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French Blue cheeses: Cheese of the Month January 2014

r
Ridge Jan 5, 2014 02:40 PM

Microorganisms have a big impact on cheese flavor (cheese itself is milk transformed into another state of being by bacteria). This is an interesting discussion on cheese microbiology:
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/interviews/interview/1815/

In Novembers COTM we tasted washed rind cheeses which have umami flavors imparted by bacteria growing on their rinds. Blue cheeses are flavored by fungi, specifically the mold Penicillium roqueforti (sometimes other Penicillium species are used) inoculated into the cheese. Holes are introduced into the cheese to encourage growth of the fungus which requires air. The Blue of Blue cheese are the spores of the fungus.

June’s COTM (which I sadly missed) featured Gorgonzola. During October’s COTM, which featured North American cheeses, we sampled several domestic blues. This month let’s explore the world of French blue cheeses. You will see many French blue cheeses labeled as AOC. This translates into controlled designation of origin and is a way of protecting the quality and origin of a product (see here for more information: http://www.culturecheesemag.com/ask_t...

)

As in the Washed rind moth I will post different cheeses as an independent post. Reply to the post when discussing a cheese or add a new post (with the cheese name in CAPs) if discussing one I have not started a post about.

  1. Melanie Wong Feb 1, 2014 12:06 AM

    BLEU DES BASQUES

    Pasteurized sheep's milk cheese from the Pyrénées made by Onetik.

    This might be my favorite discovery in a month of tasting so many blue cheeses. The base cheese has the character of an aged Ossau Iraty -- salty, gamey, crumbly, best planed into thin slices.The scant blue veining is an added note and not the primary taste. I served this side-by-side with a couple Roqueforts and we couldn't believe how different each of these sheep's milk blues could be from one another. It was universally popular at the table.

    Le Bleu des Basques was purchased from Gourmet & More in San Francisco, $25/lb.

    http://www.onetik.com/en/onetik-chees...

     
    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      r
      Ridge Feb 24, 2014 12:22 PM

      We tried Bleu des Basques from the Cheeseboard in Berkeley last night. I agree it's an outstanding cheese. Ours sounds slightly different than the one you had. Ours had fairly prominent blue veining. The cheese was crumbly but was more creamy around the veins and stronger tasting near the rind. I definitely agree with you about the complexity of flavors.

      From my notes:

      very distinctive blue cheese with strong non-blue cheese flavors that remind me of Swiss cheese and Gouda.
      Flavors: onion, nutty, very well balanced in-terms of saltiness, sweetness and sharpness. As you got to the rind and around the veins a satisfying mouth drying sharpness becomes stronger.

    2. Melanie Wong Jan 31, 2014 11:24 PM

      BLEU DE SEVERAC

      Raw sheep's milk by Ferme Seguin . . . Gourmet & More in San Francisco is the West Coast (of the US) exclusive importer. Made in the same area as Roquefort and Bleu des Causses, some of the references say that this is what Roquefort was like before industrialization.

      No idea about that, but I guess I would describe it as even more concentrated than Roquefort with a rustic, robust personality. Powerful and piquant deep blue veining with a velvety paste that leaves a butterfat trail on the palate. A little sweet, plus roasted nut and smoky meat character, not that salty, and carrying through to a long and explosive finish. This wheel was past prime and ammoniated in parts or I might have considered buying some at $38.25/lb.

      Bleu de Sévérac salad recipe
      http://www.ferme-seguin.com/PBCPPlayer.asp?ID=1354393

      http://www.xavier.fr/bleu-severac-p-4...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Melanie Wong
        Melanie Wong Jan 31, 2014 11:29 PM

        Bleu de Sévérac photos:

         
         
      2. Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2014 04:30 PM

        PERSILLE DE TIGNES

        Just ran across this old post from "cheesemaestro" that mentions Persillé de Tignes. This is a mixed milk - goat and cow - blue cheese from the Savoie that has a mite-ridden pebbly rind. There's only one producer left who still makes this farmstead cheese. It's shown as available now at Formaggio Kitchen -- if anyone's close to those stores, let us know if you have a chance to try it.
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/302067#7829571

        http://blog.formaggiokitchen.com/2011/06/11/persille-de-tignes-a-true-cheese-of-the-savoie/

        http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/shop/...

