French Munster is the defining cheese of the Alsace region of Northeastern France. This cheese has very little in common with the neon orange-edged block in an American deli case. This Munster has a long tradition of careful production, beginning with Benedictine monks in the 12th century who developed this savory cheese as a meat substitute for their vegetarian diet. During cheesemaking, flavors are encouraged through the 'washed rind' method: each wheel is rubbed and rinsed with a salty solution to promote bacterial growth on the exterior. The result is a blush-colored, tacky, and pungent rind. But don’t let the smell discourage you. The inside cheese is remarkably balanced. When ripe this cheese is soft and rich, with a deep umami flavor like beef, roasted peanuts, onions, butter and straw. It is funky, and wonderfully so. Like a salty bar snack, this cheese is great with a beer. It also loves Alsatian wines like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and bold reds. In France, this cheese is often served with potatoes, and cumin or caraway seeds on the side.