Comté Cheese Ripening and Tasting

comte cheese truck

After spending a few mornings in the steamy, warm confines of the fruitières, where cheese making begins, I visited several of the fromageries, which are what they call the caves de affinage; the cavernous cellars where the cheeses are ripened.

tapping cheese wheel

The first thing that hits you when you walk into a ripening cave is the incredibly strong, every sharp odor, that zooms right up your nostrils. (There are sixteen ripening caves for Comté in the Jura.) Aside from instant sinus cleansing, the smell invades your senses with a combination of yeast, ammonia, and mold. There’s barely any smell of cheese, which is to be expected since at this point the giant wheels of Comté are well-encased in their protective crout (crust). But if you walk around with an affineur, you can tap and probe the cheeses and taste them as they develop their full flavors.

tasting Comté Comté wedges

A lot of the job of the affineur depends on listening, touching, and tasting. More than you think can be determined by tapping on the cheeses with the tool known as a sonde, an elongated blade with sharp, curved edges. The sonde does double duty as a hammer-like device for listening to the cheese, as well as a tool to reach deep into the center of the wheel to taste how the cheese is developing.

Comté label1

I was fascinated as the affineurs would walk through the caves and by some internal instinct grab a wheel of cheese, pull it halfway off the shelf, and start madly tapping away across the top of the wheel. Indeed, the sounds would be different as they tapped, and we were preparing ourselves to taste the different Comtés at various stages of ripeness.

marked cheese Comte cow diaorama

Like wine, chocolate, and a host of other things, there’s no absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ rules when it comes to deciding what makes a particular food ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If it tastes good to you, then it’s good. But there are commonly held ideas that most agree on. For example, chocolate or vanilla that tastes like smoke means the beans were dried over a fire, rather than air-dried, a process which takes longer but allows them to develop more complex flavors. Wine has it’s own complexities and price points but there’s nothing wrong with most vins de table.

With cheese, like anything edible, you don’t want any off-flavors. Nor do you want big fissures when you cut open the wheel that will make the slices crumble. Good Comté should have a nutty flavor, which becomes more pronounced the older it gets. Most Comtés are sold having been aged a minimum of six months (four months is the absolute minimum, but most are released when they’re a bit older), and those that fall between six and twelve months have a milkier, creamier flavor than the older, slightly dried cheeses, those that have been aged at least eighteen months or more.

Comté taste

I was always in the “older is better” camp, but I’ve learned to appreciate the younger cheeses by tasting alongside French people. I think we Americans tend to like things bolder (such as extra-sharp cheddar, and spicy foods) while the French palate seems to gravitate more toward flavors that don’t necessarily challenge, but allow one to taste subleties. That’s a broad generalization but it’s a difference I’ve observed over the years, mostly at tastings of various foods, and I realize by looking for boldness, there are some flavors that I tend to miss.

brown label comté Comté green label

You’ll see Comté with two different color labels, applied as bands around the outside of the cheeses before they leave the caves. A green label means the cheese is the best of its class and a brown label means that the cheese might have a few cracks or other flaws, which aren’t bad but not pristine. And those are sold at a lower price and are better for melting into a fondue or cooking rather than eating. Holes in the cheese used to be more prominent (due to higher ripening temperatures) and nowadays just few small holes are normal and still found in Comté, and are not considered flaws.

And another thing I learned in the Jura is the best way to serve cheese. When I arrived in France and entertained at home, after dinner, I’d present a huge flourish of cheese varieties—I was just so excited to see and be able to try them all! Then I realized afterward that I had a lot of half-eaten cheeses floating around wrapped in all manners, which led me to follow another idea that’s French—”less is often just right”. And instead of overloading myself, and my guests, with every cheese I could get my fat-loving hands on, it was nicer (and more economical) to serve one extremely good chunk of cheese rather than a whole bunch of little ones crammed on a plate. That also helped people focus on the good qualities of one particular cheese rather than loading their plates up with a lot of confusing tastes and textures that can get lost in the mix.

