Cheese Pilgrimage: Munster
The main reason for my detour through the Vosges on the way up to Strasbourg was a pilgrimage to a certain valley there. Munster is to Alsace as St. Marcellin is to the Lyonnais region, ubiquitous. In many restaurants, it is the only cheese served. Munster, when quite ripe, can be the stinkiest cheese in the whole world. If you don't agree with me, you have never confronted a ripe Munster. It outranks Epoisses in the sheer vulgarity of the odors that it can emanate, opening with a strong whiff of ripe pointe shoes, drifting dangerously close to intruding intimate female perfumes, and closing with a refrain of stale Russian cigarettes. The flavor? Perfect, buttery, mild and staid in a simple counterpoint to the volatility of its ether, gorgeous when paired with toasted little cumin seeds, otherwise known as carvi in France. When Loic and I were dating many years ago, he bought a wedge of Munster from a famous fromagerie in Paris and I was so brutalized by the smell that I made him remove it from his home. I look back on those days with a smile. I was a delicate flower, just a cheese virgin.
Today I still harbor a certain affinity to a younger wedge of Munster, and to me, it is perfect when the inner core hasn't melted through, but that's just me. In the end it is a matter of personal choice. Don't let anybody tell you how to like your Munster. There is a great little restaurant in Strasbourg called Au Coin des Pucelles that does a nice plate of Munster in various stages of affinage for someone who might want to taste it in its different forms, as well serving forth a humble but glorious Munster gratin, complete with all of the trappings of a tartiflette, mountain food at its best. Loïc reminisces about hiking through the Vosges and enjoying this dish at the refuges there.
Labels: Summer 08