        1. Melanie Wong Jan 28, 2014 12:05 PM

          BLANC BLEU DU RIZET by Pascal Beillevaire

          When is a bleu cheese not a blue cheese? This might be an example. Blanc Bleu du Rizet is a raw goat's milk cheese from Auvergne. The paste is not injected with blue culture but occasionally will develop some bluing on its own. The name is said to come from the blue molds that mottle the rind.

          The example I tasted at Oliver's Market on Stony Point Rd in Santa Rosa did not have any blue veins. Perhaps I was too prone to suggestion, but it did taste a bit bleu-like to me. Even without that bleu fungal presence this cheese was subtly complex. I remarked to the cheesemonger who tasted it along with me that the rich butter character seemed more like sheep's milk to me, and she said she was going to say the same thing. Moderately salty with a fresh tanginess, an elusive mushroom nuance, limestone minerality, butterfat richness and lovely creamy glide over the palate made this otherwise mild but complex cheese a stand out.

          I was not a buyer at $40 per pound, as my weekend's cheese plate was already overstocked. But I'll keep it in mind for when I want something very unique to share with my guests.

          http://www.thedailymeal.com/cheese-week-pascal-beillevaires-creations/121213

          http://www.wallywine.com/p-29923-pasc...

           
          1. Melanie Wong Jan 24, 2014 03:28 PM

            PERSILLE DE CHÈVRE FERMIER by Ferme de la Tremblaye in Île-de-France

            Purchased at The Pasta Shop on College in Oakland, CA, I tasted it right after the Bleuet. These two goat cheeses couldn't be more different.

            Made with pasteurized goat's milk from its own herd, this is a new cheese just launched in 2013. Soft and creamy, the cheese is rubbed with ash and has a smoky, toasted nuts, butterscotch flavor near the rind. The center of the paste has some loose, not compressed curd texture to it. The bluing is moderate in intensity without peppery bite as is the salinity, allowing the fresh grassy flavors and gamey elements of the goat milk to shine through vividly.

            I've been balking at the high prices for many cheeses. Yet I felt this one was worth $35.99/pound for a special occasion.

            http://www.monpanier-local.fr/fromages-de-chevre/632-chevre-persille.html

            http://webcache.googleusercontent.com...

            I'll add that I'm glad Ridge posted about Persillé de Beaujolais. I learned that persillé (parsley garnish) is a term used for blue cheese, referring to the appearance. And it sparked an interest in seeking out blue goat cheeses.

             
            1. Melanie Wong Jan 14, 2014 06:03 PM

              LE BLEUET, Bleu de Chèvre, produced by Jacquin

              I was wishing for a goat milk blue, and I stumbled on this one yesterday at The Pasta Shop on College in Market Hall Foods in Oakland, CA. Formed in a triangular log, this would look very nice on a cheese plate.

              The paste was firmer than I expected, verging on rubbery. The goat cheese side of the equation dominates the blue character, tasting tangy and aggressively high-pitched with but mild bluing. I wasn't a buyer at $28/lb, but I enjoyed trying it.

              http://www.fromagerie-jacquin.com/fromagerie-jacquin-historique-le-bleuet-10.html

              http://cheezwhse.com/detail.php?id=243

               
              1. r
                Ridge Jan 12, 2014 05:11 PM

                PERSILLE DU BEAUJOLAIS

                Usually cow but sometimes goat.

                More information:
                http://m.sfgate.com/food/cheesecourse...

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ridge
                  t
                  teezeetoo Jan 14, 2014 08:42 AM

                  BLEU DE BOUCAGE - a French goat blue, spicy and fresh tasting, on the light side, and very pleasant indeed.

                  1. re: Ridge
                    r
                    Ridge Jan 16, 2014 01:59 PM

                    Tried the Herve Mons Persille du Beaujolais blue last weekend. Liked it but not as much as the Roquefort we had at the same time. It was sharp, smooth, salty and earthy with strong Sherry and caramel flavors. Not strongly blue flavored.

                  2. Melanie Wong Jan 12, 2014 04:05 PM

                    And French blues are health food:

                    "Now the French are at it again, surreptitiously extending their lifespans with Roquefort cheese.

                    New research reported by The Telegraph suggests the sheep-milk blue cheese, aged in caves in the south of France, can help prevent cardiovascular disease. The British study, titled “Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?,” hopes to unearth why the French boast strong health and longevity despire their fatty diets."

                    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/t...

