cheese spread

It’s pique-nique season and Team France Today has been hankering for the smelly stuff. We headed to Paxton & Whitfield for a round-up of essential cheeses and ended up with a truly formidable tasting board, perfect for summer scoffing:

Soft: Coeur de Neufchâtel (£6.50/200g)
Normandy’s oldest cheese is often likened to Camembert in taste and texture, except it packs a tad more punch. Rich, salty and divinely creamy, it spreads beautifully on a chunk of crusty bread and pairs well with Cahors red wine. As for that striking shape? Legend has it that the women of Neufchâtel-en-Bray presented their English lovers with this cheese during the Hundred Years War, to win over their hearts. Well, it certainly worked on us…

Blue: Bleu d’Auvergne (£25.00/kg) 
Roquefort’s little sister (made with cows’ milk instead of sheep’s), this buttery blue is a cheeseboard favourite. It’s salty on the tongue, crumbles nicely on a biscuit or salad, and can even be melted for a gooey dish-topper or filling. The experts at Paxton & Whitfield recommend washing it down with a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, although sweet dessert wines make equally good bedfellows for this cheese.

Mimolette cheese. Photo: Fotolia

Hard: Mimolette Reserve (£50.00/kg)
We were itching to tuck into Lille’s emblematic orange cheese, a firm favourite in the office. Speaking of itching… did you know that Mimolette is flavoured with the aid of rind-nibbling cheese mites? These minute critters give the crust its pitted appearance, help with aeration and overall create a nutty, caramel-y taste – but don’t worry, they’re long-gone before the cheese hits the shelves! Port and berry-based wines are perfect accompaniments for this sweet little number.

Soft: La Buchette (£6.25/150g)
The log-shaped La Buchette is a creamy delight. Beneath the exterior – which, incidentally, can be either ‘buchette cendrée’ (ash-coated) or ‘buchette blanche’ (white rind) – this cheese’s goopy, tangy flesh awaits, lending itself generously to a cheeseboard or even served as dessert with fresh fruit. Miam!

Hard: Ibargui (£37.00/kg)
What this cheese lacks in stardom, it makes up for in stench. Hailing from the lush Ossau Valley in the Pyrénées, Ibargui is a lesser-known stinker that deserves more attention – it certainly grabbed ours (in fact, it was passed between people for a round of nose-wrinkling)! Get past the initial, eye-watering whiff and you’ll be rewarded with a pleasantly mild and slightly floral mouthful of cheddar-like goodness. Try it with a dark, full-bodied red wine for maximum flavour.

France Today enjoyed this cheeseboard courtesy of Paxton & Whitfield, complemented by a variety of wines from Château Canet.

Related article: Name that Cheese: French Fromage Quiz

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Rhiannon Rees
Fuelled by croissants and cafés crème, Staff Writer Rhiannon Rees has an insatiable appetite for travel, nature and all things veggie. Between fond childhood memories in the south and recent trips as a (sort of) grown-up, she’s always dreaming of her next trip to la France profonde.

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