For Christmas this year, we had the unusual experience of staying in a converted stairwell on the Basque atlantic coast. I can only guess that the fading grandeur of the art-deco apartment building by the port in Guethary inspired some entrepreneurial thinking on how to raise funds but no matter, it was cool, with the old stairs leading up to a ladder, which climbed to a mezzanine and other tiny rooms, with a further ladder replacing the next staircase. Even better, it was within stepping distance from the sea and we could hear the waves hitting the port ramp all night.
While we were there, a surprising number of places were open and I tried what was called Basque brebis cheese, where it was served in thin slices with a small wedge of quince paste. I thought Brebis was a place at first, but eventually worked out it just meant sheep’s cheese, which made it more difficult to find out more about it once I got back. The cheese I ate had small air pockets throughout and a tough yellowy rind that is best not eaten (I did try, just to see). I did kind of expect more. There was nothing really wrong with the cheese, but it was mild and had a firm (although very slightly rubbery) texture. The smell was quite fresh, but it didn’t leave much of a taste behind, and was easily lost in the sweetness of the quince paste.
I tried another sheep’s cheese from Aramits when we were up in the Pyrenees after a day of snowboarding (well falling and trying to stand again really).
This one was better – served on fresh bread high in the mountains, which might explain the difference.