                    1. Melanie Wong Jan 12, 2014 03:29 PM

                      BLEU DU VERCORS-SASSENAGE AOC/AOP.

                      This is a pasteurized cow's milk blue cheese. I've never tasted it, but wanted to add it to suggestions for consideration this month. It was designated an AOC cheese in 1999.
                      http://www.biodeal.fr/en/vilactee/cows-cheese/bleu-du-vercors-sassenage-cheese/

                      As this cheese has its own festival,
                      http://www.parc-du-vercors.fr/fetedubleu/
                      and a confrérie devoted to it, I'd love to try Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage and see for myself what makes it special some day.
                      http://www.bleu-vercors-sassenage.com/

                      1. jpr54_1 Jan 12, 2014 08:04 AM

                        I will not be joining this month bcz I just don't like any blue veined cheese

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jpr54_1
                          Ruth Lafler Jan 15, 2014 05:14 PM

                          You might want to re-test that assumption periodically. I used to hate blue cheese but I started to enjoy it well into adulthood.

                        2. h
                          HillJ Jan 9, 2014 01:15 PM

                          A question about French blue cheeses as the main in a dip. I don't have much experience with French blue. Are these cheeses too precious for use as a dip?

                          Are certain blues in this category better for using in a wonderful blue cheese dip over others?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: HillJ
                            Veggo Jan 9, 2014 01:47 PM

                            I would use a Danish blue that crumbles more easily, sometimes you can buy it already crumbled. Less expensive, also.

                            1. re: Veggo
                              grayelf Jan 9, 2014 03:13 PM

                              I push the boat out a bit and use Roquefort in dips, as I find the Danish blue too harsh and salty.

                              1. re: grayelf
                                Veggo Jan 9, 2014 03:28 PM

                                Like pretzels?.....:)
                                I'm still pondering what to do with my Rogue River blue...

                                1. re: Veggo
                                  Delucacheesemonger Jan 12, 2014 08:40 AM

                                  Save it for me, March 2

                          2. Veggo Jan 5, 2014 03:34 PM

                            St. Agur is INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS. And smooth. I can't heap enough praise on it. I buy it any time I see it, I could never pass it by.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Veggo
                              grayelf Jan 5, 2014 09:23 PM

                              A warning to all: if you see gorgonzola made by Castello, run far far away. There is some sort of import problem, at least here in BC, where we can't get the good stuff. I will accept no substitute till it is back!

                              1. re: grayelf
                                Melanie Wong Jan 5, 2014 11:18 PM

                                Is Castello gorgonzola made in France?

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  grayelf Jan 6, 2014 11:02 AM

                                  I think it's this company based on the packaging: http://castellocheeseusa.com/cheeses/

                                  but I can't find a product called gorgonzola on their website. The wedge I got did have that name on it, alas.

                                  1. re: grayelf
                                    grayelf Jan 7, 2014 10:28 PM

                                    Looked at the round in the store yesterday and confirmed it is Castello gorgonzola. Really nasty stuff, bland and yet somehow weirdly sharp at the same time, plus a meh texture.

                                    1. re: grayelf
                                      Melanie Wong Jan 8, 2014 09:25 PM

                                      I'm just reading about Saingorlon that was created in France during WWII when Gorgonzola could not be imported from Italy. Wondering how close to real gorgonzola it might be.
                                      http://androuet.com/Saingorlon-1132.html

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        grayelf Jan 9, 2014 07:46 AM

                                        Sounds promising. And I need to apologize to the thread for introducing the gorgonzola piece here at all. I just clocked that COTM is FRENCH blue. Duh.

                                        1. re: grayelf
                                          Melanie Wong Jan 9, 2014 08:52 PM

                                          That made me smile. When I read your warning, I tried to be gentle in my response. Didn't occur to me that Belle France did not register. I figured you hated that Castello so much you couldn't contain the outburst!

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                            grayelf Jan 9, 2014 09:07 PM

                                            Actually that is true, my cheese PSA for the month :-). But also I think I might have read FRESH blue cheese instead of FRENCH, which I realize makes no sense but there it is. Perhaps time for some computer glasses...

                                            1. re: grayelf
                                              r
                                              Ridge Jan 9, 2014 09:54 PM

                                              What does PSA stand for? The first thing that came to mind was prostate serum antigen. I hear you about the computer glasses, sometimes I find myself wondering if they suddenly shrunk all the fonts on me.

