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Row, row, row your La Gabarre gently down the Loire…

12 Jul
How cute is this?

How cute is this? There’s goats in the boat!

Isn’t it so much better when something has novelty value? Personally I’m a sucker for a dinky back story and this thick and creamy goats cheese from the Loire Valley is no exception.

My flatmate and I went to La Cave a Fromage in South Kensington (it’s basically our new favourite hang out) with one mission- to get a new cheese to replace our depleted Comte. We wanted it to be strong but subtle, more of a swimmer than a bodybuilder, a real contender for our tastebuds but sensitive to our fridge’s delicate olfactory balance (i.e. we didn’t want our vegetables smelling like cheese).

We were met by cheese man extroadinaire David from Portugal who patiently answered our questions, let us try whichever cheese we pointed to and then acted interested when I told him I was out on a very important cheese blogging mission.

Your friendly local cheese team- Kat and David!

Your friendly local cheese team- Kat and David!

After watching us mooch about the shop for circa 8 minutes contemplating which cheese was best to bring home to our needy fridge and experiencing first hand Comte’s awkward phase with a disappointing tasting (kind of like being told on parents evening that Comte wasn’t really working hard enough) David decided to take matters into his own hands and leading us away from the creamy goats cheeses took us to the front of the shop where he confronted us with La Gabarre– a dense goats cheese shaped like a dodgy brick.

He then proceeded to tell us why the cheese was shaped like it was. Back in ye olden days wine was transported throughout the Loire Valley on flat bottomed wooden boats called Gabarre. My novelty-loving side was already doing an excited dance– this cheese was not just a cheese but a cultural homage! When I found out that goats were also transported on these boats to graze on the Loire’s islands I was sold- a goats cheese inspired from a boat to transport a goat– it was lyrical and poetic and to be honest I was going to buy it regardless of what it tasted like (yes, I am a salespersons dream).

Is it a boat? Is it a cheese?

Is it a boat? Is it a cheese?

Luckily the cheese was more than just a historical back story and actually tasted delicious. Thick and dense, biting into this was kind of like drowning your mouth in a vat of goats butter. If it wasn’t a cheese it could probably have had a career being glue. It certainly sticks to the roof of your mouth.

The cheese had a slight vinegary, tangy flavour. Kind of like the sour candy of the cheese world. However, there was also a sweet element to it so the tanginess was not overbearing. It’s a bit of a mysterious flavour and I recommend trying it for yourself as whilst trying to decide what it most tasted like I ended up eating the whole thing in one sitting. This cheese is a sneaky one- not only was I duped by its back story, but also by its enigmatic taste. 

Much like an onion, or a tiered cake, or Shrek this cheese also had layers. There was the mouldy grainy exterior, a creamy yellow-ish outer layer followed by the dense butter like interior.

mmmm dense

mmmm dense

Ironically, La Gabarre’s density would sink the ship-shaped cheese so be warned not to play boats on the river with it.

So a quick Youtube search later I actually found a song about a goat on a boat with a stoat!

It is actually very surprising how much Youtube churns up when you search ‘goat in a boat’!

P.S. After reading a blog about Belgian beer I found out that La Gabarre goes best with a nice strong bitter. Big up the beer and cheese combos!


Comté and the Earth Song

11 Jun
cheese blog 016

All that was left of the cheese by the time I’d gotten round to photographing it

‘Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth! 

– Rudyard Kipling

If I felt I had the authority to alter a classic poem about how ‘really we’re all the same no matter where we come from’ I’d probably alter the third and fourth lines to state ‘But there is neither East nor West….When two strong men (or women….just to be politically correct) stand face to face, confronted with tasty cheese’.

Asia is not a continent revered for its cheeses. In fact handy dandy Wikipedia tells me under ‘Cultural Attitudes’ in its ‘Cheese’ entry (yup, worldwide attitudes are that important that they get their own section) that East Asian cuisine steers clear of cheese.

That being said, recently I’ve seen first-hand how my super-Chinese flatmate Dora discovered and then obsessed over a little cheese called Comté- what follows is a beautiful tale of how a historical French cheese overcame stereotypes and a lesson was learnt that ‘no matter your culinary background, great food will always triumph over those taste-buds’.

Dora guiltily staring at what was left of the cheese

Dora guiltily staring at what was left of the cheese

One day, after a visit to my parents house and a trip to Waitrose I brought back to Dora and I’s shared abode a Comté.

Comté is a hard cow’s milk cheese with a mature earthy taste that reminds you of Autumn leaves and foraged nuts- a Hippy Mother Earth of cheese if you will. Unassuming yet striking this cheese does not give off much of an aroma (making it a perfect travelling cheese- train and bus goers will not mind if you get picnicking next to them), however like a master of stealth once it hits your taste-buds it’s true guise is revealed- a refined mature Gallic cheese with a love for the country that would probably live somewhere deep in the woods with a bubbling brook and a cave nearby.

When Dora sidled up to me and asked if she could have a bite of my cheese, I could not foresee what can of worms was about to open. With an effect of what I imagine to be a bit like amphetamines, Dora’s eyes widened as she declared ‘OH MY GOD, IT’S SO GOOD!….IT’S LIKE A MIXTURE OF PARMESAN AND CHEDDAR….BUT BETTER…MMMMM’ and other such exclamations.

A couple of days later Dora’s culinary discovery led us to venture to South Kensington to a cheese shop entitled ‘La Cave a Fromage’. Here, we gleefully demanded that we wanted to try their finest Comté. With three strengths to choose from- mild, medium and mature, we found out that Comté is a slow developer who had a bit of an awkward phase. If Comté were a boy, he probably would have worn braces and not developed facial hair until well into his teens. Much like the ugly duckling Comté ripened with age. The mild was a bit too mild, the medium was just a bit too awkward whilst the mature was just right.

Comté: The Early Years

Comté: The Early Years

Unfortunately, this Asian cheese obsession did not just stop at Dora but spread to her sister too. She even developed a fun way of eating the cheese by scooping it out with a spoon much like an ice-cream scoop. Much Facetime [Iphone copyright] was had between the sisters discussing their addictive tendencies towards the cheese; but all in all, the cheese won out- the sisters were smitten.

Now, much like at the end of an American TV show, I will leave you with some parting deep and meaningful words of wisdom:

And so, much like after reading Kipling’s poem, a lesson can be learnt. No matter how different we think we are, a mutual respect for a good cheese (or a good dim sum, or curry, or tagine etc.) can always bring us together. After all, a need for food is universal to life and a common ground for all on Earth. #MAKEFOODNOTFIGHTS

And just to hone the message in and really over-do the ahem, cheesy-ness, of the end of this blog post I’ll leave you with Michael Jackson’s classic ‘Earth Song’. I just hope that Jarvis Cocker doesn’t come out to moon me.

p.s. The Comté from Waitrose was made in a disused military fort found in the hills of France in 1996 that apparently had the perfect micro-climate for the cheese to ripen- HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

If you want to find out more about Comté and its history check out its website: