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Le Sieur de Duplessis: A complex, earthy New Brunswick cheese

Seduced by the French countryside while living in Paris in the 1980s, Monique Roussel and her husband, André Martineau, decided to pursue the pastoral dream. When they returned to Canada, the couple eventually abandoned city life and bought a farm in New Brunswick. In 1998, they imported their first sheep from Holland and the next year, La Bergerie Aux 4 Vents began small-scale production of their first cheese, Le Sieur de Duplessis. Today, La Bergerie Aux 4 Vents produces seven different cheeses, made from sheep's, cow's and goat's milk, sourced from their own farm or local suppliers.

Named after the lord who once lived on the seigneury that existed where the farm now stands, Le Sieur de Duplessis is made using techniques Ms. Roussel learned while studying cheese making in Florac, France. Ms. Roussel, who admits she loves sheep, focused her interest initially on sheep's milk cheeses, at that time not as common in this country. Le Sieur de Duplessis became the first "tomme-style" cheese made in Canada.

Traditionally, "tomme-style" refers to medium-sized rustic cheeses, often made in the mountains during times when there was not enough milk to make a large cheese (such as during winter months). Today, tomme-style cheese is recognized by its round shape and natural rind that develops during aging.

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Le Sieur de Duplessis is a pressed cheese that is soaked in brine for about 12 hours after being formed. The cheese is brine-washed by hand every two days in the first few months of ripening to encourage rind development. Aging usually lasts anywhere from three to nine months.

The golden-brown rind surrounds a pale gold, dense paste.

Depending on age, the texture can range from a firmer, crumblier feel to a soft body. Aging also strengthens the cheese's aroma from earthy and milky to a sharper, barnyardy scent. The flavour of the sheep's milk comes through in its sweet nuttiness, a taste Ms. Roussel likens to almonds. The finish is rich and lasting, leaving a savoury, almost meaty flavour on the tongue.

Le Sieur de Duplessis makes an interesting addition to any cheeseboard. Splurge on some Medjool dates for a great after-dinner match.

Rather than cutting it into thicker pieces, shave it with a cheese slicer and let the thin morsels dissolve on your tongue to appreciate the complex flavour as you sit back and enjoy la belle vie.

On the block

Cheese Le Sieur de Duplessis

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Origin Champ Doré, N.B.

(near Sainte-Marie-de-Kent)

Producer La Bergerie Aux

4 Vents

Cheese makers Monique

Roussel, André Martineau

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Milk Raw sheep's milk,

Dorset and East Friesian breeds

Type Semi-firm, pressed,

with a natural, brine-washed rind

Shape 3-kilogram wheel

Food matches With Medjool dates, or sliced on top of a salad or seasonal fresh greens such as asparagus

Notes For people who have

trouble digesting cow's milk,

a sheep's milk cheese may be

one solution. Though lactose

levels are similar, the structure of the milk differs and is more easily tolerated by the digestive system.

Available This cheese may not be available all year round. A new batch is now coming into the market. Talk to your cheesemonger.

Toronto: Cheese Boutique, About Cheese, Whole Foods

Calgary: Janice Beaton

Fine Cheese

Vancouver: Les Amis du

Fromage

Moncton: Les Gourmandes

More information Monique Roussel: 506-525-9633.

Sue Riedl

Sue Riedl is part of the pastry team at Toronto's C5 restaurant.

Beppi's wine matches

Even if you're normally put off by sweetness in a wine, try to put that aversion to rest when pairing this earthy, meaty, barnyardy, nutty treat. The saltiness and tang here will marry nicely with an off-dry or even fairly sweet riesling, either from Ontario or Germany. Or if you insist on a dry wine and can locate a white Rioja, this is a great excuse to explore one of the world's most underappreciated wines, a superdry, exceptionally nutty wine that is often aged several years before it is released.

Beppi Crosariol

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About the Author

Sue Riedl worked for 12 years in the Toronto film industry where her culinary passion was ignited while consuming countless unhealthy snacks off the craft service table. More

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