Perhaps a better title for this post would be ‘when my cheese man tries to offload the cheap cheese [on me]’. Not that I am complaining. As a lover of all cheeses, I will happily take the offcuts and the oddballs that he clearly needs to be rid of. At the stall, my beloved cheese man could see the distrust in my eyes as he tried to sell me a tomme with cumin. At a great price, he promised. “Sure, why not, go on”, I replied, as he rung it up, with a quite delicious Tomme de Perseille for a total of EUR 3,00.
The week prior, I had insisted on trying the cheap French blue and an Haute Savoie brie – the two hefty slabs coming to just EUR 2,80. And so I have decided to lump these four cheeses together in the same post, united by their cheapness, if nothing else.
It reminds me a bit of when I lived in Washington, DC, and I would buy the little cheese tidbits from Wholefoods. Small scraps, that always sold for about $1.50, they seemed like such a bargain and you never knew what fun you would discover. Or so I thought. Now, I can obtain approximately 10 times the amount of cheese that is approximately 100 times the quality, at approximately the same price. France, I love you.
As he handed me the entire slab of Tomme de Cumin, I tried to get him to slice it down. “No, you’ll eat it really quickly,” he assured me. I’m not sure if something was lost a little in translation, or if I should just accept it as a compliment. As always, I was happy to rid him of the bizarre he couldn’t otherwise sell.
Starting with the “brie”, perhaps because it was the least inspiring. Soft cheeses are not a local speciality. And whether it is the climate or the culture, they tend not to be particularly good. For sure, the brie was edible and would not be out of place on a cheese plate in Australia. It was superior to many bries I’ve eaten outside France. But I’ve come to expect a little more locally. It was smooth and mild flavoured, with a taste that was improved by the addition sun dried tomatoes. I would describe the overall feeling as ‘pleasant’ but I was disappointed that it didn’t have that runnier texture I associate with some other bries, not matter how long I left it sitting on the counter.
Perhaps that is a quality that would make it the perfect hiking brie or sandwich-for-a-long-train-ride brie. It is less likely to spoil, maintains its integrity, and is still pleasantly ‘brie-like’ at the end of the day. Not to mention seriously cheap. The poor (wo)man’s traveling brie.
Next was the blue, which I actually quite enjoyed. I tend to eat almost anything but have never been a particular fan of roquefort, the sheep’s milk cheese from the south of France. Perhaps the combination of mould and tangy sheep’s milk is just a little too bitter for my tastes. The other blue – in fact, I have no real idea where it came from, so apologies if you’re out looking for it – was milder without being supermarket-y. It was smooth and tangy, without any of that chalkiness you sometimes get. It was perfect with bread and would have been complimented well by fresh fruit. Which of course I didn’t have.
As for the Perseille, it is not the first time I have tried a Tomme de Perseille (you can find my review in a previous post) but this one was completely different. It still had the goat/cow’s milk mix but where the first was crumbly, this one was smooth. The first one I tasted was tall and firm, where this was stout and creamy. With so few makers of this cheese left, I wondered if perhaps they had a little more artistic licence. I have no idea which was closer to an ‘ideal’, but both were absolutely delicious in their own way. This perseille, though, just melted in the mouth, almost spread onto the bread, and had a delicate flavour that was delicious even on its own. Both get the thumbs up from me.
Finally, the cumin. I don’t know if it’s even worth giving this cheese a review. It was mostly as advertised – like a tomme with a stack of cumin seeds. It may be popular in Italy, it may have digestive or other health benefits, but frankly I prefer my cumin and my cheese to be separated. Preferably by at least one meal. Still, I of course plugged away at it. The flavour was so intense, and the cheese so hardy and filling that I just ate chunks on its own, as I procrastinated instead of working on one of the many writing assignments I had that week. Verdict: a hardy, procrastinator’s cheese that will tingle your taste buds but you may not rush to purchase again.