Cheese, it’s what’s for lunch

New Year’s brunch is fast becoming one of our favourite traditions.  We’re a family that loves tradition and not just the old ones that get handed down from generation to generation.  We’re not adverse to setting a few of our own in place and this brunch is one of them.

The idea was born through Marie’s love of soup.  All things soup in fact.  Soup is good.  I love soup too, so the concept of a brunch that would feature the soup as the main was a perfect idea.  Not just one soup though.  This year, like last, we made three: meatball and escarole, Provençal vegetable with pistou and Asian inspired lentil soup.  All of them delicious and all of them very different, one from the other.  And what better to go with a brunch of soup than cheese, lots and lots of cheese.

Val Mont d'Or cheese. Creamy heaven.

Some of you will recall me describing last year’s Val Mont d’Or experience.  You can refresh your memory of that by clicking here.  That entry was focused on the preparation for the 2010 brunch, but I do recall describing the unbelievable delicacy that this cheese is.  I must warn you, however, that it is particularly pungent.  You’re not going to be able to sneak this one onto the menu.  After about twenty minutes of having the cheese sit at room temperature, it begins to announce its presence by an ever so slightly damp smell.  This steadily becomes stronger as the cheese ‘warms up’ and before you know it, you’re sitting at the table wondering whether you’ll make it through the meal.  Don’t worry, you will.  As soon as you take a bite of the creamy cheese that sits below that dry orange rind, you are transported to a place that only a triple cream cheese can take you.

This is not the only cheese we gorged on today.  One that sticks out in my mind is the Cashell Blue from Ireland.  Do you like horses?  I ask because I think your enjoyment of this particular blue is going to be influenced by your pre-existing prejudice towards the equine.  In short, the cheese tastes like a horse’s stable smells.  Not that this is a bad thing, unless of course you have a morbid fear of horses, or perhaps stables.  Don’t be put off, however, as the enjoyment of cheese is very subjective and one man’s stable is another man’s nirvana.

The only way to eat Val Mont d'Or - as it drips off the spoon

Today is also the one time in the year that we financially support the hotly debated topic of fois gras and its production.  Oh, listen, I am not planning to open a whole can of worms as to whether it is cruel and inhumane, or indeed if it is worse than eating veal or <insert your contentious food of choice here>, but what I will say is that I eat it, rarely, but I eat it nonetheless and I enjoy it when I do.  I know the foodies amongst you are comfortable with this, and besides, we served it with a little Sauternes jelly.  I mean you don’t get more civilized than that.

Throw in a chèvre and a delightfully firm brébis and you’ve got yourself a terrific selection of cheese to go with the soups.  The only thing remaining is to crown the meal off with a dessert that both does justice to what has preceded but also does not let it down.  My recommendation would be to go light on the pudding.  You’ve just consumed a couple of pounds of high fat dairy, so you are going to want to keep the dessert on the lighter side of suet or even a fruit crumble.  Our solution was perfect: lemon snow pudding with basil custard.  Light as air but an intense lemony zing in the ‘snow‘ coupled with a very present ‘parfum‘ of the basil-infused custard.

Frankly there is only one thing to do after a meal like that.  Sit in front of the fire and remember how incredibly lucky you are in life.  That’s what I’m doing and it feels good.  Really good.

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