As our fellow cheese lovers have likely heard by now, one of the parting acts of the Bush Administration was to announce the tripling of tariffs on France’s Roquefort cheese. France’s iconic cheese had been the subject of a 100% tariff since 1999, in retaliation for Europe’s rejection of hormone-treated US beef. As the EU has refused to back down on their stance, the US decided to shuffle the products subjected to tariffs to be more persuasive. While a slew of European products were added to the list, Roquefort alone was singled out for a 300% rate. As Roquefort already goes for as much as $30/lb., the increase effectively shuts it out of the US market.

The tariffs go into effect March 23, so we wanted to review this luxury treat before it is banished from our cheese counters. And if your significant other appreciates fine blues, consider giving the gift of Roquefort this Valentine’s Day.

Roquefort (#2 in above photo) is a distinctive blue cheese made from raw sheep’s milk in its small namesake village in the south of France. It is creamy, rich and fabulously pungent from the thick blue veins. It is ideal drizzled with honey and enjoyed with port after dinner, or melts smoothly over a juicy (hormone-free) filet mignon.

In an attempt to identify a possible domestic replacement, my sister-in-law and I conducted a blind taste test of Roquefort and Old Chatham Sheepherding’s Ewes Blue (#1 above), one of the few American sheep’s milk blues I could find locally. (There’s also Ba Ba Blue from Wisconsin’s Carr Valley.) While the Ewes Blue was enjoyable, we both correctly identified the French cheese by its distinctive creamy texture and more complex flavor.

Nothing’s more alluring than forbidden fruit, or in this case, cheese. If your sweetheart’s tastes veer towards the gourmet, why not celebrate Valentine’s Day with a spread of Roquefort, foie gras, truffles and Pellegrino…

P.S. Sign the petition to ban hormone-ridden meat, not cheese!