One day last week, I was holed up in the famed NYC Cheese Lab (a.k.a. my apartment) tasting cheese with my trusted lab assistant (a.k.a. project manager) Madeleine when she asked me to tell her exactly how I got my start working with cheese. As I began recounting my story, it dawned on me that I’ve been in the business of cheese longer than she has been alive. Ouch!
Suffice it to say, I got my start many years ago at the tiny retail cheese counter in my family’s restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma. To say my options to source artisan products were “limited” at the time is very much an understatement. Luckily, I had the good fortune of meeting a chef who regularly imported a few items from France and generously offered to bring in some cheeses for me; one of the cheeses he suggested was herbed Boursin. Yes, it’s true: I have been in this business since Boursin was a special-order air-freight cheese. Oh, how the times have changed.
Flash forward to this week, when I was out wandering in my neighborhood and stopped into East Village Cheese, the shop where Madeleine used to buy cheese on her shoestring budget while a student at NYU. As I walked into the store, I immediately spotted the familiar box of Boursin, and, on a whim, checked the label. I was pleasantly surprised that the cheese is still made from simple ingredients, with no preservatives or unnatural additives. I fondly recalled its soft texture, like whipped cream cheese, and its nice balance of garlic and herbs. Call me nostalgic, but I decided to bring some home and schedule a tasting.
Back at the Lab, me and my team first tried the Boursin on bagels, and decided it was a great alternative to cream cheese. We then had it with sliced Pink Lady apples and warm bread, another simple but delicious combination. I was feeling a bit experimental, so to top it off, I made small Boursin soufflés, which turned out to be incredible! Everyone liked the cheese every way we tried it.
The great thing about Boursin is that it can be found in most grocery stores – everywhere from Whole Foods to my corner bodega. I was reminded this week that just because a cheese is relatively inexpensive and easy to find doesn’t mean it’s not a great cheese. Plus, it brought me back to the days of my youth, which is priceless.
Additonal reporting by Madeleine James.