When I was a kid I used play the board game Clue. "Professor Plum in the conservatory with the candle stick," and all that. I never really liked board games much, but something about that photo of all the odd characters on the cover of the box captured my imagination. So I was awfully thrilled when it turned out that my next door neighbor's grandfather was actually the model for Colonel Mustard, the colonial blowhard with the monocle. One time he even rode the school bus with all us kids.
Now there's a new Colonel Mustard on the block. I have a friend who has become a collector of fine mustards, mostly French but also some English varieties and other miscellany. He refers to his collection as his cellar, or his mustard cave (French pronunciation de rigeur), and it is pretty impressive to see. On Saturday night, he was kind enough to open his beloved cave to Fooditude and offer a guided tasting. It was an education in just how many surprising varieties are available, although a number of them are not commonly sold in this country.
These jars represent a small sample from his groaning shelves, replete with such offerings as moutarde aux baies roses (with pink peppercorns), au piment d'espelette (Basque chili), au curry and aromatisée à l'orange. One of the prettiest was the bright pink moutarde au cassis de dijon (blackcurrant), although the taste was too sweet for me.
The stone-ground moutarde aromatisée à la noix (nut flavor) was a great accompaniment to the chicken sausages and oven-fried potatoes Colonel Mustard served up during the tour. I also had high hopes for the jar with girolles, echalotes et cerfeuil (chanterelles, shallots and chervil), but it had an unpleasant undertaste.
One of my favorites of the evening was the Moutarde aux algues (Saveur de l'Ocean) (with algae – flavor of the ocean). It contained bits of seaweed that complemented the mustard surprisingly well. It was also among the hottest mustards in the collection, which Colonel Mustard suggested might be due to the fact that it was the most recently acquired.
Turns out mustard loses its spiciness significantly over time, so for those of you currently shuttling back and forth to France in order to grow your own collection, take note. Don't let your jars languish at the back of the fridge. Eat up and restock regularly. And if you ever run out of room, have a mustard party!