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French? Cheddar? cheese at BiRite

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chocolatetartguy Apr 23, 2012 06:53 PM

Had this at a dinner party. I thought it was a cheddar, but my hostess told me that it was an unknown French cheese bought at BiRite. It had large salt crystals on the rind. It tasted like a cheddar to me.

  1. sunshine842 Apr 30, 2012 04:07 AM

    Very well-aged Comte can indeed have crystals on it (usually 20 months or older)- it's another mineral that escapes me at the moment, but it's not truly salt.

    It's wonderful when you can get it, though -- and $20 plus per pound sounds about right. Old Comte with crystals is expensive and a little elusive in France, too.

    Cantal is possible, but less likely.

    It could also have been Salers as above, Beaufort, or Laguiole, although I'd be much more skeptical of finding those in a Bi-Rite. (not because I have anything against Bi-Rite, but because those are drifting toward the "pretty obscure" range of French cheeses)

    18 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842
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      boris_qd Apr 30, 2012 06:50 AM

      Comte doesn't really taste like Cheddar - so while very tasty seems unlikely.

      1. re: boris_qd
        sunshine842 Apr 30, 2012 11:37 AM

        I agree -- but the texture, color, and crystals are a fairly close match.

      2. re: sunshine842
        c
        chocolatetartguy Apr 30, 2012 12:55 PM

        Definitely not Comte. Still no word from Bi Wrong.

        1. re: chocolatetartguy
          sunshine842 Apr 30, 2012 12:56 PM

          Salers or Laguiole would definitely be the right color and texture...but hmmm....

          1. re: sunshine842
            c
            chocolatetartguy Apr 30, 2012 01:10 PM

            As luck would have it, I just saw the documentary Step Up to the Plate yesterday at SFIFF and they showed bread spread with blackberry preserves topped with thin pieces of Laguiole. The mystery cheese was not Laguiole. ? was almost white as snow.

            Funny you should mention Laguiole as I forgot its name and wanted to try the "recipe" when my berries start coming in and I just logged on to post about the film.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy
              Robert Lauriston Apr 30, 2012 01:38 PM

              Crystals on the rind is a stumper for me.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                sunshine842 Apr 30, 2012 02:03 PM

                the only thing I can think of is that somewhere in the distribution chain it formed crystals on a type of cheese that doesn't typically *have* crystals --

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  c
                  chocolatetartguy Apr 30, 2012 02:07 PM

                  They were like tiny craters of what I assume were salt. The Marcel Petite was way better anyway. As is the Old Quebec.

                  I don't think I get Birite. Their ice cream is too creamy for me, although I did like the Dandy Gentleman sundae that as I recall had lavendar ice cream, olive oil, Maldon? salt, chocolate syrup.

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy
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                    souvenir Apr 30, 2012 04:37 PM

                    Did it look at all like this?

                    http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main...

                    1. re: souvenir
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                      chocolatetartguy May 1, 2012 12:48 PM

                      I think that might be it. The rind of the bandage wrapped cheddar looks right. Although my hostess said the cheese was French, from the name Fiscalini one might think that it was Italian/European. I have had Fiscalini, but don't remember what it tasted like, but mystery cheese did taste like an English style farmhouse cheddar. Smooth sleuthing!

                      1. re: chocolatetartguy
                        s
                        souvenir May 1, 2012 01:13 PM

                        Merci, :).

                        I tasted the Fiscalini 24 month old bandage wrapped cheddar recently and when I read your description, it just sounded like it could be it... even though your hostess said it was French. I know Fiscalini cheeses have been at Bi Rite before so thought I would toss it into the guessing pool.

                        ps. if you are interested in trying something I would call a cross between aged cheddar, parmigiano (they say) and (I say) fontina, try their San Joaquin Gold.

                        1. re: souvenir
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                          chocolatetartguy May 1, 2012 04:00 PM

                          Next time I go to The Cheeseboard, I'll ask about that and Laguiole. I am in an Old Quebec, Piave, St. Agur, artificially smoked Gouda rut right now (and very happy to be there!).

                          1. re: chocolatetartguy
                            Robert Lauriston May 1, 2012 04:24 PM

                            The Cheeseboard's not on Fiscalini's list, but lots of other places around here are:

                            http://fiscalinicheese.com/locator/

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                              chocolatetartguy May 1, 2012 05:28 PM

                              Since I cheese shop almost exclusively at the Cheeseboard and I have tried Fiscalini, I am sure that they have had it in the past. That could have been up to 10 years ago. Sometimes they have cheeses, which are not listed on the chalkboard.

