similar cheeses I like better: Boursault, Chaource, St. Simeon.

              1. re: DonShirer

                I hope I didn't put you off! St Albray is one of those foods I love SO much I actually get a little shocked when someone else *doesn't* love it, ha ha. I think I will try to seek out the others you mentioned to see how I like those, too. I am a cheese freak.

          2. I'm wondering if I'm the only one who found it a little bland with a slight bitter aftertaste.

            I am not a cheese officianado but I do like strong cheese, even if it stinks like old shoes.

            Somehow, this was too bland but after each bite, it was bitter--like that pine nut taste I had last year!

            Mine did not smell, the rind was not creamy, it was darker like bread crust and I purchased it from WF.

            I'm still enjoying it now but I'd rather have something stronger. Heck, I think I'd even go for some d'Affinois instead.

            Edit: I should have mentioned that I left it at room temperature for about 2 hours or more.

            5 Replies
            1. re: MinkeyMonkey

              MinkeyMonkey, I wouldn't describe myself as any kind of cheese expert at all, so the fact that I heart St Albray says nothing about it, objectively.

              I have never had a bitter aftertaste from it, never. And I am surprised, once again, at the comments from someone who didn't find it stinky. I sometimes have someone do my grocery shopping for me, and she refuses to bring St Albray back in her bag because it stinks it up. Also, when people walk into my house when I have it out on the counter, the smell in the house is very often the first thing they comment on. What is up with this non stinky St Albray? I'm wondering if maybe the cheese you had was slightly old? That may explain the 'bitter' aftertaste, which now that i think about it, does show up in the rind/close to the rind when it starts to get past it.

              And the bland comment is interesting, too, I've tried a number of cheeses people have recommended based on my St Albray love and found them too bland. I find St Albray very rounded in flavour, not sharp at all, maybe this comes off as 'bland' to other tastebuds? I have yet to try Chaumes, which everyone says I should. Have you had it?

              The rind I don't find very creamy, but it is a typical soft, velvety (washed?) rind - edible but I don't love it. It's summer, so my afternoon snack is often a fresh baguette and St Albray almost at melting point (gets all over your fingers), but it's looking more and more like I may be alone in my love.

              Anyone else have feelings about this cheese, good or bad?

              1. re: montrealeater

                Thanks for your input! I had to go look at the wrapper again just to be sure it really is Saint Albray and to make sure I didn't put it down and pick something else up instead. Yep, it is St. Albray.

                Well, we must all just have different taste buds. I often find some greens too bitter whereas my guy finds them not bitter at all. I do like some bitter greens, just not tons.

                Maybe it is a bit off? It doesn't taste off to me but I'm not sure I'd know since this is a first time for me. It was kind of pricey compared to my favourite St. Andre but I'm enjoying it even with the odd after taste.

                I was thinking of picking up some fig preserves and never did. Maybe the sweet would be a good complement? I might try picking some of my gooseberries before they dry up and eating them with the cheese.

                I'm having mine with a baguette too. Well, if I see it with a more lightly coloured crust, I'll try it again.

                I did try some without the rind but it still had the aftertaste. Oh, well, it isn't bad tasting, just bitter.

                Thanks for sharing!


                1. re: montrealeater

                  Another St Albray lover here, also love Chaumes, soft from the fridge with baguette but I find both of these do not do well after a stint in the fridge so it's best to buy a small piece and eat the lot!

                  1. re: montrealeater

                    Old thread, I know, but I just discovered this cheese and then this thread while looking for info on it. YUM!

                    It's funny because the first serving was not really favorably received by me or family. I think it may be because it was not fully warmed to room temp. The second time I had some, I put it on artisan sourdough bread which had been misted and warmed in the mic for 5 sec - just enough with the add'l time in the next step to make it softer and warm like just baked. Then I put the St Albray on top and nuked that for about 5 seconds - just enough to make it so it was about half translucent, in it's melting state, all around the edges.

                    WOW! It is absolutely addictive warmed like this and the sourdough really sets off the flavor. I didn't realize when I bought it that it would be such a strong cheese (mine was well ripe and discounted) and by appearance (so pale and bulging out from its tan rind) I thought it would be like a brie. I will look for this and buy it again. To those who were turned off, try it this way. The flavors when it is cool are nowhere near the wonderful flavors when this cheese nearly melts.

                    1. re: leenagrace

                      Slightly melted on sourdough, gonna try this. Am still not anywhere near over my St Albray addiction, I've eaten 2 big chunks in the past week or so, it's warm so I just leave it out until the house stinks, then i eat it. LOVE.