I'm not generally in favor of cheeses with "stuff" in them; by "stuff" I mean fruits, nuts, booze. Sometimes I even think herbs are too much. It's gimmicky. Why not just let the cheese "stand alone"? A good cheese needs no embellishment. A mediocre cheese is still a mediocre cheese, even with the addition of "stuff."
There are exceptions, of course. Fromi has a line of Brillat Savarins (these are frais, with no bloomy rind) from Bourgogne that are rindless and covered with herbs, schnaps-soaked raisins or mustard seed. They are actually quite lovely, and the mustard seed - an addition unusual even in this mustard-loving country of ours - has a nice spiciness that combines well with the creme-fraiche- enriched cheese. The two foods balance one another.
But most cheese with stuff in or on it is crap, in my opinion.
And every once in awhile, at Zabar's, I have to try a cheese that sets off my snob alarm and I think to myself: What's this foolishness?
So when Olga gave me three new cheeses to try, and two of them were Swiss with herbs pressed into the rind, I thought: Oh, they must have made these inferior products for export to the US only.
Once in awhile it's good for this Cheese Snob to experience a little humility, to be proven wrong. Not often, mind you, but once in awhile.
This was one of those times.
Here's my tasting notes for August 29, 2006:
Raw cow. Rennet. Big wheel. Mild, lactic, flaky sorta dry texture, salty, a little bit of caramel. It's just okay.
Emmi Swiss Alp Bellevue
Herbs pressed into the rind. Looks like Gruyere, but with herbs on the outside. Sweet, thyme, savory, basil. Mmm! The herbs add a nice flavor to the sweet, nutty, fruity cheese. Herbs are on the rind, not in the paste, but the cheese has a strong herbal flavor.
Emmi Swiss Alp Panorama
Herbs pressed into the rind. Eyes. Is it Emmentaler? More sweet and lactic than Bellevue. Herbs are not as dominant as in Bellevue, but still makes a difference in the flavor. nice! Herbs bring out caramel sweetness on finish. Thyme, basil.
So I was pleasantly surprised, Olga ended up keeping the Bellevue, and I ended up bringing it to a party. It's a nice cheese!
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