A rhapsody on raw milk cheese//don’t stop ’til you get enough

Well, I am back home in NYC now. I just finished my 10 month Le Cordon Bleu/gastronomic/living-the-life stint in Paris. I miss it so much. The lights, the art, the beauty, the beautiful babies, the food stores…but what I miss most is the stinky, filthy, whore-y cheese…

Know your roll.

Cheese tastes different in France. Better. Stinkier. Filthier. My fridge was dense with scents and flavors one is tempted to describe as sweaty, oppressive, dank and sultry. It doesn’t take long for the knowledge to seep in that these flavors are due to the awesome power of unpasteurized (or raw) milk which is entirely legal and actually encouraged to consume in France. Once back stateside, I had a mini panic attack that grew into a full breakdown in the cheese aisle at Whole Foods. Things will never be the same for me and my fromage.

Unpasteurized or raw milk cheeses get their complex flavors from the (duh) raw milk which is produced by cows who graze on the land, eating acorns, wild greens, wild garlic and a large variety of herbs. Since no two cows are raised the same or eat the same things, there is great variety and seasonality in raw milk cheeses. In France, the cows, the milk and the farms are trusted and as such raw milk cheeses are not a food safety issue. Here in the US, we don’t (and should not) trust that our cattle are grass fed, healthy and free of disease unless they come from very small, artisanal farms.

The United States Food and Drug Administration and the USDA hold hands and  govern the consumption of raw milk products. Due to The Dictatorship, raw milk cannot be transported across state lines with the intent of human consumption. Unpasteurized cheeses are actually legal in the US…as long as they have been aged at least 60 days in an area held at 35 degrees Farenheit. During the aging process, the cheese becomes more acidic, killing most potential sources of bacterial infection. This leads to what I call “zero-personality cheese”. This process takes away much of the filthy characteristics true to cheese such as the very well known and popular Camembert. Go to France and taste the Camembert de Normandy and it is an entirely different being. It’s Mozart versus Elton John on the piano, same instrument, looks the same but sounds entirely different.

Alas, you can get some very good cheese here in New York City if you drop the food snob act (ugh, Mom, do I haaave tooooo?).

TO DO:

Artisanal
2 Park Avenue
(212) 725-8585
*other retailers sell Artisanal cheese. List is on website

Despana
408 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013
*specializes in products from Spain

Murrays Cheese
254 Bleecker St.
New York, NY
*other locations

Saxelby Cheese
Essex Street Market
New York, NY
*FYI: Anne Saxelby sells fine American cheese

Stinky Brooklyn
261 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 522-7425

Bedford Cheese Shop
218 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Larder
228 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 783-1250

Yummy babies:
Strong – Livarot
Stronger – Mereilles
Strongest – Vieux Lille
Goopiest – Petit Soumantain
*taken from a cheese tasting with Chef Becs in Paris

Sources:
Raw Milk Facts

How a French producer creates pasteurized Camembert [NYT]

The Big Cheese

If there is one thing in this world that I love more than cheese, it’s cheese. It’s a sultry and complex organism that requires devotion, loyalty and passion. Devour.tv has a wonderful, fun and enlightening series on cheese called Cheese 101 with David Rosengarten. David is quite the food personality and has a little thing for cheese, he shows you how to make it and takes you through the whole process of cheesemongering. It a very watchable show if I do say so myself.

Mister Rosen “I’m not Ina” garten is also the editor-in-chief of The Rosengarten Report which details the most interesting and exciting undiscovered food products, restaurants, wines and travel destinations. A must read for anyone “serious” about food. I put that in quotes because, let’s face it, people who take food too seriously are lame/need to get a life. Enjoy your food! Live to eat! Vive le fromage!!

On another note, I have a gorgeous book called Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide To The World’s Best. It’s a must have reference book for any fromage-lover. There are over 200 of the world finest fromages with tips on how to buy, store and taste. It’s well written, knowledgeable and staring at the photos will necessitate some drool-wiping.