Brie brie brie
June 1, 2006 9:23 AM   Subscribe

What's the taste difference French brie and the crap they send us?

I saw a yummy looking round of French Brie de Meaux at Monsieur Marcel during our recent LA trip and decided to grab some of that. Of course it's not "real" Brie de Meaux since it would have to be made with pasteurized milk to be sold here. So one wonders just how close it is to the French version. I've read many times that it's not even close, but that seems hard to believe. Hopefully I'll get over to France some day and taste the real thing. But for now that will have to wait.

My question is, for those who have tasted both, how close is the "Americanized" imported brie to the real thing, and what are the actual taste differences? Bonus question - For those who have also tasted the award winning American Rouge et Noir Brie, how does that compare to the French stuff?
posted by MrCheese!!! to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Import rules, pasteurization and aging and the like.
posted by voidcontext at 9:44 AM on June 1, 2006

They sell raw milk cheeses here in Berkeley- I think maybe even imported ones. Maybe you can find a French one at a specialty shop and do a tasting.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:45 AM on June 1, 2006

As far as taste goes, the few times I've had real french cheese I've been unfortunately under the sway of a bit too much real french wine to taste much difference ;)
posted by voidcontext at 9:46 AM on June 1, 2006

hmm. upon reading voidcontext's article, maybe the Cheeseboard's offerings fall under the "wink" category. Might be harder to find where you are.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:47 AM on June 1, 2006

The unpasteurized stuff tastes more...well, alive. Almost a tingle.

IMO, the high-end American-produced unpasteurized bries are excellent.

It's commonplace for better cheese shops to sell unpasteurized French brie to those who inquire with appropriate attitude (conspiratorial wink and wide-eyed innocent look required.) I understand that you can also buy it online, though a quick Google just got me umpty-zillion dire health warnings about the evil dangers of raw-milk cheese.
posted by desuetude at 10:03 AM on June 1, 2006

It's like the difference between standard supermarket extra virgin olive oil, and a high-end artisanal. It's vaguely the same, but the mouthfeel is richer, and the taste is more nuanced.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:30 AM on June 1, 2006

Psssst! Wanna buy some cheese?

It's starting. The conversational ellipses followed abruptly by the conversational italics.

"Give me something...unique."

"I'm in the market for something...different."

"Show me something...interesting."

All of this is accompanied by Jazzercising brow wiggles, dramatic eye bugging, and a whole lotta nudge-nudge-wink-winking. "Crap -- did someone write an article about illegal cheeses again?" a fellow cheesemonger mutters to me.

posted by occhiblu at 10:32 AM on June 1, 2006

French brie straight out of the 'fridge tastes like American cheese straight out of the fridge, but you should never eat brie that way. If you let both cheeses sit out for an hour at room temperature, the French one will get stinkier and richer. The flavor of the American one stays about the same.
posted by hazyjane at 10:55 AM on June 1, 2006

And the French don't refrigerate it in the first place.
posted by occhiblu at 11:03 AM on June 1, 2006

Why the ban? Listeriosis.
posted by meehawl at 11:29 AM on June 1, 2006

My favorite Frenchman writes the following (and he's never tasted US brie):

Many people think Brie is an easy cheese but it is actualy one of strongest smelliest cheese you can find around. I don't know how french make sure how the name is used on products you can find in US but i can tell you a pasteurized non tsmelly cheese you put in the fridge is not what we call Brie.

Check out any "proper" french cheese shop and you will see no refregirator around, just cheese.

Ok, after this extremist point of view, i have to admit i keep my french cheese in a french refregirator in my french appartment. That's just to slow down the maturation and make sure i can keep it long. When served i take it out (whatever the cheese) at least ne to two hours before serving (i.e. at "aperitif time")
posted by hazyjane at 2:44 PM on June 1, 2006

Well, the "legal" Brie de Meaux we got was indeed smelly. So I don't think smelly vs non-smelly is the difference. I know much of the MegaMart brie has little to do a real AOC brie, but that's obvious enough that I'm not too worried about it.

One of these days I'll try to wink my way into some illegal brie and write an article about it. But for now I think it's comforting that no one has stepped up to express the opinion that "legal" Brie de Meaux is crap compared to what I'd get in France.

Thanks all for the answers. Much good information. Much appreciated.
posted by MrCheese!!! at 3:28 PM on June 1, 2006

Just a couple of further comments: you can buy pasteurized cheeses in France; most "industrial" cheese (as the French call it), including many Camemberts, are pasteurized. And French people do keep their cheeses in the fridge, they just take them out a couple hours before they intend to serve them so they warm up to the proper temperature. It's possible to find dreadful cheese in France. (I lived there for a year, and I was much happier once I found a reliable fromager.)

"Brie de Meaux" is not a brand, by the way. It means a kind of cheese (brie) made in the region of Meaux, a city to the east of Paris. Saying that pasteurized brie de Meaux is bad would be like saying that New York cheddar is bad. It depends on the producer, though the unpasteurized version is definitely better.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:03 PM on June 1, 2006

And the French don't refrigerate it in the first place.

Don't like cheese, but my g/f sure has me store hers in the fridge... The stink ruins most of my snacking prodding in it. I'm too thin.
posted by XiBe at 5:10 AM on June 2, 2006

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