Cheese of the Month Club — January
By Andrew Jenkins in Food on Jan 5, 2007 4:00PM
So far the club has delivered two delicious, but unthreatening, selections to our doorstep. This month we decided to take on something more challenging and to sample a cheese with a bit of a funk to it. While, relatively speaking, Camembert certainly doesn’t score too high on the funk level — eating some bad cheese could friggin’ kill you — Matt Parker, owner of The Cheese Stands Alone, thought this historical French creation might be a good step outside the comfort zone.
Truth be told, we weren’t originally thrilled with the idea of buying a wheel of Camembert. We’ve all seen the little 8-oz. wheels of cheese in the trademark wooden boxes. What Parker sold us on, however, was the authenticity of the Le Chatelain. Apparently the true Camembert from Normandy must meet various criteria in order to receive the official AOC certification given by the French government. One of these requirements is that the cheese be produced with 100% raw cow’s milk. The lab coats at the FDA won’t let any unpasteurized milk products across our borders, but according to Parker, Le Chatelain is probably the closest you can get to the real thing.
While this Camembert won’t wear the official AOC seal, it is still made in Normandy and made from “slowly pasteurized” cow’s milk. By bending the pasteurization rules just a bit, the milk retains certain flavors that give this cheese a pleasant, pungent bitterness. We waited for the Le Chatelain to reach room temperature and then spread it on a baguette. The hints of bitterness mixed with nice buttery flavors and other subtle hints of mushrooms. These complex flavors here certainly beat out the rich creaminess of Brie or other soft French cheeses. Throw some apples and sausage on the cutting board as well and you're there.
Though we didn’t take him up on it, Parker’s pairing suggestion for this Camembert is a French cider called Cidre Bouché Brut De Normandie. From what he said, this isn’t your typical Woodchuck we're talking about here. Straight from Normandy, the Cidre Bouché Brut has a sharp tanginess that he says blends perfectly with the Le Chatelain. Not completely sure where you can find the cider in retail, but we know it’s included on Bistro Campagne’s stellar beer list.
The Cheese Stands Alone sits at 4547 N. Western. Phone: 773-293-3870. Hours: Closed Monday; 10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.