Jan 24, 2014

'Tis the Season: Ecume de Wimereux

For a fine French food fan, 'tis the season, the most wonderful season of all: truffle season. Truffle hunting season opens on December 1, and a few weeks later, coincidentally just in time for the holidays, the truffles appear on the menus in full force. In risottos. Shaved over soups. Mixed into eggs. Slivered on fish. And, of course, mixed with delicious cheeses.
Here's one I should add to my list of great quotes: "Si j'avais un fils à marier, je lui dirais :
'Méfie-toi de la jeune fille qui n'aime ni le vin, ni la truffe, ni le fromage, ni la musique.'"
Colette, famous French novelist who lived at the turn of the 19th century, said that. It translates as "If I had a son to marry off, I would tell him, 'Beware of the young lady who doesn't like wine, or truffles, or cheese, or music.'" Here, you would need to love two of the four.

Truffles, which are basically mushrooms, can only be sniffed out and hunted by pigs, who must be muzzled so that they don't devour the fungus they find. Truffle hunters guard the secret of their woodland locations preciously, and the truffles are considered a huge prize, and an elite delicacy. With the prices, it's easy to see why: A Macau casino operator holds the record for paying $330,000 for a 1.5kg (3.3 lb) white truffle in 2007 and later a pair of white truffles in 2010.
The second most common kind of truffle, the black truffle (also known as "black diamonds" and commonly associated with the Perigord region) is generally sold for approximately 2,000€/kg, which works out to over $1,200/pound. This is not actually a bargain compared to white truffles; it's just that it's the "average" price and not the record-breaking price.
You know this is not a photo I took, since I could never get my hands on that many truffles. That's probably an amount of truffles equivalent to a new car or something crazy like that.
Luckily, it doesn't take much by weight to infuse some serious truffle flavor. Luckier still, I'm not a huge fan. I mean I can eat them. I don't hate them or anything. But the taste reminds me of dental work. I don't know why, and I don't know anybody else that has this association. But I taste it in the back of my molars as if I'm having some dental procedure done. If they were cheaper, I could certainly learn to appreciate them more. But at these prices, why bother? It's better to prefer good 'ole mushrooms.
THE CHEESE: Ecume des Wimereux
One of my favorite workers at one of my favorite cheese shops, Maria at the Laurent Dubois store in Place Maubert Mutualité, describes this cheese to me as between being between a Chaource and a Camembert. Given that they are both blocks of butter, creamy, heavenly decadence, it's hard to see how I could go wrong. And sure enough, it has a great texture -- wet, creamy, and oozy as it warms. But it's salty. Not bad, just salty. So think more of a salted butter, and less of a sweet cream.

Ecume de Wimereux is a raw cow's milk cheese, and like a Brillat-Savarin (another super creamy, buttery cheese), it's a double cream. It's an artisanal cheese that hails from northern France in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The town of Wimereux is on the coast of the Channel, near Calais, at about the point where the Channel is narrowest between France and England.

One of the cheeses that my local fromager likes to lace with truffles is the Ecume. You can see the price difference: 8€ per disc of plain Ecume de Wimereux and 25€ for the same cheese with fresh Perigord black truffles.


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