Two years (and then some) without the luscious Gabriel Coulet Roquefort. How did we survive? Now this much-missed Roquefort is back in the U.S., armed with all the lab analyses and clean bills of health that the FDA requires. If you were worried about consuming France’s most famous blue cheese (I wasn’t), worry no longer. Imported raw-milk cheeses like Roquefort get more scrutiny than raw chicken, and you can guess which one has the better safety record.
Roquefort went MIA here in the summer of 2014, when the FDA dramatically cut allowable bacteria levels in imported cheese. The bacteria that FDA was counting do not cause food-borne illness, but FDA considered high counts an indication that a creamery wasn’t clean. This thinking was widely disputed, but it didn’t matter. Exporters couldn’t risk the FDA holding or destroying a shipment because a sampled wheel exceeded the limit.
Several producers simply stopped shipping. But the U.S. represents a huge market for Roquefort, so producers had to devise a way to comply. Gabriel Coulet, a 150-year-old enterprise and one of seven remaining Roquefort producers, now tests every batch destined for the U.S. Effort and expenses must have soared, although the per-pound price has not climbed. News flash: Coulet Roquefort is safe for human consumption.
Coulet is one of the smaller producers, still family owned and operated. Roquefort can suffer terribly in transit and in storage, so I pay more attention to how it tastes at the cheese counter than I do to the producer label, but Coulet is held in high regard. The two wedges I’ve purchased recently have been impeccable, moist and creamy, spicy but not biting, as spreadable as softened butter. I like a plain baguette, pain de campagne or walnut bread with Roquefort and a dessert wine like Sauternes or Rivesaltes. I think Roquefort destroys dry red wine, but some disagree. Honey with Roquefort is controversial. Elyne Salagnon, a sales manager for Coulet’s importer, says French people would never do that. “This is more of an American habit,” Salagnon told me, “but a good one, if I may say.”
In Northern California, look for Gabriel Coulet Roquefort at these locations.
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Honey of a Honey
I thought the new McEvoy Ranch honey was good, but I’m no authority. I knew the honey was good when my husband kept dipping a spoon into it. Doug doesn’t like honey. I’ve lived with the guy for 35 years. He doesn’t like honey. So where is all this honey going?
Delicate wildflower honey…sublime with blue cheese. Look for it here. $15.00/13 oz.