Cheese

Heading for Portugal

We’re heading to Portugal for a few days. And I am going to explore Portuguese cheese. They have quite a few good ones, a lot with DOP (or AOP) protection. I found an article about Portuguese cheese, so I am a bit informed, but I also think I have to do my own field research. Have a few addresses to some good shops in Lisbon especially, but hoping to find something outside of the capital as well.

We’re starting off in Lisbon and ending up there before we’re heading home. In between, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Portugal = Good food

Portugal is a food country. Like Spain food is rustic, not so complicated. Good food and good wine. As simple as that. A cup of coffee and an aguardente. Long lunches.

Bacalhau

Apart from the cheese I am particularly looking forward to having wet salted cod, bacalhau, prepared in numerous ways. They are masters at it. If you’ve never had it, this is the place to try it (in addition to Brazil). It is said that Portuguese men are able to prepare a different dish of Bacalhau for every day of the year. That’s 365 different recipes. Quite a few more than I know.

But I will keep you informed, bring my camera and snap a few fine shots to share with you.
I’ve been to quite a few places around the world, but I’ve never been to Portugal before. Shame really. So if you have any tips on what to do, where, I am more than happy if you share.

To drink

White from the Vinho Verde and others worth exploring, reds from the Duoro and Dao and other local varieties. Port of course. There is a lot of good wine in Portugal at a reasonable price.

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Chèvre frais

I was actually on the look out for some farmstead Norwegian cheese today, but the selection was rather poor. A single fresh chèvre caught my eye, though. Chèvre frais in French. Cornilly from the Berry province in the Loire.

Chèvre Frais

A chèvre frais is a very fresh cheese, so fresh there is no rind at all. And being it from goat or sheep’s milk it is chalk white as well. A chèvre is of course made from goat’s milk.

They are very special these fresh cheeses. Special in the sense that acidity is high. The taste has not so much more to offer but the fresh lactic acidity. Not much more to expect either from a cheese that has not been matured at all. So if you enjoy freshness and acidity, this is a cheese for you. If not, go for something a little more mature. A lot happens to a chèvre in the course of a few weeks.

Cornilly frais
Cornilly frais

From raw goat’s milk

From raw milk this one. A bit crumbly, but with a very creamy mouth feeling. Seems like there is a pasteurized version as well. It is an assumption since so many American web shops offer it to their customers. There is no way this cheese will be admitted into the US unpasteurized. It’s nothing near the 60 days. Not even ordinary chèvre comes near that limit.

To drink

Chèvre naturally calls for a Sancerre or some other Sauvignon blanc from the Loire. As this is a chèvre frais, I think I will move westvard along the Loire to Vouvray. The Chenin blanc grape gives more sweetness in the wine which will nicely balance the acidity of the cheese.

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Summer blues, Devon blue

It’s summer even though it is not all that much reminding me of that particular fact. Nature is one thing, the calendar something else. So when it comes to summer cheese, the calender rules like it does for the Russian caretakers when they’re switching on or off the central heating. And regarding summer blues, Devon blue is definitely on the list. Even though it is a pasteurized cheese.

Ticklemore Cheese in Totnes have pasteurized their cheese for a long time, but since they originally started out using raw milk, this seems to be a truth that never dies. Even rather reliable cheese books states this is a raw milk cheese.

Blind tasting

In spite of all this I want to write about it, because it is good and because it was used “against” me in a blind tasting during the annual summer party of the wine society I am a member of. I did not come up with the right name. Ended up in England though, but with no name. Obviously it was none of the more famous. Retrospectively I could of course have flung out Devon, as I have been in contact with Ticklemore cheese regarding an other cheese they make. If I had done that the audience would have been stunned. Well, I did not.

A typical summer cheeses, as it is rather light. Not overcrowded by blue veins; sweetish taste with buttery tones.

The Sea Trout Inn

There is an other thing with Totnes. It is the home of The Sea Trout Inn. I have good memories from my very young days going to summer language school in Paignton. The school proprietor and wife took us to concerts and A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in the park of Dartington Hall followed by a beer or two at the Sea Trout Inn. The fine thing about this inn was they also had proper beer, from the point og view of a young Norwegian. This proper beer was Stella Artois. Today my point of view has changed, so I would really appreciate some real ale. A real ale I do not even know if they have.

To drink

A light, slightly sweet white wine.

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Banon

So you think you’ve been to Provence? Probably not. Most travelers to this region have only been to the Var or Alpes-Maritimes regions. The latter is where Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez are, to name a few hotspots. But Banon is in Provence. Provence is the back country to Var and the coast; Côte d’Azur. Up in the beautiful hills and mountainious landscape that you find a couple of hours’ drive inland from the coast.

Provence

Here we’re back to small farms, picturesque villages with steep narrow streets, bakery, butcher, and a local market for everything vegetables, cheese and other local stuff. Café where people meet for a glass of pastis and a game of boule in the shades of the old, huge trees. Far from the busy atmosphere along the coast.

From this area hails the Chèvre named Banon. Comes in both an industrial and farmstead variety and I find it natural to choose the latter. When I say hail, it is because the cheese can be traced back to Roman times which is quite a while.

Look for the special wrapping

Characteristically clothed in chestnut leaves and wrapped up with a wisp of natural raffia. Not of much practical use today, but more to make the cheese stand out from the crowd, I would believe.

Banon from Vanessa and François Masto in Simiane-la-Rotonde.
Banon from Vanessa and François Masto in Simiane-la-Rotonde.

Farmstead Banon

The Banon from Vanessa and François Masto in Simiane-la-Rotonde is of course made from raw milk as all Banon has to be, according to the AOP rules. This particular farm is also certified organic, and so is the cheese. It is not very strong in taste, but there are milder Chèvres. It might get somewhat opulent if it’s stored for a while, so I would say it is best enjoyed fresh.

It has a washed rind, using local Marc and is stored for a couple of weeks to mature. Texture is creamy, color of the paste is white. Woody and nutty taste with a gentle sign of goat in the background.

To drink

Local wine; a rosé from Provence or even a crisp white. If you want something sweeter you could try a Jurançon.

PS!

Banon is also the cheese used for the local oddity; Fromage Fort du Mont Ventoux. Not for the faint hearted, though.

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