This is Day Six of New Products Week.
This was the feature cheese of the month for May, at $9.99/pound. See Trader Joe's introduction to it here.
I knew nothing about this cheese when I brought it home. I tossed it in the fridge and didn't think anything more of it for a couple of weeks.
Then I started noticing that something smelled bad in my refrigerator. Since I'm a lazy old bachelor, this is not a particularly surprising condition. It means that something got shoved to the back of a shelf and forgotten for way too long. I poked around, though not especially carefully, not finding any culprit, so I ignored the problem for a while more.
Around the same time, I started seeing people on Twitter mention how this St. Nectaire cheese was the smelliest cheese they had ever had--and finally it dawned on me that there might be a connection between these two things.
Well, last night it was time to try this cheese as an appetizer for my weekly dinner with Nina. I opened the plastic wrapping and set it free.
Oh. Em. Gee. No kidding, you can smell it from across the room. And it's not a pleasant smell. TJ's says it's "aromatic of straw and mushrooms." No. It's stinky toejam. It's unwashed feet, the inside of old gym shoes.
However, the Twitter people were also saying that the cheese is delicious in spite of the smell, so I did my best not to let the aroma put me off--to no avail. I couldn't like it. The smell was just too much. The cheese itself is bitter--maybe a little less bitter if you're careful to remove the rind, but still too bitter for me to enjoy. It's also too soft to slice nicely (TJ's calls it "semi-soft," which I guess is accurate, since it's not really brie-soft).
I'll confess that the problem here might be me, that my palate just isn't sophisticated enough for a cheese this exotic. But after two chunks of it on Triscuit crackers, I was done. The rest is going back to the store for a refund.
Will I buy it again?
Okay, this definitely falls into the category of "acquired taste." It is strong and distinctive, and will definitely not appeal to everyone.
I'm pretty sure that I could acquire the taste for this cheese. But I won't, for the simple reason that I'm never buying it (because: dairy) and will thus probably not have the opportunity of prolonged and/or repeated exposure to it.