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.

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19 Comments

  1. “Art. It’s always about art. When it fails to be about art, it fails me entirely.”
    right on, phil. beautifully dead-on.

    i’ve had that question on why guys like stinky cheese more than women. i’ve never met a woman who likes epoisse or morbiere… but i KNOW they’re out there, i know they’re awesome (why is it when a woman likes adventurous food or drinks double IPAs it’s just so hot?). maybe it’s a macho thing, or maybe it’s just our taste chemistry (?).

  2. Hi Nik,

    Thanks for checking in. That’s some funny stuff. 🙂 I’m sure it’s all a matter of taste. Like I said, that day we ate the Cheesemakers Daughters funky cheese, my friends wife was the only person who sat there and ate it. And she really ate it. I was in awe.

    If you can find a girl who likes Double IPA, and you’re really into her, marry that woman. She’s a keeper.

  3. mmmmm. I love stinky cheese too (Epoisses is my favorite)… I haven’t tried Camembert Le Rustique but will definitely search it out!

  4. p.s. I eat like a boy

  5. 🙂

  6. I’m sitting here starving before lunch and wander in here only to make myself more hungry. I’m going to have to stop by the local Whole Foods to see if I can find some of this. Thanks!

    • Curious, did you ever find it? My local trader joe’s carried it from around the holidays up until recently…I guess I will check whole foods but really don’t remember them having it last time i was there…i am having le rustique withdrawals! I am a camembert FANATIC and this is the very best i’ve ever had…to find it for like $5 bucks was an absolute godsend, but i will pay pretty much anything to get my cheesefix!

      • Hi Lori

        My local Trader Joes had a ton of this in December/January. I bought 4 wheels. When I was checking out, the girl at the register was so happy that I was buying the cheese. I asked why it was so hard to find, and she said they only get it once a year (usually in late Fall) and only sell it in select stores where it actually sold well in the past.

        I asked why they stopped carrying the strong French cheeses that they used to get from time to time and she told me that if people don’t buy it, TJ’s will stop carrying it. Makes sense, but there just aren’t enough people eating this stuff.

        We need a cheese revolution in this country. Let’s start it now. 😉

  7. you guys rock.
    phil, i will heed that advice 🙂
    jo, you’re awesome, your blog is such a trip. foodie heaven.

  8. oops, wrong avatar, that last comment was also from nik.

  9. It’s our honor and great pleasure to meet you & Katrina and to be a part of your talk show. We are extremely pleased that you and Katrina enjoyed my Arabic dishes.
    Cheers to our new friends Phil & Katrina!

  10. hey- really great post about camembert! loved reading it. i used be a cheesebuyer in gourmet food shops in l.a. & nyc – the best days were those when the raw milk cheeses were delivered.

    great blog. i just started one myself. check it out.

  11. Thanks for the kind words Charles. What a great job, to be a cheesebuyer. I would be in heaven. Thanks for the link to your blog. It is awesome. It’s hard enough to be a localvore, but to do it in a big city like LA, and to give up all of your secret sources — that’s really really cool.

    Dig it! Keep writing, my friend.

  12. Hi, does any one know if camembert le rustique is made from pastorized or unpastorized milk. It is very importatant. I love it but not alllowed to it eat if it is unpastorized…
    Thanks

  13. Hi Sel.

    Camembert Le Rustique is made with pasteurized milk. As much as that upsets a lot of French cheese purists (who think the most authentic flavors come from raw milk cheeses), this cheese actually tastes so rich and bold that you would have a hard time believing it wasn’t made from raw milk.

    So enjoy some today! 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by, Sel.

  14. Thank you for this article! I am sitting here now enjoying the exact cheese you are describing and I agree with everything you’ve said, couldn’t say it better myself – so won’t even try.

    Thanks!

  15. I just ate some of this exact cheese!

    Thought I would look for ideas on what to do with the leftovers =]

    Hadn’t even realized it was so rare 😦

  16. They were selling it at TJ’s for a while but then suddenly it disappeared. Now it’s back! Anyone know why it went away? http://www.breaking-down.com/content/tjs-gets-rustique-again

    • When I saw it return again after being gone for so long, I mentioned how happy I was to see it again to the cashier. She said that if the demand isn’t great enough for some items, they simply stop carrying them. This is true for a lot of items at TJ’s.

      They just started carrying a wider variety of funky cheeses, which makes me really happy. What is amazing to me is how many of us out there who wanted to see this cheese on shelves. If there’s such a big demand, why would it go away?

      I do suggest you try the Trader Joe’s branded “Chimay” cheese, which is widely available now. It’s an amazing soft cheese with a lot of character, and it goes well with beer (of course).

      Thanks for your comments!


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