Sunday, August 19, 2012
Cheese trolleys, as I've discovered from previous exchanges, divide cheese lovers. There are those who think no restaurant worth its salt offers anything less than 30 cheeses and others of us (betraying my own preferences) that reckon there's no way most restaurants can keep even 20 in good condition.
But Le Pot d'Etain in L'Isle sur Serein can, it seems. Its cheese trolley - or rather tray - unfortunately snapped in the gloom of a low-lit dining room this week, was simply superb. It included the best Epoisses I've ever eaten (matured by Fromagerie Berthaut), full-flavoured but not overpowering and just ripe enough but not so runny as to form a pool of molten cheese on the plate, a perfect Soumaintrain and another Burgundian cheese whose name I didn't catch, washed in Chablis. Even better the cheese course didn't attract a supplement as it does almost everywhere else. It was tempting to dive in for more but I was already full of snails and rabbit.
I guess the locals love their cheese so there's no problem with sad cheeses left lingering and unloved on the trolley but I'm sure it's more that the proprietor has a long-standing relationship with his supplier, gets his cheeses delivered at exactly the right moment and - crucially - knows how to keep them that way.
Le Pot d'Etain also has a stupendous winelist with the best collection of Chablis I've ever seen. Oddly the bottle we were drinking - a 2007 La Forest Premier Cru from Vincent Dauvissat - wasn't as good as I'd expected with the cheese. I usually find white wines better than red with washed rind cheeses but these very ripe cheeses possibly needed a sweet wine or a marc de Bourgogne.
Oh, and they also serve the most gigantic gougères, pictured alongside some mini cheese and ham 'cakes' (what the French call the quichey sort of savoury loaf they serve with an aperitif). Cheese heaven.