I had been putting writing this post off because it is so hard to write. I was overwhelmed with all the learnings and the food. LOL!
It was almost two months ago when Grayelf invited a few foodies to her home to taste and learn about cheese. I jumped on it because I had never been exposed to cheese tasting in this manner before. Frankly my knowledge of cheese is very limited to what you encounter day to day.
I think my knowledge of cheese can be summed as as follows: I know what is mozzarella, feta, blue cheese, cheddar, monterey jack, and parmesan to name a few. Those are such generic cheeses which everyone knows. Perhaps as an analogy, these are considered equivalent to wonton noodles in Chinese cooking.
I consider having Harvati and Emmataler as exotic already. Both introduced to me by a co worker. I would perhaps equate this “exotic” cheese to, say, Sichuan hot pot. That’s my simplistic analogy.
Fine. I had done something of that sorts at the Salt Tasting Room but that one is pretty much random selections with zero learnings.
I was expecting Grayelf to make it an event knowing how she is so thorough in everything she does. But what greeted us was beyond what I expected.
Table was nicely laid out and all. And then she told us that she will do this in FIVE courses with mostly three cheeses in each course … whew … FOURTEEN cheese to try altogether!
The above are palate cleanser in between courses of cheese.
The five courses were broken down into:
- Firm cheese
- Goat/Sheep cheese
- Soft ripened cheese
- Wash rind, and
- Blue Cheese
He he he … she saved the “best” for last. I was eagerly waiting for the blue cheese because I expect it to be an awful experience. 🙂
I can’t remember what the fruit above is called.
You know, I won’t be surprised that is no where in Vancouver that you’ll get to try all these cheese in one sitting. And knowing how much all these premium cheese costs, it comes at some expense to Grayelf. All out of her own pocket which was very very nice of her.
The first course is the Firm cheese.
They are firm and semi-firm because of lower moisture content and they are mostly pressure packed into molds and aged longer. This was an easy start because these are cheese that are familiar to most.
Grayelf not only took the trouble to get a good selection of cheese, she even researched them and printed notes for everyone. How is that for service? Here is the notes that were for the firm cheese.
Abondance (Haute-Savoie, France) is a semi-hard, raw-milk “mountain” cheese. Availlable year round, it is at its best in the autumn when made from summer milk. In the 14th century, the monks of l’Abbaye de Saint d’Abondance, situated on the Swiss border, were the official suppliers of savoyard cheeses for the election of the Pope in Avignon. The name of the cheese comes from the breed of cows (abondance) from which milk is taken. The blue label fixed on the rind indicates that the cheese is a member of the AOC family since 1990. Its taste is direct, but at the same time subtle; a complex alliance between a slightly acidic and soft initial taste followed by a lingering after taste. The cheese gives off an aroma of nutty vegetation. The texture of the ivory/yellow pâte is supple and velvety. Its rind is smooth with an amber colour showing canvas marks. $4.50/100g
5 year old Britannia cheddar (Quebec) Although cheddar originated in England, most turophiles agree that Canadian versions have long outshone their British progenitors. A fine aged cheddar, this specimen is white, not coloured with annatto, and has an assertive but not too salty flavour. If you’re used to supermarket cheddar, this sample may change your mind about this not-so-everyday cheese $3.95/100g
Sovrano buffalo milk (Brescia, Italy) is made from a combination of buffalo and cow milk. The process is similar to that of Grana Padano (a type of Parmesan). Sovrano is aged for at least 24 months, then graded, again like Parmesan. Distinguished by an ivory coloured rind, the white crumbly texture inside has a slightly sweet flavour with the unmistakable mossy sour finish of buffalo milk. In Italy Sovrano is used in many pasta preparations but it is also served on cheese plates and goes well with slices of fruit, or with honey. $4.99/100g
If you look at the cheese above, you will find that they are from different regions in the world. Grayelf got them from … Le Amis du Fromage which is known as one of the best cheese shop, if not the best, in Metro Vancouver.