(The first time I ever really appreciated caviar, someone gave me an enormous tin of it, of very high quality, and said; “Just eat it with a spoon. Nothing else.” And believe me, that was indeed the way to go. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to repeat that experience, but I still remember that taste fifteen years later.)

pulling taste of Comté covering cheese hole

To taste the cheeses in the cave, after tapping the wheels to find “the sweet spot”, the affineur plunge the sonde deep into the center of the cheese and twists out a sample. Then you pinch off a piece, maybe giving it a sniff first, then tasting it. Although I did learn to appreciate the younger cheeses, I am still pretty adamant about liking Comté with coarse granules in it, those little crunchy things that provide little sparks in your mouth. People often mistake those for grains of salt but they’re actually an amino acid called tyrosine and to me, they’re like getting a little ‘added bonus’ in every bite.

Morbier

A few other notable cheese are made in the region and you’ll also find in the ripening caves rounds of Morbier and Bleu de Gex, both well-regarded cheeses in their own right. Morbier used to have a layer of ash added across the equator because the people who made the cheeses didn’t have enough milk to make a full mold, so they would add ashes so the first layer didn’t crust over before they could add the second one.

Nowadays it’s merely decorative, and a good Morbier is very creamy with a gentle tang. Bleu de Gex is a rather special bleu cheese, rarely found outside of France due to its limited production, and likely because quite a few other bleu cheeses are available that are a little less brusque than Bleu de Gex. It has a peculiar flavor and I’m still on the fence about it, but I’ll be sharing more information about that cheese in a future post since I watched that being produced as well.

Bleu de Gex cheese ripening cave

During the trip, I made one of my classic insert-foot-in-mouth mistakes, in French. We were talking about the holes in cheese, which they refer to as bubbles and as mentioned, are a result of ripening cheese in warmer temperatures. I was asking a person who works in the caves about the boules in the cheese (pronounced bools) but they are actually bulles (pronounced buuls). Since boules are testicles, the folks I was speaking to had no idea how their cheese had ‘balls’. Perhaps they can work that into their next publicity campaign or something. Well, maybe in America.

June Comté cheese mold

Speaking of peculiarities of these cheeses, aside from the copper cauldrons that are used to heat the milk and the presses that compact the curds into cheese right after they’re formed, my favorite machine was the one that turns the cheeses, and was the most sophisticated piece of machinery I saw on this trip. Considering the size of some of the ripening caves, and the weight of the cheese, this machine roams the aisles, pulling each cheese off the shelf and gives it a gentle brushing, then flips it over and returns it to it’s place back on the shelf.

lifting wheel of Comté

A lot of the process is done by hand, but I walked into a few ripening caves which were the size of a high school gym, I realized why they developed machines to do a lot of manual grunt work of lifting, wiping down, and turning the heavy wheels of cheese.

A few of the cheeses I noticed had gotten dinged by the machine and those wheels get grated and sold as fondue mixes or for making le croque Monsieur. And like the workers at the fruitière who had cheese for breakfast, other folks who work in the cheese business in the area don’t seem to be tired of eating cheese either. I had lunch with a petite, chic woman who worked with one of the cheese making companies at a local restaurant and she had no problem finishing off every bit of her enormous cheese-laden broiled tartine. The two men, me and my friend, had salads.

cheese sandwich

Surprisingly my favorite person I met on this trip was one of the last. At first, I didn’t quite get what he was all about. I was introduced to him as a “journalist” which often raises eyebrows in France. (Folks sometimes feel like they’re about to be ambushed since there’s been a proliferation of those kinds of programs on national television.) So I was quick to follow up with that I was actually a professional baker for thirty-five years, which earns a bit more credibility.

tapping cheese

Claude worked at the Fort Saint Antoine, the immense ripening caves of Marcel Petit, an old fortress situated on the top of a mountain press up against the side of the earth. According to his figures, there are 100,000 meules (rounds) of cheese ripening in their floor-to-ceilng caves.

We walked rapidly through the ripening caves and he seemed to be keenly aware of what was happening in each wooden rack of wheels that we passed. Along the way, he’d stop at one and rap his sonde along the cheese, then slide it back and quickly hurry along. When I asked what he was listening for, precisely, he said, “I am listening to the cheeses…” And that was all.

sniffing cheese

What was even more astounding to me was how easily he pulled and hefted the full wheels of Comté. It may not sound like a lot to you, but I tried to lift one just a bit and could barely make it budge. He handled each one like a baby, bouncing it off his knees and moving it about as if it weighed just a few pounds. Then shoving it back on the shelf as if it was nothing.

cheese sample

As we talked further, we talked about how unlike other foods, cheese didn’t have any of the snobbery or hefty price tags attached. You don’t see cheeses selling at auctions for thousands of euros. And even though there’s wine in categories that are available to almost all, cheese was still a product of the country people and anyone could afford to buy a chunk of cheese and appreciate it.

