This golden wedge is the 16-month Comté, from master affineur Marcel Petite, considered by many to be the master of Comté. Petite ages his cheeses in Granges-Narboz in the Franche-Comté region of France, at Fort Saint-Antoine, a munitions forts built in the 19th century that the French government had abandoned, and Petite purchased in 1966. He started with 300 wheels in the 60’s; today they can have as many as 65,000 at various stages of aging at any given time.
This Comté was found at Eataly's cheese counter, recommended by head cheesemonger Greg Blais, and comes to them via the Essex St Cheese Co., respected distributors, originally founded by the late Daphne Zepos, in whose honor the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award was created. As Essex says on their site, “Unlike most Comté imported in the U.S., we choose our wheels based on a flavor profile, not on age or price.” This cheese is actually on the younger side compared to some of the Comté’s I’ve featured here (like this beautifully-aged wheel of the Extra Grand Cru that was practically popping with tyrosine crystals), but is a wonderful expression of a perfectly crafted alpine. The paste is dense and creamy, buttery and full on the tongue, with fried onion, hay, hazelnut and tropical fruit notes.
Accompanying it on the slate is some of the outstanding 30-month Prosciutto di Parma that Eataly carries, including the meltingly fatty clavicle cuts on the left. Wrapping a strip of this prosciutto around a triangle of the Comté is pretty much perfection in a bite.