In honor of Halloween we are celebrating the monsters (or should I say Munsters) of the gourmet cheese world. As The Cheese Ambassador, I find cheese to be a thing of beauty but I do come across some rather beastly specimens that give reason to pause before tasting. Whether it’s a malodorous aroma, dark, furry molds or a previously horrific experience that may hold you back, there are some cheeses worthy of a second chance. With one bite, you may realize you can’t judge a cheese by appearance (or odor) alone.
This Spanish blue cheese with it greenish-gray wrinkled rind is so riddled with bluish-blackish molds you may want to take a pass. If you are brave enough to taste it, you may find that the searing spiciness will overwhelm your palate and overpower other foods and wines. Tame this ferocious beast with a drizzle of honey and sip an aged Sherry. The sweet counterpoints will downplay the fire allowing you to enjoy the salty and creamy nuances of this Iberian classic.
There is one gourmet cheese so putrid it was once banned from Le Metro (the Parisian subway system) – Epoisses de Bourgogne. But don’t let this stop you from enjoying one of the most incredible washed-rind cheeses. With its edible rind the color of worn rust, Epoisses (as it’s commonly known) has a gooey, creamy center and a distinct, pronounced flavor. Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, it is washed with a local brandy. Look for Epoisses in a small round wooden box at your local cheese shop or gourmet food store.
At first glance, Mimolette doesn’t seem so menacing. Truth be told, Mimolette does have a skeleton in its closet… This gourmet cheese is made with microscopic bugs known as cheese mites. They prefer the cloak of damp darkness in which to burrow. As they feed off the rind of the cheese they create paths of airflow which aid in flavor development as the cheese ages. By the time this French cheese has reached maturity, the cheese mites have disappeared entirely leaving behind only crumbly, caramelized, nutty goodness.
Hey, it’s Halloween season and how could I not include Munster. You may have had the supermarket variety with its sprayed-on neon orange faux rind. Most likely, it was a bland and gummy imitation of the original. Authentic French Munster, like many washed-rind cheeses, does have an offensive aroma. I urge you to power through the smell to enjoy the bold beefy and nutty flavors and the oozing texture.
Tete de Moine
Hailing from Switzerland, Tete de Moine literally means “monk’s head”. With one whiff, you’ll wonder why it’s not named Pied de Moine or “monk’s foot”. Made from raw cow’s milk, this gourmet cheese is traditionally shaved into thin ribbons by a handy contraption called a Girelle. If you can get past the strong scent, you will no doubt appreciate the intense and unique meaty flavor.