                              I'm really liking that Comte, so not in any hurry to become fiscalini conservative. :)

                              1. re: chocolatetartguy
                                Ruth Lafler May 1, 2012 06:52 PM

                                Fiscalini is (or has been) at farmers' markets. I'm a fan of the San Joaquin Gold, too.

                        2. re: chocolatetartguy
                          w
                          wally May 1, 2012 01:58 PM

                          Fiscalini is made in Modesto.

                2. re: sunshine842
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                  wally Apr 30, 2012 02:31 PM

                  I know it's late for Salers. but it sure sounded like what I wanted to hear.

                  1. re: wally
                    sunshine842 Apr 30, 2012 02:35 PM

                    mmm, not too much -- I just bought Salers a few weeks ago. It's the tail end of the season, but it's still around.

            2. grayelf Apr 23, 2012 07:16 PM

              Could it have been mimolette? It's the French cheese I think of when I think orange cheese. We've been getting it rindless here for some bizarre reason known only to Canada customs but this entry has a pic with rind on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimolette It tends to be harder than even most old cheddars though, so maybe not.

              33 Replies
              1. re: grayelf
                Melanie Wong Apr 23, 2012 07:22 PM

                Good candidate. Mimolette has mites in the rind that could seem like salt crystals.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
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                  wally Apr 23, 2012 09:56 PM

                  When it is aged "vielle" it is very hard. Very cheddar like when young. and somewhat softer.

                  1. re: wally
                    Melanie Wong Apr 23, 2012 10:08 PM

                    Yes.

                    Here's my old post on mimolette,
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/708230

                    1. re: wally
                      grayelf Apr 23, 2012 10:58 PM

                      I guess I've only had the oldies :-). The best was one that was brought by a friend from France to a Palladian villa called Saraceno we were staying in near Vicenza. I bet I'll never type that sentence again :-). Anyway, it is a great cheese.

                    2. re: Melanie Wong
                      DuchessNukem Apr 23, 2012 11:22 PM

                      Ahhhh. My life was so much better 5 minutes ago before I'd ever heard of, or googled, cheese mites. Can I just pretend there's a little cheese mite foreman, who orders ALL the tiny hard-hatted cheese mite workers out of the tasty cheese round, so that they can get on to the next de-construction project?

                      Melanie, "The Cheese" you described on the other thread sounds so delicious. And even the younger variants. Now I have to go looking for it. Damn you.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        Robert Lauriston Apr 24, 2012 07:59 AM

                        Mimolette's rind is shaped by mites, but they're not shipped with the cheese.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          s
                          Spatlese Apr 24, 2012 09:12 AM

                          That's (somewhat) reassuring - when I read that bit about the cheese mites, I had a flashback to the first time I learned about casu marzu from some long-ago Saveur article. Brrrr....

                      2. re: grayelf
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                        chocolatetartguy Apr 24, 2012 12:15 PM

                        Not mimolette. It was a sharpish white cheese, neither hard, nor soft. It had a definite cheddar-like bite and was slightly crumbly and creamy in the mouth. Very pleasant with flatbread crackers. The rind was pocked with tiny round craters of salt crystals. There were a few in the cheese too. My friend's wife forgot what cheese it was.

                        1. re: chocolatetartguy
                          Ruth Lafler Apr 24, 2012 12:33 PM

                          Why don't you email this description to BiRite?

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            c
                            chocolatetartguy Apr 24, 2012 01:56 PM

                            I may have to. I couldn't find anything on their website.

                            I normally eat Old Quebec and this mystery cheese was similar but not as sharp.

                          2. re: chocolatetartguy
                            grayelf Apr 24, 2012 05:35 PM

                            Ha, assumed you meant an orange cheddar, whoops. Agree with idea to email BiRite with purchase date also.

                            1. re: grayelf
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                              chocolatetartguy Apr 24, 2012 07:05 PM

                              I went through a Mimolette phase 5 years ago. I especially liked the burnt orange color, but now prefer my cheddar white and sharp.

                              1. re: chocolatetartguy
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                                sparky403 Apr 25, 2012 12:45 PM

                                I would check with Gourmet & More in Hayes Valley, they specialize in French Cheese and would likely have some - fair prices too.

                                http://www.yelp.com/biz/gourmet-and-m...

                                1. re: chocolatetartguy
                                  grayelf Apr 25, 2012 10:15 PM

                                  What do you think of the five-year old white Balderson, chocolatetartguy? That is currently a fave of mine.

