Horseradish and Italia

So I was eating this pre-packaged roast beef sandy and it was just a huge lump of roast beef on whole wheat with literally one leaf of lettuce and two meager slices of cheese, but I wasn’t complaining because it was only $4.99 and when I say lump I mean LUMP. Serendipitously, some of the cheese happened to slip out between the desert of whole wheat and I popped it in my mouth and discovered, to no chagrin at all, that my “Big Ben” sandwich was constructed with horseradish Cheddar! Imagine my delight that even in a mass-produced kind of sandwich, some corporate sandwich maker respects the dignity of sandwich and the versatility of cheese to set off an otherwise tasteless (but filling) roast beef sandwich with a wisp of the horseradish goût. It could have been Cheddar or Swiss or even AMERICAN of all cheeses but instead it was horseradish. Muy bueno. I adore herbed/flavored cheeses, like chive & onion Boursin and dill Havarti, so finding some o’ dat horseradish goodness out of the blue like that was just such a treat. Probs the people next to me on the train (because I was on the train trekking back down to Portland at the time) were wondering about my goofy grin, and had they asked I’m not sure that the explanation of horseradish Cheddar would have satisfied them… Not everyone partakes in that reciprocal relationship with cheese, that of deifying the product and experiencing one form on earthly ambrosia. Oh my.

Last night was Brett’s pick for the dinner menu because he was at home and his parents wanted to give him a reason to keep coming back, and that reason turned out to be wilted baby kale and quinoa and flat-iron steak. It was delicious o’ course but even better was the cheese Papa B picked up called “Fromager D’affinois”. It had some herbs in it and resembled a creme brie with an herbed rind. What I learned was that it’s sort of an ultra-Brie because the milk goes through a process called ultrafiltration, by which the aging process is sped by a factor of three, more water is removed, and the other components of milk are more highly concentrated than normal. The end result is a supraaa creamy soft cheese with a high fat content (around 60%, yay!) and an oozy soft interior. It still had some ammonia notes so we know it wasn’t just a processed brotha, and stinky enough that my Papi wanted to cut off the rind because he thought it was sheisty looking (this being the man who won’t touch truffle oil because he’s convinced it has botulism). All in all, I’d like to try the d’Affinois again with some crusty bread and not low-sodium Ritz.

AND THEN 2 weeks ago one of my friends stopped in at a cheese shop in PDX and came back with a big slice of what we called Italian Brie because there was no label on the cheese… We still dug into it though because it was beautiful and we are intrepid fromageurs. I think it was probably Paglietta or some kind of Italian Livarot (does that exist?) because it was definitely Italian and definitely soft, creamy, and pungent. It had a rind like clouds, all blanc and bloomy and soft as cotton to the touch. Or at least I think it did, we scarfed it down so fast… And then had it the next morning for wake-up snack at 2 PM. Whatever it was, it got my taste buds off and just asked to be eaten by itself. It was definitely stinkier to smell than to taste which was a relief because I would have ID’ed that cheese to be pitched if it had been in a blind smell test. But I guess that just attests to the aging process of cheese, that something so delicious comes from such a bacterial origin.

So now it’s back to school and hum-drum, but I’ve still got the Atlas of American Artisan Cheese to read and I’m all excited about trying Humboldt Fog cheese sometime soon. It’s a fun fun chevre and we’ll leave it at that until I try it and can expound paragraph after paragraph about it. Until then, bon fromage-ing!