L’Etivaz: the cream of the crop

If someone put a gun to my head and said “name your favorite cheese,” the first thing that would come to mind is L’Etivaz, a true alpine beauty. This ain’t your mother’s Gruyere; you can thank your Swiss great grandmother for this baby. To make a long story short, in the 1930s, a group of Gruyere-producing families believed that the new factorized Gruyere industry was compromising the full flavors and potential of the cheese in order to manufacture as much Gruyere as possible. Because of this, they dropped out of the government program and began their own cheese: L’Etivaz. This 60-pound wheel of raw cow’s milk cheese is made the same way Gruyere was made a hundred years ago, using only the summer milk of cows and cooking the milk in a copper kettle over a wooden flame. Talk about old school…

This arduous process leads to a cheese that is to die for. It only comes out once a year (at Murray’s Cheese in New York), due to the aging process taking 12-18 months for the flavors in the cheese to fully develop. Once ripe and ready to go, L’Etivaz has a nice yellow tint and is teeming with complex rich flavors. At first, you won’t be able to put your finger on the exact flavors circulating through your mouth. But after the smooth linger of the creamy paste, you will notice the smoky, sweet, fruity and floral notes in this cheese. It’s kind of like a cheese version of an Everlasting Gobstopper: it starts off with some deep smoky, bacon-y flavors and finishes off with a sweet, fruity linger. This is a cheese you have to try or, like me, purchase three lbs. of when it’s in season.

Some Beer Pairings with this Wedge of Heaven

• Orval Trappist Ale

• Brooklyn Local 1

• Allagash Tripel

• Rochefort Trappistes 10

• Victory Golden Monkey

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