French cheese galore: Brezain, Tomme de Savoie, Mimolette (extra vieille)
I wish I ate more cheese in France. Our cousin, a bonofide foodie gave us a small sampling from his cheese collection. He introduced three cow’s milk cheeses to us, and I loved each one of them. I am biased though, I am a huge sucker for cheese. Most people go to wine and cheese receptions to appreciate fine wines, I’m totally in it for the cheese.
First up on the cheeseboard was brezain, a semi-hard smoked French cheese. The rind was a deep bronze colour. The pale yellow flesh of the cheese turned out to be soft and creamy when we bit into it. It’s also incredible how much of the smoky flavour the cheese absorbed. There was a distinct and lasting dry smoky finish to this cheese long after I swallowed each bite. It’s rather unsuspecting since the colour of the cheese is so pale and the texture is rather soft despite the firm rind. I actually think this cheese can probably stand up to a medium Cabernet Sauvignon.
Next up was the opposite of a strong smoky cheese: the tomme de savoie, also semi-hard and made from cow’s milk, this French cheese sported a much more interesting-looking rind but the flavour of the golden cheese inside was much more mild, buttery and only with tinges of tanginess. In retrospect, we should have started nibbling on this lighter cheese first before diving into the stronger flavoured cheeses. I was the most attracted to the rind on this cheese, with its greyish, brown hue, it seemed like this cheese was the oldest, retaining the most character, absorbing the most layers of flavour. Just another example of how looks can be deceiving. This cheese was the exact same age as the brezain we first tasted, two months old.
The oldest cheese we tasted was the mimolette (extra vieille), the brilliantly bright orange cheese that more resembles dried apricots than it does cheese. Before he served it to us, our cousin had shaved off the cheese’s rind but normally, in its whole form, the round of cheese resembles a cantaloupe with a rough beige rind. The extra vieille in its name refers to a more aged cheese, deepening its colour and amplifying its flavour. The colour of this cheese dispels all myths that cheese cannot naturally be orange in colour. The colour of mimolette comes from one of its ingredients, annatto, a Latin American fruit used in food colouring and cosmetics but also a source of peppery, nutmeg flavours evident in the mimolette cheese.
I wasn’t prepared for the mimolette cheese to be soft and creamy upon my first bite. As I slowly chewed and savoured each bite, the cheese started melting on my tongue and started tasting very rich, nutty with heavy caramel flavours. For a cheese that resembles a light, juicy tropical fruit, its actual taste was quite the opposite. This was by far my favourite of the three cheeses.