It seemed nearly impossible, looking at all our past posts, that we haven't covered this cheese before. When I worked at a cheese store with hundreds of choices, it was consistently one of the only cheeses that I'd actually buy and bring home. (And if you have trouble remembering the name, just think of one of a pretty easy-to-remember movie star. The cheese's name is pronounced Tom Cray-oooze.)
First things first: A "tomme" refers only to the fact that it's a small round of cheese. It's a pretty generic term for a family of cheeses that can be of various styles and milk types. Normally, though, you'll find that traditional tommes are from France, and even more specifically, Savoie. Not surprisingly, perhaps the most famous tomme of all is Tomme de Savoie.
It's from the Savoie where Tomme Crayeuse hails, but it's more refined, with rounder, creamier, subtler flavors than Tomme de Savoie. "Crayeuse" means "chalky" in French, which we can't figure out, since its semi-soft texture is anything but. What accompanies each slice is rather the intensity and creaminess of a really ripe, good quality brie, and an earthiness that comes from its natural rind and the fact that it's cave-aged. The aromas that come from the cheese are all intrigue: it's like a damp earth, straw, and butter, all in one whiff.
Both pasteurized and raw versions are available, but choose the raw if you have a choice. We tasted a pasteurized one just this week, and it didn't have the same complexity as raw versions. Try the cheese with a simple bread that won't obscure its flavor and an oxidized white or a well-balanced Chardonnay and you'll have a simple yet robust pre-dinner spread... no pun intended.
The best version of the cheese will come from the affineur Herve Mons, which you can find at Whole Foods for $15.99/lb.
• Find it! Tomme Crayeuse, $10.50 for 1/2 pound at Formaggio Kitchen
(Images: Formaggio Kitchen; Dedrick's Cheese)