Featuring Our French Faves for Cheese Week!

We wouldn’t be much of a cheese shop if we didn’t have an undying love for French cheeses. This week is Cheese Week, so of course we turned to our favorite cheeses to highlight during the festivities. The French have given us so much when it comes to cheese – and it’s not just the humble Brie. France has given us cheeses that run the gamut – creamy Camemberts, herbal chevres, nutty sheep’s milks, and minerally blues. We”d love to tell you about our favorite Frenchies, just in time to inspire your own Cheese Week celebrations!

Murray’s Camembert

We know your first thought when we talk about French cheese is Brie – but instead, why not try a little wheel of Camembert? Historically inspired by the Brie recipe (it was said to be passed down by a priest who had come from the province of Brie, but the recipe was corrupted in the telling), Camembert is creamier, more mushroomy, and has an earthiness that really tastes as though you’re enjoying it in the fields of France.

Murray’s Delice

If you’re looking for creamy, buttery sweet cheese, look no further than the land of Burgundy. Not only do they have delectable wine, but their cheese cannot be beat – Delice de Bourgogne is full of fresh milk flavors, with hints of sweet cream and clean hay. You can start your day with Delice paired with apricots and drizzled with honey as a tasty breakfast – or dessert if you add a glass of champagne on the side.

Valencay

The Loire Valley has created oh so many chevre cheeses, but Valencay stands out. Stories say that it was originally shaped like a pyramid, but when Napoleon returned from his military failings in Egypt, he demanded the pointed tops be removed, even going so far as to slice them off himself with his sword. While we’re not sure how true that is, the stunted pyramid shape remains, and the minerally, piquant goat’s milk is still one of our faves.

Ossau Iraty

If you’re looking for ancient traditions, you’ve found it. It’s said that Ossau Iraty is one of the first cheeses ever produced, and it’s only gotten better with age. Warm, buttery sheep’s milk curds are heated and pressed – think rich, toasty wheat aromas, and nutty, grassy-sweet flavors that make it that sort of cheese that stands up against anything – bold reds, toasty brown ales, whatever you’d like to pair it with.

Fourme d’Ambert

A blue developed so early on that the Druids and Gauls were said to have worked together to create it (read: a veryyyyy long time ago). It’s even said to go back to the Roman occupation of France nearly 1,000 years ago! They obviously perfected the recipe over the years, because we love nothing more than the earthy, mushroomy cheese with hints of sweetness and an amazing velvety texture. Even the staunchest blue hater will fall in love with this Frenchie.

To celebrate Cheese Week, we’ve got some great discounts on some of our French Faves! Check it out! 

Make Whey For… Murray’s Camembert!

When you think of French cheeses, we wouldn’t be surprised if your mind immediately went to Brie. It is, after all, one of the oldest cheeses to survive over the years and make it onto your cheese plate. But if we’re being honest, we’re enamored with Brie’s younger brother – a farmhouse Frenchie with the earthiness and toastiness that we love in a spreadable French cheese: Camembert! 

The original Camembert cheese came from the northern region of Normandy, France. Made by Marie Harel in 1791, who was visited by a priest from the Brie region of France named Abbot Charles-Jean Bonvoust. He passed along the recipe for preparing a cheese with a bloomy, edible rind which was produced in his homeland, that we now know as Brie. The recipe was apparently altered in the process (think of a game of cheesy telephone), creating a similar, but distinctly delicious new cheese.

Often times, Camembert is mistaken for or confused with it’s cousin, Brie. Though they are both made of cow’s milk, Brie originated from central Ile de France, while Camembert comes from the northern region of Normandy. Brie is usually made in larger wheels, and is milder than the more pungent wheel of Camembert. Camembert is a bit softer and creamier than brie, which has a more pudgy and gooey texture.

There have, since the cheese’s creation, been many different versions of Camembert. Unfortunately, because of FDA regulations on raw milk cheeses, we cannot import the traditional AOC Camembert du Normandie. But we’re always on the hunt for the best Camembert we can manage – and we think we’ve found it. The tender, downy mold rind gives a contrasting bite to a melting straw-colored paste within. Aged to rich, creamy perfection, this wheel of Camembert is toasty, buttery, and ever so lactic. This is the kind of cheese that can stand up to a bold, big red wine like Bordeaux, or is balanced by a bright Hefewiesen.

If you’re looking for the perfect pair for Camembert, the answer is simple: apples. Apples are Camembert’s best friend and neighbor, as the land around the farms Camembert is made on are often apple orchards. You can go simple by slicing a few apples, drizzling with honey, and pairing up with our gooey wheel. Or, just break out a bottle of cider or a glass of apple brandy – either way, you’ll be savoring this sweet and savory combo.

The Brie Syndrome

by Rob Kaufelt

Brie is in the air, or at least in the news - see The New York Times.  What is old is new again this spring, in cheese as in all things.  Brie has always been popular at Murray’s, it is a staple of our business, ever since the early importers first brought it from France to America in quantity without ruining it along the way, and Murray Greenberg brought it into his little shop on Cornelia St.

For the fact is, Brie is a delicate cheese.  A bloomy rind cheese, a soft ripened treasure. If too young it lacks that luscious creaminess; if too old, it has that ammoniated taste and smell that put us off. Once upon a time, as Brie became more popular, it became less likely to come from France, and more likely to come from factories in Wisconsin and Canada. Somehow, these were never as good.

Worse, Brie is meant to be double creme, 60% butterfat, and more brie began to be sold that was only single creme, or 50%, which just doesn’t make it in the taste and mouthfeel department. (triple cremes, at 70%, are something else altogether).

But worst of all, we began to see it cut and cryovac’ed, with a long shelf life, suffocating in plastic, and so fewer Americans were having a real French brie moment anymore.

But Brie is back, and the real thing is finally becoming available in ever more locations. In our shops at Kroger markets in Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Texas, you can get the real thing, freshly cut from its large 2 or 3 kilo wheels, the large white discs sitting freshly unwrapped from their special paper ready for the monger’s wire.

Brie is meant to be eaten a point, at the point of perfection, perfectly creamy yet not over the top. We achieve this by storing the cheese we import in our French design caves beneath the streets of Greenwich Village.

Along with Brie, the comeback trail might include Brie’s infamous spinoffs, perhaps ready for respectability denied it in food and cheese circles. I’m speaking of baked brie, of course, Brie en Croute, which has given us a few laughs at Murray’s over the years. But now I’m not so sure.

Last year, while visiting a Kroger store in Ohio with Liz Thorpe, our Vice President who’s in charge of that program, a young chef in the store brought us her version of baked Brie: a little aluminum foil cup, filled with Brie, wrapped in an all-butter puff pastry.  Needless to say, it was delicious, and the shops carried it for the holidays and it sold like crazy.

It was delicious: the melted brie oozing flavor with its salt mingling with the sweet fruit preserves, then baked with a golden brown crust.  Could it be that a young midwestern chef discovered what an old New York cheesemonger (or the French themselves for that matter) would never admit: this was Brie at its best!