Monday, December 6, 2010


Gingerboy. Go there. They have a big neon sign. It says, "Gingerboy".

In the early 16th century, the great Christian humanist Erasmus railed against printers, those anarcho-informationalists of his day, that worked to
“fill the world with pamphlets and books that are foolish, ignorant, malignant, libelous, mad, impious and subversive; and such is the flood that even things that might have done some good lose all their goodness"
I read those words and immediately thought of those who prattle and rant about food as though it was a religious experience while blogging about the most trivial of matters and expect a readership to be impressed by their delicate sensibilities and refined tastes.

Not that I'm talking about anyone I know. *blushes*.

Anyway, the last month has seen some mixed dining experiences, from the sublime to the, well, not sublime, and rather than spend 500 words per piece filling the world with words that were foolish, ignorant, malignant etc, I thought I'd cram a few into a single mix tape that you can play in the car or give to someone special as a taster of what "Eat our Way" is all about. Think of this as a touring melange of tastes and ideas.

Gills Diner

The night I went to Gills Diner I had my professional hat on, and was having dinner with a man considered to be a world authority on car parking. No, he doesn't park cars; he's studied the impact of car parking on cities - the financial, environmental and opportunity costs of car parking in our cities. Disclaimer - I was a guest of the extravagantly named 'Institute of Sensible Transport".

Our local professor on the left. Car parking professor not in shot.

Anyway, sensibility aside, Gills Diner is tucked away in one of Melbourne's hipster alleys and is appropriately hard to find. It's got a cool, ex-industrial feel and warm staff and the food is good bistro nosh. On a rainy Melbourne night I had pork belly with pan-fried apples on a bed of humorous little lentils and a couple of 3 Ravens. The food was simple but perfect for the evening, while the conversation was focussed on the complexity of car parking and urban form. Note to self: two professors per meal is probably my limit.

Thanh Thanh


If it wasn't already obvious, I'm a bit of a fan of the old pho and other noodle soups. So in the ever continuing quest for the perfect pho, I dropped in to Thanh Thanh on Victoria Street in Richmond. I'd love to say they were great, but they weren't.

The magic of pho is in the stock and the stock here wasn't up to much. It lacked depth, spice and most of all, magic. In summary, "meh".


Gingerboy, like Gills Diner, is Cool, and although the alley it's tucked away in is larger and easier to find than that of Gills Diner, that just means Gingerboy focusses on being just a gem rather than a hidden gem.

Gingerboy does wonderful, up-market versions of SE Asian street food without the humidity and with a greater range of cocktails. Dishes come in a potentially confusing (but well explained) mix of small and medium dishes, all of which had a complexity and a depth that comes with a blend of high-note herbs and the basso profondo of belachlan.

Silken tofu - the (almost vegetarian) bee's knees

We started with Chinese cabbage and chicken dumplings, which had a beautiful, essential filling, although the wrappers were a little chewy. Small, salt and pepper spiced chicken ribs in a crisp, light batter were served with a blistering and wonderful sauce - the Kentucky chicken of the gods. The last of the small dishes was soft-shelled crab with a green papaya salad - wonderful, with a papery shell and a tart salad.

Two large dishes finished the meal - a wonderful and rich salad of wagyu beef and soba noodles and some gentle kim chi (at least by kim chi standards!) and some beautiful silken tofu with mushrooms and XO sauce. This was the surprising and wonderful dish in its balance and complexity; almost the dish that could convert me to vegetarianism (except for the shrimp paste in the sauce).

Soft-shelled crab and papaya salad. Let's do this again!

Gingerboy is the standout of this bunch - a small but perfectly formed restaurant with attentive staff and a intimate (yet busy) room and truly wonderful food. A keeper.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Fairfield dog sculpture
FIDO, courtesy wispfox

Not in High Street perhaps, but a short ride away via traditional northern suburbs transport (Vespa or a fixie), Alfio's Cafe is in Station Street in Fairfield, just up from the glorious FIDO. Alfio's is a Fairfield stalwart and was one of the oldest of the current generation of cafes. It also hasn't changed much in years - it was much the same in 2005 and 2006 (and indeed, the blackboard behind me in 2006 has exactly the same cocktail list).