                                              1. re: Ridge
                                                mariacarmen Jan 9, 2014 10:45 PM

                                                ahahaha, Ridge - "Public Service Announcement"!

                              2. r
                                Ridge Jan 5, 2014 03:24 PM

                                ROQUEFORT

                                Well known French sheep’s milk cheese. Made by many different producers. I am going to try and taste several different versions this month.

                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roquefor...

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Ridge
                                  Melanie Wong Jan 7, 2014 12:16 PM

                                  Here's a list of the seven producers of Roquefort,
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9033...

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                    grayelf Jan 7, 2014 10:27 PM

                                    We typically get the Papillon and the Societe around these parts. I have some Societe right now that is quite delightful, assertive yet still a bit creamy. I love the bite of Roquefort.

                                    1. re: grayelf
                                      Melanie Wong Jan 14, 2014 01:14 AM

                                      I noticed Societe' Roquefort at Trader Joe's yesterday. It's only $9.99 per pound and most of the cuts were less than a half-pound on the shelf.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        r
                                        Ridge Jan 16, 2014 01:54 PM

                                        I tried the Gabriel Coulet Roquefort last weekend. We really enjoyed it. It was full flavored with an earthiness that reminded me of fresh forest soil and ferns. It was slightly salty, slightly sweet, tangy, good blue cheese edginess, sheepy, moderately creamy, intense and in-your-face.

                                        1. re: Ridge
                                          r
                                          Ridge Jan 21, 2014 03:09 PM

                                          tasted three different Roqueforts this weekend, all purchases from the Berkeley cheeseboard. The tasting reinforced that I love Roquefort. Being both a sheep and blue cheese it's kind of the best of both worlds. The three cheeses were very very different from each other, so much so that they were almost like different cheese types altogether. Here are my notes about the different cheeses:

                                          Carles raw milk- meltingly soft but with crumbly texture salty sweet good blue cheese flavor. This was the overall most well balanced and elegant of the three. This was my husbands favorite of the three.

                                          Rodolphe meunière- this was the softest, fruitiest and sharpest of the three. Even though it was extremely soft there was a graininess to it. Very good blue cheese flavor. This was my favorite of the three.

                                          Societie- this was the mildest of the three. The blue cheese flavor was present as a one dimensional fungal note. To me it lacked the complexity and depth of flavor of the first two.

                                2. r
                                  Ridge Jan 5, 2014 03:18 PM

                                  BLEU DE GEX

                                  Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk

                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleu_de_Gex

                                  http://www.gourmet-food.com/french-ch...

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Ridge
                                    Melanie Wong Jan 5, 2014 04:31 PM

                                    Bleu de Gex AOP differs from some of the other blue cheeses in this thread because it is inoculated with Penicillium glaucum rather than P. roqueforti to create the blue veining and flavor. This is the same as used to make Gorgonzola, and like that Italian counterpart, Bleu de Gex has a sweeter and less aggressive blue character.

                                    Here's my photo of the cut wheel at the cheesemaker in the Jura region of France. You can see how fine-grained the veining is.
                                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/120499746/

                                    This was at Fromagerie La Joux, one of only four producers of this denominated cheese. It's a tiny place.
                                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/120499704/

                                    In this piece about B d Gex, David Leibovitz says he asked Peggy Smith, owner of California's Cowgirl Creamery, “What is the one cheese you would tell someone from the United States that they absolutely should try while in France, which is not available in America?” Her answer was "Bleu de Gex".
                                    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/05/...

                                    I continue to ask about availability in the US. Some say that it appears in Manhattan from time to time. Let us know if you see any!

                                    1. re: Ridge
                                      Melanie Wong Jan 16, 2014 12:07 PM

                                      When I was at The Pasta Shop in Oakland, I did inquire about Bleu de Gex. I was told that it is available in the US via Herve Mons. The shop did sell it at one time but now that it would have to priced at about $45 per pound, it wouldn't sell. I was told to check with Berkeley's Cheese Board, as it appears there some times.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        r
                                        Ridge Jan 21, 2014 02:33 PM

                                        I got some from the Berkeley cheeseboard last Friday. It is an interesting cheese. Not super strong and it tasted unique in a way that is difficult to describe in words. I thoroughly enjoyed it although I was not blown away by it. Here are my notes: Fine blue veins. Earthy yeasty fungal. Medium smooth texture. Well balanced. Very good

                                      2. re: Ridge
                                        Melanie Wong Feb 4, 2014 01:09 PM

                                        Well, I did get in a Bleu de Gex fix last month. Found it at Gourmet & More in SF, $19.99 per pound. This was the first cheese that I tasted in my first visit to this cheesemonger. I'll note that he shaved a full length slice from the core to the rind so that I could sample every bit of the cheese's condition. Also, he tasted along with me so that we could discuss the cheese.

