Earlier this week, a modest contingent of fromageophiles gathered in the bastion of pinko commie liberalism that is berkeley, california in order to taste this so-called “beer cheese” of Ricky’s. In the interest of variety and to keep our beer cheese from growing lonely, we decided to add another cheese to the board. Staying in the boozy vein of washed-rind cheeses, we selected a little cheese called “Affidelice” (ah-FEE-duh-leece). Our fromage accompaniments included baguette slices, flatbread crackers, and medjool dates. We also opted for two beverage pairings: a Chimay Red, because it matched our Chimay cheese, and a Beaujolais Nouveau, because, well, it had arrived.
The Chimay cheese was sampled first, and Ricky had not led us astray. It’s a subtle, midly-flavoured, creamy-yet-firm fromage. I definitely tasted the hint of beer, which was intensified by actually drinking some of the very beer it had been washed in. (Somewhat meta, that.) I agree with Ricky that the bitter, salty rind adds a dimension to the flavor, but I found it to be a rather unpleasant dimension. The texture of the rind was quite strange – a bit like eating wet paper. I avoided the rind from there on out and found the cheese quite enjoyable.
Our second fromage was the Affidelice, whose name is an amalgam of the french words for “ripe” (affine) and “delight” (delice). Much like the Chimay cheese, it’s a cow’s-milk cheese whose rind is washed in local spirits. While the Chimay cheese is bathed in Belgian beer, the Affidelice takes its bath in Chablis. But this booze-washing isn’t just for taste – the wine actually contributes to the maturation process by attracting bacteria that keep the cheese soft, supple, and smelly. (See this cheese review for more on that fascinating process.)
Affidelice’s presentation also seems worth noting. It comes in a small, round, wooden box and is further swaddled by a paper wrapper – a veritable fromage cupcake! The rind has a deep orange color, looks slightly runny and wet, and smells so pungent that certain cheese merchants have warned their customers not to be alarmed. The inside of this cheese would be best described using words like “creamy”, “oozy”, and “gooey”. No crumbly morsels to pick up with your fingers here; this fromage is downright spreadable.
With our visual and olfactory inspection complete, we spread the cheese goo onto bread and crackers and moved on to the tasting. I must say: this cheese is nothing short of stunning. Unbelievably smooth and supple, with a tanginess that is simply sublime, this savory fromage satisfies the cheese-lover in me. I even enjoyed the rind, which is a near-first for me. It’s pungent without being too pungent, and its tanginess is formidable without being selfish – when I returned for another bite of the Chimay cheese, I was pleased to discover that its subtlety hadn’t been overshadowed by its oozy cupcake companion. This is no small feat for a strong and stinky cheese. Affidelice, c’est magnifique.