I picked this cheese from the display because it looked particularly stinky and was oozing with delight, literally. When I asked the man behind the counter what it was called he said, "Vacherin" in a thick French accent. "Pardon?" I asked, "Vacherin? C'est correct." "Oui!" he replied, "Vacherin, comme le gateau." I was confused because the only time I ever heard this name was in pastry school when we were doing ice cream. As we learned, Vacherin (pronounced "Va-sure-uhn") is a type of ice cream cake consisting of layers of crispy meringue and ice cream then "frosted" with whipped cream and finished with more baked meringe. Delicious, of course, but a cheese?
This was made by one of my chefs, Chef Baccon, who added an almond crumble
in the center and decorated it with whipped cream polar bears.
The cheese did stink to high heaven. Like sweaty socks that had been left on a wet dog long enough to grow spores, it's scent permeated the room as soon as I took it out of it's plastic wrapping. It was surrounded by some brown material that looked at first to be beef jerky but what I later could only guess was a wooden wrapping that had gone rotten. I peeled it off with excitement.
The inside was as soft as melted brie and slide out onto the cutting board as it waited for me to prepare my chunk of bread which I tore off impatiently, eager to cut into this beauty of a dairy product. When people say something is smooth as butter what they really mean is smooth as Vacherin, because it spread with a delicate ease not fitting of its pungent odor.
This was a cheese to remember. It had a similar taste to brie but much, much stronger. There was a nice nutty base to it that lingered on my tongue and as I chewed on the bread and cheese I noticed other more complex flavors coming forward. A nice fermented flavor, like white wine, mingled with a sourness similar to what you might get from a vinegar. And the texture was divine! Why melt cheese when you can buy it already this soft?! And it taste's so good! However, it is apparently quite popular to use it as a fondue after it is baked inside it's wooden box. Something I look forward to trying myself.
Not for the mild tongued, Vacherin is definitely a strongly flavored cheese. I think it would be great paired with fresh figs or dried dates, something nice, chewy and sweet to compliment the nutty sour softness of the cheese. And remember, if you buy this cheese you should eat it all at once, other wise you'll asking yourself every day when you open the fridge, "What the hell died in here?"
*This is a very interesting link that goes into more detail about the history and making of Vacherin. I believe I had the raw cheese, French variety that had been aged for a shorter period due to it's softness.