Brie - The best of rinds & the worst of rinds
Seems that folks disagree on Brie. I mean do you eat the rind or not?
Pro: Call these folks what they are -“Bark Eaters”. These are the people who cradle a wedge of Brie de Meaux (on cheesepaper) in their hands as if it were a slice of warm New York pizza. Not any New York pizza, but a V & T Pizza. Wait a minute - you have not had their pizza? Oy - you need to go. Get a whole pie, a bottle of wine and expect to be treated like family - somewhat brusque. Like I was saying, for Bark Eaters, experiencing the rind is like a religion. Sidenote, V&T is next to St. John’s the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue in New York’s Upper West Side.
Yes, Bark Eaters will hold (often intense) cheese under their nostrils and inhale deeply to collect all of the rind’s aromas; forest floor (peaty, loam), crimini mushroom, a whisper of ammonia are collectively inhaled deeply to yield….fluttering eyelids and widening smiles. For bark eaters it’s about as good as it gets. Even so, the crumbly and stronger tasting rind is best paired with the pate (or center) of the cheese. The contrast of the silky component makes eating a brie a nearly symphonic collection of flavorful and contrasting notes.
Con: Rind? You mean the damp, matted construction paper-like exterior that is meant to be peeled off and disposed of? People eat that? That‘s crazy! Indeed, followers of the good life and lovers of luxury can’t wait to dig the buttery pliant cheese out of the center. In their view, discarding the nasty exterior can’t happen soon enough. Good riddance. At parties they will be the ones attacking Brie. Attacking it like a cat who’s just learned to use a can opener targeting a a tin of tuna. In their wake they leave brie rind on cheese platters peeled back and exposed like an emptied tin of tuna. There’s nothing that’s going to stop them from delicious creamy curds that spread like butter on everything. Oh, when Brie served like that it is best enjoyed with champagne.
To some limited extent, both points of view are correct. Consider first, that all legally obtained Brie in this country is pasteurized. Accordingly, the recipe is different in taste than a raw milk version of the same Brie sourced in France. This does impact how a cheese rind tastes (usually not for the better). Similarly, some “Brie” rinds are fake. Fake as in they are not “grown” geotrichum mold surfaces, but rather sprayed on milk powder to mimic the appearance of the real thing. These never taste good. To spot these imposters look for an edge on a cut wedge that is too perfect - like it’s been…..airbrushed.
Ripe and real brie can be very messy and look like Dr. Banner as he’s transforming into The Hulk - basically the cheese is trying to escape its own wrap. Generally speaking, look at your cheese wedge seeking a defined creamline underneath the rind (darker tone/ higher moisture).
Admittedly, at the end of the day what to do with the rind is a personal choice. That said, I am not one to “‘dis a Brie” and will be eating the whole thing. With champagne and maybe some truffles? Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, Happy Kwanza everyone!