Roquefort: Jean D'Alos Rocks the Wheel.
Months ago I took a photo of an especially melty, glistening, sexy, heavy breathing type of Roquefort to feature on "It's Not You, it's Brie," but in my excitement over, I don't know, a chestnut honey or the Winnimere release, I lost track of my plans. I forgot about Roquefort. It wasn't until I was perusing one of my favorite cheese blogs the other day, Madame Fromage, and saw that she was hosting a Blue Cheese Invitational that I remembered my dearest blue. Thank you, Madame.
Now, cheese with the Roquefort stamp on it can be found in just about any good cheese shop. Roquefort must be aged in the Combalou mountain in Roqefort-sur-Soulzon to be called such -helps guarantee that the blue you're getting will be the real thing- but within the Roquefort kingdom there are levels of goodness. Nearly every international cheese shop will have a wheel or two, but there are some wheels that provoke extra excitement.
One of those Roqueforts is the one aged by Jean D'Alos. Jean D'Alos is a master affineur from Bordeaux that cares for his cheeses like a new mother does her baby. I've heard that D'Alos carries photos of his favorite wheels in his wallet and that the wallet is so fat from the photos that he has to carry five wallets. I heard that he names every cheese in his cave- first, middle,and last names, and sometimes even a fourth one for good luck. I also heard that Chuck Norris trained with D'Alos to learn how to kill with two wheels of Comté, Été.
Affinage is a craft in France where an affineur will take very young or partially aged cheese from a cheesemaker and house it, flip it, care for it, until they think it taste best. This is not as easy at it sounds, and by the time a wheel leaves an affineur's cave, it can taste completely different than the same cheese aged in another's cave. Cheese is picky as a teething toddler. Each style demands different temperatures, humidity, and tending. Some demand to be dusted with a brush as they age to ward off cheese mites. Others require a sponge bath with water, salt or liquor to keep their rinds moist and develop wanted flavors. Jean D'Alos does all this and more.
His version of Roquefort is the best I ever had. When I ordered recent batches of his babies from Cowgirl Creamery, I fell in love all over again. Nutty, soft, creamy, funky, meaty, sharp and sweet, and.... well, I had to order more, of course, so I could accurately describe the flavors for this blog post. Three pounds at a time just about did it. I also had to set aside a piece every time I served a customer at work my Roquefort dish with rose confit and roasted pecans plate (pictured above). I also may have gained about five pounds.
So get out there and try all the Roquefort you can. Even though they're all made with milk from the Lacaune sheep and all are aged in the drafty caves of Combalou (a mountain that collapsed in pre-historic times), they will all taste amazingly different.
What's your favorite blue?
Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you for your lovely comments on my last post about my book deal. It means so much to me to have your support and I'm very touched by your words. And excited. And I can't wait to write the book. And travel. And post about my travels. And... did I mention I'm excited? So, thank you. Thank you very much.