                                        This example seemed to be older, more pungent, saltier, creamier, and softer than my memory of that long-ago sampling in the Jura. The milder bluing sits back in the mouth, not dominating the flavor spectrum as much as P. roqueforti would. A dried herbal nuance, new mown hay, faintly nutty, and not as sweet as Causses or d'Ambert. The paste also feels looser and not as dense. A whole different personality type being less aggressive and more subtle.

                                         
                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                          r
                                          Ridge Feb 6, 2014 03:58 PM

                                          You are good at finding the right words to describe the cheeses, I know exactly what you mean by the dry herbal nuance and hay but could not put it into words when trying to describe it. The thing that surprised me was that I thought the Gex was not at all similar to Gorgonzola. I thought maybe since they both used the same mold variety they might have some similarities. Now I want to taste some Gorgonzola.

                                          1. re: Ridge
                                            Melanie Wong Feb 6, 2014 05:59 PM

                                            Thanks. Do you recall about how much you paid for B d Gex at the Cheese Board? I was delighted to find it for less than the $45/lb. I'd been told at another store.

                                            (And I still have three more blues tasted last month to report on . . . so busy now with Chinese New Year celebrations and cooking. . . than I can move onto February's cheese plate.)

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                                              ChefJune Feb 7, 2014 11:29 AM

                                              $45 a pound??? YIKES!

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                r
                                                Ridge Feb 7, 2014 11:38 AM

                                                I forgot how much I paid. I remember it was pricy but I don't think it was $45, maybe around $35 but I forget.

                                        2. r
                                          Ridge Jan 5, 2014 03:11 PM

                                          BLEU DES CAUSSES.

                                          Similar to a cow’s milk Roquefort

                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleu_des...

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Ridge
                                            Delucacheesemonger Jan 8, 2014 08:09 AM

                                            Because of the very low price, this is my go to French blue when Roquefort is not desired. An old AOC cheese, raw cows milk and aged in same caves as Roquefort and made in an identical fashion.
                                            Sometime try a mini vertical of Fourme d'Ambert, Bleu d'Auvergne and this. If your taste buds are at all like mine this will be your fav.

                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                              Melanie Wong Jan 24, 2014 04:22 PM

                                              Finally located some Bleu des Causses. It used to be my go-to blue long ago too. So it was lovely to revisit an old friend. This one was made thermalized cow's milk. This had a dense, velvety and creamy texture and the strong blue intensity and depth of Roquefort. A little bit goes a long way. It's heavier, stronger yet not overly aggressive and doesn't have the sweetness of Fourme d'Ambert. I was seduced again by the power and that the mouthfeel is not gritty/dry.

                                              I found it at Gourmet & More in San Francisco for $14.99/lb, what a bargain. While I've been in the shop a couple times with my mother, this was my first opportunity to step inside the cheese cave. Yeah, I know hard to believe! It was so wonderful to inhale the intoxicating scent of excellent French cheese and to be waited on by friendly and helpful French-accented staff. I only had 25 minutes on my metered parking, but I managed to taste, select and buy seven cheeses and a couple macarons in that time. Actually lucky that I was short on time or I'd be much poorer.
                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/817532

                                              Then yesterday I was in Oliver's Market on Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa, which has an excellent cheese department. The same Bleu is there for $17.99/lb. that they buy from Gourmet & More, as well as stock of the other French blues it imports.

                                              La Société Laitière de Laqueuille
                                              http://www.fromages-laqueuille.fr/ble...

                                               
                                          2. r
                                            Ridge Jan 5, 2014 03:07 PM

                                            FOURME D'AMBERT.

                                            Cow’s milk blue. One of my favorite blues.

                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourme_d...

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Ridge
                                              r
                                              Ridge Jan 5, 2014 03:13 PM

                                              FOURME DE MONTBRISON

                                              Similar to Fourme d'Ambert

                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourme_d...

