Camembert Le Rustique

Le Rustique

I’ll admit it – I’m a cheese whore. I can’t drink milk due to some enzyme my stomach can’t manage to produce, but thank God I can eat everything else that comes from a cow. If the day ever came that I couldn’t eat cheese, you may as well just pass the sleeping pills to me. Yeah, it’s like that. That’s how a cheese whore rolls.

I love discovering new cheeses, especially the off-the-wall “house of funk” type of fromage. Bourdain once expounded upon the glory of the runniest, stinkiest of cheeses, and it became my goal to experience that.

In my search, I found some stinky cheeses, some runny ones, but nothing stinkier or runnier than the farmhouse funkfest that we found in a small shop called “The Cheesemaker’s Daughter” in the square of downtown Sonoma. I don’t remember what that cheese was called, but it was then that I realized where my limits were. With all due respect to the wonderful cheeses The Cheesemaker’s Daughter offers, I’ll stop just short of “bad feet”, for lack of a better phrase. Again, no disrespect. Everything she offered was wonderful.

So today I discover perhaps one of the greatest authentically French rounds of Camembert cheese to ever grace my pallet. From Fromageries Riches Monts in Normandy comes Le Rustique — a mild, creamy, nutty, medium-bodied round of love that had just the right amount of funk to make me feel like I was having a phat-assed picnic on some remote farm in the center of heaven. Pass the Belgian Golden Ale – it just met its mate.

Normandy is the home of Camembert. It all started there. Camembert is made from cow’s milk, and cows that produced the milk for this particular cheese are allowed to graze freely on the lush green pastures of Normandy. This gives Le Rustique it’s authentic flavor.

Oh how I love you, grass of Normandy.

The quality ingredients and the traditional methods used to make the cheese add so much to the richness, that it really brings me back to what I say all of the time about brewmasters. It takes an artist to make a really good beer. It takes an artist to make a very memorable bottle of wine. As well, it takes an artist to bring all of the elements together to make a cheese like this. This gets right to the heart of why I love food, beer, wine, music, and art house movie.

Art. It’s always about art. When it fails to be about art, it fails me entirely. It’s as simple as that. If it’s weird, I’m down with it.

Their web site tells the story:

Our story begins in 1909 when Mr Mallet opened a shop selling farm butter, eggs and poultry. In 1937 he added milk and cream. In 1960 the Jules Hutin dairy bought the business. This was when production of Camembert and butter started.

In 1974 Express Dairy Food bought the dairy and asked the manager, Jean Verrier, to produce a Camembert that was a little out of the ordinary. Drawing on past experience and longstanding Normandy traditions Verrier succeeded in developing the celebrated cheese. Some time later, members of the production team met a paper broker with a large stock of disposable, chequered napkins. They had the idea of using this as the packaging for their cheese. All that was missing was the name. And that is how Le Rustique came into existence …

I warmed the entire round in the oven for a few minutes to soften it, as I tend to do with most bries and rounds of Camembert that we bring home. The rind is snowy white, the center is gooey, soft, and creamy. The nutty, mushroom aroma that lifts off every single swipe of this cheese as I spread it on a chunk of fresh crusty bread leads me to believe that the farmers that made this cheese had me in mind while they were making it. I thank them for that.

I have to wonder if stronger, bolder cheeses appeal more to men than women. Then again, it was a friend’s wife who was the only one who could stomach the “bad feet” cheese that day, so I’m not sure how much weight that theory holds.

If you dig a medium-bodied, creamy cheese with a heavy nutty aroma and flavor, I simply cannot recommend Le Rustique enough. Available at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats. Or simply visit your local cheese shop and ask for availability.