When Should You Eat the Rind? – Cheese Course

Willow Hill Vermont Brebis - Bloomy Rind Cheese

Cheese rinds: To eat or not to eat?

Tia Keenan, fromager at Manhattan's Casellula Cheese and Wine Café, divides rinds into three categories: manmade (plastic or wax, as on Gouda) that should never be eaten, natural rinds not recommended (due to an unpleasant taste) and natural rinds that should always be eaten. Let's start with the third category — rinds that should never be treated as fromage trash. Keenan explains that the rinds of bloomy rind cheeses like Camembert, Brie and Brillat-Savarin are a crucial part of their flavor profiles. According to her, choosing not to eat these rinds "is like eating a cake without the frosting or a pie without the crust."

Many food enthusiasts eat all natural rinds (which arise out of the same mold and bacteria that comprise the cheese) because they view them as part of the overall flavor. Sergio Hernandez, cheese expert and the manager of the soon-to-open Brooklyn Larder (an offshoot of the highly-acclaimed Franny's restaurant), states that eating the rinds of a cheese allows him to develop a "sense of memory."

"When I recognize a cheese just by smelling it," Hernandez says, "it is because I remember very specific things that I tasted in that rind." Keenen eats every single natural rind she encounters because they "can add great dimension and flavor to cheeses and are often a work of art."

In short, whether or not you want to eat all natural rind cheeses is a matter of taste, but keep in mind Keenan's words: "We know how hard cheesemakers work to make beautiful bloomy rinds, and it's heartbreaking to see someone dig the cheese out of the rind on a Camembert."


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