                                              1. re: Ridge
                                                e
                                                EmBrooks Jan 8, 2014 01:52 PM

                                                Just bought a wedge of Fourme D'Ambert. Creamy and mild - really enjoyed it.

                                                1. re: EmBrooks
                                                  k
                                                  kewpie Jan 26, 2014 01:35 PM

                                                  delicious

                                                2. re: Ridge
                                                  Melanie Wong Jan 12, 2014 03:12 PM

                                                  On Thursday I was in Carmel-by-the-Sea and had a chance to drop into The Cheese Shop to look for French blues. I was specifically hoping to find Bleu de Causses, but no dice. The only blue cheese from France besides Roquefort and St Agur on hand was Fourme d'Ambert. With the explosion of domestic cheesemaking, French classics are being crowded out of inventory.
                                                  http://www.thecheeseshopinc.com/

                                                  This was a pasteurized milk version from Paul Dischamp and it took a bit of looking for the cheesemonger to find the name on the wheel's foil label. The cheese was at a lovely place. Fully developed with blue intensity and savory elements, yet the sweetness of the milk creates a milder impression on balance. Not as silky/buttery as St Agur, but still pretty creamy mouthfeel and none of the dry crumbles or stiff blue tubes that other blue cheeses display. The soft fudgy paste spread beautifully on the flute I'd purchased from a local French bakery. Just a bit of ammonia on the outside crust that I scraped off. The small wedge being sliced off with a wire cutter in the photo cost $2.93, and was just the right amount for my small loaf of bread to make a pre-dinner snack for two people.
                                                  http://www.dischamp.com/nos-fromages_3_la-fourme-d-ambert-aop__fromage-fourme-ambert.html

                                                  I hope I can find a fermier production unpasteurized version to taste for comparison.
                                                  http://www.fourme-ambert.com/

                                                  Here's my earlier post on Fourme Affinee au Moelleux, the version injected with sweet dessert wine.
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9105...

                                                   
                                                  1. re: Ridge
                                                    Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2014 11:06 PM

                                                    Hervé Mons Fourme d'Ambert, raw milk. I tasted it today at The Pasta Shop on College in Oakland, CA. This was softer, creamier, and even sweeter. And the flavor just bloomed in the mouth with bigger volume. And it's the same price, $20/lb, that I paid for Dischamp pasteurized version in Carmel.
                                                    http://www.greenleafsf.com/wp-content...

                                                    The pasteurized version from Rodolphe Le Meunier was also available at the same price. But I didn't taste it.

                                                    I have not been in this shop for a few years. I've been frequenting the branch on Fourth St in berkeley from time to time. Today I learned that the two locations stock very different inventory. I met Alma, a lively and well-informed cheesemonger, at the College, Oakland shop, who is a decided Francophile. She has interned with Mons and with another French cheese family. Not much domestic cheese presence here. She said that Mons is doing an in-service for their staff on Friday.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2014 11:14 PM

                                                      http://www.markethallfoods.com/produc...

                                                       
                                                       
                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                        r
                                                        Ridge Jan 16, 2014 10:38 AM

                                                        Last year I had the Fromage d'ambert a couple of times and really enjoyed it. It had a smooth white cream-cheese like paste and pleasant sharpness, was sweet with a good blue cheese flavor. Last week I purchased one from whole foods that I did not enjoy as much. This one was labeled only as
                                                        "blue l'or des domes". The paste was firmer and had a more golden hue. It was overall more bland than the ones I had last year. I am going to try to go to the Berkeley cheeseboard tomorrow to see if they have other versions like the one Melanie tasted.

                                                        1. re: Ridge
                                                          Melanie Wong Jan 16, 2014 12:14 PM

                                                          Here's the importer's page on F d'A, and it doesn't say whether raw or pasteurized. I'd assume pasteurized milk.
                                                          http://www.dcicheeseco.com/la-societe...

                                                          While you're in Berkeley, you might stop by The Pasta Shop on Fourth St too. While I imagine it's not as French leaning as the College Ave location, given that Mons is doing an in-service on Friday, it might have more than usual.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                            r
                                                            Ridge Jan 16, 2014 01:47 PM

                                                            I will stop at 4th street also. Love that pasta shop. Only bad thing is that it's an easy place to run up your credit card.

                                                  2. r
                                                    Ridge Jan 5, 2014 03:04 PM

                                                    SAINT AGUR.

