Thanks everyone for your patience during a delay since my last post… the excitement of the recent election, a few trips out of town, and my continued search for new employment [need a new day job; in Information Technology (IT)], has kept things pretty busy… and yet, I have continued to be eating a lot of cheese, and documenting it as I can. A lot to say today about Brie…
Président Cheese is part of the global company Lactalis International, which manufactures soft cheeses in 140 countries, has $150 Billion in sales and employs around 35,500 people world-wide. Chances are quite good that if you have been near a cheese isle in a grocery store (any store that sells more than just block cheeses and processed cheese), then you have seen the familiar red-lettered logo of Président camembert and brie. As mass-produced brie goes, Président does pretty well. Despite the milk sources being different in each country, Lactalis seems to manage to keep a consistent level of quality with their mass-produced cheeses.
Recently a marketing firm, working with Président Cheese, contacted me and offered to send me a sample of Président’s latest product; Brie produced and sold in “log” form. Although the company did not require, or even specifically ask me to review the product on Canyon of Cheese, it should be assumed that they hope I will/would. I’m only too happy to, and to give it my honest evaluation. I do, however, wish to avoid a biased review (either pro or con), so I will do my best to give full disclosure.
Some Qualifiers to Keep in Mind:
- The sample was sent to me, free of charge, thanks to the kind promoters of Président Cheese.
- Although I like to claim that I am not a “cheese snob” (see my FAQ section), you may notice through my postings, as well as my association to the California Artisan Cheese Guild, that I tend to gravitate towards farmstead/small production cheeses.
- Despite the preceding comment, there are occasions for which I buy and consume mass-produced cheeses.
- I love cheese, and will try just about anything.
I have been reading a variety of my cheese books, looking up Brie and its history. Summarizing in brief; Brie originates from the French region of Brie (known in modern times as the département of Seine-et-Marne), and had been chronicled as having been enjoyed by Charlemagne as early as the year 774. The Brie area stands only roughly 60 miles from Paris, so as its popularity grew along with the population of that metropolis, the majority of Brie was traditionally produced for and sold in Paris. Nowadays, “Brie”-style cheeses are made worldwide, and yet (according to Wikipedia); “Despite the variety of Bries, the French Atlantic government officially certifies only two types of Brie to be sold under that name: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun.”
Where does this place Président Cheese’s Brie Log? Well, naturally it is a Brie-like cheese, since it; A) is not produced in the Brie Region of France, and B) it is in a non-traditional log shape. Does this affect the taste? That was going to be the test. Fearing I might have preconceived notions, we brought the Président Brie Log to a DVD viewing for the cast of “Serve by Expiration(2)“. For comparison, I brought a wedge of Brie which was from France, a moderately priced wedge from a wheel; Tour de Marze Brie. I asked everyone in attendance to give their honest opinion.
The result? The Président Cheese’s Brie Log was favored over the Tour de Marze Brie. Hands down, as a matter of fact. From a taste perspective, I agreed. In defense for the wedge from France, it may have not been ripe, however. Brie is commonly sold (in Europe) in one or two kilogram wheels – That’s either 2.2 pounds, or 4.4 pounds. Here in the states, you’ll often buy a pre-sliced wedge of a wheel. Brie stops aging (properly) when you cut it, which is one of the reasons you should try to buy entire wheels of brie if you can afford to, and/or get it from a reputable cheese seller who has just cut into the wheel. For more proper Brie handling, here’s a good link. The familiar and inviting earthy, mushroom-like, taste which is often associated with Brie was missing entirely from the Tour de Marze Brie, and nicely present in the Président Brie. Both cheeses had been served properly, at room temperature.
Why a log?
Président Cheese would LOVE to sell as much cheese as they could. To this end, they are hoping that a log-shaped Brie will help. How/why? You’ve been to a party with Brie. It’s often picked at by party-goers, who may be unfamiliar with Brie, and who are avoiding the thin white rind. By the end of the evening there’s nothing by a destroyed shell of the cheese, only the rind remaining. The white exterior is a tasteless surface mold, necessary to help preserve the interior’s taste development over the four to five weeks that Brie ages. Personally, I always eat the rind, since it is part of the cheese. It adds texture. The idea behind the Brie Log is primarily convenience, however. Since it is possible to slice the log into individual cracker-sized pieces, each person will either eat an entire piece Brie, rind and all, or not at all.
But is it Brie?
No. It is a cheese, made in the United States, with a taste that resembles French Brie. It is mass-produced, and shaped and packaged for ease of consumption. Again, however, I must say that we were all impressed with the taste. Personally, I am too much of a traditionalist to want to buy this cheese when I want to enjoy some Brie, but I encourage anyone/everyone to try it for themselves if they see it in the super market. Perhaps a domestic Brie in log-form is what you have always been waiting for. Or, you might feel that log Brie is akin to freeze-dried ice cream (the type that astronauts enjoy). If you try a cheese, whether in the form of a log, a wedge, a pyramid or a block, and you enjoy it, then that’s what is most important. Just as I try to do, keep your mind and taste buds open to new cheese experiences.
Do YOU have a favorite Brie, or an opinion on the new Brie Log? Let everyone know and use the comment section. Thanks!