Food Crush: Alice’s Brown Bag Tasting from Les Amis du Fromage

One surefire way to reinvigorate your tired culinary life is to let someone else make the decisions for you! As much as I love eating the same stinky Epoisse and intensely nutty Extra Aged Mimolette, I was stuck in a bit of a cheese rut. So when I saw these “brown bags” on Les Amis du Fromage’s Facebook page, it got me excited to try something new.

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Les Amis du Fromage has the best selection, service and most knowledgeable staff in the city. The brown bag’s “theme” was celebrating one of their staff members getting Canadian citizenship. Suggested pairing was “bubbly”, so of course for me that means beer! I wanted to be surprised, so I didn’t open the bag until I got home.

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$13 for your own personal cheese tasting! Places like Salt are great and all, but it’s so easy (and cheaper) to do it yourself at home. This brown bag had a nice selection of tastes and textures, from the spreadable boursin to the firm cheddar. This amount of cheese lasted me about 2-3 tastings. I like to savour my cheese 😉

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Of course I could not leave Les Amis du Fromage without my favourite salumi right now, the Moccia & Urbani Argentinian Salami (flavoured with red wine, chilies, Spanish paprika and oregano). The Maroilles was suggested to me as an alternative to Epoisse. It’s still a washed-rind cheese but a little firmer than Epoisse — well, depending on how ripe your epoisse is 😉

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Clockwise, starting at the meat: Moccia & Urbani Argentinian Salami, Maroilles, Orkney Scottish Cheddar, Alfred le Fermier, Comox Camembert, Mahon and Cranberry & Black Pepper Boursin.

The Mahon turned out to be the surprise favourite. Semi-firm and approachable but with enough depth to keep things interesting. The Boursin, while great to have in the context of all the other cheeses, was too sweet and fruity for my personal taste. The Fermier had a gritty sandiness that I wasn’t too fond of…and it wasn’t the tyrosine crystal-type crunchiness either, more of a grittiness distributed throughout the cheese. Despite the bits I didn’t like, it was still an enjoyable experience to play the cheeses off each other and enjoy with my beer and baguete.

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I like slicing the salami as thin as humanly possible. The incredible thing about this salami is that there’s a ton of flavour without being salty. I don’t know how Moccia & Urbani do it! Even paper-thin slices release this rich flood of flavour across your tongue. I think it’s the balance of the seasonings, meat, fat and salt that just results in maximum flavour and enjoyment. In fact, I think it’s more enjoyable the thinner you slice it.

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I can’t have cheese without some crusty baguette. Luckily, Les Amis du Fromage sells par-baked baguettes from Swiss Bakery. Even a so-so baguette can benefit from finishing in the oven…and you can take the crust as far as you want! Sometimes I feel like a lighter crust, other times I crave a robust crust. The crumb structure looks a bit meh in this photo but once you rip it apart and smell the inside, it’s heavenly. It’s that moist, steamy, sweet, yeasty, rich, deep aroma…definitely not a flat, inert experience here. There can be some variability in the depth of Swiss Bakery’s baguettes, but this was a good bread day. 🙂

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I went with an effervescent saison this time. Memory is fuzzy but it was probably Upright Five, a bubbly saison with lots of fruity/hoppy character and a yeastiness that matches well with the natural sourdough tinge in the bread. The carbonation helps scrub the palate between bites of cheese. Totally fun way of eating!

I’d do the brown bag again, but as long as I can still buy that salami! It’s hard to say no to your favourites…

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