National Cheese Lovers Day is a glorious day, which, although it isn’t a household name like some basic-bitch holidays I could name – *ahem* Thanksgiving – it brings just as much joy. All across our fair country, the huddled masses yearn to eat cheese, so they may better meet the demands of a land where the air hurts your face, like creating memes about living where the air hurts your face.
Like its preened elder sibling, Thanksgiving, National Cheese Lovers Day is a day to give thanks. And so we take to our traditional houses of worship for food holidays, Twitter and Instagram, and in the name of cheeses we have loved and lusted after (if you’ve never come across a sexy cheese, you probably aren’t eating enough), we preemptively confess to sins of lobster grilled cheese and truffle fondue that eagerly await committing.
It would be easy to recount my all-time favourite cheeses (a lot of Frenchies at the moment. I’m trying to diversify), the time-honoured standard celebration of National Cheese Lovers Day. But in the true spirit of the holiday – and to give Thanksgiving a run for its money – I want to shift the spotlight to what cheese loves. Cheese, which gives so much joy and nourishment (okay, mostly just joy, if it’s the really good stuff) and asks for nothing in return.
Except a recurring dalliance with honeycomb.
Honey is often paired with cheese, and for good reason. It’s rich without being overbearing, sweet, and just as lime juice or salt brings out the flavours in a dish, honey is the perfect partner to 99 per cent of cheeses (can’t completely close off the odds, just in case). Honeycomb is even better.
Honeycomb is, truly, cheese’s lover. Its chewiness is an interesting texture to play off any kind of cheese. If you’ve never tried it, it’s kind of like wax mixed with bubble gum and sugar crystals.
But the best advantage honeycomb has over plain’ ol honey from Pooh’s pot is that it forces you to uncover it in pockets. You can’t just dollop a blob of honey like it’s cheez-in-a-can directly onto your cheese when it’s parcelled into waxy hexagons, waiting to be discovered like sweet jewels buried in the tastiest puzzle pieces you’ve ever seen. And, let’s be honest, it’s just plain pretty.
You won’t find often find honeycomb at your friendly neighbourhood grocery store, but it’s easier to get your hands on than you’d think. If you don’t live near a specialty food market or store, you can sometimes find it at orchards, farms, or other little stores that tend to stock uncommon tasty accoutrements. It’s also pretty easy to track down online (here’s a resource for Ontarians). It isn’t that much more expensive than honey, either: I paid $10 for a 300g brick that has lasted me months.
Now, I clearly wasn’t going to pair my honeycomb with a carrot. It would be cruel to tempt cheese with honeycomb and not reunite them for a tryst.
I thought it was only appropriate that I pay homage to one of my favourite fromageries with my cheese choice: Alexis de Portneuf. I’ve never met a cheese of theirs I didn’t love. Bonus points that they’re Canadian, easily available in Toronto and pretty affordable for the quality. I wanted to try a new slice, and thought Le Double Joie was fitting for a cheese lovefest.
It scooped the gold medal in its category at the 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest (#nbd), as well as at the 2013 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. It’s a bloomy rind cheese that – as my boyfriend would delicately refer to it – has a definitive fart smell. You know the kind – looking at you, Louis D’Or.
The rind is bitter with strong mushroom flavours (and not your grandma’s button mushrooms, either), almost acrid without the bad rap, in that you can feel the mould’s bite in your nostrils – something I definitely notice more with aged goat cheeses than cow’s. But the centre is buttery, creamy but firm, and slightly elastic.
It’s an earthy cheese, which becomes more creamy when teamed with salty umami, like olives. But with the sweet, floral notes of honeycomb, Le Double Joie is, well, double the joy: like nature itself decided to dress up as a perfectly-balanced cheese pairing.
Happy National Cheese Lovers Day, and congratulations to the happy couple!