Les Amis has three stores. Their website is http://www.buycheese.com/ — nice URL.
From the firm cheese we next move onto the Goat/Sheep cheese. Goat cheese is probably one of the earliest made dairy products in the world.
The majority of the cheese in the world are made from cows’ milk. However, there are many parts of the world where cheese is made from goats and sheeps. The western world’s cheese is made primarily from cows milk but generally the rest of the world prefers goat cheese. Having said that, some of the best goat cheese today are from France.
While cows milk and goat milk have the same content of fat, goat milk has a higher proportion of fatty acid which gives goat cheese that distinctive tartness.
Mind you, although les Amis does sell cheese platters with a fixed selection, what we had was hand selected individually.
Honey bee goat gouda (Holland) is made with honey right in the cheese, imparting sweet, caramelly undertones. This semi-firm cheese is ivory colored and smooth with the slight grainy texture of an aged cheese. Aging is for a minimum of 5 months. $3.99/100g
Pecorino affienato (Tuscany, Italy) This unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese from Tuscany is aged with honey and hay in the ancient tradition. It is nutty, with a delicate honey sweetness and overtones of grass, pungent yet clean. As with many cheeses, a perfect wine pairing is elusive $7.75/100g
Chevre bûche (Poitou-Charentes in the Loire Valley, France) is a soft medium strength goat cheese (the round one), aged for two months, during which time it develops a hard, edible crust complete with a bloomy white mold coating. It is sharp and tangy near the rind and gets progressively richer and creamier toward the center. Its name comes from the log shape in which it is formed. $4.50/100g
We also had some fancy looking beer too. So this is not a wine and cheese session. More of a beer and cheese thing.
The most popular course is the third course. It is the Soft Ripened course. This is where we had the cheese known as the “king of cheeses”.
Brie de Meaux is French cheese’s king of kings. Made since the Middle Ages, in the 19th century it was considered the finest cheese in Europe, thanks to the French statesman, Talleyrand. This unpasteurized cheese is produced near Paris which has no doubt helped its reputation. The pâté is compact and even textured. Its color is pale yellow, reminiscent of straw, with a white velvet rind. The taste starts creamy and as the maturing process continues, turns subtle and nutty. $4.75/100g
Délice de Bourgogne: A tribute to french industriel (industrially-made) cheese-making, this decadent triple-cream cheese was the creation of the celebrated 18th Century gastronome, Brillat Savarin. He married full-fat cow’s milk to fresh cream, creating incredibly rich, full-flavored cheese with a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture. The natural blending of the intensely flavored exterior and that of the more subtle and soft interior makes Délice an unusually delicate cheese. $4.50/100g
I enjoyed these cheese the most. The “king of cheese”, Brie de Meaux, was double cream and mushroomy especially from the rind. The other one is triple cream, like cream cheese, and more salty.
I ended up having the most of these cheese. Very nice.
Fourth course is the wash rinds.
Also known as smelly cheese! These cheese are super soft. So soft that one of them are melty. These cheese are cured in salt water and other agents (including beer, wine, spices!) that gives it its pungent odors and distinct flavors.
La Sauvagine (Quebec) This double crème brie type was named 2006 Canadian cheese grand prix grand champion; it has a soft bloomy edible rind and the paste is delicate yet flavourful. $4.50/100g
Fleur d’aunis (Charentes-Poitou, France) This washed rind semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from Charentes-Poitou, France, is rich, creamy and slightly nutty. The orangey colour of the outside comes from being brushed with Pineau des Charentes, a fortified aperitif-style wine made with Cognac. $3.95/100g
Époisses (Bourgogne, France) AOC; This cheese is so pungent even the French consider it smelly! It is washed in Marc de Bourgogne, the local spirit. At its peak, it is so soft and runny you must scoop it up with a spoon. $6.95/100g
The Époisses is very runny and rather salty. It is soft like melted butter. Very interesting.
To us, the Fleur d’aunis was the smelliest.
I quite enjoyed this actually.
I was anticipating the fifth course the most. The Blue Cheese.
