One of the benefits of working in science is collaboration with colleagues in foreign countries (young post docs take note: make friends will the people from countries you want to visit!). Thus my boss goes twice a year to France to work with an MD over there collecting data on sleep apnics. Good for him, eh? Unfortunately this collaboration has yet to call for a biomedical engineer to cross the pond, but it is not without some benefit for moi; which you see pictured above.
When my boss learned about our newfound interest in cheese, he promised to bring back some real French cheese for Anna and me.
Enter Beaufort d’été. David Lebovitz will give you a better rundown on this cheese than I ever could, but I'll give a quick summary. It's an alpine cheese sharing many of the characteristics (nuttiness, complexity, great for melting, etc.) with its cousins Comté and Gruyère, though it is widely regarded as the best of the three. However there are actually three varieties of Beaufort as well: Beaufort, Beaufort d’été, and Beaufort d'Alpage. Both Beaufort d’été and Beaufort d'Alpage are made from the milk of cows pasturing on summer grass, but d'Alpage is specifically made in chalets in the Alps. Not really sure if there is significant difference between d’été and d'Alpage in flavor (the internet seems strangely silent on this issue), but both are certainly superior to regular Beaufort, which comes from the winter milk of non-pastured cows.
So I admit we did nothing fancy with our first taste of Beaufort, just making humble grilled cheeses. Anna brought home fresh bread from Hi Rise and we just grilled it simply with no accoutrement. If we were in the height of summer I would go with tomato, but a watery winter supermarket tomato would seem like an insult to the cheese. So how was it? As a cheese n00b, but a great lover of Comté and Gruyère, I would say that Beaufort's reputation is well deserved. It is sharper than either with a distinct aroma. Maybe a bit creamier and nuttier. I felt a little guilty at first that we did such a simple preparation, but have since come to believe that it's a very solid way to go. It's really not much different than having a slice with a grilled piece of baguette, but you get to experience its... uhm... "meltiness." It seems like Beaufort would probably make the best fondue in the world, but quite an expensive one.
For those who don't have bosses who make biannual jaunts to Grenoble, you can find Beaufort in the States... though it seems pretty rare... it's probably easiest to ask your local cheese shop about it. However, you can order it here, here, here, and here... but price and availability seem to differ quite widely, and I've not ordered from any of those sites (though I do visit the brick and mortar version of Formaggio Kitchen), and thus can't testify to their speed, reliability, etc.
Despite the hassle of obtaining it, if you're a big fan of Comté and Gruyère, or cheese in general, I think you won't regret giving Beaufort a try.