They're different-looking, very tasty, and according to the package, they're even "elegant." I've been meaning to write about these crackers for awhile, partly becaues I think a good cracker — like, really good, deserving of a prime spot next to some cheese — is hard to come by. But the real reason this cracker has found its way here is due to a totally interesting ingredient: charcoal, which definitely explains its most unique color. When speaking about how to eat cheese, there aren't too many rules. Guidelines, however, do exist, and one of the most common uncertainties is what exactly to eat with cheese. Generally, we recommend eating cheese plain, or as plainly as possible, with an unobtrusive baguette or if need be, a mild, unassuming cracker. For the most part, baguette or bread is first choice, and only when something decent can't been found should one resort to a cracker.
But behold this mighty — and yes, elegant — cracker, "designed for cheese by people who know about cheese," or so states The Fine Cheese Company. Modest they may not be, but truthful they are. With a taste and texture unlike any other cracker we've yet to taste, the charcoal cracker makes possibly one of the more delightful vehicles for cheese.
These crackers are no white flour crackers. They're made with wheat and malt flour. The second ingredient listed is butter, which explains why the crackers have a buttery and tender crunch, almost flakey like pie dough. These are not crazy-crunchy, crackery-crackers, if you will. It follows that the company is English, as the crackers are more reminiscent of an English wholemeal biscuit: sweet, wheaty, and toothsome.
So from where does all this talk of charcoal come? Charcoal powder is listed as an ingredient, believe it or not, which explains the color... and also its particularly special taste? Unclear. Coming in at .8% of the content of each cracker, probably not.
There are other great cheeses by The Fine Cheese Company, too. While they recommend the charcoal with all cheeses, even including an extensive list of suggestions on the side of the box — Vacherin Mont D'Or, Manchego, Brie de Meaux, and Berkswell, to name a few — there are other specific cheese and cracker pairings that they urge, such as their celery crackers with blue cheese, red hot chili crackers with mature cheddar, and walnut oat crackers with goat cheese. Wow, what combos, sure to make even the most fervent baguette devotee privy to the lure of the humble cracker.
Fine Cheese Company crackers are available at specialty food stores and online at Wally's Wine for $4.99.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Nora Singley)