A friend was incredibly generous and gave me a bag full of Zingerman's delicacies for the minimal task of watering her indoor plants every couple of weeks while she was away this summer. There were chocolates, a lovely little coconut lime cake and a mysterious package labeled "Langres." Wikipedia informs me that this is "a soft, pungent cow's milk cheese that is known for its rind, which is washed with champagne."
But I confess, this cheese scared me just a little. It reminded me of brain coral which, the few times I've gone snorkeling, freaked me out. The smell was powerful, a big whiff of barnyard as soon as I opened the paper.
So I chickened out, wrapped it back up and called a friend to supply some culinary support. Ami was kind enough to stop by after work and cut into the oozing brain, er, cheese.
It was very ripe so we smeared on on baguette slices and topped it with this stuff:
pear mostarda, which frankly, is not my favorite cheese condiment. If I could have found the 1/3rd-of-the-price fig jam that I know is hiding somewhere in my kitchen, I would have gone for that. The pear mostarda is ok--thin slices of pear in a very lightly mustardy jam base--but the pear flavor is too washed out for me. I like really ripe flowery pear flavor that punches you in the face. I bought this stuff when the NYTimes raved about it back in 2005 and still have about half a jar left...but I did actually enjoy the stuff with the Langres. The cheese wasn't as intense as its smell implied, but it still needed some sort of sweet counterpart to balance the barnyard--pear mostarda, fig jam, fresh grapes, figs, pears or apples, something along those lines.
We drank a cool, dry rose with enough flavor to stand up to the cheese. This is my new favorite summer wine:
Bonny Doon's Vin Gris de Cigare, 2005, about $11. I drank it at a friend's house in July side by side with a decent rose from Provence and liked this one better. And I'm also charmed by a vineyard with a sense of humor. The Cigare refers to the spaceship pictured on the label above and there is a creepy alien face on the screw top. Yippie for decent screw top wines! One less piece of equipment to forget when I go on a picnic.