Nestled like a cupcake, it was perhaps the prettiest cheese I’ve ever seen. A blush of blue-grey mould dustied its outer and its pinched top captured the beauty of a fully-ripened fig. Inside a perfect glossy outer enclosed a matte chalky inner. It was delicious – light and lemon-zesty with a gentle nuttiness. A perfect little cheese, and one that got Rog, my ever-patient partner, reconsidering goat milk cheeses.
We found this little darling in Provence a couple of weeks ago on our search for local goats cheeses.
Our quest had taken us on a three hour drive to Banon, home of a famous chestnut leafed cheese. I’ve written about this delicious cheese before.
Banon – cheap at half the price
Banon the town is right up in hill country, kinda in the middle of nowhere, a pretty hill-top town with plenty of bus parks for what must be hordes of other cheese pilgrims in high summer. Unfortunately our map skills had evaded us so it had taken almost twice as long to get there as Google had thought!
I was stunned by the choice, we have a few varieties of small goats cheese available in New Zealand, but nothing like this. Cheesey heaven for me, a little more like Limbo for Rog as he speculated on what our mystery cheeses would taste like!
A couple of days later, after recovering from our marathon 5 hour return trip to Banon, I managed to convince Rog to come on another cheese adventure. This time we headed out in search of an actual farm with cheese for sale.
We were lucky to find the farm easily and some very friendly French goats about half an hour out Brignoles where we were staying.
Cheeses of Rocbaron
Brignoles is in the Verte part of Provence, inland between Toulon and the Riviera, and this is indeed goat cheese country, dry, rocky and herbaceous. Not at all the expected gentle lavender fields of my imagination!
Inside the little shop at the farm were their cheeses and honey. We got a crottin, the little ones on the right in the picture. The polite story says these cheeses are named after a ‘crot’, a type of oil lamp that was used during milkings or as a mold.
The other version is that they get their name from the old French word for animal droppings. I like it, ‘cos as crottin age they do get harder and drier much like the aforesaid dropping.
I just ate an aged one I got from Mediterranean Food Warehouse in Newtown. We ate it in rough chunks, almost like toffee and Kate suggested we grate it. Mmm, a nice old goat.
This super salad gave me sustenance at a road-side pizzeria on our grueling drive to Banon, it soaked up an over-ordering of wine at our local town-square cafe and used up all my leftovers at our apartment in Brignole. I think it is one of those easy, sustaining simple classics that I had so enjoyed in Italy and now found in Provence.
This one had sliced duck breast, another I ate had lardons of bacon, and when I made it I just served my plain. Simple and confident, just like the best food is, just like my memories of Provence and Italy.