French mustard brand Maille opened up a store in Manhattan recently. They sell dozens of mustard varieties there, and to help people decide what to pair them with, they hired “mustard sommelier” Pierrette Huttner.
Pierette Huttner: Well, this is a position you can only have with, with Maille. And I’d worked for us all around the world. So I’ve actually worked in a boutique in Paris, in London, in Dijon, and had a chance to go to the factory in Chevigny and see how the products were being made and look at the recipes and interact with clients all over the world.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, what were your mustard qualifications or were you just a passionate enemy of ketchup?
Pierette Huttner: Well, it’s, no, we like all condiments so I do like ketchup as well, but mustard is obviously my favorite. I was always a passionate home cook and when this position became available, loved Maille and used the brand for years and was adamant that the position not go to anyone else.
Brendan Francis Newnam: What, can you just tell us what mustard is? Remind us.
Pierette Huttner: Well, to Americans, it would be a condiment. It comes from the mustard seed and it can come in a variety of different flavors, textures, and types.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And what about Maille mustard. Does it come from a specific region, a specific tradition?
Pierette Huttner: Yes. So Maille is a historical French brand from 1747, so our mustard is very particular. It is from the Dijon region of France and it refers to not only the type of seeds that are used in that region, but also the process behind it. Some of the mustard seeds are cut. Some are ground, just depending on the intensity of the flavor and they are either mixed with vinegar or white wine, depending on the mustard, and then other ingredients are added in.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay, and so how many mustards do we have here?
Pierette Huttner: We have approximately 20 in the boutique. Four are the mustards that are on tap and then we also have a different variety of jarred mustards.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Do you guys have little mustard packets here?
Pierette Huttner: No. We have small 100 milliliter jars.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Okay. So let’s look at these mustards on tap. Let’s start with the white wine. That’s the classic?
Pierette Huttner: Yes, so that is the most classic Dijon mustard. It is quite hot and has a long flavor progression to it and it is the one that when you think of Dijon mustard really resonates with people so that’s what they usually associate with that term.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, so let’s taste this. I’m looking at like a tongue depressor dipped into.
Pierette Huttner: It’s a wooden spoon.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m sorry, it’s a wooden spoon. And then what am I thinking about when I’m tasting this?
Pierette Huttner: Well, you first want to speak about is the smell, then the taste, the texture as well. It all kind of defines the experience for you. And we don’t necessarily have a particular language that is mustard only, so we borrow from wine. We borrow from perfume and all the things that use all of the senses in terms of smell and taste to really explain it. So white wine, as you know from tasting it, has a very long flavor progression. It starts off a bit salty and it kind of gets a little hotter and a little hotter until it builds.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I felt the build. So that to me was heat and then it turned creamy at the end and then there’s a kind of lingering saline quality.
Pierette Huttner: Yes. I would say that’s actually a very apt description.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh thank you. I’m on my way to becoming a mustard sommelier. All right, so now what’s this next mustard?
Pierette Huttner: This is our Chablis white wine black truffle mustard, so it’s extremely rich, extremely decadent so it works well as a pairing, but my favorite use for it is actually as an ingredient.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Ready? Are we going to taste this?
Pierette Huttner: I’m ready.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. That tastes, I could eat that just like a soup, I think.
Pierette Huttner: One of my favorite things to do with it is actually to add it into mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin. So it’s great as an additional ingredient. It just adds a lot of dimension and a lot of flavor and it really elevates your potatoes to a different level.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And at $45 an ounce, you might only be able to afford.
Pierette Huttner: 4.4 ounces.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay, 4.4 ounces. You might only be able to afford potatoes at that point for that meal.
Pierette Huttner: It’s very rich, so you do only need a small amount of truffle.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Would that be okay to use on a hot dog?
Pierette Huttner: Absolutely. Yes.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay. All right. You also have all these other flavors in jars.
Pierette Huttner: Yes. One of the ones that I think immediately catches your eye is the Dijon black currant liquor. Black currant comes from the region of Dijon as well, so mustard, gingerbread, and black currant all come from Dijon. So of course, we have a mustard with it, which is a really beautiful kind of deep rose color. We also have a saffron and creme d’isigny, which is a really beautiful, bright orange.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And what is creme d’isigny?
Pierette Huttner: It’s a, almost like a creme fraiche or a sour cream.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay.
Pierette Huttner: The creme d’isigny does give a real creaminess to it but what you taste is primarily saffron. There is very little heat to it and it’s a very polarizing mustard.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I feel like I need to try it, though.
Pierette Huttner: You do need to try it, yes. It’s one of the more unusual ones that we carry.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Hm, definitely saffron-y. I could see that almost with like a, like mussels or something like that.
Pierette Huttner: Yes. I think this in particular works really well with fish.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Well, I have a question about all of these mustards. It’s a personal question. I spill things on my clothes all the time and mustard is really, really hard to wash out. Do you have any strategies for fighting mustard stains?
Pierette Huttner: I would say be, perhaps, a more careful eater.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s out. I’ve tried. I guess I could wear a mustard colored shirt.
Pierette Huttner: Yes.