So there Steve and I were, strolling down the Champs-Elysées after a strenuous climb up the interior steps of the Arc de Triomphe, hungry for a little lunch. If that was not an obnoxious sentence I don’t know what is. Sorry! But we WERE in Paris, and it WAS time to get a bite to eat. Anyway, we stopped in a little café and scanned the menu. We had dinner plans, so we needed to eat light. The cheese and baguette plate caught our eyes—just the thing with a glass of Beaujolais! I don’t know what I was picturing, but what came out of the kitchen was a masterpiece of understated deliciousness. The bread was fresh from the oven and incredible, but it was the cheese that played the starring role. Our hands-down favorite was Cantal. I made a note to pick some up at Shop N Bag back home, and Cantal cheese came to stand in my mind for the best of simple French food.
Fast forward to back home. As I read more of the history of this cheese, I grew ever more eager to buy and enjoy it again. Cantal is one of the oldest cheeses in the world, made as early as 200 AD. It is semi-hard (not Brie, in other words), but not rock-hard either. It tastes like Cheddar taken to new heights. It melts very well, so it’s wonderful for cooking. But where was it sold? I looked in vain in all the local supermarkets and cheese shops. No one had even heard of it.
As it so often is, the internet was my friend, and revealed that Cantal is sold at Di Bruno Brothers, with several Philadelphia locations. Since we’ve been back in the US, I have bought many pounds of this luscious cheese. It is fabulous on its own, and equally great in recipes (I just made a savory Cantal tart that was out of this world). But, even as I eat it, I wonder: is the cheese that amazing, or was it the thrill of the chase? Had Cantal been readily available everywhere, would it still have had that intense appeal? Not sure.
I have always had a thing for items that play hard to get. Rare books: I spent years looking for a cookbook illustrated by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec that I had first seen while babysitting at the book owner’s house as a teenager. Unusual music: I logged many miles years ago, roaming through record stores seeking cabaret singer Blossom Dearie’s recordings. But the thing is, it’s all too easy now. A quick Google search unearths the whereabouts of absolutely everything in a snap. And, with the almighty Amazon Prime, I can get everything by tomorrow!
That said, while I do love the thrill of the chase, I fear I have become so used to instant gratification that there’s no turning back. I’m in the mood for a Blossom Dearie tune and a Cantal sandwich! Bring them to me NOW!