In the region, a slab of Comté starts at around €9 per kilo (#2.2). And it’s interesting because I’ve talked to French people who râle that French cheeses are really expensive, which I don’t quite understand, especially when you see what goes into them. I came back to Paris with nearly 4 kilos (#9) of cheese, which I’m not sure the fellow passengers on my train appreciated as much as I did. (At least the smell in the train car gave them something more tangible to rail about.)

Instead of just tasting a whole bunch of various cheeses, Claude said we were only going to taste 18-month old Comtés made from a selection of the fruitières in the region. A variation on the “just taste one good thing instead of many” mantra that I’m starting to espouse, it was pretty enlightening tasting the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between them.

cheeses ripening

Some cheeses he described as “wild but not aggressive” or “having the taste of caramelized onions” or “caramel and milk” in the background. When I said that I liked Comté that has the crunchy grains of tryosine in them, he said that meant the cheese was “le top du top” (“the best of the best”), which I think put me in a little more favor in his eyes.

tapping Comté spruce trees

The ripening caves in the old fort were really something, especially because they were surrounded by the towering spruce trees whose untreated wood is used for the shelving in the caves. They’re left unfinished and rough since the irregular surface encourages air circulation. But night was falling and it was time to head down the mountain, as we saw the gentle flakes of snow continue to fall outside.

snowy window

I sometimes get asked what would my last meal be. On this particular evening, it was almost Comté. As my friend and I drove gingerly down the mountain from the fortress, as one does when steep roads are covered with ice and frozen snowfall, I peered off into the distance as darkness took over and it become harder to see things around us, including the steep drop offs on the side of the road.

Almost reaching the end, we rounded a gentle curve, and were likely discussing what we’d be having for dinner shortly. However I noticed the car shifting to the side, sliding slowly sideways. We were heading toward the precipice and if you’ve ever been in a car that’s lost control on the ice, there’s not a lot you can do. (Especially when you’re the passenger.) The car continued moving in slow-motion until the wheels on my side of the car hit the side of the road and the we began tumbling off the side of the road.

tipped carblog

As the wheels slid off the edge of the road, the left side of the car heaved up in the air and I heard a loud crash on the passenger side, which was the side window shattering against my head, and we landed on the ground with a forceful thud that felt as if someone had lifted up then dropped the car on the ground. Covered with broken glass, I looked straight up at my friend, dangling over me with his seat belt still attached, and with a look of shock, asked me if I was okay.

turning car

Miraculously we both pulled ourselves out of the car with barely a scratch. (Although I had a sizable chunk of safety glass lodged in my ear.) And after we were standing safely on the snowy road, I noted at how lucky we were that we hadn’t slid off one of the previous curves, which were pretty high above the ground. Because if we had, we wouldn’t have fared so well.

car moving

Luckily Claude had headed down the mountain ahead of us and when he no longer saw our headlights in his rear view mirror, came back up the road in search of us. And another passing car had stopped to see why there was a car parked vertically on the side of the road. They both said things like this happen a lot up there in the mountains and had the ropes in their trunk to prove it.

After spending about an hour trying to upend the car back on its wheels, we were successful and limped back to town in our caved-in and windowless car, where we’d been invited to a “light” dinner. And when we arrived, a little shocked, we were seated around the table where the host lopped off bâtons of Comté from a large block. And let me tell you, I was in no state of mind to make any decisions and I appreciated the lack of options.

Jura wine

A glass of wine was necessary, and we sipped vin du Jura, one of the brisk whites from the area that are often a touch sherry-like, which I came to appreciate because they go so well with the local cheeses. (Although that night, I would have drank anything). Then we moved on to dinner which was boiled potatoes (which everyone peeled the skins off of, but me), and a spruce box of Mont d’Or, an extremely rich local cheese that’s considered the roi (king) of young raw milk cheeses. If you’ve ever had it, you realize that no one has the right to use the word ‘unctuous’ when describing any food unless it’s ripe Mont d’Or cheese.

Smeared on the warm potatoes and slices of thick-crusted sourdough, sitting around the table, I was not only happy to be alive, but happy to be in the presence of such lovely people and their cheeses.

As Claude had said to me, “We are a cooperative and all work together in the region. We work with the people who milk the cows and the fruitières who curdle the milk and form the cheeses.” I’m not sure the other people on my train car appreciated the cheeses as much as I did, whose odors were wafting heavily from my suitcase on the overhead rack. But I didn’t mind because I was looking forward to having a few more weeks of enjoying wonderful cheeses…in the safety and comfort of my own home.

Comté label

To read part one of this trip, visit Making Comté Cheese.


Notes

If you wish to visit some of the caves d’affinage (ripening caves) in the region, a few are open to the public for viewings and tastings. The Fort Saint Antoine is one of them. (Although be careful if driving there in the snow!) Other addresses can be found by contacting the Maison du Comté, which also gives tours and tastings at their facility. Another ripening cave I visited was Rivoire-Jacquemin, which does not have facilities to welcome individual visitors.

An outstanding crèmerie and fromagerie in the region, Marc Janin conducts tastings in the cave of his truly magnificent cheese shop and he also ships regional cheeses as well. Note that not all cheeses travel well and many countries have regulations on what can and can’t be shipped.

If you’re looking for good cheese in your region, I suggest frequenting a cheese shop or grocer that specializes in cheese with knowledgeable salespeople. Having someone slice off a slab of cheese from a larger wheel is preferable to buying off a pile of pre-cut cheeses previously wrapped in plastic.

Well-regarded online sources of French cheese in America are Cowgirl Creamery and Formaggio Kitchen. Two favorite cheese shops in Paris where I find the Comté reliably excellent are Pascal Trotté (97, rue Saint Antoine) and La Fermette (86, rue Montorgueil).

You can find out more information about the region and visiting the caves in the notes at the end of my post: Making Comté Cheese.



Related Posts and Links

Jura Cheeses (Formaggio Kitchen)

French Cheeses Guidebook (Amazon)

Comté Cheese Making

Maison du Comté

Bleu de Gex Haut Jura (Culture magazine)

Morbier (Official Website)

Paris Cheese Archives


81 comments

  • Whoa! What an adventure. I felt like I was by your side, smelling and tasting the cheese and even checking for glass in my hair.

    Thanks, David. We are all glad you made it out safely. I appreciate the links to the fromageries. I’m making a point to visit….in the springtime :-)

  • The photo of the car on its side unfortunately blanks out all the other pretty photos in this post :( So happy that you are fine after the accident.

  • I’m so glad you’re okay and please drop the 12 word blog post resolution.
    Merry Christmas, David!

  • Glad to hear the accident didn’t cause any harm, both to yourselves and to the cheese! Amazing storytelling/coverage, it feels so real as if I visited myself.

    Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I wish 2011 brings lots of happiness, peace and prosperity, and good eating of course:)

    Take care.

  • Thank you so much for the information, what an educational post. I’ve always considered cheese one of my 4 food groups!

    This morning I added it to my pre-dawn Christmas shopping experience. I will admit it was a pre-cut section wrapped in plastic, but was happy that my 24 hour large mart had it to try, having never experienced it previously and with early store closures today and last minute shopping madness, it was all I could muster.

    I was a tad miffed when the bar code read it in as ‘brie’ – but then again I’m finding ‘brie’ thrown around as a generic term for many soft cheeses, is that a trend globally, or are Canadians slipping up on this?

  • What an adventure! I truly loved reading about your experience with comté and am so glad that the car slid off a small bank not a big one and that you are okay.

  • I really like “bleu de Gex” because I come form “Pays de Gex”, between Jura and Geneva ^^ I reed your blog very often even if I don’t comment… So, today, I’m very glad to read some praises about the “bleu de gex”
    (I’m sorry if my english is so incomprehensible.)
    Merry Christmas !

  • glad everyone escaped without any injuries.

  • Whoa! is right. What an adventure. Always love reading about your twists and turns in France but this is going to far. Well, maybe for good comte that is how far you have to go. Happy New Year, and a safe one.

  • I remember going on trips with my folks to Berchtesgarten in Germany the winters between 6 and 10, and spending the whole trip growing closer to God in prayer…those can be the scariest roads in the whole world. (But I will say they prepared me quite nicely for driving in the Rockies years later – breeds nerves of steel.) So glad you were both okay, and thanks for risking life and limb to share with us!

  • Glad you are okay.

