Welcome back to CODY'S WORLD OF CHEESE, where our resident cheesemonger Cody Reiss explains what funky fromages you should definitely be eating.
When someone asks me to recommend a Brie, my first question is always: “Do you want it to taste like butter or broccoli?”
At this, most people twist up a sly smile, take a quick look around, lean in, and whisper, “Hehe, butter.” This answer immediately tells me two things: 1. People naughty as hell, and 2. This person actually wants a Brie-like-cheese—something soft, buttery, and mild, a so-called “party-pleaser”—rather than the more aggressive, traditional French-style Bries. The truth is, real Brie smells like cabbage farts and tastes like a lukewarm bowl of steamed cauliflower mixed with Marie Callender’s potato-cheese soup.
If that sounds like your kind of thing, you probably would have enjoyed my Bar Mitzvah after-party. You’d also love this week’s squishy little stank button, an American take on a French Brie: Moses Sleeper.
Traditional French Brie is a soft, bloomy rind cheese that’s made from raw cow’s milk and usually aged for under two months. Like many bloomy rinds (and my ass), it comes equipped with a snowy white surface and a soft, pale yellow interior. Taste-wise, Bries are often vegetal, earthy, and farty—you can expect deep flavors reminiscent of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc). While there are many cheeses like Brie (Camembert, for example, which shares similar flavors but differs in its place of origin, size, and method of production), there are only two Bries recognized by France’s agricultural regulatory agency, AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée): Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. Like many French cheeses, these two are named after the cities in which they’re made, both of which happen to be just a short Segway ride outside of Paris. Due to wack-ass American regulations on raw milk cheeses, though, it’s very rare to find either in America; often times, the closest available substitutions are Brie-like-cheeses, of which, one of my favorites is Moses Sleeper.
Approaching a new cheese is like getting to know a new lover: It takes tender patience, attention to detail, and it’s always important to ask before you give them the first little kisses.
Moses Sleeper is a Brie-style cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk, and one of many super dank cheeses produced by Jasper Hill in Vermont. Modeled after French Bries, and most reminiscent of an older, smaller cousin of Brie called Coulommiers, this stinky little party-stopper could easily sneak by in a French cheese case. It’s also named after a Revolutionary War scout who, alongside a comrade who somehow had an even sillier name (Constant Bliss), died defending Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. I know what you’re thinking: “This feels like history class, and now I hate you.” OK, I hear you—let’s run this cheese through the full Sensory Snarf Test.
Approaching a new cheese is like getting to know a new lover: It takes tender patience, attention to detail, and it’s always important to ask before you give them the first little kisses. In either case, I always follow the 4 S’s of the Sensory Snarf Test: Scope, Squish, Sniff, and Smash. (For new lovers, there is also a C for consent between scope and squish—end analogy).
First, I scope: What does this cheese look like? Moses Sleeper shares its size and appearance with a personal pan pizza that has mostly grown over with fuzzy white mold. Next, squish: Break or slice it open to peep the insides, scope the texture, and release new volatile aroma compounds (also known as secret smells). I like to pull this pudgy boy apart with my big, sweaty sausage fingers, watching the interior stretch to maximum gloop before tearing off into jagged little nuglets. The texture is sticky, pliant, and BENDY, and, at room temperature, its vanilla ice cream-colored insides achieve a “cheese pull” of which any grilled cheese or Instagram goblin would be envious. Inside, you’ll also notice the occasional tiny hole, or “eye,” which is said to be a peep hole through which the perverted ghost of Moses Sleeper watches all that consume him.
Moses Sleeper delivers bumps of cultured butter, the synthetic butteriness of the popcorn-flavored Jelly Belly, and warm string cheese.
OK, we’ve scoped and smushed; now it’s time to smell and snarf. I’m obligated by journalistic ethics to tell you that almost every person I asked to smell and describe this cheese said it smelled of “semen” or some variant thereof. I cannot vouch for this, as I’ve never smelt the stuff, but my own personal olfactory castle gets more of a Little League dugout vibe, the mixture of dirt and chalk, sweat seeping out of those elastic white pants. Other times I get fresh shiitake mushrooms wrapped in a damp, moldy towel. Upon entering the teeth bag, the first flavor sensation is actually quite buttery—but unlike the cold, unsalted butter flavors of mild Brie-like-cheeses, Moses Sleeper delivers bumps of cultured butter, the synthetic butteriness of the popcorn-flavored Jelly Belly, and warm string cheese. As you mash it around your mouth, this little squished out smusher starts to deliver on the brassica vibes—steamed cauliflower, buttered asparagus, and a light, bitter, white mushroom feel from the rind. It’s like a healthy dinner, but with less prep and more cholesterol.
In terms of pairing, consider two possible routes: “like-with-like” and “opposites attract.” For the former, try treating this glumpy stumpkin like a baked potato, piling it high with all the fixin’s and popping it in the oven, serving it warm and gloopy alongside an earthy red or nutty amber ale. For the latter, add some “zip” (please kill me) by pairing it with tart and sweet fruits—strawberries, apples, grapes, pears—and a juicy natural wine or floral IPA. As I write this, I’m enjoying it with Marcona almonds, dried cherries, and some bourbon I infused with peach. Either way, the creamy texture is begging to be cut by some bubbly effervescence, and I’m begging to be invited to your next dinner party. Hahaha… Please?
If you like Moses Sleeper but have too many felonies to get to France and try true Brie, look for something similarly farty, like a “Brie fermier,” or simply reply “broccoli” to your cheesemonger’s questions. If you’re feeling naughty and looking for a decadent cream castle (no judgment), peep a double crème like Fromage D’Affinois or a triple crème like Crémeux de Bourgogne.
No matter what kind of Brie-like-cheese you’re smashing, remember to always bring it (and any cheese) to room temperature before you plan to serve it. Flavors will bloom, texture will reach peak sickness, and savory blessings will rain down from the heavens.
Cody Reiss is a comedian, cook, and cheesemonger at Murray’s Cheese in New York City. He has made cheeses at home and on farms in Brazil and New York, and has traveled to more than 35 different countries, sampling over 350 different cheeses along the way. You can follow him on Instagram at @codyreiss.