Alfio's is so much part of my mental landscape of Fairlfield that I wouldn't have bothered writing about it except that I've only just discovered they serve the best mega-breakfast in the northern suburbs. Not the best breakfast all up, but certainly the best mega-breakfast in the FEB-style.

Hail King George

Alfio's call their mega FEB breakfast, "The George". It contained a pile of wilted spinach; a couple of poached eggs (slightly over-done); two slices of pale toasted baguette; some sauteed mushrooms (good but not spectacular); two halves of grilled tomato (good but with extraneous cheese on one half); a pile of crisp bacon (excellent!); a Hungarian-style paprika and garlic partly-cured sausage (brilliant!); and a lamb kofta (not a lot of flavour but cooked perfectly). It also had, buried underneath, a superfluous, freezer-bag hash brown. When I can work up the energy I'll rail against these, but honestly, who cares enough?

Oh, and there were beans. Very good. Home made, not too light and not too stodgy either - Goldilocks beans.

All in all it was, well, huge. Pretty damn good for a late breakfast verging-on-lunch. Oh, and the coffee is, and always has been, fantastic. Go there, but expect to see some of your work colleagues striding past in their Saturday morning finest. Well, that's what I saw, anyway.

Stephen Colbert Scooby Snacks

Martha Stewart explains strangling turkeys to Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert mushes Devon/Berliner/Fritz/Baloney with tomato sauce and serves it on crackers.

Stephen Colbert sucks the lapel of a 69-year old former stockbroker and jailbird.

Watch it here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

China Red

Technology has come a long way since I was a small, innocent child. Tonnes of metal fly through the sky every day (mostly safely); gamma radiation from galactic bubbles abounds; and people cheerfully wear clothes made of magical man-made fibres. At the same time, the intertubes have revolutionized our lives and information swirls endlessly through pipes, blessing us with almost instantaneous satisfaction and answers through tubes. Water, however, still comes in bottles.

I only raise this because I have this great idea that's going to make me rich. I'm going to tell you, discretely, but you have to promise not to keep it to yourself.

You see, it occurred to me that if everyone uses water every day, then surely it would be great if we had instant access to it, just like we have instant access to information. Indeed, what we need is some sort of "water internet". This "waternet" would be, like the internet, a series of tubes, but in this case delivering water, instead of information, directly to our houses! It's a crazy, science-fiction idea (I know!), but perhaps one day it will be more than fantasy. Maybe in the future we'll be able to abandon bottled water for a "waternet", where water is delivered through "pipes". Maybe not in my lifetime perhaps, but hey, we can dream.

The future of dumplings is here already

Of course, not all technology is fantasy. While the "waternet" eludes us, the great dream of a dumpling internet (the legendary "dumplenet") has already arrived. Somewhere in the world, the Tim Berners-Lee of the dumpling world is resting on his laurels and these laurels can be found at China Red.

China Red is a small, tastefully discrete modern restaurant in a mall between Bourke St and Little Bourke, just off Melbourne's China Town and is truly a marvel of modern technology. While one day in the future we will surely be able to access the dumplenet from home, in 2010 we are limited to dumplenet cafes and China Red is at the forefront of this exciting phase of civilization.

Spring onion pancakes. Donuts, but with onions and crisp.

Using the amazing touchscreen dumplenet technology, Miranda, Helen and I (early adopters all) ordered our dumplings "on screen" and without recourse to human interaction!! This felt both staggeringly modern and never too far from being exciting. Screens were touched; virtual buttons were digitally manipulated and food arrived shortly after, albeit delivered by humans rather than the robots I hoped for. You can check what you ordered at any time, with delivered dishes signified with a digital steaming bowl icon, while food you've ordered but is not yet delivered shows as a rather sweet animated chef cooking up a storm.

We ordered spring onion pancakes which were exceedingly crisp and onionesque; green (snake?) beans with minced pork and chili; some chili oil dumplings; and some pot-stickers. The beans were wonderful and smoky, although the pieces of chili they were served with was staggeringly, blisteringly hot, while the chili oil dumplings were somewhere greater than good but less than spectacular. The pot-stickers (I know they had a proper name but I can't remember what it was) were also good, but no more, and came with a chewy and gelatinous wrapper.

