I’m not normally a huge fan of cheeses crusted with “stuff”, but there are a few exceptions — Brin d’Amour, Barely Buzzed, to name a few — and to the list I’ll add the Tome de Bordeaux, from famed french affineurs Jean d’Alos (originally founded by Jean and Pascale d’Alos but now run by Clarence Grosdidier), also responsible for the recently reviewed Tome d’Aquitaine. Also known as “Herbilette”, this cheese is inspired by Poustagnac, a sheep’s milk cheese seasoned with piment d’Espelette, but where the Poustagnac cheese is a sheep’s milk cheese, the Bordeaux is goat’s milk.
As with the Tome d’Aquitaine, the raw goat’s milk Tome de Bordeaux begins its life at the dairy cooperative Union Laitiere de la Venise Verte, before being shipped to Jean d’Alos, where the wheels are aged and washed with Muscadet for two months. At the end of this aging period, the wheels are moistened and coated with the distinctive — and lovingly arranged — crust of herbs and spices. The mix includes rosemary, savory, fennel seed, oregano, thyme, paprika, cayenne, peppercorns and juniper berries, creating an astonishing potpourri on top of the wheel (I’m curious as to how they ship the wheels in order to keep the crust intact). My pictures, limited as they are to a thin wedge, don’t do the Tome justice; check out the photos from the Culture piece linked at the end for the full effect.
The paste, beneath the herby crust, is bone white, soft and creamy, with scattered eyes. The texture is delicate and smooth with a beautiful mouthfeel. The flavor is mild, with a balanced saltiness and subtle gamey and nutty notes. The herbs and spices dominate the flavor of course, but not overwhelmingly, infusing each bite with a warm herby and peppery flavor, with the rosemary coming to the front.
If you’re hesitant to dip into a cheese with such an ostentatious — even rococo — appearance, set aside your reservations and try the Tome de Bordeaux, it’s well worth it.
Culture Magazine went to France to profile the farmers, cheesemakers and affineurs behind the Tome de Bordeaux; you can also see some great photos of the wheels in their full glory.
Purchased at The Cheese Traveler.