  • Oh David – not good! I slid our car off the road near Boulogne back in May or June, and I know how ghastly it feels. Hope you are okay and able to enjoy a very Happy Christmas, shock notwithstanding.

    (P.S. I did a double-take at your “broiled” tartine – I thought at first you’d put “boiled” but realised in time that you were speaking American – to me, it’s grilled!)

  • Comte is one of my favorites. I just love that nutty taste. I’ve never gotten those crunchy crytals though so maybe I need to buy the cheese at a fromagerie. So interesting to read about its production.

  • Great posting, David! Your disclaimer says that you got no compensation from the providers. It is evident that you got fed and informed and even got a ride on the “Cheese Mountain” thrill ride. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time at my cheese monger’s stall at the market. The line was very long, but the pay-off was great. Each person that got samples meant that the three people behind them sampled their selection. These folks not only recommend foods for their cheeses, but movies, TV shows, and music to enhance the experience. One guy is very specific on beers and sporting events that compliment his advice. No one has suggested Steel Belted Michelins as a safety measure to get a good cheese selection home safely. Happy Holidays, David. Thank you for feeding our eyes and minds as we learn different ways to feed ourselves.

  • Your story telling always amazes me and this time was no exception… your adventure kept me on the edge of my seat! I am so relieved that you both survived the topple. Thank you for part one and part two of Comte making. Really interesting. Hope you have a good holiday!

  • I know about those French roads and how scary they are. So glad you’re ok. If it was a rental car, make sure your credit card company takes car of the damage charges (I bet you knew that already).

  • Glad you are ok. You have introduced a new favorite cheese to this former Wisconsinite. I hope you will have some free time in Dallas (I will unfortunately be in Paris while you are here so will miss your Central Market class). Stop by Tei An for all things soba or Dude,Sweet Chocolate. Hope we can give you some sun and Texas warmth in January.

  • I am so glad you are ok. Passez un bon reveillon!

  • I saw you tweeting the accident and you guys were extremely lucky.
    Have a great Christmas.

  • Jeez! Insanity. Glad you’re ok. How terrifying.

    But what a lovely trip!

    I’m wondering how you are able to enjoy the cheese, lacto-intolerance-wise?
    Comte is one special cheese! I hear Patricia from The Fromagerie started her business because she couldn’t find any Comte in London.

    Seriously, happy Holidays – glad you’re safe.

  • Merry Christmas David! I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog this year — thank you for
    every post.

    Glad you are ok after the cheese excursion…. :)

  • Next time, put the 9 pounds of cheese on the mountain side of the car instead of the precipitous cliff side.

  • I always enjoy your posts; I check almost daily for new entries and am amazed at how prolific you are. This is another fine entry though I did feel horror on seeing the car (remembering a bad encounter of my own which almost killed me and had me “enjoying” hospital food for over two months – better ways to lose weight). I checked in today because I wanted to thank you for what you add to my life. Though we’ve never met, perhaps never will, you are generous and share yourself quite freely. Thank you. Now, be careful because I want the pleasure of reading about your continuing (good) adventures.

  • What a great post. I love visiting cheese producing facilities and saw a cheese cleaning machine like that at a Grana Padano producer in N. Italy. It was fascinating to watch. Your trip looks wonderful and I’m glad you had somewhere warm and convivial to go after your accident!

  • I’ve made the bulles/boules error a number of times! Glad to know I’m not the only American in France commenting on testicles in food or drink :)

  • Glad you are ok and that safety glass is readily removed from ears. I have loved these last two posts about Comte cheese but I think my favorite photos are the diaoramas – so sweet. My son is completely mad about diaoramas so it has somewhat influenced me. Happy New Year to you and I’m so looking forward to more food/travel posts – these cheese ones and the irish butter are particularly memorable.

  • glad that you’re ok.

    btw, i don’t see how you could possibly have been a professional baker for 35 years–unless you started when you were 5 years old, or something close to that… :)

    (and when you say “tryosine”–i assume it’s a typo for “tyrosine”? unless there’s a new amino acid out there that i never learned about… :) )

  • Happy and glad you are safe, David. Merry Christmas!

  • Yikes! Nice that you’re in one piece. I loved the informative posts about the art of cheese making. No car wreck drama necessary, please.

  • omg: so glad that all turned out well & you are OK! what a scary event.
    i think i would have freaked w/glass lodged in my ear…happy that all is well.
    happy, peaceful & quiet & calm holiday season…you deserve It! all the best!