Pan-fried dumplings (pot-stickers) and the blistering beans

All up the food was good city lunch time fare. Good dumplings, but not great, with a bit of digital fun watching the little man on the screen. Go, have lunch and pay very little, but most of all marvel at the first fledgling steps of what will become the great and ubiquitous dumplenet.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Christmas in November - Reflections on Panettone

Well, Christmas is only months and months away so the shops are in full Christmas swing. Decorations that look like elves have been dropping LSD; hampers full of the stuff they didn't sell last year; and belt-fed plastic machine guns that fire whistling foam bullets in the toy catalogs (oh to be young again...).

Panettone bread and butter pudding - the true spirit of Christmas on a plate

Luckily, there is one aspect of Christmas that can't come soon enough, and that's panettone season. The smell.... The texture.... The bread and butter pudding..... So in the lead up to the festive season, here are a few thoughts from the gluttons at Eat Our Way regarding this highlight of Saturnalia. These were all purchased from the local big-name supermarket.
  • Ital Traditional Panettone - This was not a great way to start the season. This spoils Christmas as much as Scrooge McGrinch and, quite frankly, it can $%$#@ my &^%$. Dry, only a faint smell and not much fruit, it completely lacked that overwhelming moist, boozy, vanilla-toasty smell that shakes you by the neck and says, "IT'S FUCKING CHRISTMAS!!!" Instead all it could offer was, "Christmas? Oh yeah, I bought you a sack of charcoal. By the way, it's your turn to take out the rubbish bins."
  • Buinissomo Panettone Classico - My word, this is indeed the shizzle, as Mr S Dogg would surely attest. It looks as if Michelangelo had designed the packaging for Paris Hilton, as it comes in a cardboard Sistene Chapel of glory. Definitely better than the Ital, it offered fruit and a much more traditional panettone smell with an added citrus perfume. If anything, it erred slightly on the side of being a little too moist, so that it compressed in your mouth. All up, very good and made a truly excellent Bread and Butter Pudding.
  • Bauli il Panettone - The curate's egg of a panettone; it had an excellent moist but open texture and was generous with the fruit, particularly the orange peel. It also had a lovely citrus scent which, although it was very appealing (pun intended), it lacked the overwhelming panettone aroma that the Buinissomo had. A delicious fruit bread but without that merged magic vanilla-toasty-citrus smell that makes panettone what it is.
But apart from eating it, toasting it and generally elevating a humble cup of tea to a religious experience, there's one thing you can do with panettone that takes it from a bread-based confection to the food of the gods. This dessert is truly salvation in a baking dish.

Bread and butter pudding

Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

Take the best part of a panettone and slice it thickly. Toast it lightly if you can be bothered, but it's not necessary. Butter each slice lightly and spread with a favourite preserve - we use either the quince jelly or kumquat marmalade we make.

Lay the slices in a buttered baking dish and cover with a rich custard mix - maybe 10 eggs to a litre of milk, with a few tablespoons of sugar and some vanilla.

Allow it to soak for a few minutes before putting into a slow-medium oven until its almost firm in the centre and golden on top. Serve warm or cool, but not hot.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cooking with Al

Al is learning to cook, partly through school, but also with us as well as a great big dose of teaching himself and practicing. There are few things more satisfying than watching someone try cooking a dish for the first time, practice the technique, try the result and then comment sagely on possible improvements. If I sound like a very proud parent, I am, but I'm also trying to be restrained in my comment so I don't embarrass him out of the kitchen....

He made Beggar's Chicken, something I've wanted to try since, well, I was probably about his age and saw it in a Women's Weekly cooking book. It looked magical, yet in my teenage mind was wildly profligate (throwing away a kilo of salt?) and required a lot of faith. Al, on the other hand, leaped after the briefest of looks and was well rewarded. In fact, we all were...

The result was worth the palaver. It looked roasted but was floating in juices and was the most incredibly tender chicken I've ever tasted, as though the meat fibers had been individually softened. The flavour was perfect - the smell of a little soy, ginger, spring onions and five spice wafted above the juices. It was truly wonderful.

