Monday, September 01, 2008

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.



Anonymous breadchick said...

Thanks for adding another cheese to my list of "must try", a super ripe Munster. I must admit, here in the US, I've only the seen the mild version and haven't really given Munster any thought when I'm in France. I will be checking with my cheese monger this week.

2:19 PM, September 01, 2008  
Blogger Lucy's Kitchen Notebook said...

Great to see that you are inspired to try it! Next time you are in France be sure not to pass it up.

3:24 PM, September 01, 2008  
Blogger glamah16 said...

Im like breadchick. I have tried the platic sanitized versions here in the US.I need to check out the real deal. I love these jouney and pictorial of France through your eyes.

4:05 PM, September 01, 2008  
Blogger Kitt said...

Ha! I love your description of Munster's "fine" odor. Given the option at a place that knows cheese, I will always ask for "the stinky stuff."

5:29 PM, September 01, 2008  
Anonymous Daniel said...

Lucy, dear, what's happened to you? You've gone from cheese virgin to connoisseur of hardcore cheese sex (hardcore as opposed to soft center).

9:38 AM, September 02, 2008  
Blogger Lucy's Kitchen Notebook said...

I have lost my innocence, Daniel. That's not to say I don't enjoy a fully ripened Brie or Epoisses, I really do like these cheeses soft to the center, or mostly.

10:21 AM, September 02, 2008  
OpenID jodimop said...

I also liked the Tomme with aniseed they make in Munster.

3:33 PM, September 02, 2008  
Blogger A. said...

Our last visit to Cantin saw us leave with a nice wedge of Munster (amongst others) that was so oooooooozey we were able to tear a small hole in the paper wrapping and squeeze it onto bread like Cheeze Wiz ...

(I never thought I'd use Munster & Cheeze Wiz in the same breath!)


11:33 PM, September 02, 2008  

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