  • Eek! So glad you’re okay. And thank you so much for this tremendously enjoyable 2-parter… the first part actually had me running out to get some Comte, which I’m planning to eat alongside mushroom and chestnut soup on Boxing Day.

    Have a great reveillon and enjoy your Comte!

  • Good journalistic job of reporting on Comte — and then conveying the sense of sudden adrenaline surge when danger faces and the rush of relief and need for succor which arrives after for the survivor. Your blog is a treasure which adds dimension to my life. May you flourish to continue the work!

  • So happy the car accident was not serious. The only cheese place I visited was the Roquefort

  • Joining the chorus of “So glad you’re ok” and that both you and your cheese made it home safely. It was a noble thing ye did – risking life and limb so you could write about it for us!

  • This post certainly attests to Clifton Fadiman’s observation, “Cheese–milk’s leap toward immortality.”

    So glad you remain unscathed.

  • This post certainly attests to Clifton Fadiman’s observation, “Cheese–milk’s leap toward immortality.”

    So glad you’re ok!

    sweetpaprika.wordpress.com

  • I really hate that life can change so drastically in just a moment. I’ve seen it too often this past year. Be careful with yourself; how would I explain to people that I was sad to have lost a blogger friend I’ve never met and who wouldn’t know me from Adam?

    I didn’t get a chance to say thank you for including the Smile Train as one of your five charities in the Le Creuset giveaway post. Once I posted my entry, I was afraid to post again and get in trouble!

    My son was born four years ago with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Our craniofacial team in Chicago was fantastic and worked with him intensely for almost a year. But there are kids in this world who are hidden by their families, whose cultures are uneducated and persecute them, and who have no chance of eating or talking normally. Nothing can change for them unless someone chooses to donate money to help get a team there.

    We spend a lot of time here talking about putting great things in our mouths – like the cheese you so wonderfully shared with us. Hopefully we can put some money where our mouths are too, with our donations. Happy Holidays!

  • David, do you see all of these bloggers who think the world of you and are so glad that
    you survived ? These are good people, smart people. When you ring in the New Year,
    you can feel truly blessed. I’ll bet that even the fondue tastes somehow better ! I
    would have been terribly sad if that accident had been hurtful or fatal. The roads where
    I live are scary, and it takes very little to slip a ditch,..only, most of our “ditches” are
    100 feet down or more, no guard rails on one-lane dirt roads which wind around the
    mountainsides for umpteen miles. I know you were lucky. Stay safe.

  • Charlotte: I loved the dioramas, too. I was at a multi-media presentation and a lot of times those things are kinda hokey. But I thought theses were just great.

    Jackie: It’s really a subtle difference, like trying to explain to a non-anglophone the difference between ‘thirty’ and ‘thirteen’. Or ‘sheet’ and…well, you get it. Glad I’m not the only one screwing up their boules!

    t: I started cooking & baking professionally when I was 16 years old. I didn’t realize anyone was going to get their calculators out, but since I’m slightly over 50, it would seem that’s about right. No?

    mimi + Sharon: It’s so interesting to see cheese making, isn’t it? of course, it helps to end with a tasting as well ; ) I’ve always wanted to go to Roquefort; they say the caves are one of the most visited tourist attractions in France. I’m just never near there, unfortunately.

    Thanks to all for your kind words & we were pretty fortunate to escape. The people were so nice that helped us, they even had us bring the car to a place the next morning that fixed it up for us so that we could drive it to the next town to drop it off. (And the place we took it to did it as a courtesy.) Plus the folks that invited us to dinner were great as well. Bonne chance pour nous!

  • I made a pins/pines error years ago with an 80 year old woman – she turned bright red and let out a huge peal of laughter. The boules/bulles in right in the same vein. Glad you are safe and ready to enjoy the holiday season and new year. Does champagne go with Comte? Does it matter? Bonnes fêtes!

  • Great piece, and now I’m off to find some cheese……..
    Last week I cooked an English Christmas dinner for a group of French people, they loved everything, the bread sauce, the cranberry sauce, the pigs in blankets, the Christmas pudding with brandy butter, the mince pies, but there was almost a mutiny when I served the Stilton (brought over from the UK) APRES LE DESSERT!!! That was taking things too far…….

  • Great post! I learn so much from your travel stories. One can almost smell the cheese as it ripens! Also, great post accident photos. You held the camera very steadily despite. I doubt I could have done the same. I’d have needed the entire bottle of wine to steady my hands… Glad you are alright!

  • … and love the diorama! But those cows look as bigger than the john deere… I don’t know if I’d want to milk a cow that was bigger than a john deere! KInd of reminds me of a Daryl Hannah movie! :)

  • Wow,what an amazing trip and thank God yall are ok.

    chicagosdomesticdiva.blogspot.com

  • OMG…………David, I’m so glad that you survived that scary miss with what could have been a totally horrific tragedy. The expressions………..”that cheese was to die for” or “I’d kill to get my hands on that cheese” ironically do have a new meaning now. Glad you were able to take it all in stride, and even provide photos of your adventure.

    Best wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Next time you hit the mountains, try studded tires with chains, or better yet…….ride a goat.

  • Enjoying some Comte on the Christmas table..Wishing you and your family of friends a happy holiday season..What a wonderful place Paris is spend your holidays.

  • Oh my goodness! My heart would have been racing, such an adrenaline rush! (Especially when you have no control, and can only watch/experience the situation as it unfolds) I’m thrilled you and your friend are okay. As always, wonderful post. Living in Southern Arizona the snow makes my heart melt, it’s about 65 degrees here and sunny. -Sigh-

    Enjoy the holidays…and the cheese!!!

  • Wow! What an action-packed post! I will echo others in noting my relief that you and your friend didn’t suffer any serious injuries. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us – and Joyeaux Noel!

  • WOW!!!! Talk about a great piece of photo-journalism! Next time you will be escaping a bomb attempt!
    I was very excitedly reading your post as I lived in Melun for years and with my family we used to always get some locally made Brie and cheese became an integral part of our diet.
    Love comté and morbier. As for the French, râler is just a manner of speech, they love to do it on any and everything.

  • Blimey! This posting has all the makings of an epic film. I just started reading for the Comte. Glad you’re okay!

  • So happy that you made it home unscathed – and with such lovely cheese in tow! Thank you for sharing so much with us!

  • Glad you are ok!

  • Your blog is always a joy to come back to. Thanks for all your sharing. BTW, I can hardly believe you had almost 7,000 comments on the LC-give away…

  • A wonderful learning experience regarding the cheese as well as icy roadways. Please be certain that a medical someone took a close look inside your ear to retrieve any pesky little squares of glass. Wishing you a safe and prosperous New Year!

  • I’m sure glad you’re okay! What a scary end to such a wonderful adventure.

  • Well, David. You have provided us with one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season! So glad you are safe to tell us of more adventures in the coming year! Merry Happy!

  • Mon dieu! Thank goodness you are ok. You must really love your readers to risk your life for us! Here’s to a SAFE new year filled with lots of good cheese.

  • Thank goodness you are ok. I can’t believe you thought to take pictures of that! What an adventure.

  • you got lucky this time especially! In my region of France, in Lorraine, had not seen snow since 1969 with a long period. and nothing better than a good French cheese to cheer.
    I apologize in advance for my English

  • I just found your blog and this was the first post I read. Are all of your posts this exciting? I am glad you are okay and really enjoyed your post.

  • Holy cow. (no pun intended.) This was like a good novel…the story moves right along, making you think 1. how could he have been baking for 35 years; must be a typo, 2. wow I wish I had some cheese now…OMG they are lucky they didn’t go off the cliff and how frickin scary! I am so glad you are okay. Hope the rest of your trip was less eventful but full of delicious food and wine.

  • So enjoying the post; so glad your OK, what an adventure huh. Excellent cheese info here, brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

  • What an adventure! I’m glad you’re in one piece.
    Good cheese is a gift from heaven. A couple of weeks ago while visiting a food fair in Tuscany I met a cheesemaker who produces a small amount of Grana made with sheep’s milk instead of cow’s milk. This cheese is difficult if not imossible to find in shops. It is milder than cow’s Grana but one can experience more suble and sophisticated flavours. I bought some but also got his name and address for future orders.
    Great post David. Thanks

  • Thank goodness you’ve survived another year! Hope you had a lovely holiday and B-Day.

  • I’m curious David, about the holes left in the cheeses after sampling. In one of your photos it appears as though the hole is covered? Does it get packed with anything? Or is a skin simply reapplied over the top?

