Where’s My Cheese?

Preparing to teach a class on French cheeses recently, I began trying to round up a few favorites, including some of the impeccable cheeses from Pascal Beillevaire. Beillevaire is a highly regarded French affineur, with shops all over France. I have written glowingly about several of his cheeses in the past—gems like Secret du Couvent, Bleu du Bocage, Tomme Brulée and Vendéen Bichonée. Last summer, when I was in Paris for just a few days, I made a point to visit one of the Beillevaire shops

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Ricotta Sweet and Savory

Last week at the Napa farmers’ market, I stared for a long time at a pint basket of figs. They looked so plump and luscious, like the fruit in a Dutch still life, but I couldn’t handle the price. Dumb. Next time I’m caving, and I’m making a favorite summer dessert: whipped ricotta, halved figs, honey and poppy seeds. Adding raspberries, blackberries, apricots or peaches—all abundant right now—would only make the dessert more inviting. You can arrange everything on a platter—ricotta on the bottom, fruit, honey and poppy seeds on top—or assemble in a martini glass or footed compote.

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Show Time

Amid the endless jams, honeys, pickled fruits, syrups, crackers and other accompaniments for cheese at last week’s Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, these glamorous Italian mustard fruits (mostarda) stood out. Aren’t they lovely? If you are assembling a cheese board for a special occasion, consider investing in a jar. (They’re not cheap.) Or take a jar to a cheese enthusiast when you’re invited to dinner.

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Welcome Back, Mimolette

After an absence of more than a year, the pumpkin-hued Mimolette is back. I spotted it at Bay Area cheese counters at holiday time—with that screaming orange interior, you can’t miss it—and retailers told me it was selling briskly. But they couldn’t explain why the FDA had apparently softened its stand on this dangerous import.

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Cheese Shop Forecast

What's ahead for America’s cheese counters? As 2014 draws to a close, I asked some leading cheese merchants and mavens to share their insights. I hoped someone would say that American sheep’s milk cheeses were trending, but no one did. So that’s my wish for 2015, if not my prediction.  

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Ripple Effect

Seasonal and costly but a splurge you won’t regret, the cheese pictured at right is luscious beyond words. I’d like to call it Vacherin Mont d’Or but I can’t. The official name is Petit Vaccarinus, which sounds like a condition that requires antibiotics. But aficionados will recognize it as a Vacherin twin, identical to that sought-after Swiss cow’s milk cheese in almost every way that matters.

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