Drew: (lets me hold the container really close to his face, smells) Ohhhhh, oh god, (steps back and away quickly) ugh, that smells awful. Ugh.
Me: I know, eh? But it's so good. So good.
I open the plastic with a knife - oh yeah, that was us smelling it *through* the plastic - and a strong dirty-sweaty-stored-wet-in-a-plastic-bag-sock smell oozes into the kitchen. the cheese is pink on the outside, and appears to be shrinking into itself like a drying sponge. i break some baguette, and cut into the soft soft cheese with a butter knife, and the drippy white inside leaks into the space of absent cheese i dig out for the baguette.
Me: Here, (handing some to Drew) try it.
Drew: (looks askance) Uh, ooooh man.
Me: No no, it's really good. Really it is. (spreading some for myself)
Drew takes a small bite, lips far away from the baguette, and chews thoughtfully. The cheese has a smooth smoky taste at first, with a back-of-the-throat, sinus-passage, malted-liquor after-aroma (to call it an after-taste would be incorrect, the cheese is very light on the tongue).
Drew: Mmm, actually, wow, this is really good. Mm! This is really good!
Me: Mmmmmyeah. It's got a bit of a kick at the end there.
Drew: Mm! Oh yeah! Wow, yeah. It's good though.
The culprit: Epoisses. A french cheese from Germain, it comes in a wooden box, and stinks to high heaven. The taste is so radically different from the smell that it's hard to remember each time you encounter it that you do, in fact, really enjoy this cheese.
The first time I had this cheese was in Paris, with my Professors, Tom and Madeline Lennon, who I stayed with for four days. I was skeptical and suspicious my first time, predicting that I was about to be subjected to a blue-cheese-like experience where my entire being attempts to reject the pungent entity that has entered my mouth, nose, and eyes. On the contrary, Epoisses is lovely.
[Me: Huh, I was your age when I had Epoisses for the first time.
Drew: Ha! You should put that in your blog.]
The second time I had this cheese, I had just returned to Canada from living in Scotland, and I told my mum and gran about Epoisses. Both cheese lovers, we decided that they should try it, and we hunted for it in St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. We found it, sure enough, and for $20 Canadian we purchased this treasure. It is a two hour drive from Toronto to Fenelon Falls, my home town, and we smelled that stinky stinky cheese in all its glory for the entire ride. The car stunk for at least a week after.
Do not be fooled! Do not fear! Despite the intense and off-putting smell, Epoisses is a smooth, rich, creamy, and smoky treat. Keep in mind, if you ever buy it, that it smells far more pungent than it really is, and so a light-bodied red wine is a good match for it. Medium and full-bodied reds can easily overpower it. Something young and fruity, a beaujolais for example, is a recommended choice. Not for the faint of heart, and truly delicious.