Remebering Robert Berthaut

Sad news out of France this week: Robert Berthaut—the man responsible for reviving the iconic washed rind cheese Epoisses—passed away on Monday, at the age of 94. For sixty year, Berthaut’s family farm has been the world’s leading Epoisses producer, and the man himself was instrumental in getting the cheese protected designation of origin status in 1991.

Epossies was first created in the early 1500s, and it enjoyed rarefied status in France for centuries after. Napoleon was partial to it. It was dubbed the “king of all cheeses” by none other than Brillat-Savarin himself. Such superlatives go on and on.

But by the end of World War II, production of the cheese had all but ceased. The war had a particularly detrimental effect on the cheese’s namesake village, where the population dropped significantly. It wasn’t but fifty years earlier that more than 300 farms had been producing the Epoisses, and now none did.

Then, in 1956, Berthaut and his wife, Simone, decided to make a few wheels in the cellar of their home. They got the recipe from his aunt. The idea was that they’d use milk from their own cows and just have the cheese for themselves. But it turned out well—really well—and they began selling it in the small grocery they ran. It developed a reputation in town, and then word spread as tourists coming to visit the Epoisses castle would discover the cheese and tell tale of it back home. It wasn’t long until Robert and Simone shifted the focus of their lives to the production of Epoisses, and, thanks to them, the cheese was rescued from obsolescence and has since regained its status as one of France’s most celebrated wheels.

And well it should—Epoisses is straight up delicious. It is washed in a local brandy, marc de Bourgogne, and made according to very exacting milk standards and make processes. What results is a runny, smeary, custardy paste contained within a sticky orange rind, which is itself housed in a cylindrical wooden shell, so as to encourage the gooey cheese to maintain its shape. Pop the lid off and you’re going to get smells to roasted peanut skin. Cut back some rind, go right in with a spoon, and you’ll get flavors of rich lardo and salty, yeasty, slightly fermented bread. It’s hard to argue against Brillat-Savarin’s assessment.

And after 60 years, Fromagerie Berthaut remains far and away the world’s primary Epoisses producer. Our hearts go out to the town of Epoisses and the Berthaut family. We’ll be thinking of them this week and celebrating Robert by popping open one of his signature wooden cylinders.

Netflix and Cheese?

Sometimes, artisan cheeses can come off as ‘snobby’, but we couldn’t agree less! Here at Murray’s, we want everyone to enjoy cheese in whatever whey they want – whether it’s at a fancy dinner party or just snacking on the couch watching Netflix. Cheese is what you make it, to be enjoyed however you like. With this idea in mind, we took some of our favorite artisan cheeses and paired them with snack food – the kinds of things you can find at your corner store or local bodega. No need to get fancy! It just has to taste good! 

Sour Cream & Onion Lays Potato Chips + Montgomery’s Cheddar

There’s something about a bright green bag that makes us want to take it home and break into it. Normally we’d open up some dip and really go to town, but instead, we suggest breaking out a chunk of Montgomery’s Cheddar. This English cheddar isn’t like the ones you’d find outside of the US. Monty is savory and meaty, with notes of chive and baked potato. Both the chips and the cheese are highly snackable – they have that addictive quality that makes you want to nibble mindlessly while marathoning old episodes of Parks & Recreation. So, snack on!

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos + Epoisses

A funky wheel of Epoisses might not be the first thing you think of for a midnight bite, but this bacony, custardy cheese is practically its own dip. If you’re thinking about what to dunk, we suggest a fiery red bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The cheesy heat might leave a red residue all over your fingers, but once it’s covered in gooey, tasty cheese, you won’t even care about the stains. The heat of the crispy cheese puffs cuts through the funk, leaving Epoisses’ spicy, meaty, and surprisingly creamy flavors to dazzle in its wake.

Original Cherry Pop Rocks + Valencay

We owe this pair to one of our expert mongers over at Murray’s Cheese Bar! Valencay is a French classic that comes from the Loire Valley – the goat cheese capital of the world. It has a storied history, and was said to even have had a run in with Napoleon, who chopped off the pyramid-shaped cheese’s top out of frustration after a battle gone awry. But don’t let that intimidate you – it makes a seriously great snack with a candy you probably haven’t had since you were a kid: Pop Rocks! You know how we recommend champagne and bubblies with soft cheeses goat’s milk cheeses? This is the candy equivalent. It sounds crazy, but there’s something about these fruity cherry popping candies that pairs perfectly with tangy, minerally Valencay.

Chips Ahoy! Chocolate Chip Cookies + Persille de Rambouillet

One of our cheesemongers likes to compare Persille to vanilla birthday cake, and she’s not wrong. There’s something sweet and creamy about this goat’s milk blue that makes it unlike any other we’ve tasted. To pair this cheese with chocolate would be obvious, but we want to take it a step further. Spreading a little bit of blue cheese on top of a chocolate chip cookie might seem a little bit odd. But trust us, it’s worth it. It’s the dessert you’d never think of, but you’ll realize just how perfect it is when enjoyed with a glass of wine while lounging around.

Make Whey For… Langres!

It’s nearly the New Year – of course, we’re planning on popping corks on a few bottles of champagne and digging into cheese plates designed by our talented expert cheesemongers. But we’re not the first people to think that cheese and champagne are perfect for each other. In fact, the creator’s of one of the Champagne regions of France designed a cheese especially to pair with their eponymous drink – Langres!

