France vs. USA: May the Best Cheese Win

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In the past, American cheesemakers' reputations have lagged behind the French. Now we'll do a taste test and find out whether America's cheeses have caught up. Ruth Reichl of Gourmet magazine joins cheesemongers Rob Kaufelt of Murray's cheese and Anne Saxelby of Saxelby's Cheese.

Here are the cheeses we're tasting on-air today:
Valencay (goats' cheese)
Pyrenee Brebis (raw sheep's milk from the Pyrenees)
Chatelain Camembert
Persille de Malzieu
Mimolette (cows' milk, from Flanders and other parts of northern France)

Twig Farm Square Cheese (raw goats' milk, West Cornwall, VT)
Jasper Hill Farm Constant Bliss (raw cows' milk, Greensboro, VT)
Woodcock Farm Weston Wheel (raw sheeps' milk, Weston, VT)
Birchrun Hills Farm Birchrun Blue (raw cows' milk, Chester Springs, PA)
Uplands Farm Pleasant Ridge Reserve (raw cows' milk, Dodgeville, WI)

Go here to see Ruth's recipe for macaroni and cheese

Weigh in: Do you think you could tell the difference between French and American cheeses in a blind taste test?


Rob Kaufelt, Ruth Reichl and Anne Saxelby

Comments [13]

Olivier in France from France

Could have been interesting if they have chosen good french cheeses... "Le Chatelain" is one of the worst industrial camembert you can find! The Mimolette is a tasteless dutch cheese than a few french industrials make in the North... And Valencays and Pyrenées brebis can be good but have very soft tastes that make them what i'll called "easy to eat cheeses".. not what the french are the best at...

Nov. 10 2007 03:03 AM
Sherrie Nagin from Manhattan

Because of medication, I am restricted to fresh non-aged cheeses, such as ricotta, cottage cheese and fresh mozzarella. These are cheeses with little or low tyramine content.

Is there a fresh non aged goat cheese? I would love to expand my cheese list.

Thank you so much.

Jul. 20 2007 05:00 PM
Kathy Bambrick from Ithaca NY

After catching a bit of the show - long enough to hear Rob Kaufelt say that pasturization is no longer necessary as modern dairy practices have eliminated the diseases such as TB that started the whole process - I told my partner about it later that night. She is a large animal vet at Cornell in the Diagnostic lab, and she started listing all the states currently experiencing TB outbreaks - and other diseases - among dairy herds. With very recent recalls of organic foods for various types of contamination, I would caution people strongly to stick to pasturized products. Organic/raw, whatever you want to call it does NOT mean better or safer. Nor should the US allow products such as these from other countries - what would come out of China?!

Jul. 19 2007 06:18 PM
Miss or Ms from NYC

I noticed that Mr. Lopate had a frog in his throat for the remainder of his show after tasting these cheeses.

consuming dairy = excess mucus formation

Jul. 18 2007 08:39 PM
Rosa from Astoria

I just want to mention my favorite west coast American Cheese - Tillamook Extra Sharp Chedder cheese from Tillamook, Oregon. There are good American cheeses outside of VT, WI and NY. It's fabulous. Try it!

Jul. 17 2007 12:48 PM
chestine from NY

why don't you tell them that it's political and that multinational corporations are denaturing our food?

Jul. 17 2007 12:36 PM
chestine from NY

Leonard why don't you ask Sally Fallon (big proponent of Traditional Foods, (writes with biochemist/fats expert Mary Enig) and/or Nina Planck (author of Real Food)onto your show to talk about food? Nina Planck started many greenmarkets in London -

Jul. 17 2007 12:34 PM

I have discovered that wrapping hard cheese, like cheddar or gouda, in an absorbent paper towel, then storing this inside a plastic bag, in the fridge works very well. I cut off a piece when I want some, then restore it back to the fridge before condensation has a chance to form.

Jul. 17 2007 12:22 PM
David Staum from Columbus, OH

As a kosher consumer, I wanted to comment that I've seen this explosion of gourmet cheeses spilling over into the kosher market as well. Kosher cheeses have long been just very basic styles of American, Mozerella, and Cheddar cheeses, made by Jewishly-owned manufacturers in the New York City area. But lately, to the great appreciation of my palate, there have been such offerings as Red Leicester, Camembert, Danablu Blue Cheese, Havarti, and others, from such diverse places as Wisconsin, England, Dennmark, The Middle East, etc.

Jul. 17 2007 12:22 PM
jamie from brooklyn

here's a song for you. It's called "American Cheese"

Jul. 17 2007 11:47 AM
andrea from CT

I would like to think that I certainly would be able to tell the French from the American in this particular contest.
I believe that Peter is right with his comment about the chosen Camembert. I would like to add that the rule with raw verses pasteurized as I understand it is that the raw milk cheeses need to be ripened for 60 days before being sold.

Jul. 17 2007 11:14 AM
chestine from NY

I hope our American raw milk cheeses and traditional food movement can help save French cheese from industrialization but I am not so optimistic.

Jul. 17 2007 10:44 AM
Peter Julian from NYC

A very interesting experiment; I am not familiar with the American cheeses you have chosen.
Le Chatelain is a pasteurized Camembert produced on a vast industrial scale by one of the largest industrial dairy firms. There are MANY unpasteurized, artisanal Camemberts that are far superior and widely available in France, although the vast majority of the French are losing their taste for real cheeses; pandering to infantile tastes is now the norm, with the words "doux et cremeux" constantly used to advertise to the general public.
I don't know the brands of the other French cheeses that you have selected, but if they too are industrial versions, the contest is unfair.

Why are the American cheeses all raw-milk cheeses if, as I understand, French raw-milk cheeses cannot be imported to the US, and why are the American raw-milk cheeses allowed to be marketed but not the French ?

Jul. 17 2007 03:19 AM

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