Innovation in the cheese world is what makes the industry so exciting. And delicious. There's always something new to check out, or interesting modern spins on old recipes. But sometimes it's not innovation that you crave, it's the classic stuff. And Livarot, an in-your-face washed rind from Normandy, is the perfect example. There's just no duplicating it.
If you like Époisses, Langres, Pont L'Eveque, or Alsatian Munster, get Livarot on your lineup. Livarot is probably the stinkiest of the four, with a nearly petrol-like aroma. Like so many washed rind cheeses, though, its bite is relatively mellow in comparison to the bark. At its best, you'll be met with heady, almost boozy-sharp smells, but a smooth richness in flavor, like a savory, eggy pudding. Nutty, earthy, and slightly bitter, expect an equally luxurious and punchy experience when dipping into some of the stuff.
When perfectly ripe, Livarot can be almost runny, not unlike Epoisses. But its paste is dappled with small eyes, a la Emmenthaler, but with a much more pudgey, gooey texture. Consider Cato Corner Farm's Hooligan to be a close,\ American approximation to Livarot.
Five stripes of raffia give Livarot its trademark look. And no other cheese has really gone that route, aesthetically speaking, as if to honor le original. With AOC name protection since 1975, Livarot has quite the official status. You'll find pasteurized versions in the States, and raw ones in France.
Some cheeses I prefer solo, without bread, even. Livarot, while excellent on its own, is one cheese that works better with accompaniments. Cured meats, malty beers, and roasted nuts would all work to coax its intense flavors into even greater ones. Or you could go with sweet sides, like a fruited bread, dates, honey, or brittle, to temper its intensity. And in Normandy, they pair Livarot with Calvados. Strong plus strong can be so right. Or, rather, classic.
Find it → You can find Livarot at fine cheese shops and at Amazon.com for $17.76/8.8 oz. wheel.
Image: The Livarot Diaries, used with permission