Where has this luscious cheese been all my life? How many bagels have I slathered with gummy cream cheese when I could have used this fluffy spread instead? It’s French, it’s not high in fat (well, as cheese goes) and it’s going to be a summer staple in my fridge. Hors d’oeuvres just got a whole lot easier. Pour yourself some rosé, make some toast and meet your new favorite fresh cheese.
Madame Loïk is a soft whipped cheese made by a large dairy co-op in Brittany. There’s nothing artisan about it, but there’s nothing unsavory about the ingredient list, either. No stabilizers, no preservatives, no artificial anything. Just buttermilk, cream, skim milk, cultures and French sel de Guérande. Packed in a recyclable tub (nice touch), it has a mellow, clean crème fraiche taste, a whisper of salt and a plush texture that makes you think it has a million calories.
But it doesn’t. In fact, Madame Loïk is relatively low in fat and calories because of the buttermilk. Nutritional merit is never why I choose a cheese—I’m “flavor first”—but the facts were a pleasant surprise.
My husband and I plowed through the first tub with whole-grain toast and sliced chives. But just imagine the possibilities. Spread it on toasted pain au levain or rye bread and top with cherry tomatoes, or sliced Persian cucumbers, or radishes, or roasted peppers, or grilled zucchini, or pesto. Enjoy it on a breakfast bagel with smoked salmon, or with sliced peaches or figs.
Paysan Breton is a major French dairy brand that has only recently made inroads in the U.S. So far, the lovely Madame Loïk is largely on the West Coast and in Hawaii but that’s bound to change. Look for it in California at Country Cheese Coffee Market (Berkeley); Eureka Natural Foods (Eureka); Big John’s (Healdsburg); Woodlands Market (Kentfield); Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres (Los Angeles); Market Hall Foods (Oakland); Cheese Plus and Rainbow Grocery (San Francisco); Oliver’s Markets (Santa Rosa); in Hawaii at Island Naturals and Mana Foods (Maui); and in Montana at Roxy’s.
I’m envisioning Madame Loïk as some long-ago Breton dairymaid who devised the recipe for this airy creation. Did she exist? Is she a fiction? Even the national sales rep, who is French, doesn’t know but tells me that Loïk is a common surname in Brittany. We’ll leave it at that.