What makes it blue? It is mold. 🙂 The mold are injected and allowed to grow inside the cheese as it ages that gives it the distinctive blue green streaks. The smell? It is the smell of bacteria.
Shropshire Blue was first made in Scotland in the 1970s. Piggybacking on the popularity of English cheeses, it was marketed as one. The cheese soon shed its Scottish heritage and is now made in England. A slightly frightening-looking brown rind covers the outside of Shropshire. This rind forms naturally, but is best avoided when eating the cheese, which has a crumbly, creamy texture and an assertive flavor that is earthy and a bit sharp. Shropshire Blue has a striking orange color created by annatto that contrasts with the veins of blue and green mold coursing through it. $3.75/100g
Tiger Blue (Poplar Grove, Naramata, BC) is a semi-soft cow’s milk blue combining the richness of Stilton and the buttery flavour of Roquefort. It starts out piquant, salty and powerful, but the initial spice is tamed by a creamy texture that mellows to a lingering savoury-sweetness. The pale gold cheese is streaked with deep, rich veining and encased in an edible, natural rind. $5.95/100g
Bleu des basques (Pyrenees, France) is a raw sheep’s milk cheese from the high country. Wildflowers and fresh grass give the milk used complexity, subtlety, and lightness. The texture of this cheese is semi-firm and creamy on the tongue; the flavor is full, nutty, buttery and faintly sweet. This is not a salty or pungent blue, but a well-balanced, approachable cheese with plenty of character and strength. It goes well with cherry jam. $6.75/100g
The Shropshire Blue was the most colorful of the bunch. It is the middle one in orange/yellow.
The Tiger Blue is BC’s very own award wining cheese.
The Bleu des basques was the mildest.
Actually, these blue cheese were pretty mild. I had tasted stronger tasting ones that I could not swallow it at all. These are good blue cheeses.
After the fifth course, we still have lots left. So it was free for all time — go get whatever everyone wants.
Suanne and I had a fantastic time. Most of what we learned, we sort of forgot. The names are so hard to remember. So we ate and ate and talked and talked. A nice way to spend the weekend.
And I think we had a lot leftover too. This is the best cheese tasting experience I ever had.
Thanks a bunch, Grayelf. 🙂 You’re the best!
Out of curiousity (not that I asked Grayelf if she is OK or not) … how many of you would want to attend a cheese tasting session like this? Everyone pays of course for the cheese.
Show of hands — anyone for a cheese tasting event?
Oh … during that tasting session one of the attendees is Tangent Design. He is a real coffee aficionado. He has spent serious bucks in having the best equipment in his quest to make the perfect cuppa. His cheapest equipment was the $200+ grinder — just the GRINDER! He was saying that he would love to organize a coffee tasting session where he will bring everyone through the process of making the perfect cup. Yeah, he even have a mean looking roaster too! So he will roast the beans to make sure it’s the freshest of freshest … then grind … and then … you get the picture.
Show of hands — anyone for a coffee tasting event?
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Nice Ben, my favorite is always the ooey gooey stinky ones, the Époisses or Reblochon…
Here, here! That purple bulbous fruit is a fig! Amazing photos– almost feel I was there with you.
Cheese Tasting Check Coffee Tasting Check,Want me to bring Cafe Luwak again???
Époisses is my favorite! I get mine from the Oyama Sausage Company over on Granville Island, which is a really good place for cheese and charcuterie. Gotta check out Le Amis du Fromage.
The fruit you weren’t sure about is a fresh fig.
Me for cheese!
! It’s a fig. They’re lovely. I’ve been going through a bag of dried figs from costco. Can’t get enough.
It sounds like it was very enjoyable. Wish I could have tried all those as well~
oh.. the cheese event sounds interesting, but Ricky is probably also interested in the coffee event too 🙂
That fruit is called a Black Mission fig. Don’t know if that’s the stuff that Grayelf got but it’s a fresh fig all in all. The cheese event is quite interesting and I don’t mind the coffee event.
