The Cheesemonger: Muracciole / Le Petit Nîmois

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Name: Muracciole / Le Petit Nîmois
Producer: Various (France)
Milk: Raw Sheep / Raw Goat
Age: 1-2 months / 2 weeks+
Price: €36,08/kilo / €4,60 ea.

From Paris, France to Brooklyn, New York, I am back in my borough, full of fromage and ready to regale you with the information I gleaned during my 10 days wandering the fromageries of France. This week, I am going for a double-header: two cheeses in one article. Expect the French celebration to continue in the weeks to come, with more cheese reviews as well as reviews of my favorite Parisian fromageries. This week I’ll be covering two very different cheeses: Muracciole and Le Petit Nîmois.

My reference books leave me a little out of the loop on these cheeses (after all, I did buy cheeses based on their obscurity), but I’ll tell you what I know. Muracciole (pictured above) is produced in the Corsican village of the same name. Approximately the size of a wheel of Camembert, Muracciole has a chestnut brown rind, rough and covered in crosshatching grooves. The interior was firm and lightly pressed with a bit of a dry texture. It smelled lightly earthy and smoky and the taste was full and nutty. It reminded me a little of the sheep cheeses of the Pyrenees, except with a little more of a hay flavor and less sweet. This is not surprising, considering how mountainous Corsica
is. Muracciole is available from Marie-Anne Cantin in Paris for €36,08 a kilo.

Le Petit Nîmois (which roughly translates to "the small person from Nimes") shattered what I thought an ash covered goat cheese should taste like. The fact that the cheese was perfectly ripe and oozing all over the place didn’t hurt my opinion either. Smaller than its more popular cousin, Selles sur Cher, it had a rippled rind that had turned a bluish gray with age. It smelled of brine and lightly of grass and dandelions. The taste was enough to turn me from imported offerings forever. It was like sweetened cream, but lightly spicy, with only a trace of that bitterness that often dominates ash covered rinds. Too soft to cut into pieces, to eat it, we simply dipped into it with a chunk of baguette. Le Petit Nîmois is available for €4,60 at Androuët’s in Paris. They also have a wide selection of other ash covered goat cheeses for your enjoyment.

For pairing each of these cheeses, simplicity is key. I enjoyed them both with simply a baguette and some fresh fruit. That said, the Muracciole would make an excellent cheese to finish off a meal, perhaps along with some fig and walnut confit (available all over Paris) or with a bottle of Normandy Cider. On the other hand, Le Petit Nîmois would go well with a sweeter Sauvignon Blanc, which just so happens to be very prevelent in the région where the cheese gets its name (Languedoc-Roussillon).