Part 2…A popular tourist attraction in Cairns…Beyond expectations…Wish we’d visited sooner….

Not the most flattering photo of us. But, we couldn’t resist including a photo of us tasting the Mimolette cheese we’ve written about today, know for its “mites’ that live on the outside of the cheese as it ferments. The US has concerns over “bugs” on cheese.  See story below.

We love the unusual, the peculiar or anything that deviates from the mundane and the expected. Whether it be an animal, a plant, a sunrise or sunset that varies from that which we’ve seen in the past.

This 190 gram chunk of Mimolette Cheese was priced at AUD $13.30, USD $9.73, certainly no more expensive than a chunk of quality Parmesan.

Perhaps, that’s one of the many reasons why we decided to travel the world, a reason we’ve discovered has escalated as our journey continues. What tidbit can we discover along the way that finds us in awe of the world around us? It all boils down to the concept of “what is unique to us?”

We purchased these items at Fetish for Food at Rusty’s Markets. The total cost was AUD $77.65, USD $58.83.  In the center is a container with fresh mozzarella balls which we’ll use soon to make stuffed Italian meatballs with sugar free pasta sauce and Parmesan. After tasting the Mimolette, if we grate it, it may work perfectly to finish off the dish.

Those who know us may laugh when it comes to admiring each other. What’s so unique about each other maintaining our interest and enthusiasm in being together, day after day, year and year in such tight quarters?  It’s all a matter of perception in one’s own eyes. I find this man with an inordinate amount of willingness to adapt, of openness and of generosity of spirit at my side each day.

He may find similar types of qualities in me. But mostly, I perceive he likes that I don’t complain and I don’t do drama. Collectively, the humor, the teasing and the playful banter contribute to the ongoing pleasure of one another’s companionship. That’s unique, maybe not so much in the realm of the world, but it is to us.

Foie Gras is one of my favorite food items. This tiny piece, of which I savored half yesterday afternoon was AUD $14.30, USD $10.47, was delicious, even without crackers or bread.

Whether its in looking for and finding vacation homes, places to explore and people we meet, we naturally gravitate toward that which varies from the “norm” even if only to a miniature degree in the eyes of others.

As we wandered through Rusty’s Markets our eyes, trained to scan for unique items we stopped to investigate, inquire and take photos when possible. We’ve learned over these past years certain vendors don’t want photos taken of their products. This has been especially true in Muslim countries based on religious beliefs we respectfully honored without question.

This taste of this delightful Chicken and Black Peppercorn Pate stayed with me for hours as I often thought of going back for more, instead saving the balance to enjoy for a few days. This was priced at AUD $9.35, USD $6.84.

Many of the most unique fruits and vegetables were for sale in such owned displays causing us to proceed with our photo taking with caution. Although, without taking photos we were able to enjoy our perusal of the most unusual items. 

In our search for the most unique item we were enthralled when visiting with Nick Down at Fetish for Food. We couldn’t resist but load the counter with what appeared to be delectable choices to take home when he noticed me staring at a unique item in a display case, Mimolette Cheese.

This Brie Cheese with Truffles is a rare treat.

Nick chuckled when he saw me admiring the “unusual” color, a bright orange, when all the other cheese were varying in shades from bright whites to yellow. At first I thought it may be a type of cheese made with a pumpkin flavoring contributing to its odd color.  

Nick proceeded to explain Mimolette’s unusual story which definitely caught our attention. There was no way we were walking out of his shop without buying that chunk of Mimolette Cheese and we looked forward to conducting a bit of research on this unusual product when we returned home.

(I should mention a phenomenon here in Australia at this point; cheddar cheese here is not orange. It’s a natural off white color. They don’t use dye in their cheese to color it. When looking for grated cheddar cheese for our grain-free taco salad, I have to read labels, unable to easily spot the orange-tinged cheddar cheese).

After considerable research I found this wonderful article, although dated, from NPR detailing exactly what we wanted to learn about Mimolette Cheese:
“Tiny Mites Spike Big Battle Over Imports of French Cheese
May 11, 2013

by Deena Prechep

The Food and Drug Administration is currently embroiled in a surprisingly heated culinary standoff — pitting French cheese-makers (and American cheese-lovers) against regulators, all because of one very small problem: cheese mites. Cheese mites are microscopic little bugs that live on the surfaces of aged cheeses, munching the microscopic molds that grow there. For many aged cheeses, they’re something of an industry nuisance, gently brushed off the cheeses. But for Mimolette, a bright orange French cheese, they’re actually encouraged.

The mites munch on the rind for a few years and then are removed — usually with a blast of compressed air and a bit of hand-brushing — before Mimolette is sold. But there are always a few hiding behind. And now the FDA is cracking down.

According to the FDA’s Patricia El-Hinnawy, there’s no official limit, but the target is no more than six mites per square inch. For Mimolette, that’s a near-impossible standard.

Benoit de Vitton is the North American representative for Isigny, one of the largest producers of Mimolette. In March, de Vitton began receiving letters from each of the dozen importers he works with, saying that their Mimolette shipments had been detained.

