I am not a big fan of flavor-added cheeses; on the contrary, I’m generally quite against them. The flavorings tend to mask the nuances of the milk used in cheese production, which as far as I’m concerned is a crying shame! But as I discovered recently while doing some cheese shopping uptown, there’s an exception to every rule. On this particular day, I decided to swing by Ideal Cheese, one of my favorite shops. I saw that the owner, Michael, and his cheese counter manager, Stephen, were about to close for the evening, so I quickly asked them my favorite question: “What’s the cheese of the day?” Michael grinned, whipped out his knife, and gave me a slice of a soft cheese, saying, “It’s truffled Brie!”
Outwardly, I smiled; inwardly, I grimaced. Not only do I usually shy away from flavor-added cheeses, as I mentioned, but I will staunchly contend that “truffled” cheeses are often the worst. I say this because they’re almost always made with oils containing no real truffles, or with truffle peelings, which are really just scraps — the dregs of the truffle production process. But I bravely took the Brie slice, trusting that Michael would never steer me astray.
As soon as I smelled this cheese, I recognized the real deal. A creamy raw milk Brie de Meaux, it had been gently layered with fresh truffle pieces from La Maison de la Truffe, a small group of restaurants and markets in Paris whose name literally translates to “The House of Truffles.” This cheese comes in a nine-and-a-half-pound wheel that has been halved at its equator and is sold by its producer, Rouzaire, only when perfectly ripe. It is about three inches thick with a traditional white, bloomy rind, an incredibly smooth mouth feel, and a pleasant truffle crunch. The light salt balance complemented and counterbalanced its creaminess.
While Michael was giving me the low-down on this cheese, all I could think to myself was, “Paired with this Brie, a riesling from the Mosel, a rosé from Provence, or even a 10-year-old Champagne would really hit the spot.” It’s a cheese you would definitely want to set out at room temperature so the oils are free-flowing. For serving, it would pair wonderfully with a crusty French bread, some slightly overripe apricots, or lightly dipped into dark berry jam.
This is a true luxury cheese perfect for serving during the upcoming winter holidays. Yes, it’s priced at roughly $50 a pound, but for the quality of the ingredients it’s well worth it. Think about it this way: you could by a quarter-pound of this Brie de Meaux and share it with friends, bringing pure epicurean bliss to everyone for a mere $12.50! As a non-flavored-cheese guy who ended up buying some of this delectable truffle cheese for a few of my own very best friends, it’s a tradition I strongly suggest.