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French? Cheddar? cheese at BiRite

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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.

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  1. 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

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

      1. re: Melanie Wong

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

        1. re: wally

          Yes.

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

          1. re: wally

            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

            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

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

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                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

              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

                Why don't you email this description to BiRite?

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  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

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

                  1. re: grayelf

                    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

                      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

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

                        1. re: grayelf

                          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

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

                            1. re: chefj

                              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

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

                                1. re: chefj

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

                                  1. re: chefj

                                    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

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

                                      1. re: chefj

                                        What do they charge for Marcel Petite?

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

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

                                          1. re: chefj

                                            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

                                              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

                                                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

                                                  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

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

                                                    1. re: chefj

                                                      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

                                            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

                          Was it Cantal?

                          1. re: boris_qd

                            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

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

                      2. 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

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

                          1. re: boris_qd

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

                          2. re: sunshine842

                            Definitely not Comte. Still no word from Bi Wrong.

                            1. re: chocolatetartguy

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

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                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

                                  Crystals on the rind is a stumper for me.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    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

                                      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

                                        Did it look at all like this?

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

                                        1. re: souvenir

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

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

                                                http://fiscalinicheese.com/locator/

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  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

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

                                            2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                              Fiscalini is made in Modesto.

                                    2. re: sunshine842

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

                                      1. re: wally

                                        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.