Monday, 24 August 2009
Cheese of the Month - Mimolette
The cheese I really wanted to talk about in this post is a Maroilles. It's a cow's milk cheese made in North-Eastern France and boasts every characteristic I find irresistible in processed milk protein: Soft and spongy, unpasturised, washed-rind, and very, very smelly. The example we were served in a damp basement of La Capsule, a bar in the center of Lille specialising in local artisan beers, was wonderfully tasty, with a deep fresh farmy flavour and nutty aftertaste. I was told the rind was washed in the local beer, local really meaning local in this part of the world where a beer is rarely found on sale more than 20km from the brewery. So a traditional artisan cheese, hand-made and washed with local produce, soft and squishy and smelling like death. I was in heaven.
But I couldn't allow this Cheese of the Month to be yet another pungent, washed-rind cheese. It may be my personal favourite style but it does a disservice to all the other equally praiseworthy cheeses out there to be continually banging on about them. So in order to provide a bit of balance, this is what the French call a Mimolette:
Bearing a very superficial resemblance to an Edam, produced as a ball but with a shockingly orange hue (and thankfully tasting a lot better than the rubbery Edam), Mimolette is a salty, nutty cheese with a solid flesh which hardens and develops a richer flavour when aged. The specimen we tried was "extra-vielle" (very old) and boasted a lovely crumbly texture and strong flavour. You may also know this cheese as "old Amsterdam", which I've spotted in a number of the better cheese shops in London and is pretty much the same style, only (you guessed it) produced in the Netherlands. I only mention this because the Netherlands are a bit of a black hole food-wise (Bill Bailey once riffed very amusingly on their tendency towards cheese and ham toasties and variances thereof) and need all the encouragement they can get.
Another point the Mimolette has in its favour is its availability in London - I've seen it in Whole Foods, Hamish Johnston and La Fromagerie whereas the Maroilles has a much lower profile, although admittedly if you can't find a Mariolles I can't see why you wouldn't be just as happy with a Stinking Bishop or Ardrahan. In fact, why not get them all and see which you prefer. I'd love to see the faces on your fellow commuters when you bring back that little lot on the tube in summer.
The reason I was in Lille, in case you were wondering, was that I was invited by We Are Social, who are working with Eurostar to publicise their "Little Break, Big Difference" campaign. If the purpose of the day was to convince us that you really could fit a meaningful amount of tourism into a single day along with a return journey from St. Pancras then mission very much accomplished - although if I was to do it again under my own steam (and wallet) I probably would have started a couple of hours later and stayed in France for dinner. I have nothing in particular against 5am starts but by the time the beer and cheese tasting started mid-afternoon I was in danger of slumping head-first into my Crayeux de Roncq. Still, what a way to go.
More details and comprehensive photographic evidence of the day can be found elsewhere, and if you want to construct your own mini-break to Lille then return tickets start at £55. It's a smashing little town, well worth a visit if you have even a passing interest in French produce and cuisine, and is only 1h20m away on the Eurostar. Let me know before you do, though, as I may want you to pick up some cheese for me.
Mimolette photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Cheese selection from Philippe Olivier, photo courtesy of Food Stories