By Simon Burke
The last time I was at a restaurant before the current lockdown here in Paris, I noticed a cheese plate on the menu; a true French delicacy, a 30 year–old comté. Surely, I thought, this must be a typo. They must have meant a 30 month-old comté. Comté is a cheese from the eastern French region of La Franche Comté, which borders Switzerland. It is one of my favorite French cheeses.
A large price would lead me to believe this was no joke. However, this was difficult to ascertain as it was the type of restaurant where only the richest-looking person at the table is given the menu with the prices. I was therefore left in my own guessing game until the cheese came out.
Upon closer inspection I saw that the normally apparent flavor crystals of salt in a 30 month comté were instead streaks. It was as if the comté was marbled with long, streaky veins of flavor crystals.
I took my first bite. My vision tunneled. The room spun. Waves of pleasure-shivers passed from my tongue, through my jaw, up the sides of my head, to the back of my skull, and down my spine. I was transported to a new level of gustative ecstasy thanks to this rare delicacy nearly as old as me.
My host, upon seeing the look of utter bedazzlement on my face, offered up an explanation for the flavor ride I had embarked on.
Normal comté, he explained, is matured in a wheel laying flat on its side. This comté however, in order to mature for a full 30 years, needed to be matured as a sphere to make sure it didn’t crust all the way through. The center of this French cheese sphere after 30 years becomes the nugget of explosive, barely explicable flavor, which I had just experienced. One sphere has enough comestible comté inside it for a table of 6. This is why only two producers in France make it, and only a very select few restaurants outside France offer it up to the most discerning of restaurant patrons.
Curious to learn more about this 30 year-old comté? Be sure to check out our market tour and French cooking class where you can interact with a French chef and have all of your food questions answered. Also, happy April Fool’s Day. 🧀