                                                    A relatively recent (developed in 1988) very rich cow’s milk blue. I think it will appeal to people daunted by strong salty pungent in-your-face blue cheeses. This is one of the cheeses I get most often on a regular basis although I am not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing- it tastes almost too perfect, perhaps a bit too engineered for mass appeal?

                                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Ag...

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: Ridge
                                                      DonShirer Jan 5, 2014 03:46 PM

                                                      My favorite French Bleu. It Bleu me away.

                                                      1. re: Ridge
                                                        r
                                                        Ridge Jan 5, 2014 07:58 PM

                                                        Tried some St. Agur tonight. This cheese is usually consistently good but the batch we had seemed saltier and not as well balanced as previous batches we have tried. It was still good but not as good as it usually is.

                                                        1. re: Ridge
                                                          Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2014 01:39 PM

                                                          Until you selected this month's category of cheese, I was not aware of St Agur's history. It makes sense to me that it's a creation driven by market research, as you say, it's almost too perfect. I've always loved the creamy texture and voluptuous richness of the double creme level butterfat. And now it makes sense that it was designed to overcome the grainy/dryness associated with blue cheeses.

                                                          As I've surveyed local cheese shops for French blue cheeses in stock, all but one of them have had St Agur, even if they have no others save for Roquefort. That speaks to its popularity. Prices have ranged from $19 to $28 per pound, which is a pretty big spread.

                                                          http://www.sfgate.com/food/cheesecourse/article/French-Saint-Agur-is-a-mild-double-cream-blue-2697185.php

                                                          http://iledefrancecheese.com/index.ph...

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                            r
                                                            Ridge Jan 29, 2014 02:02 PM

                                                            It's a full proof dinner party cheese. Everyone loves it because it tastes so good but is not as sharp or strong as some blues. I use it in a Blue cheese salad dressing I make. There is another cheese I like that is similarly created by market research, in this case specifically to appeal to the American palate: Ewephoria Sheeps milk Gouda.

                                                            1. re: Ridge
                                                              Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2014 03:23 PM

                                                              Yes, St Agur's flavor profile has been tuned in to hit an easy going balance. Not too salty, a little bit of sweetness from the extra cream.

                                                              I tend to use stronger blues for salad dressing. Guess I think of it as a way to dilute them and use up any that have gotten too old and dry. I may be making vats of blue cheese dressing after this month, as I'm only half-way through posting about what i've tried for this ChOTM.

                                                              Here's a recipe specifically for sablés that specific to St Agur.
                                                              http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/03/sa...

                                                            2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                              Veggo Jan 29, 2014 02:10 PM

                                                              I pay about $22 on average for St. Agur. I have to drive a ways to get it. I ate a wedge of Rogue River Blue yesterday that most mortals would have declared to be inedible - excessive blue veining, rock hard.

                                                              1. re: Veggo
                                                                Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2014 03:25 PM

                                                                I don't like to pay more than $25 per pound for any cheese. St Agur's creators hit the price point well too. The $20-25 price range signals premium product to consumers leading them to expect something special, and yet is not so high as to be unaffordable. It's a small luxury.

                                                                ETA: I'm surprised to hear that Rogue River was hard. Dense with bluing, yes, but I don't think of it as hard. Maybe too old?

                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                  Veggo Jan 29, 2014 03:34 PM

                                                                  That's a good policy. I was stung by the Cypress Grove truffle tremor @ $34/lb, and was extremely disappointed. I'm always on the lookout for a ripe taleggio in the $teens.

                                                                  1. re: Veggo
                                                                    Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2014 03:38 PM

                                                                    Along that line, I've stopped buying pre-cut/wrapped cheeses at supermarkets other than a few relatively inexpensive hard cheeses. I'll find a staff person and ask them to unwrap the cheese and let me taste it if there's no cheesemonger on duty. I've not had a single store refuse me, that is, when I'm able to find someone to help. There's just too much stuff that's in bad condition sitting on the shelf for too long. Tasting first, I'm rejecting more than half of the samples I try.

                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                      c oliver Jan 29, 2014 06:14 PM

                                                                      I was VERY please recently when there was a non-robot at the WF cheese area in Reno. She was around the case, talking to me about cheeses, opening things, etc. I too have been disappointed and also like you just don't buy expensive ones if I can't taste.

