Sunday, April 19, 2009

French cheese platter: the taste of adult life (assiette de fromages)

Too much sweet can be too much. That's why the French invented the assiette de fromages. It is a grown-up way to finish dinners: not with some puerile sugar-laden confection but something decadently smelly, as if showing that pleasure still could be found somewhere close to repulsion.

It is also one of the few classy, luxury pleasures that vegetarians can indulge in. In my vegetarian days, I would have rewarded myself for my well-intentioned suffering through soya steaks, Tofurkey and fishless sushi with a glass of nice wine and a cheese platter.

Tonight cheeses from three different regions had a nice get-together on my plate: Burgundian Chaource, Bleu d'Auvergne, and Tommette de Savoie. They all are very different.

Chaource tastes like Brie made from goat's milk although with just a hint of sharpness as it is, in fact, made from cow's milk. It is pristinely white and could be very well from the Loire Valley. But it isn't.

Bleu d'Auvergne
is, perhaps, the least aggressive of all blue cheeses. It tastes as if it didn't want to be one. Its mild, creamy and not at all as salty as, say, Rocquefort.

Tommette de Savoie is hard and nutty. You would be if you came from the mountains too. It smells funny because water is scarce in the Alps but it makes good for that in the taste department. I have never seen it on sale outside France. The hardy montagnard just won't take to travelling!

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