Cheese event sounds great.
mis also has a wine and cheese bar next door to their Hastings shop which offers flights of cheese or selected platters of cheese with a informative menu, and staff, for picking cheeses to try. Great place for a reklaxing evening of cheese and charcuterie( dryed meats and sausages) they also have fries and mac and cheese and other goodies.
That fruit is fig…
Costco at Christmas always has a great selection of cheeses and Costco in the US is even better. Arvind and I both love cheese and I love coffee so we’d be in for the tasting too.
We have done some cycling trips in Quebec where there is an established network of signed bike routes. The province actively promotes agri-tourism, which includes its local cheese producing farms. We biked over to a few on a route between Montreal and Quebec City. Some richly complex cheeses are made in Canada –on par with French cheeses!
If you vacation in Europe, make sure you go to the local farmers’ markets. We were pleased to visit a farmers’ market in Freiburg Germany in the Black Forest region where the German cheeses (and world famous German wines are produced), are like the luscious French cheeses –flavourful, complex and aged. And there, it is cheap for high quality. About 50% cheaper there because it’s local.
It was a great and educational tasting at the elf house. Grayelf really knows her cheese!
Is it assumed that the milk used is organic as they are artisan cheeses? I would love to see improvements in rice or soy cheeses match what there is in milk cheeses. Cannot eat too much dairy as it causes my asthma to flare up. 🙁
My cheese encyclopedia by Christian Callec says that China and Japan do not make any cheese other than tofu from soy beans that is the closest. It is not really popular in those countries.
Don’t discount yak’s milk! Kind of a cool post on cheese in China: http://www.echinacities.com/expat-corner/cheese-in-china-an-unlikely-industry.html
Are they making cheese for Westerners in China? Cos there is the lactose intolerance thing that some Asians suffer from. I wish the article addressed that so I know what market the cheese sells to. I know Tibet makes yak cheese but we already had a discussion about Tibet and China!
My book was written 2002 so I know things have evolved since then. The Japanese like to take Western foods and give it a Japanese twist. I forgot what they call it but an example would be Japadog and Barefoot Kitchen which does Western style dishes with Japanese touches and do use cheeses and cream sauces.
Hi Shirl: What book was that you said you had written?
Very impressive, Grayelf. Kudos !!!
Oh correction, I did not write the cheese encyclopedia, I have a copy of it XD! I should have said THE book. Anyways, its called The Complete Encyclopedia of Cheese: A unique reference to the many well-known and lesser known cheeses of the world by Christian Callec.
me for cheese and the coffee
Framboise Lambic, What The Huck, Longboat Chocolate Porter, Cassis Lambic!
Yummm beers. Thanks for the visual reminder, I still have a Chocolate Porter in my friends fridge…
I am sure interested in both cheese and coffee event. Love cheese!! the stinkier better. LOL
btw any one know if any local cheese shop has Mimolette?
Tiger Blue is sure my favourite local blue cheese!! love it.
Les Amis often has mimolette, Winnie. Ya gotta love a cheese that looks like canteloupe :-).
coffee event please!
Epoisses is on my most wanted list of new cheese to try! Great post, thanks!
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The ball is rolling on the coffee event. Van chow members can get details here
I can confirm that I will contribute Cafe Luwak or Civet Cat Coffee and Filipino Cafe Barako.I talked to Tangent Design at the Van chow dinner last night.Barako is a very strong Robusta and Cafe Luwak is Barako processed by the Civet Cat digestive system.Tangent Design is a true coffee guru and this will be a fun event worth going to
PG – we need to make sure to get true Barako which is not a Robusta, but a Liberica. They taste very different. Tangent and I are still wanting to duplicate a particularly memorable batch of true wild (Liberica) Barako that a relative brought from Batangas.
fmed I am thinking of sourcing from the Taal Public Market in Batangas or Tagaytay City which has a place called Bag of beans and sells Specialty Coffee,But I can only bring them back after Christmas.Would that work?
That sounds awesome. After Christmas really the only realistic timeframe for this methinks.