When Americans hear “the Colonel,” KFC’s Col. Sanders is probably the first figure to come to mind, but the French think Livarot. This soft cow’s-milk cheese gets its nickname from the five strands of red raffia that are always tied around the cheese before packaging. The resulting stripes mirror the markings on the clothing of a French colonel, and Livarot has been sporting its military-inspired moniker for the past 200 years.

Livarot’s washed rind gives it the yeasty smell cheese lovers come to crave, though upon tasting it doesn’t have a strong stinky mouthfeel like other washed-rind cheeses. Its paste often sports tiny holes, and its exterior will have a crumbly, brownish-orange appearance that develops during its two-month aging process. I can’t say it’s among the top 10 cheeses I’ve tasted to date, but I appreciated its beefy flavor and smooth texture. With some crusty bread and apples or grapes, Livarot would make a hearty snack or light lunch.

Livarot comes from Normandy, a part of northern France known for its apple orchards, which produce many ciders and the apple brandy known as Calvados. It’s no surprise then that both are fine matches for Livarot. Wine suggestions seem to run the gamut from big reds to fruity wines. Artisanal Cheese recommends a Viognier, while Steven Jenkins points his readers toward Burgundy, Bordeaux and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Beer lovers can pair Livarot with English ale or Irish stout.

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