BH's Old Europe Cheese: The first solid food of the new year turned out to be an excellent new brie that Francois Capt, a fourth generation cheesemaker from Normandy, is now producing in Benton Harbor exclusively for Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's cheesemaker designation was a no-brainer: Capt's double and triple cream Reny Picot Bries have won numerous national and international awards. Capt is the general manager and master cheesemaker in charge of Old Europe, a 50,000 square foot former dairy in Benton Harbor, Michigan brought to life as a cheese factory by a Spanish company back in 1987.
Old Europe now ships more than 6 million pounds of cheese each year and has 110 employees. Edam, Gouda, Manchego and Camembert---Reny Picot Camembert has been a choice sold through the Williams-Sonoma catalogue in recent years---are flavorful and popular company staples, but this year the line was further diversified to include Camembert Fermier, a traditional product of Normandy, France, made through a complex process that includes a long coagulation, two milk maturation periods and a 15-day curation. Carre St. Joseph is Reny Picot version of a “Pont-L'Eveque,” traditional cheese first produced from 100% cow's milk about 1000 years ago. It's pretty easy to see why the company ships tons of Gouda and Edam, the cheeses are so rich and delicious and the new smoked Gouda has a nice edge. But I love Manchego cheese, which Old Europe recommends for after-dinner dry wine pairing. Maybe it's because of the Spanish origins or maybe it's just me, but the Manchego cheese shipped from Benton Harbor is just astonishingly delicious to eat. And I don't think I could wait until dessert if I didn't absolutely have to. Given my preference, I would probably just skip the meal and eat the cheese.For more on Reny Picot check out this story.