                                                                2. re: Veggo
                                                                  ChefJune Feb 7, 2014 11:27 AM

                                                                  The Rogue River blue I've had has been much more appetizing.

                                                            3. r
                                                              Ridge Jan 5, 2014 02:50 PM

                                                              BLEU D'AFFINOIS.

                                                              Described as being similar to a French blue brie.

                                                              See here for more information:

                                                              http://www.aoap.com.au/content_common/pr-blue-mould-cheese_fromager-blue-daffinois.seo

                                                              http://cheesechatter.wordpress.com/20...

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: Ridge
                                                                r
                                                                Ridge Jan 5, 2014 08:09 PM

                                                                Tasted some BLEU D'AFFINOIS tonight. It definitely tastes like a blue brie. Perhaps more brie tasting than blue. Buttery melting paste. Mushroomy. Blue cheese taste present but not strong. We liked it but didn’t love it. It had one attribute which I sometimes encounter in soft blue cheeses that I don’t like. That is when the blue veining of the cheese gets a harder more fibrous texture than the rest of the cheese. Overall it was good but at the end of the day I would rather enjoy a really good brie or a really good blue cheese rather than a cheese that tries to be both.

                                                                1. re: Ridge
                                                                  Melanie Wong Jan 5, 2014 08:29 PM

                                                                  How would you compare this to the non-French Cambozola?

                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                    r
                                                                    Ridge Jan 5, 2014 08:42 PM

                                                                    As I was tasting the Bleu D'Affinoise I thought it reminded me of Cambozola. I would like to say that the Bleu D'Affinoise is slightly more brie like and that the Cambozola has a slightly stronger blue cheese flavor but it’s been a while since I have tasted a Cambozola so it’s difficult for me to say how it compares. They would be good to taste side by side.

                                                                    1. re: Ridge
                                                                      Melanie Wong Jan 9, 2014 08:45 PM

                                                                      Talking about these soft-ripened, buttery blue cheeses, I was reminded of Pipo Crème. When I was in my 20's, putting a piece on this (industrial) French cheese on a party plate used to make me feel so worldly. I have not seen it for many years. Trying to search for it on the web, the most common result is that it was memorialized in the Monty Python sketch.
                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/918390

                                                                      I don't think that Pipo Crème had a bloomy rind though. It was soft and very creamy with a mild bluing. Is it still around?

                                                              2. r
                                                                Ridge Jan 5, 2014 02:45 PM

                                                                BLEU D'AUVERGNE.

                                                                This is a blue cow’s milk cheese.

                                                                Se here for more information:

                                                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleu_d%2...

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Ridge
                                                                  r
                                                                  Ridge Jan 5, 2014 08:18 PM

                                                                  Tried some BLEU D'AUVERGNE tonight. We really enjoyed it. It had a smooth semi soft texture and a very classic blue cheese profile: salty, earthy, slightly tangy, slightly sweet and an assertive but not overpowering fungal funk that ensured you know you are eating fungus. It was our favorite of the 3 blues we tried tonight.

                                                                  1. re: Ridge
                                                                    Melanie Wong Jan 7, 2014 12:14 PM

                                                                    Do you know which producer made the AOP Bleu d'Auvergne? And was it a raw or pasteurized milk example?

                                                                    http://www.travelfranceonline.com/wp-...

                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                      r
                                                                      Ridge Jan 7, 2014 12:38 PM

                                                                      Unfortunately I don't know. I got it from Andronicos and there was none of that information on the package. It's frustrating how many supermarkets often provide very little information about the gourmet cheeses they sell.

                                                                      1. re: Ridge
                                                                        Melanie Wong Jan 24, 2014 04:00 PM

                                                                        Unfortunately, too common. I was in Sonoma Market yesterday and the labels on their cut/wrap cheeses do not indicate origin or type of milk that some other supermarkets do. And though there were staff on hand, they couldn't answer my questions.

                                                                        And having been burned a few times buying pre-cut/wrapped cheese, except for certain hard cheeses, I've stopped buying pre-cut unless there's someone on hand who can taste me on the cheese. When I am able to taste, I'd say that about half the time I reject the piece of cheese I tried due to condition.

                                                                  2. re: Ridge
                                                                    e
                                                                    EmBrooks Jan 8, 2014 01:53 PM

                                                                    Tasted a raw milk sample of this cheese while out shopping. I did not care for it - a little too sharp for my taste.

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