De Vitton estimates that he now has about a ton of cheese sitting in FDA warehouses in New Jersey. “They say the product, because of the mites, it is not proper for human consumption,” de Vitton sighs.

Ironically, de Vitton notes that Mimolette itself is rumored to have been created because of import issues in the 17th century. “The French were at war with Holland, and the king didn’t want any more Dutch Gouda coming to France. So he asked to create kind of the same cheese.”

But in the 21st century, do we need a cheese ban? Microbiologist Rachel Dutton runs a cheese lab at Harvard University, and we checked in with her about the dangers of mites. Dutton notes that there have been some reports of mite allergies, but they seem to be restricted to people who have come into contact with large numbers of mites.And Dutton says that while we may not like to think about bugs, they’re a part of what makes cheese so delicious.

“Cheese is absolutely alive,” Dutton laughs. And all of that life — the molds, bacteria, yeasts and mites — help make cheese what it is. Dutton says that the mites on Mimolette can contribute flavors of their own (they have a somewhat earthy smell), and by eating into the rind, they can also increase aeration — and the surface area in which the other microbes can do their work.

Dutton understands that this doesn’t sound appealing, but implores people to realize the good work of these bugs. “There definitely are microbes that can spoil food and make either it bad for you to eat or just sort of gross. But any time you eat a piece of cheese or a bite of yogurt, have a piece of bread or a glass of wine — these are all examples of foods fermented by different types of microbes.”

Throughout France, cheese lovers have been rallying in support of Mimolette. There are radio stories, YouTube videos — there’s even an ex-pat Save the Mimolette Facebook campaign (of course).

In America, the response is a bit more subdued. Some cheesemongers are buying up the limited supply, but most are content to shrug it off. Sasha Davies, of Cyril’s cheese/wine bar in Portland, is nervous about what the mite crackdown could mean for other aged cheeses, but in general is fine reaching for an aged Gouda instead of Mimolette.

“I find I can scratch the itch I feel for Mimolette with a lot of other cheeses,” she admits.

Davies says that the fervor for Mimolette isn’t just about its caramel notes or lactic tang or bright orange color.

“There are cheeses that — even though I think they taste delicious, they tug at my heartstrings, either because I love the person that makes them, or I have this great memory of being in a special place,” she says. “Food is never really just food.”

And for many French people, Mimolette brings a taste of memory, family and home — as well as mites.”

By no means are we cheese experts and, we were aware that mites may hang out on fine cheeses based on the education we received on long ago tour of the Cheese Factory in Belize.  However, we never realized the significance of mites as described in the Mimolette Cheese.

We’ve yet to unwrap and try this Spanish Goat Cheese with Rosemary saving it for another day.  It was priced at AUD $11.02, USD $8.06, another fair price.

It was irresistible. We purchased a good-sized chunk of Mimolette Cheese and this morning we tasted it for the first time. As described above, we loved its “caramel notes and lactic tang” or I should say, I loved it. Tom was less impressed when his tastes for cheese leans toward Kraft’s Individually Wrapped Slices or Velveeta.

When Tom and I first dated and on occasion I visited his home, I cringed when I noticed he kept a huge bucket of nacho dipping cheese on his kitchen counter, readily available double-dipping a tortilla  chip. On the other hand, back in 1991, I was shopping the gourmet deli counter at Byerly’s Market for fine import cheeses.

This morning Tom had a chunk of this non sugared smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, onions with his favorite local sliced cheese, Tasty brand with a side of nitrate-free “streaky”  bacon.  This price at AUD $8.95 was only USD $6.55.

As for the unusual, Mimolette Cheese was an interesting tidbit teaching us something new which ultimately is the benefit of seeking and finding those special morsels in our travels having an impact on our senses, whether its a taste, a smell, a touch, a sound or a sight. It all adds to the experience. 

Lots more new photos tomorrow!

Photos from one year ago today, August 23, 2014:

One year ago, we visited Oxford, England, the famous college town filled with one historic building after another. This is the Radcliffe Camera Building, “camera” referring to a “room” not a camera. For more Oxford photos, please click here.

Part 1…A popular tourist attraction in Cairns…Beyond expectations…Wish we’d visited sooner….

The sign outside the huge permanent farmer’s market in downtown Cairns, Rusty’s Markets, a popular tourist attraction as well as a favorite shopping site for locals.

Hindsight is 20/20. Had we visited the popular tourist attraction, Rusty’s Markets in Cairns earlier in our stay in Trinity Beach, we’d easily have returned on many occasions. (Click here for the map).

As soon as we entered Rusty’s Markets we knew we were in for a treat.

With easy to find and navigate free two-hour parking in a nearby ramp, we barely made it back to the car in time to avoid the overtime AUD $10, USD $7.73 additional hourly fee. Had we missed the two-hour window, the experience would certainly have been worth the fee.

Tropical flowers are on display in multiple locations.

Rusty’s Markets is a cacophony of mind-blowing shopping from a wide array of products including pretty summer dresses, handmade jewelry and crafts, and exquisite flower arrangements, to organic fruits and vegetables, meats, breads and desserts.

