What better cheese in the world to celebrate National Cheese Day than Époisses, officially christened the “world’s smelliest cheese” in 2004?

With its rich orangy-red rind and oozy, stinky, gooey, creamy texture, there’s just nothing like it (here’s a picture courtesy of Wiki – doesn’t it look delicious?). You have to be careful with Époisses, though. Once it tips over the edge of perfectly, pungently ripe, it’s just darned gross. Jim and I brought a wedge of it camping once. The heat of the summer tipped it over the edge faster than we were expecting. We cleared the campsite.

Époisses…isn’t that the cheese you can die from?”

Ummm… not quite. For once and for all, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to lay that particularly nasty myth to rest. Perhaps if I’m successful, our government will quit regulating the crap out of the raw milk industry and let us enjoy cheese (at least some cheese) as it’s meant to be enjoyed (and milk for that matter, although I know Della disagrees with me that people are smart enough and responsible enough to be trusted with raw milk.  * sigh *).

Here’s the deal with Époisses. Yes, some people in France died of listeriosis in 1999. The outbreak was traced back to an Époisses Époisses was subsequently labelled the “killer cheese” and North American governments banned its raw milk form.

But (and here’s the kicker): the Époisses that made everyone sick was pasteurized. Yep, you heard it here. The issue was not the milk, raw or not, but the grossly unclean equipment.  As Taras Grescoe reports in The Devil’s Picnic:

It came from the Fromagerie de l’Armançon, a factory on the outskirts of the village, one that had repeatedly been accused of violating sanitary norms. On the same day the news of the listeriosis crisis broke, the factory was condemned by a court in Dijon for making a counterfeit Époisses, sold on the cheap and artificially tinted red with a colorant.

So there you have it folks. I was on a mission to share Époisses with a duly un-warned friend. Alack, no such friend was available on this fine June evening, at least not one willing to head over to Corner Suite Bistro, the only licensed establishment in Vancouver I know of that serves Époisses and wine at the same time. [Or you could pick up a wedge at les amis du FROMAGE and enjoy it in the privacy of your home with a giant, earthy red. Just don’t expect your house to smell all that great for a while.]

Instead, my dear friend Karen persuaded me to head over The Public, one of my neighbourhood favourites. Lucky for us, they were showcasing a brand new menu tonight (and the new bartender was a tasty-looking treat, too). The new menu isn’t up on the website yet; you’ll have to trust me and check it out. In celebration of cheese day, we shared a perfect, creamy gorgonzola; an “Ivanhoe vintage white cheddar”; and the “Chevre chaud” (breaded and sautéed).


The gorgonzola is sort of hidden behind the cheddar. The chevre chaud hadn't made its way to the table yet.

It was divine.

~ Eva