                                  1. re: grayelf
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                                    chocolatetartguy Apr 27, 2012 12:10 PM

                                    Never had Balderson. I buy my cheese at The Cheeseboard. I always taste the Old Quebec and 1 or 2 other cheddars of the cheesemonger's choice. For the past few years, I have always bought Old Quebec. I think before that I was buying Black Diamond.

                                    The mystery cheese was sharp, but less so than Old Quebec, and slightly crumbly.

                                    1. re: chocolatetartguy
                                      chefj Apr 27, 2012 06:12 PM

                                      have you been tasting the 4 year or the 7year Old Quebec? The 7 is hard to beat for sharpness.

                                      1. re: chefj
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                                        chocolatetartguy Apr 27, 2012 06:50 PM

                                        I have no idea. Although, they do have some older vintages, I never really ask for them. I know I am not tasting the youngest, but as to how old I don't know. Old Quebec is consistently sharp and complex.

                                        They didn't have Cantal today, so ended up buying a Comte that my friend brought me to taste. It was $26/lb, more than I usually spend, but worth the try.

                                        1. re: chocolatetartguy
                                          chefj Apr 28, 2012 08:46 AM

                                          Wow! 26$ a pound. Retail cheese prices are shocking. Wholesale is less than half that.

                                          1. re: chefj
                                            wolfe Apr 28, 2012 08:50 AM

                                            Next time try to figure out what Andante Crottin go for a pound.
                                            http://www.andantedairy.com/crottin.html

                                            1. re: chefj
                                              Robert Lauriston Apr 28, 2012 10:53 AM

                                              Comte comes in a wide range of quality and prices: green or brown label, aged four months or two years, organic or not, month of production, etc.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                chefj Apr 28, 2012 12:52 PM

                                                I do not think any of the 6 or so carried by my cheese monger are 26 a pound.

                                                1. re: chefj
                                                  Robert Lauriston Apr 28, 2012 01:22 PM

                                                  What do they charge for Marcel Petite?

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    chefj Apr 28, 2012 03:33 PM

                                                    I don't know. You could give them a call and check if you would like. http://www.thecheeseworks.com/

                                                    1. re: chefj
                                                      Robert Lauriston Apr 28, 2012 04:06 PM

                                                      Their product list has only one unspecified 15-month, which is a couple of steps down from the stuff that typically retails for over $25 a pound.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        chefj Apr 28, 2012 05:13 PM

                                                        Is that the cheese that Chocolatetartguy was referring to buying?
                                                        I was expressing my dismay at the markups from wholesale price to retail price.
                                                        Is there some reason you are so interested in challenging that?

                                                        1. re: chefj
                                                          Robert Lauriston Apr 29, 2012 07:47 AM

                                                          This discussion got me craving some good Comté, so I went to the Cheese Board. The $26.50 one is a three-year-old Marcel Petite, it's one of the best Gruyère-style cheeses I've had in this country. They had a young Comté for arouind half the price, one-dimensional by comparison.

                                                          I have no idea what cheese chocolatetartguy had. Salt crystals on the rind and white paste, definitely not Comté.

                                                          1. re: chefj
                                                            Robert Lauriston Apr 29, 2012 10:28 AM

                                                            I believe the Cheese Board's markups are below average for first-rate cheese stores and if you got the wholesale price of a three-year-old Marcel Petite Comté you would not think it was odd that they were selling it for $26.50.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              chefj Apr 29, 2012 10:42 AM

                                                              How do you know that, you do not know what the wholesale price is?

                                                              1. re: chefj
                                                                Robert Lauriston Apr 29, 2012 10:51 AM

                                                                I've shopped at all the first-rate cheese shops around here and the Cheese Board's prices are usually lower than the competition. I think the Pasta Shop charges $30.

                                                                http://essexcheese.com/about/comte/

                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      c
                                                      chocolatetartguy Apr 30, 2012 12:51 PM

                                                      The Marcel Petite was what I bought. It was far superior to the younger one at $16/lb. I ate some yesterday for lunch with a baguette piece and it was excellent and worth the price. That said, not an everyday purchase for me, unless I am flush.

                                  2. re: chocolatetartguy
                                    b
                                    boris_qd Apr 27, 2012 11:55 AM

                                    Was it Cantal?

                                    1. re: boris_qd
                                      c
                                      chocolatetartguy Apr 27, 2012 12:15 PM

                                      Might be. There a couple of pictures on Google Images that look like it. No reply from BiRite. I recently asked a questions of Grocery Outlet Smithfield Hams and they both answered right away!

                                      1. re: chocolatetartguy
                                        w
                                        wally Apr 27, 2012 01:03 PM

                                        Have you ever had Salers? It is really hard to get but might fit your description. If so,it is a treat.

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