27 November 2009

“Ripe Delight”: A continuation of the “drunken treasure” theme

I’d like to begin by thanking Ricky for another excellent fromage recommendation (see “Chimay with Beer”, 5 november 09). Typically, my comments about his cheese would appear as such, and would follow his original post. But something rather atypical has occurred: although our tasting was planned around sampling Ricky’s belgian treasure, a new fromage was inadvertently discovered… a wonderful and tantalizing fromage… a fromage that warranted – no, commanded – its own post. If you care at all about cheese, read on!

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.

2 comments:

  1. This all began poorly at The Cheeseboard. Despite their expertise with web design, their in-store efficiency left something to be desired. That being said we were there on a Saturday afternoon and they do have an amazing array of cheeses. When our card was finally called (after a mere 45 minutes) the cheesemonger was very knowledgeable. In fact – the Affidelice was her suggested addition to the booze-soaked cheese fest. It was a $17 for half a wheel. The AOC version is Epoisses de Bourgogne. Ours came from Robert Berthaut which we later found out is sanctioned by Jenkins along with Ami du Chambertin. He suggests avoiding Auxon , Renard, and Lincet.
    I was stunned by this cheese. We began this fromage adventure many years ago and every cheese has been enjoyable. The Affidelice, however, is on another level. I found it well balanced in every way. The first thing of note is the smell – bordering on blue and stinky but not as noxious. The color is almost like hay. The next thing is the consistency – rather creamy with just the right texture. And the taste…The taste is out of this world. Each taste is a like a voyage of flavors: at first nutty, buttery, and slightly bitter with a spice that hits at the end. Every bite left me wanting more. It’s not surprising that Jenkins describes it as “majestic” and lists it as one of his favorite cheeses in the world.

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  2. Thanks for the excellent posts, Chedda and Gouda. I have seen an Affidelice several times at cheese shops but have never tried it-- you have whetted my palate enough and I will get some. I will aim for the Amu du Chambertin as suggested. I find it very entertaining that Jenkins describes this cheese as "Majestic" as it conjurs up such glorious images of royal grandeur and gastronmic gluttony. Such us the story with some of the world's finest foods. I'm glad you guys also appreciated the mild but creamy Chimay.

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