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.