My Brie-loving friend Menage Cheddar & I attended the happy hour at Artisanal this past Friday. I wouldn’t say it’s NYC’s best deal but it’s nice to get tasty cocktails for $9 (normally $19), draft beer for $5, and most importantly, a cheese plate for only $10, which is typically the price of each cheese if ordered individually.
We didn’t get to pick the cheeses but beggars, or at least folks seeking a deal, can’t be choosers. The fromagers still selected some winners for us. That ash-rinded beaut in the upper left of the plate is the Délice du Poitou, a pungent Frenchie with an ooey-gooey center. Across the plate is another bon ami, Pont L’Évêque, which reminded both Menage and me of her beloved Brie. Finally at the bottom is the muy bueno Zamorano from France’s neighbor to the west, Spain. This brittle bro was similar to a Parmagiano.
I’m not sure if I had a favorite but I did enjoy smearing the green-grey ash flecked Délice across our little crusts of bread before popping it into my mouth and making big cheesy grins at Menage. Maybe it was the Pimm’s Cup bringing out this goofiness in me?
As the cheeses disappeared from the plate, Menage expressed curiosity about the fondues though I was pushing for an order of Artisanal’s light and airy gougères. In the end, we decided to try their truffle fries. It was Menage’s first experience with this flavor enhancer. I’m not sure she was completely sold because though good, they were not the best I’ve had. Jarls, you remember the other ones? I want those again. Still, if there’s one food I love nearly as much as cheese, it’s probably truffles, so I’ll end this post with an image of them.
I expect we will likely return to Artisanal in the near future for another happy hour; it’s weekdays 4-6, if you are in the area. I’ve marked up la carte des fromages with my favorites, so we’ll see if we can’t twist our server into popping one or more of these appealing cheeses onto our next plate!
As I mentioned in my previous post, a recipe lead me to wanting to try Époisses, so of course I had to try the recipe for myself! I adjusted the recipe to work with what I had in my pantry and fridge. I read that Époisses worked really well with raisin bread, and we always have some raisin and apricot Muesli bread on hand, so I used that for the bread in my grilled cheese. The original recipe calls for hot pepper jelly, which we didn’t have. I replaced it with the orange marmalade we had in the fridge and added some thai chili to it for an extra kick. Époisses melts like a dream, so this grilled cheese was an ooey-gooey delight, as you can imagine. I’ll definitely be making this again, and might even skip the marmalade; cheese, bread and butter on their own have always been just fine with me.
Époisses Grilled Cheese and Orange Marmalade Sandwiches
(adapted from Vivian Howard)
1/4 c pecan halves
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of raisin bread (or your bread of choice)
2 Tbsp. Orange Marmalade (I used Marks & Spencer’s Sicilian Orange Marmalade) + 1 tsp. finely chopped thai chili mixed in
1/2 chilled round of Époisses cheese, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1. In a heated skillet, toss the pecans with the salt until they start to brown slightly and you can smell the nuttiness – about 2-3 minutes.
2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread 1/4 Tbsp. of the marmalade on the other side of each slice. Put the Époisses on the marmalade side and top with the pecans. Cover each sandwich with another slice of bread, butter side facing out.
3. Heat a skillet over moderate heat. Add the sandwiches and grill for about 4 minutes, cooking them on each side until golden brown and you see the cheese melting. Transfer to a plate, slice diagonally (if that’s your thing), and enjoy!
This week’s cheese was inspired by a recipe I read in Food & Wine Magazine earlier this year. The cover photo featured a delectable looking grilled cheese made with Époisses. I don’t remember eating any Époisses during my time in France (oh, the shame!), so I thought it was about time to right that wrong.
Formally called Époisses de Bourgogne, this soft, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese comes from the town Époisses in the Côte-d’Or region of France. It has a pungent odor, due to its rind being smear-ripened. It is washed in marc de Bourgogne (the local pomace brandy) three times a week, and brushed by hand to spread the bacteria evenly over the surface. The yeast and fermenting agents produce its orange-red color as it develops over a six-week period.
Époisses was quite popular at the turn of the 20th century, almost non-existent after the Second World War, then in 1956 was re-launched by Robert and Simone Berthaut, a pair of small farmers in the area. Their family is still the main manufacturer, as you can see on the circular wooden box that encases each round of this soft, tasty cheese.
Now…for the taste! I tasted mine fresh out of the fridge, so didn’t need a spoon like I had seen in some pictures and how it is served at restaurants. But, I loved it nonetheless. The texture is wonderfully creamy, and the flavor is much milder than (but totally aided by) the smell of the rind. Napoleon was a fan of this cheese and the gastronomist Brillat-Savarin declared it the “king of all cheeses.” I can definitely taste why – I declare Époisses one of my new favorites! What a wonderful gift the Berthaut family gave to France and the rest of the cheese-loving world by saving this cheese. Merci à vous!
In a few days I’ll be posting my take on the Food & Wine grilled cheese recipe – stay tuned!
After work this evening, I went out for pizza at Numero 28 in the East Village. For the purposes of this post, I have re-cheesened my companions as Perlagrigia, Cathelain, Mr. Piave, & his wife Orla. Perlagrigia, Cathelain, & I ordered this supersize pie with three sections. At the top is the classic Margherita, that represents the Italian flag’s tricolore: fresh basil (green), fiordilatte mozzarella (white), and the tasty house tomato sauce (red). In the middle, comes Puzzono, which Perlagrigia told us meant “stinky” due to it having taleggio cheese; there were also walnuts and caramelized onions mixed in here. Finally, at the end comes not a four-cheese, but a five-cheese explosion of mozzarella, gorgonzola, fontina, parmesan, and provolone! There’s also a bit of basil sprinkled here to soften the impact.
There was such a contrast between all the different flavors we had selected. The red slices became our palate cleansers between the richer, creamier white ones. I’m not sure if I can declare a favorite though. For one thing, Cathelain’s disinterest in mushrooms meant that we had to steer around any of the funghi fantasia pies which would have been an instant winner for me. But I’m sure there will be a next time and maybe then, I can have both a turophilic and mycophilic experience…
In the meantime, how funny is it that I just happened to sit down on my train home across from this ad?? (see picture at left) It seems that wherever I go in the world, I find cheese or it finds me!