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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Vacherin Adventure

Ever since I read about this seasonal cheese called Vacherin Mont d'Or, in Susan Herrmann Loomis' book "On Rue Tatin" (, I have been in its pursuit.  It is a Swiss cheese that is made only in the winter months (September through April), and is mostly consumed with fruits, right out of its box, at the end of a meal.  In the USA, this cheese has to be especially ordered, yet the true Mont d'Or is not really available as it is made with raw milk.  I looked and looked for it online, and found the closest counterpart through (, but at the time, it was out of stock.  I left my email address in order to be notified when it will be available and months later I received a notification that it had finally arrived.  So naturally, I ordered it right away.  

It was to be delivered the next day, via FeDex in insulated packaging, as the cheese is highly perishable.  Just in case no one was home to receive it, I left a note on the door requesting that the package be left underneath my floor mat.  But as Murphy's Law claims that everything that could go wrong definitely will, the package arrived, and the driver utterly ignored my note.  He simply scheduled the package for re-delivery - the next day.

When I checked delivery status of my coveted cheese online and saw the red letters DELIVERY EXCEPTION, I first panicked, then I immediately contacted Fedex.  The first lady I spoke with was very understanding, and stated she would send a notification to the driver to actually re-deliver the package that same day and leave it at the doorstep, as my note requested.  Although I trusted her good intentions, I didn't trust his.  So after about an hour I called again.  Same story, with another lady.  I even called one of my neighbors to be on the lookout for said package and stuff it in her fridge until I arrived home.  But yet another hour later there were still no signs of my Vacherin.  

I called Fedex for yet a third time.  This time a gentleman, Art, actually placed me on hold several times until he was able to establish direct contact with the driver and told him that the package was perishable and needed to be delivered PRONTO.  When he came back on the phone, he assured me the driver would re-deliver no later than half past six that afternoon.  I arrived home at twenty past six.  When twenty to seven hit the clock, I called Fedex a fourth time.  The agent this time did not offer a good prognosis: the driver would stop by again, if it fit his schedule.

“What!!!!  Don't you understand it is a perishable item.  I MUST have it today!!", I screeched, my desperation alarming even myself.  The Fedex rep got noticeably annoyed at me, but I persisted.  In the end, he assured me that yes, by all means, the driver would DEFINITELY stop by momentarily.

About half an hour later, I had my Petit Sapin - alter ego to the Vacherin Mont d'Or - after a very stressful afternoon.  When I opened it, I noticed it looked pretty much like a Camembert - at least it was packaged in the same way.  But as I tried to cut into it, I noticed its creaminess and how it would not hold within its rind as a Camembert would.  This is obviously the reason why the Swiss eat it right off its wooden box, spooning it out as they go.  The cheese is also wrapped around spruce bark leaves, which give it a very earthy, yet subtle flavor, reminding us that the cheese is indeed produced in Alpine conditions.

One of the best ways to have these cheese is with a glass
of chilled white port.  Make a few slits on top of the cheese
and insert some slivers of 
garlic.  Top with some port and bake
in its box in the oven at 320F for half and hour.  Eat with a
fresh baguette.

I have found it goes very well with raspberries, which are tart, yet unobtrusive in flavor, and some sweet digestif biscuits.  Some connoisseurs use it to make fondue, or even as a fondue in itself.  To enjoy it so, just place the whole cheese in the oven for a few minutes and it will melt deliciously inside.  Bring it out, and be ready with some sliced apples, pears, peaches and, last but not least, bread, and you will have a fantastic, elegant snack to share with your friends.  Either a soft Riesling or a nice Rosé will go wonderfully with this cheese.

The first time I visited Paris, I was able to obtain the true Vacherin Mont d'Or at Lafayette Gourmet.  Although it looked very much like its American wanna-be, the French version was, not surprisingly, creamier, and eating it with piece of crusty baguette and and glass of wine made for a delightful evening in front of the television.   

     Whether you decide to get the American version or the French one (undoubtedly the best), make sure you consume your Vacherin within a week.  It shouldn't be hard.     

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