This little guy dates back to 18th century, to the little town of Haute Marne. The area has always been quite famous for its bubbly, so it’s not surprising that this cheese was often looked over for the sparkling drink. But when 1991 rolled around,  the French government knew it was time to give it the recognition it deserved – admitting it to the AOC family, this regional cheese got star-status.

Similar to our funky friend, Epoisses, the rind can be sticky and shiny, or wrinkled and white. But beneath it all, the burnished orange rind gives you an idea of just what kind of cheese this is – a little bit funky, but delightfully creamy. When you slice past that intriguing little rind, Langres is a touch on the firmer side, but it melts over the tongue with little pretense.

But that’s just how Langres can be enjoyed on its own. This little button of cheese’s claim to fame is the divot at its top. Shaped like a cup, you might have some idea of how Langres and Champagne are enjoyed together…. That’s right! Langres is traditionally enjoyed by pouring your celebratory champagne right over the tiny wheel. The top dip of the cheese is called in French the “fontaine”, which is a reference to a fountain or natural spring.

Here’s how you make your French fountain: simply cut a small slit in the middle of the wheel to allow the bubbles to transform its demure fudginess into a brioche-laden creambomb. And then pour your favorite sparkler – the classic is a touch of the Marc de Champagne – right over top. A tradition that has been lost over time, we think it’s the perfect way to start your New Year – and by that, we mean eating delicious cheese and impressing your friends and family.

The Epoisses-abilities are Limitless

There’s an apocryphal story starring this unassuming looking cheese – so pungent, so stinky when its scent is allowed to waft through the air, it was apparently banned from being transported on the Paris Metro. There’s no truth behind it, of course, as Epoisses has always been considered one of France’s greatest traditional cheeses. But it’s a great story nonetheless. AOC protected – meaning that only certain areas in France can make Epoisses as we know it – this washed rind cheese is practically French royalty. Even Napoleon was a fan of this rosy beauty. And you can find it at Murray’s!

This unctuous, pasteurized cow’s milk round comes far from Burgundy, France to join us in our shops, and we’re glad it made the trip. This cheese dates back to the sixteenth century, and was popular all the way up until the early 1900s, when over 300 farms were making Epoisses. But when the Second World War hit France, production almost completely died out. It was nearly a decade after the war had ended before Epoisses was made again. Now, the cheese is just as treasured as it once was, returned to its pre-war glory.

To get its signature funk, this cheese’s curd are carefully hand-ladled into forms, then dry salted. Taking a turn in a French cave, it is washed daily in a mixture of water and a pomace brandy, which helps to develop its signature funk and rosy orange complexion. Flavorwise, it adds bacony, woodsy notes to each delectable bite.

When Epoisses arrives stateside, it has only been aging for a month or so, and should be so gooey and creamy that you can practically slurp up the paste. This custardy bacon bomb even gets shipped in a little wooden box – all you have to do is simply slice into the wheel, then spoon onto a crusty baguette. Or just start dunking into the paste – you’ll be happy you did. A fairly photogenic cheese, right?

 

Boo! The Scariest Cheeses for Halloween

scary cheese
Scary gorgeous photo by Carey Nershi

Happy Halloween! It’s time for ghosts and goblins and other scary things. Cheese doesn’t have to be one of them, but it certainly can be. What better time than now for brainy rinds and sizable stink factor? There’s nothing to be afraid of. Promise.

Bonne BoucheBonne Bouche is the flagship of Vermont Creamery’s signature aged goat cheeses. Made with pasteurized goat’s milk, the curd is carefully hand-ladled into molds, lightly sprinkled with ash, and aged just long enough to develop a wrinkly, brain-like rind. Reminiscent of Loire Valley favorites like Selles Sur Cher, Bonne Bouche also pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc.Frighteningly good.

Murray’s CaveMaster Reserve Greensward: If giant, funky flavor and oozy goodness scare you, don’t read on. Creating a new cheese is hard work! After tons of experimentation, we’ve arrived at perfection. Perfect spoonable, silky texture. Perfect big, bacony flavor. Perfect notes of forest and resin from Greensward’s pretty spruce jacket. The perfect collaboration with Jasper Hill. For even more perfection, open a light Gamay, or bourbon, and dive into this beauty with pieces of crusty bread.

stinky_murrays_cave_aged_epoisseÉpoisses: Don’t be afraid of the stink! You may not know it, but Époisses is actually a French word meaning “completely worth the effort”—either that or “stinky but incredibly loveable” because the end result, a custardy bacon bomb, is oh-so-worth-it. One slurp of the intensely creamy paste of this French classic, and you’ll know why we go to such lengths to ensure that this unctuous pasteurized cow’s milk round, made in Burgundy, France, is so delightfully decadent. After near extinction in France during the World Wars, Époisses de Bourgogne was resurrected in the 1950s by our beloved M. Berthaut. After being carefully hand-ladled into forms and dry-salted, each wheel takes a turn in French cave. Tucked into a clever wooden box meant to ease transport to our fair shores, serving Époisses isn’t nearly as difficult as aging it—slice a crusty baguette and dunk away, adding a glass of Burgundian white for terroir-driven perfection.

Coupole: Another wrinkly beauty from Vermont Creamery. As it ages, the pristine, velvety edible rind softens the fresh chevre beneath to an unctuous creamline. The resulting two textures of its cross-section make for a stunning visual presentation; this is an ideal selection for a stand alone cheese or first position of a cheese plate. Pair with a dry, grassy white.