Make Whey For… Tete de Moine!

Sometimes, even we are surprised by how beautiful cheese can be at times. Sometimes it’s the pattern of blue veining through a wheel of Bayley Hazen Blue, or maybe speckling of dappled herbs on the outside of a round of Hudson Flower. But nothing is as visually stunning as the bounty of rosettes we make whenever we break into a wheel of Tete de Moine. 

Tete de Moine, which literally translates to “monk’s head”, dates back to 12th century, in the glorious Swiss Jura Mountains. It was developed by monks in the Bellelay monastery, who would use the cheese as a means of paying their taxes to the local government. The Bellelay abbey was founded in 1136 by Sigenarnd, the Provost of Munster Cathedral, which is now part of the Swiss Jura, and their main income came from their cheesemaking, which also helped feed their monks. While the cheese was originally known as “Bellelay Cheese” (first called that in 1570), it received the name Tete de Moine around the time of the French Revolution. The new name dates from around 1793-1799, and appears to have two separate origins:

Version one appears to be a nickname from the French Revolution as a reference to how the cheese is served by shaving directly from the wheel, revealing a ‘bald spot’ similar to the haircut the monks had. The second version refers to the fact that Jura tradition counted cheeses in the abbey per “monk’s head”, or by monk. The name, no matter what the origin, this delightful Alpline cheese has stuck around since, and was given AOP (appellation d’origine protégée) status. Currently, there are fewer than 10 cheese dairies in the Jura Mountains that are producing Tete de Moine, making it pretty rare!

But Tete de Moine came into the limelight stateside in 1982 with the invention of the girolle. The girolle, invented by Nicolas Crevoisier, is used for scraping Tete de Moine to form gorgeous rosettes of the cheese that resemble chantrerelle mushrooms – mushrooms that are known as girolle in French! Since then, Tete de Moine has become a centerpiece at parties and events. Easy to use, the girolle creates a beautiful and delicious presentation of a classic Alpine Swiss cheese. When Tete de Moine is shaved, the surface of the cheese that comes into contact with the air is increased. This helps the full, aromatic, melt-in-your-mouth taste to develop. Notes of dried fruit and toasty nuttiness become more intense, pairing well with a hearty, dry white wine.

Break out the girolle and start shaving a garden of rosettes from the Tete de Moine – you’ve never had a more beautiful cheese experience.


Ah, fondue. Some people think of it as the flash-in-the-pot dinner party craze of the 60’s and 70’s, conjuring up thoughts of turtleneck sweaters and expensive gift fondue sets sitting unused for decades. But things are changing for the noble melted cheese dish! With quality cheese more easily accessible to Americans, fondue is experiencing resurgence in a big way and we think this time it’s here to stay. So take a moment to learn a little more about everyone’s favorite communal meal.

 1. Fondue is over 400 years old!

Written records of fondue date back to the late 17th century, when a bare bones version of the dish calling for cheese, wine and bread for dipping appeared in a Swiss cookbook. Fondue showed up in print in various other incarnations through the 18th and 19th centuries, the recipes calling for eggs and often construed as something closer to a custard or cheese soufflé than the hot dip that we know it as today. Towards the end of the 19th century recipes began to appear for an emulsified melted cheese concoction, and in the early 20th cornstarch was added to the bill to more easily stabilize the mixture. Variations on the theme and regional takes still abounded, the idea of fondue as a hot dish for communal dipping took form and became recognizable throughout Europe.

2. There’s more than one way to melt a bunch of cheese in a pot

As with most traditional dishes, there is no shortage of regional variations. The well-known Neuchateloise version calls for a balanced mix of Gruyere and Emmental; the Innerschweiz like a blend of Gruyere, Emmental and a spiking of bright Sprinz; the Appenzeller variety uses – you guessed it – Appenzeller cheese, lengthened with warm cream. Whatever the chosen blend, a great fondue is accompanied by cubed bread for dipping, as well as charcuterie and veggies. Can you cover it in cheese? Then ‘due it up. An assortment of pickled or brined treats to cleanse the palate between bites is also a great idea.

3. The Great Beverage Debate

If you want to know what to drink with fondue, there are two major camps: Black Tea vs White Wine. Some say black tea is better for your digestion. Some say white wine is in the fondue already, why not also have a glass with the meal?

We say: drink whatever you like – tea, wine, and even beer all make great accompaniments.

4. Fondue: Favored dish of flirts

Tradition states that if bread falls off a woman’s fork and into the pot she must kiss her neighbor. If a man drops anything into the pot he has to buy a round of drinks for the table.

We say: Anything goes!… Except double-dipping.

5. Actual fact: cheese brings people together

Fondue is more than just a meal. The spirit of sitting around a hot pot and sharing a communal meal is essential to the experience and necessitated by the dish. There’s something wonderful about the hands-on element, the light of the flame, and the warmth of the dish that just guarantees a good time.

So ditch the misconceptions and warm your cold winter nights with a venerable bubbling pot of cheesy happiness. We at Murray’s are here to help!