No one can say the West Coast doesn't have it all. The mountains, the ocean, and now pyramids. La Pyramide to be exact.
This firm goat's milk cheese from The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, B.C., is shaped like the triangular Egyptian masterpiece - with the top lopped off. Once you experience La Pyramide's sophisticated, smooth flavour, you'll be wishing you had the missing piece, too.
The exterior of the cheese is dusted in ash whose dark grey tones mix with the white mould rind and give La Pyramide a delicately textured, ancient appearance. On looks alone, this stately polygon makes a cheese board photo-worthy.
Slicing into the dense paste, you discover a pale white interior with a ripe edge at the thin, delicate rind. The flavour is mild and tangy when it first hits the palate. This acidity is balanced by a creaminess that transforms potentially tart flavours into the sweeter zing you might find in lemon shortbread.
Providing a perfect contrast, the rind is slightly sharp and salty. Most impressive are the lingering and complex notes that continue to develop long after the cheese has melted in your mouth.
La Pyramide is modelled after the AOC French cheese Valençay, which originates in France's Loire Valley. And you can blame Napoleon for the absentee peak on the cheese. The story goes that the emperor, upon his return from an unsuccessful Egyptian campaign, became enraged when he saw the pyramid-shaped cheese and sliced the top off.
This B.C. cheese is made with cultures that originate from France to provide authentic flavour. These are added to the pasteurized milk, which is allowed to ripen at a low temperature for about 20 hours. This gradual ripening allows the lactic bacterial cultures to develop slowly, encouraging lots of flavour development. Then the curd, cut in slivers (allowing for more moisture release) is hand-ladled into the moulds and left to drain for 48 hours.
Once unmoulded, the cheese is salted and dusted with ash. After another two days of draining, the cheese is allowed to ripen for a minimum of two weeks. La Pyramide is tasty in its younger stages but is also capable of long ripening. Eventually, when aged and hard, it becomes perfect for grating.
Farm House Natural's cheese maker, Debra Amrein-Boyes, was one of 18 people in North America inducted into the Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de St.-Uguzon this March. The guild is a prestigious French organization that recognizes individuals who uphold and protect the traditional cheese-making process. An honour Napoleon wouldn't have deserved - unless he learned to stop massacring his cheese.
Sue Riedl studied at the Cordon Bleu in London.
On the block
Cheese: La Pyramide
Producer: The Farm House Natural Cheeses
Origin: Agassiz, B.C.
Cheese maker: Debra Amrein-Boyes
Milk: Pasteurized goat
Type: Farmstead, semi-soft, surface ripened, moulded, uncooked, with ash coating
Shape: 150-gram truncated pyramid
Canada: Locally available only in B.C.; cheese boxes can be shipped anywhere in Canada. Order from the website.
Vancouver: Les Amis du Fromage, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Oyama Sausage Co., Whole Foods, Mount Pleasant Cheese, Meinhardt on Arbutus, La Grotta del Formaggio
Victoria: Chou Chou Charcuterie, Charelli's
Kelowna: Okanagan Grocery