Feb 14, 2015

Cheese of Love: Coeur de Camembert au Calvados


French is the language of love. Paris is the city of love. And cheese, it turns out, is the food of love. And not just because I love it. When it comes to phenylethylamine (PLA) --  the component that is considered to make chocolate an aphrodisiac by triggering the release of dopamine, the pleasure-seeking inducer -- cheese has 10 times more of it than chocolate itself.

If you really want to emphasize the romantic nature of cheese, there are many more cheese hearts available, including:

Coeur Estragon                                                                Coeur Vendéen

Here's a little Valentine for you in honor of Valentine's Day:

Other cheeses have not only the dopamine-inducing PLA but also other ingredients traditionally thought to be aphrodisiacs, like figs and truffles.


La Tartuffe (with truffles)

This cheese looks like breasts.

One breast-shaped cheese is even named after a fig.

But, interestingly enough, in the French tradition of food and art, figs don't represent breasts at all. Rather, they represent manliness -- testicles, to be specific. That's due to not only the shape of the fig but also to the seeds when you cut it open, which do look a lot like sperm. Either way you cut it, masculine or feminine, figs (and anything invoking the shape and name of fig) are considered a highly sensuous food.

You can love any cheese, but this, in particular, is a cheese of love; it says so right in the name:

 I hope you enjoy Valentine's Day -- and some cheese -- with somebody you love.

THE CHEESE: Coeur de Camembert au Calvados

Like the Coeur Gourmand Figue, which is named for a heart but not shaped like one, this "Heart" is not heart-shaped, but rather, the heart of the cheese. It's a Camembert with the crust cut off when it's half-ripe, then fished off with a soak in Calvados, an apple liqueur of the same region as the cheese, Normandy, for about 3-4 hours. It's then dipped in a coating of bread-crumbs, which absorb both the moisture and the cheese-alcohol combo flavor, so that it looks like it has a crust anyway, and aged around 3 weeks.

Best served runny, it's a complex flavor and a real treat for all the senses. Texturally, it's not just oozy and melty, it's also got the dry crumbly bread-crumb crust. But it's the taste that really shines on many levels: salty, buttery, and earthy from the cheese itself with an astringent kick of alcohol softened by the sweetness of apple. The cheese has a powerful one-two punch of a waft, and the children are really not fond of it (really, really not fond of it). But then again, perhaps an alcohol infused stinky cheese is not really meant for them.

This is something of a classic cheese, a special take on a Camembert, made with cows' milk (usually pasteurized but occasionally raw), that you can find throughout France, at many fine cheese stores and even sometimes in regular grocery stores.


While it's not shaped like a heart, it's named after a heart -- the Coeur de Camembert, which is then aged with apple liqueur. When you think of the phenylethylamine, the name with "heart", the symbolism of the apple, and the kick of the alcohol, that's one romantic, cheesy aphrodisiac!


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