  • Daniel: After the bâton of cheese is removed and tasted, it’s slid back in to plug the hole and a small amount of cheese is smeared over the crust, which gets melded back into the rind as the cheeses continue to ripen. That’s the picture of the plug being pushed back in place.

    I asked if it leaves a permanent hole in the cheese and they said that yes, it does. But it’s normal and part of the process because they have to check the progress of some of the cheeses to make sure everything is going smoothly.

    Suzy: I took pictures because you never know after the fact what’s going to happen and since I happened to have my camera, I took some snaps.

    Enzo: Good idea to get their contact information. A lot of small producers don’t make that much and don’t sell in many stores, and just sell direct. Some day I want to go to Parma and see the production of that cheese as well. Well, I once I get through all this Comté I have at home!

  • I love Comté, it must be my favorite cheese so i couldn’t help but squeal while reading this post! Did you get to taste the difference between the cheeses made in winter and summer?

  • I was very surprised when I saw the car you were talking about cheese and suddenly VERTICAL CAR OUT OF NOWHERE, I’m very glad you’re ok

  • Clearly, I need to learn French at least well enough to take a tour of a fromagerie.

    Re: your accident, how terrifying. Glad you were both okay (plus or minus a bit of ear glass).

  • What a wonderful tale, and what a wonderful experience, since you made me feel as though I was there with you. Thank you so much.

  • Extremely interesting, thank you very much for this visit into the world of the Comté!

    By the way, about the Bleu de Gex, which you say is rarely available outside of France, I’d like to point out that I’ve seen it many times in a cheese shop in Montréal (Québec). It’s very good as a raclette cheese also!

  • David,

    This was the nicest post to read on a lazy winter day. Someone asked when you would make a documentary, but I like the blog format, because it lets me linger on the gorgeous photos and read at my own pace.

    Thank you, and I am glad you survived that frightening accident with life, limb, and sense of humor intact!

    Lilah

  • Goodness! What a shocking finish to such a wonderful story! Glad you’re all right! Be careful – this winter storm season seems just unending. Our son has been in London throughout – he finally got home to LA for the holiday – but it’s been fierce.

  • I am so jealous! I am a cheese fanatic and one of my dreams is to go to France and visit a bunch of fromageries and cheese caves. That sounds so amazing! Thanks for sharing this post. Stay safe in the snow!

  • Thank you for such an informative post! I’m very glad that both of you came out of that car “adventure” in good shape.

  • Julie: That’s great that you can find such good cheeses in Canada. I once asked someone who is a major French cheese importer to North America and asked her “What is the one French cheese that isn’t available in the United States that you would recommend people get when they’re in France?” And she said, “Bleu de Gex.” So nice to know that in Montréal, you can put it on your shopping list : )

    (btw: You live in an amazing food town, which you probably know..)

    I did read a ‘recipe’ that advised heating Bleu de Gex in a skillet and putting it over cooked potatoes…a sort of Raclette, like you get to enjoy. Will have to try it with some of my cheese I brought back from the Jura.

  • Thank you SO much for this post! The best ever. In my experience, French drivers like to drive faster than American drivers – especially if they are real estate agents. Glad you are safe. Comment two: the best ever cheese I have tasted was in Mirepoix (the Langedoc) – a bleu cheese that surpassed great butter in taste. Keep tasting and eating! Here in the Bay Area of San Francisco we have the marvelous cooperative Cheese Board in Berkeley.

  • Fabulous post – My son studied cheese making as a solo project in 1st grade and we are well versed in the process having found all sorts of wonderful information online. Now 8, he loved your pictures and video, especially of the ‘flipper’.

    Having spent nearly a year requesting ‘no cat’ at restaurants rather than ‘no meat’ (niko/neko) while living in Japan, I loved your experience. If you can’t laugh at language, what can you laugh at?!

    I’m glad you and your driver are fine after your flip. We live at 9000 ft. in the Southern Rockies and know a bit about adventure driving. All the best to you in the new year!!

  • Whoa! Glad you’re okay David… What an adventure!

    Thanks for the post on one of my favourite cheeses. We’re in Toronto right now where the price for a mere sliver of Comte is $8. I shudder. We can’t wait to get back to France to buy some cheese!

    Thanks again!

  • What a scary experience! Glad it all ended well.

  • Just wanted to say thank you very much for the nice article from all the cheese makers over at CheeseForum.org!