Vive la stinky cheese! (by Palmino, via cheezburger.com)
I must confess: I’m very attracted to smelly foods. Durian, kimchi, bagoong, Époisses de Bourgogne, fish sauce, garlic–I will eat it all, and in vast quantities, if left to my own devices. Of course, I won’t eat these all at the same time, unless some genius chef comes up with a fabulous way to incorporate everything into one cohesive dish (hint hint, “Chopped” producers).
Unfortunately, not everyone shares my fascination with funk. Which is why it can be challenging when you’re working in an office environment and suddenly a craving for a big, fat slice of smelly cheese hits you like a whiff of Limburger.
Usually, I’m very considerate when it comes to my lunch choices, but the other day, I couldn’t help myself. At lunchtime, I went in for a dentist appointment, which didn’t take as long as I expected. Left with some time to kill, I trotted across the street to Red White and Bleu, a local wine and gourmet shop that I’ve been meaning to check out for some time.
While they didn’t have any of my favorite cheese, Époisses, in stock, the owner, James, introduced me to two new pungent pals: Meadow Creek Dairy‘s Grayson and Grès des Vosges, an Alsatian cousin of Munster cheese (no, not Muenster, the stuff you find in grocery stores–the real stuff smells like feet and is made with raw cow’s milk and left to age in damp cellars). Munster smells so bad that I’ve seen reports that people call it “monster cheese.”
Both are soft, washed-rind cheeses, and both stink to high heaven, which is just how I like them. Grayson, a seasonal cheese named after the county where Meadow Creek Dairy is located, can only be described as having a rich, beefy and creamy taste, with the consistency of a thick fudge. Taste-wise, it’s sort of like a Taleggio. Fabulous. But, to be honest, it smells vaguely like that rotten odor that emanates from a tooth when a crown pops off, along with a touch of manure.
The reeking Grayson (via Meadow Creek Dairy)
The Grès des Vosges, which comes nicely packaged with a pretty fern frond pressed into it, is also rich and creamy, but a little milder than the Grayson. So how does it smell? Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle article would have you believe it’s a mix of “garlic, mushroom, barnyard and cultured milk,” but that’s just being polite. Personally, I smell a mix of yeasty belly button lint with a hint of fish sauce, but that’s just me.
I handed the cheese to Dr. J while his eyes were glued to the TV during the Timberwolves/Bobcats game, and, thinking it was a bar of soap from Lush, took a big whiff. His response: “Gross. I thought I was going to be smelling something nice.”
Grès des Vosges--gross smell, grand flavor
Don’t my descriptions make you want to run out and drop some dimes on stinkcheeses? Like I said, the relationship between smell and taste is inversely proportional. The more gag-inducing the odor, the more gratifying the taste. I would buy these two cheeses again in a heartbeat.
Anyway. Returning to my point about malodorous foods and the office, I returned to the office with these two cheeses in hand, and, after opening the Grayson at my desk, I got self-conscious that my co-workers were going to throw up, so I stuck them in the communal fridge. Then, of course, I became paranoid that the cheeses were going to stink that up, so I left work a bit early to keep the smelliness to myself.
I stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few things, leaving the cheese in the car for about an hour, and, well, word to the wise–leaving two pungent cheeses in a closed space for a longish period of time is ill advised. That was a bad choice.
Have you ever tried a stinky cheese? If so, did you enjoy it? What did it taste like? Feel free to get creative describing how bad they smelled–that’s half the fun when it comes to writing about cheese.
To paraphrase the great Andrew Zimmern, “if it smells bad, eat it!”*
*applicable only to stinking cheeses, not other foods. Actually, this is kind of bad advice out of context.