Roquefort. The name itself invokes elegance, tradition and a taste that's austere and raucous all at the same time. This is helped by the fact that there are only seven producers of Roquefort in the world. It's like an exclusive club, except instead of a dark, steamy basement in Chelsea, it's a dark, humid cave in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.
The party has been going on for a while. With all of the upstart cheesemakers, particularly in the United States, it's a bit jarring to be munching on a cheese that has been made continuously since before the 8th century.
The Coulet family, one of the few who still add the mold by hand, haven't been in the business nearly that long; they only began in 1872. Kids these days, think they have all the answers. Less sharp than many other offerings (Vieux Berger, the brand Murray's carries, is significantly more acidic), Coulet is more of a creamy, briny and sweet offering with an incredibly rich and buttery mouth feel, letting the trademark spiciness play a more subtle role.
Though a big brassy red could certainly be enjoyed with it, I would opt for a fortified wine; Sherry over Port. Despite the many attempts out there to push it into a sauce, my attempts to cook with Roquefort of any type have ended in disaster. It's simply too spicy and, oddly, delicate. Cooking it, I found it simply devolved into spice and not much else. However, a nice Roquefort mousse lightly dolloped on pears would be classic heaven.
Roquefort is available at just about every cheese counter you can find. The most well know brands are Papillon and Société. The others include: Carles, Fromageries occitanes, Vernières and Le Vieux Berger, along with Coulet (available at Bedford Cheese Shop), which I mentioned here.
So who is your favorite Roquefort producer?