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Cheese of the Week: Brebichou au Thyme

After a brief hiatus, owing to the hectic and indelible nature of life at present, cheese of the week returns, following a farewell and birthday cheese party for a dear friend.

I believe this little nugget to have been sent to me in error – a beautiful, tasty error. This little cheese is hard to come by, even in France, as it is made only by one small-production farmer near Lyon. It’s a demi-sec crotton, but made of sheep’s milk rather than goat, and the top adorned with sprigs of thyme.

This cheese.

I mean, I know I say that a lot. But whoa.

It is dainty in appearance, with its wistfully placed thyme sprigs that become encrusted within the rind as it wrinkles with age, and the flavor of which permeates down through the dense, cakey pate. The flavor is remarkably simple, but no less beautiful – smooth, rich, nutty, sheepy, punctuated by the strong, but not overwhelming presence of thyme.

The delicate flavor lingers on the palate long after the pate has melted away – mellow and almost sensual in its finish.

Brebichou (far left) and it’s cheesy neighbors

It was easily the first cheese to disappear from the board, though this was in part owing to its diminutive size, and not helped by its elegant and pleasing deliciousness.

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Cheese of the Week: Beemster XO Gouda

I’ve featured a couple of goudas on the blog recently, but I chose to feature this one in such close proximity to the others, primarily because of my overwhelming excitement for a newly discovered pairing.

This week’s cheese is a proper Dutch gem and widely available stateside. Beemster Extra Aged (XO) gouda is, as the name implies, super aged, generally for no less than 26 months, resulting in a dense, dry, oily pate, speckled generously with amino acid crystals.

It takes on a deep, rich amber color, and crumbles readily when cut. The flavor itself begins as a lovely bright, tangy, sweetness, evolving into beautiful butterscotch and nuttiness, as the pate dissolves, releasing the aforementioned crystals for gritty intrigue.

A fine cheese in its own right.

But then I decided to slap a piece of membrillo on it.

Membrillo, also known as quince paste, is most classically paired with Manchego, to create what many consider to be essentially the national snack of Spain. The paste is sweet and markedly floral, which made me curious to see how it would team up with the Beemster.

The above flavor description still applies, but early in the experience, the sweetness of the membrillo really enhanced the sweet tang of the cheese, and as it evolved, the floral finish danced delightfully with the butterscotch and nuttiness in a way that elevated the combo vastly beyond the sum of its component parts. This is a remarkable, nay extraordinary, pairing and I really don’t say that often.

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