Welcome to the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek, a new way to taste cheese and explore the world. I’m your guide, Jon Fancey, the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses Cheese Buyer. I’m responsible for curating the cheese selection at our Markets; to do so, I spend some time every year traveling to discover new cheeses. I visit farms, meet cheese makers and exporters, attend cheese festivals, and explore the world’s finest cheese shops to find new offerings. By joining the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek, you’ll be able to join me on my travels and taste some of the best cheeses I’ve found. You can also engage with me and fellow Cheese Trekkers by exploring #cheeseyourownadventure on Instagram and Twitter, and following @biritesf. Stop by the Markets and talk to one of our mongers to join the Trek!
The first stop on our cheese journey takes us to a small town in the Poitou-Charentes, a region in western France known for medieval towns and cognac. This region is south of Nantes and north of Bordeaux, with miles of Atlantic coastline. Agriculture is important to Poitou-Charentes – oyster farms, vineyards, and dairies are prevalent in the region. The first cheese on the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek is crafted by Poitou’s finest goat cheese maker.
Bonde d’Antan is a small round of goat cheese whose origins lie in the Middle Ages. When the Moors invaded the region in the 8th Century they brought livestock and food preservation techniques,
including goats and cheese making methods. Goats thrive on the green pastures of Poitou and small format goat cheeses are now a regional tradition. Poitou-Chevre was founded as a cooperative dairy in 1897 by goat farmers around the town of La Mothe-Saint-Héray. The cooperative produced classic, small-format goat cheeses for over 100 years before being turned over to the Rongeon Family. The Rongeons have been making cheese in Poitou for generations and are committed to sustaining the heritage of the cooperative by using the village’s goat milk to produce classic cheeses. The cheeses of Poitou-Chevre are the best cooperatively produced small format goat cheeses I’ve tasted on my travels.
‘Bonde’ translates to ‘stopper’ – the little cylinder of cheese is reminiscent of a wine barrel’s stopper. The cheese’s paste is dense and fudgey, and the flavors are slightly herbal, yet clean and lactic. I would enjoy Bonde d’Antan with a bottle of Rosé or crisp white wine from the Loire Valley – a neighboring region of Poitou-Charentes. This style of goat cheese also pairs very nicely with farmhouse ales from Belgium and Western France – we have several great examples available in the Markets.
The next stop on our journey will be a small village in Austria’s Bregenz Forest – the featured cheese from this village will debut in the Markets on May 19th, stay tuned and be sure to #cheeseyourownadventure!