Jul 8, 2014

Contain Myself: Regalis


As somebody who has lived in Japan, I simply can't wax rhapsodic about the way the French wrap and package things, given that the average purchase of a bun in Japan results in an origami work of art worthy of the Guggenheim. But if I only had the US to compare with, I would think differently, and I have a growing collection of re-usable little boxes and bags to show for it.

Some of the cardboard boxes are sturdy enough to re-use many times, and beautifully decorated. But I especially like the tin boxes for sale -- sometimes plain and sometimes with treats inside. I often buy gifts for people where the treat inside is merely a side thought; it's the box I'm really after. And the tins that used to hold tea in them can be refilled, if you want more of the same flavor, or simply used for some very fragrant storage.

It turns out that these sorts of tin boxes were actually invented in France (according to a chocolate museum in Bruges, Belgium, that is). Supposedly, the world's first tin boxes appeared in 1810 in Nantes, used for canning sardines in oil. In 1811, England got in on the act, and by 1868, the folks on that side of the channel had figured out color lithography to make the decorative imprints. Naturally, the French quickly applied this to boxes of chocolates.

Even the cheese boxes can be cute, and collectable. Whether you buy from a grocery store or a specialty cheese shop, some cheeses will come in boxes, others wrapped in cellophane, and many neatly wrapped and folded in the store's signature paper. I must not have that Japanese wrapping gene, because once I open them up for photos, I can never get them neatly re-wrapped again.

Not only does cheese look pretty all wrapped up, it also stays better in the paper, which absorbs a tiny bit of moisture and also allows it to breathe. Breathing goes both ways, of course, so if it's a really strong cheese, I store it wrapped in the paper and then inside a plastic bag or, better yet, a resealable glass container in the fridge. Cellophane can trap so much of the moisture that the cheese gets slimy or moldy, and I find it definitely stays better in paper.


Regalis is a blue cheese related to a Roquefort but instead of coming from the Aveyron, it comes all the way from the Pyrénées. It's a sheep's milk cheese that seems to have recently popped out of nowhere. In interviews as recent as September, both Chef Bernard Leprince (Meilleur Ouvrier de France as chef de cuisine) and Marie Quatrehomme (Meilleur Ouvrier de France as cheese-ager/seller) both mentioned their new-found love of Regalis.

Leprince describes it as succulent, which is a great word to use, because it practically is juicy. It may be the wettest, most liquidy solid cheese I've ever tasted. In fact, it weeps so much moisture, it soaks straight through the paper wrapper, and I have to improvise and store it in parchment paper until the cheese tasting party for which I've bought it. This makes it very delicate and hard to move from wrapper to table, even after trying to absorb the excess liquid with the parchment paper and paper towels. 

Once I sort out all the moisture and transferring issues, it's a tangy, bold blue cheese that can be eaten one of three ways: spread on something solid, melted, or licked off the fingers. Those of our tasters who like blue cheese all love it.


I had to think outside the box when I got this blue cheese. It was so wet it wept through the paper wrapper it came in. Since I don't have cellophane in the house and, even if I did, wouldn't want to use it on this cheese (for fear it would keep so much moisture in that the cheese would just go moldy), I went with something else: parchment paper.


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