Did you know there are more than 1,300 different varieties of cheese in France?
I recently received a tempting tasting basket from Cheeses of Europe. The Cheeses of Europe marketing campaign, orchestrated by CNIEL (the umbrella organization for France’s dairy industry) and funded in part by the European Union, was designed to create awareness for the variety of European cheeses available in the U.S. market and to share ideas that assist U.S. consumers incorporating those cheeses into their diets, recipes and lifestyles.
Charles Duque, managing editor of the French dairy board, provided some helpful tips to remember when you’re hosting your own cheese tasting party.
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to trying new types of cheese. If you’re overwhelmed by the dozens of different varieties when you go into a cheese shop, don’t worry. The cheesemonger will assist you. Everyone has their own preferences as to soft versus hard and mild versus pungent. Ask for sample tastes and begin to build your own personalized cheese board.
When shopping, look for cheeses that are “in-store” wrapped versus those that are “shrink-wrapped.” In-store wrapping shows the individual blocks of cheese have been recently cut from a larger wheel of cheese, which equals freshness.
On a cheese board, the French typically serve an odd number of cheeses, such as three, five or seven varieties. It’s also helpful to provide a range of styles (goat, sheep, cow), textures and colors. Offer fresh and dried fruits, a selection of nuts, crackers, pieces of bread, olives, honey and jams alongside the cheeses.
Always begin with the mildest cheese and continue through the different types until you reach the strongest. Remove your selections from the refrigerator up to an hour ahead of serving. This allows the flavors to develop and will provide an authentic representation of the cheese.
Recipes featuring the cheeses I sampled and many more can be found on cheesesofeurope.com.
Triple Créme De La Créme
• French butter
• 2 slices of brioche loaf
• 1/4-pound wedge triple crème (like Brillat Savarin)
• 6 fresh strawberries
• 1 sprig fresh basil
• 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
Butter front and back of both pieces of bread. In a large skillet, lightly toast the first sides on low heat, then flip. To one side, add slices of triple crème cheese and allow it to melt. Before serving, add fresh strawberry slices and basil, and top with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Cover and press down with the second piece of toasted brioche and serve.
Laura Tolbert, also known as Fleur de Lolly, shares recipes, table decor ideas and advice on her blog, fleurdelolly.blogspot.com.You can contact her at facebook.com/fleurde.lolly.5, on Instagram, and at firstname.lastname@example.org.