A lot of our guests at Cheese+Provisions ask me how I got into cheese. Short answer: it all happened because my family moved to Belgium in 1978.
I was a budding foodie (although that term was still 30 years in the future) and had spent tons of time hunting up cookbooks at garage sales and in my grandmother’s attics, but I had yet to discover cheese.
I’d never heard of a ‘cheese shop’ before, much less towns that had multiple cheese shops, each with hundreds of varieties sitting out on the counter.
That changed quickly as soon as I found myself overseas. At my first restaurant meal in our small Belgian town the when it was time for dessert, the waiter, without being asked, wheeled up a trolley with dozens of styles of cheese.
Never one to be shy about new experiences, I pointed to four different cheeses, having no idea whatsoever what they tasted like, what they were called, or from what animal they came from.
Luckily for me, one of those cheeses was Epoisses. The fact that it was sticky, served pudding-like from within its own rind, and that its aroma made everyone else at the table recoil in horror made it inevitable that I would fall in love with it.
But once in my mouth, the taste bore no resemblance at all to its ugly exterior. A pure expression of fresh milk, salt, sugar, cream, and a hint of barnyard, but in a good way, all exploded in my mouth. Silky and creamy, and almost mild, with a funky umami meatiness that reminds one of steak, mushrooms, and the deep dark loam of the forest floor, the cheese was a revelation.
Since then, Epoisses has been my go-to cheese – the iconic ur-kase of my cheese life. I never stray too far from its funky-scary charms. There are other cheese out there that continually threaten to seduce me away, but my love affair with Epoisses remains as strong today as that first bite all those years ago.
Turns out, I’m not alone in my love for Epoisses. This is a great essay from Serious Eats editor Niki Achitoff-Gray titled The Comfort Food Diaries: Love Stinks