Having already purchased avos a few days ago when we grocery shopped I had to pass on these.

Countless casual restaurants with foods from around the world lined the perimeter including a makeshift food court where hungry tourists and locals gathered about sitting on uneven chairs and benches happily munching away on their favorites.

A mixed variety of goods are presented at some tables with specific items at others.

It was evident that most vendors are offering products as a result of ongoing hard work and creativity in developing their wares to perfection. With Rusty’s Markets only opened from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 5:00 am to 3:00 pm on Sundays, it’s a full-time job for the vendors, managing their inventory and presentation of their products to ensure a seamless three days open to the public.

Fresh greens are for sale at many displays.

For the avid local shopper, leave room in your fridge and freezer and bring a small wheeling shopping cart in order to leave hands free for gathering the multitude of treasures. For the tourist, bring durable over-sized bags for other wares you may be unable to resist to bring home with lovely memories of the shopping experience.  Cloth shopping bags are available for sale.

Tom stopped and looked at the bread display. Nothing appealed to him. He hasn’t had a bite of bread in almost three months but continues to mention how much he missed toast and jelly.

Few times in our world travels have we found a market of this size and variety. Under cover of an enormous building, it’s a year-round, regardless-of-weather venue with permanent stations for its vendors. It’s clean, well lit, and relatively easy to maneuver.

Tropical fruits, roots, and greens.  Prices are reasonable for most items.

Luckily, we visited on a Friday as opposed to the most likely busier Saturdays and Sundays. We discussed how crazy it must be when cruise ships dock in the port of Cairns with 1000 or more cruisers arriving by bus to Rusty’s Markets. Cruisers notoriously are avid shoppers and Rusty’s would be pure paradise for most.

As we approached the counter at Fetish for Food we knew we were in for a treat.

Having grocery shopped only two days earlier and with our tiny fridge and freezer packed to the gills, buying vegetables were out of the question. I was so disappointed when I couldn’t purchase grass-fed meat or organic veg as I drooled over the free-range meat, free-range chicken, and organic produce lining row after row in the vast market.

Every refrigerated case is filled with food befitting our way of eating including smoked fish, sausages, nitrate-free streaky bacon, and delectable cheeses.

However, when we spotted a meticulously presented cheese and exotics foods display, aptly named, Fetish for Food, I felt like a kid in a candy store. When the owner, Nick Down, was free to spend time with us, we were delighted with not only his knowledge of every item in his inventory but his pleasant demeanor and surprisingly reasonable prices.

Nick explained interesting facts about the various cheeses one of which we’ll expound upon tomorrow with a shocking story. Who knew?

Finally, being in a shop where I could almost eat anything offered sent me to the moon. It reminded both of us of when in March 2013 we visited the Cave Branch Jungle Lodge as guests of the owner Ian’s fabulous on site Cheese Factory. Click here for the link from that day with many great photos of our memorable experience.

There are multiple cases all filled with local and imported cheeses.

At Fetish for Food, we couldn’t help but make a fair sized pile of products I couldn’t resist. Even Tom, unlikely to do more than taste these items, got into the selection process encouraging me to grab more and more.  With only a little over two weeks, until we leave Australia, it made no sense to purchase too much, a little of which I’ll have each day.

Once we arrived home, it was fun to review our purchases.  In total, we spent AUD $77.65, USD $58.83 which was less than we’d expected for these several items. Today, we’ll prepare an appetizer plate for a pre-dinner treat.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with a story on a very unusual product we purchased at Fetish for Food regarding a type of cheese and bugs, an unlikely combination we found fascinating. The foodies out there will love this. The non-foodies…please humor me. But, even you may find it entertaining if not cringe-worthy.

Much of the cheese is imported from France, as we know, the cheese capital of the world.

Another vendor that caught our eye was Wild Nature Cairns, presented by the owner, Nicola whose gentle demeanor was surely befitting the natural skin and hair care products, natural makeup, and pure essential oil products, all organic and environmentally friendly.

In addition to meats and cheeses, Nick has a display of fancy condiments and oils.
In my old life, I’d surely have walked away with a bag of girlie treasures. In this life, I can’t purchase any of these items with a lack of space in my bag and the inability to replace the preferred items when they’re gone. 
Nicola, the owner of Wild Nature is dedicated and committed to the highest quality product she can produce, mostly made utilizing the healing and therapeutic Australian Aloe Vera plant.
These days, I purchase cosmetics in grocery stores and pharmacies. I have one drugstore night cream in my possession which I’ll replace with another when it runs out. If I need body lotion, I use coconut oil. 
Nicola’s products may be used for a variety of skin conditions. Visit her site at this link.

Finding these two wonderful vendors in the busy market among the produce, grass-fed meats, exotic pastries, and endless eateries only added to our extraordinary experience…slightly under two hours of pure delight for both of us.

Back at you soon with the unusual products, we found at Rusty’s Markets.

Photo from one year ago today, August 22, 2014:

This is the church where Matthew’s funeral was held in Bampton, England where Downton Abbey has been filmed over the years. For details on how this quaint village has been prepared for filming please click here. It was quite a story.