Name: Tomme de Lozère
Producer: Various (Lozère, France)
Milk: Raw Sheep
Age: 4-6 months
In America, the mantra of "buy local" is one we're just recently rediscovering. In France, however, it continues to be a way of life as it has been for generations. In fact, all fruit stands, no matter how small, invariably list the location where every item is from as a matter of course. This way, when choosing cheeses to bring home, rather than cart back famous cheeses made far from the area of the south of France where we were staying, I opted to "buy local" and stick to cheeses I hadn't seen back in the U.S.
Tomme de Lozère is produced solely in the department of Lozère (a department is similar in size to a county), located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Being a largely rural and mountainous area, filled with an abundance of sheep farms, it is natural that Lozère produces a variety of cheeses. In addition to Tomme de Lozère, both Bleu des Causses and Laguiole also originate from the area.
When young, the rind of this cheese is an ashen off-white. As it ages, the rind turns grey, and rust-red mottling occurs. The smell is only vagely musty, having just the hollow, lightly moldy smell of a basement rather than the full-blown ripeness of a cave. Despite the basement comparison, the odor is actually quite pleasant. Texturally, the cheese is soft, lush, and feels very decadent on the tongue, despite reportedly being made from semi-skimmed milk. The taste itself is very mild. I hesitate to use the word "snackable", but I find Tomme de Lozère to be the cheese equivilent of a table wine. Its buttery, sweet flavor only houses a hint of mushroom notes as it nears the rind, making it the perfect cheese to enjoy without much pomp and circumstance. The rind is edible and, I feel, adds to the overall flavor of the cheese, contributing an added complexity that is otherwise lacking.
I would be remiss if I didn't leave you with a recipe for aligot, a traditional dish of the region similar to very decadent mashed potatoes and made with any of a variety of their Tomme cheeses. Though some might be hard to find in this country, those looking to "buy local" can easily find a substitute. Bridgid's Abbey by Cato Corner Farm in CT would be excellent, as would the Thomasville Tomme, made by Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. Once you've found your local cheese, head over to the Too Many Chefs blog for an excellent recipe. For those in the Montpellier area, Tomme de Lozère is available from the very friendly folks at Fromagerie Puig (23 Rue St Guilhem, Montpellier) for €18,00/kilo.