Napkin Notes: Queso Amazo


Sordid admission numberâ?¦well, never mind: I often cruise the cheese counter at Whole Foods for small portions of unusual examples I've never seen before. Yes, I know that Central Market has over 700 varieties, but you know what DeGaulle said about a country (his) producing that many fromages: It's ungovernable. The smaller selection is actually easier to cope withâ??and it's thoughtfully compiled. While doing the article on Luis Morales's Camberti, I came across a mention of a similar French cheese in the New York Times, the Hervé Mons Camembert. It was said to be carried by Whole Foods, and despite my certainty that it wouldn't be found locally, voila! They had it. Luis is a little less enthusiastic than I am, naturally, but I just bought my second, wood-encased round. $10.

This is a good cheese, but it's nothing out of the ordinaryâ??except in quality. Really out in left field is the Barely Buzzed wedge I recently purchased. It's basically a simple, nicely aged cow's milk cheese, but the kicker is the coating: coffee and lavender. Whoa, Nelly. You really can't just eat this cheese on a polite water wafer; it literally shrieks for wine.

Of course I had some. Many assertive wines, both red and white would do, but the 2008 Roero Arneis from Cantine dei Marchesi Incisa della Rochetta I had just picked up at Saglimbeni's (the producer was in town) proved every bit its equal. Lime peel, fig, green almondâ?¦this wine was anything but wimpy, brie-and-crackers white. (There are some California producers of arneis, but start first with the northern Italians.)

But equally of interestâ??with this and another Whole Foods find, the Tomme de Esplette, a sheep's milk cheese enhanced with pimenton chilesâ??was a red: the 2007 Juan Gil Jumilla. This is a beautiful, appropriately Spanish wineâ??big, plummy, plush and spicy, yet with a good, cheese-and-ham- friendly backbone. It's a steal at $18. Less on discounted weekends.

While I have your attention, I trust, I can't resist mentioning another white I just came across: the 20078 Beckmen Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley (Gabriel's at I 10 and Callaghan). Sauvignon blanc can so often be a breakfast bomb of grapefruit and grass (though, for all that, way more food friendly than many chardonnays), but this is unique from the moment you twist the screw top. White flowers, citrus peel, passion fruit (in spades) and maybe even a little ripe gooseberryâ??assuming you've had truck with gooseberriesâ??all come across in a total package that's immensely appealing. Maybe try it with the Hervé Mons: creamy versus tropical. Or with Luis's Cambertiâ??nutty played against floral. The trick is to try, regardless.

Ron Bechtol

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