Smearing it on baguette, ladling it on boiled potatoes and spooning it directly into our mouths, my guests were transformed by a ‘fondue’ of Mont d’Or Vacherin on Saturday night. Possessed by its silky velvet, we were turned greedy by this most decadent of cheeses. In its wooden box, spiked with garlic and a slosh of white wine, it had been baked ’til it melted into a most unctuous delight.
This is indeed a transformational cheese and from the minute I spied it in Moore Wilsons, the Mont d”Or had been obsessing me. For this is the kind of cheese you see in books, entirely unlike any made in New Zealand. The soft fleshy, washed-rind cows milk is girdled in a spruce band that squeezes it just a little too tight so the surface of the cheese undulates, threatening to spill over.
My obsession continued when I brought it home, I read countless reviews and recipes for serving. I looked for chances to open my fridge so that I could be transported by the pine-forest earthiness that tempted every hair in my nostrils, alerting me I was in for an experience!
Mont d’Or is a bewitching cheese, a rare treat made in French Alpine mountains between October and March when the cows switch from summer grass to hay. This is the winter side of Comte, and if you can taste the meadow and the flowers and the sun in that cheese, its cold weather cousin is vegetal, rich and unctuous.
We tasted broccoli and cauliflower along with the faint tang of pine, like a full-on Brie the guy at Moore Wilson’s said. But it’s strange how a brassica flavour is so hot in a cheese, so sock-like in a vegetable. Like I said this is a transformational cheese, it changes how you feel about a flavour. It’s weird but this is way beyond the best Brie, this is some thing more special.
Perhaps it is its scarcity, perhaps the heating made it so, or maybe it was the license to eat it with a spoon, the pretense of bread or potatoes discarded. A direct experience.
What ever the reason, this is a cheese to be devoured, on Saturday it turned my dinner table Bacchanalian. My poor dairy-free guest had to leave, so left out of our collective ecstasy, this was no place for a non-cheese eater.
What do you think? Is it as good unheated? I have to wait til much later in the year now to try this again! And non-dairy eaters are probably safe at my table again.