Alright, so it’s the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race today, so it seems appropriate, bearing in mind that the Oxford second boat is called Isis (after the river – the upper reaches of the Thames) to put up a post on a cheese named Oxford Isis. This is a cheese which can certainly rival the crew of any winning boat in terms of power. It was developed with the specific intention of competing with an Époisses, and indeed the two cheeses look a bit alike.
Oxford Isis and Époisses – similarities
There are a lot of similarities between these two powerful cows’ milk cheeses. Both are sold in round wooden boxes. Both are washed in the local hooch – Époisses in brine and marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy; and Oxford Isis in Oxfordshire honey mead. Both have a soft orange billowy exterior, although the Époisses is a darker, ruddier hue. Both are so creamy and seductively liquid inside that they are often more conveniently served with a spoon. I was surprised to see that, although I committed the unspeakable sin of keeping my Oxford Isis in the fridge for nearly a week, it remained as dreamily liquid as when it was first delivered.
Both were developed by Frenchmen – Époisses by Cistercian monks in Burgundy, and Oxford Isis by Baron Robert Pouget.
Oxford Isis and Époisses – differences
But there are also differences. The main one being that while being equal in terms of strength, the Oxford Isis is a bit more discreet. More Muhammad Ali than Challenger 2 as it were, perhaps because the mead is a bit less sharp than the marc.
Époisses is, like Mimolette, illegal in the USA – whereas Oxford Isis is shipped worldwide.
Époisses was first developed in the sixteenth century. The Oxford Isis is, by contrast, quite a new cheese, first developed in 2003 by an entrepreneurial French baron who had immigrated to Britain.
“Oxford Isis is more Muhammad Ali than Challenger 2 as it were.”
History of Oxford Isis
Initially it was sold through the Oxford Cheese Company’s shop in that town’s covered market, as well as to Oxford colleges and local restaurants. But news of its excellence travelled fast and these days you can find it in restaurants throughout the UK, and, yes, France.
2009 was year which established Oxford Isis as a respected cheese. This was the year that it was served to fortunate first class passengers travelling on British Airways and the Eurostar; and it also won the cheese lovers’ trophy at the British Cheese Awards.
What to eat and drink with Oxford Isis
Whatever you eat with it needs to be a submissive supporting act – hot white rolls, or plain Bath olivers.
But the power of the Oxford Isis requires a drinking partner which can stand up for itself…the makers recommend a flowery Alsatian Gewürztraminer.
For more posts about cheese on Saucy Dressings, follow this link.
The most appropriate, not to say sublime, music to listen to as you savour your Oxford Isis and your Gewürztraminer is Mozart’s O Isis und Osiris from Die Zauberflöte: