Apr 22, 2014

Warmer, Warmer, Colder: Pavé de la Brenne


It's such a simple thing, but it makes such a big difference. At least one hour, and ideally more like two or three hours, before you're going to serve cheese, you need to take it out of the fridge and leave it out at room temperature. This is especially important for soft cheeses, which will soften and ooze and turn a good texture into one that's sublime.

There are caveats, of course. Like every great French rule, it has exceptions. If it's really hot out, you might want to make it only half hour or one hour to get to full room temperature so it doesn't actually become a cheese puddle. And the other caveat is that it's not always a great idea with hard cheeses, which don't get nice and oozy but rather just seem to weep oil. Hard cheeses are often served just a tiny bit under room temp (especially when room temp is warm; in the winter, it might be fine).

It's not just the texture that's affected. This has a huge impact on flavor, which becomes more pronounced at room temperature. Cold cheese = bland cheese.

THE CHEESE: Pavé de la Brenne
Pavé de la Brenne is a raw goat's milk cheese from Brenne, in Indre -- roughly central France. It's a farmhouse cheese, made at the Ferme du Caroir (and possibly other local farms as well), and rarely sold in Paris. I taste mine at the farmer's booth at the PariFermier, a large farm and produce market of regional products brought to Paris.

The texture is lovely -- wet and creamy. But the taste is off to me. The first contact in the mouth is fine -- buttery in a goaty way, though strong. But it finishes with a highly acid, bitter, almost metallic taste that I find distinctly unpleasant. I am not put off by the fuzzy mold growing up from the cheese like a forest (and yes, I eat it). When I comment to the farmer that it's too acidic for me, he tastes it and find it normal. So clearly it's a matter of taste, but in hundreds of cheeses, I haven't tasted one that's this bitter to my palate.


When the farmer asks me if I like it, and I respond honestly (but politely, I swear) that it's too acidic (read bitter, metallic) for me, the only excuse he offers is that he's serving it to me cold, while the other goat cheeses I'm sampling from the same stall and same farm (and enjoying much more) have warmed up for a few hours. I have to call bullsh** on this. He may think I'm a cheese novice and will fall for anything, but he knows, and I know, and I know he knows (though I know he doesn't know that I know) that the taste -- and aftertaste -- of the cheese will just get stronger as it warms to room temperature. The flavor should be dampened with the cold, not heightened by it. Needless to say, I'm not buying it -- not figuratively or literally.


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