Vanilla Slice - You'd have to drive a long way to get one this old school

He also made a Vanilla Slice worthy of a country baker and last week made a goat curry (he has no fear). All wonderful, and I am hoping for much more.

Goat curry - rich and heady with fragrance. Everyone loved it (except the goat).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


A bit more than a year ago we started "Eat our Way" with the intention of capturing our thoughts about our local restaurants at a point in time before they became too popular, swanky and/or wanky. The deal was simple; I promised to focus on High Street and never use the word "authentic" and you promise not to complain about the humble scope of this blog.

I say this really just to confess, in advance, that this time we're a little out of scope. No, that's not quite true; we're well out of scope. We had a couple of days in Darwin last week and had a lovely evening eating great Nonya food at a place called Hanuman, and this is our humble record of that evening. Think of it as "Eat our Way goes Mad in the Tropics".


Hanuman was just around the corner from our hotel and looked pretty fine from the street, and like everywhere wonderful in Darwin, it's open to the elements.

We don't often start a meal with a cocktail, but then we're not often in a different city without children for a couple of days either. I ordered a Hanuman Martini, which was flavoured with a sweet green tea liqueur, while the seahorse had a Cosmopolitan. The martini erred on the sweet sidewith a clean fragrance, but the Cosmo was a damp and diluted squib - a pale, faded pink shadow of the Platonic Cosmopolitan, like 1980's office decor - pale pink and grey like a galah. Afterwards the seahorse did complain her ears had fallen off, so perhaps it wasn't that diluted....

Oysters in sweet little pots

We ordered two entrees - oysters baked with ginger, soy and chili, and "Money Bags" - plump, fried wontons filled with a ginger-garlic chicken mousse. The oysters were intense and at the very limits of what I'm prepared to see happen to an oyster. They come in a beautiful terracotta dish, individually lidded in a sharp, hot sauce. There was still enough room for the oyster to shine through, but only just. Enjoyable, but not essence of oyster which is what I enjoy most in an oyster.

Moneybags of... chicken

The Money Bags were wrapped in a thin, crisp tofu skin and served with a sweet chili glaze. Plump, lovely and sweet, like... I could get into trouble now so I'll shut up.

Hanuman Prawns

Main courses were a coconut milk prawn curry that was unctuous, mild and warm and pork belly cooked with star anise and cinnamon. Both were fabulous on their own, although in retrospect they were both rich dishes with little spice, and choosing at least one dish with a bit more spark would have been a better idea. We also ordered roti, which was great, and raita which was a little sweet for my tastes.

Pork Belly

Hanuman served up the best meal I've had in the Northern Territory, which to a southerner might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I've had some fantastic south east Asian food in Darwin that had a freshness that would be hard to beat. Green papaya salad and oodles of rice noodles at various markets mean my northern expectations are pretty high and Hanuman met these.

I didn't mention dessert - Black Rice Brulee. It was of the Gods.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I think it's only fair that at this stage in our relationship, dear reader, that I disclose certain editorial and research standards at Eat Our Way. Now, I know those who've been reading this blog for any length of time will find the suggestion that I have standards a little hard to fathom and may even dart off to re-read old posts looking for evidence of such. My general rule is that it takes a certain number of meals to justify an opinion, meaning a single adult journey to a venue generally requires a second validatory expedition before mere words are committed to type.

Because drinking at breakfast is cool yes it is shut up.

In this case, however, I'm going to break that rule, largely because it will be a while before we get a chance to go back, and, albeit based on scant evidence, we will be going back. So, dearest reader, understand the limitations of my opinion but recognize that I'm going to have one regardless of what you think.

I went with the smallest tribe member for a walk to the park (child exercise) followed by some a stroll up Ruckers Hill (adult exercise) to get some late Sunday breakfast. Chowhound is towards the top of the Hill on the western side, a short walk down from the town hall. It's bigger than many of its peers and is a pleasant, relaxed space that's not too high on the Wank Scale (where your lounge room gets a "zero" and sparkle laminex and mixed 1950's vinyl chairs gets an "8").

Beans, eggs, proscuitto

So I ordered the baked eggs with baked beans, proscuitto and toast with a Bloody Mary while Will had Macaroni Cheese from the menu for kidlets.

The beans were not the slow baked, rich, slightly sweetened and well cooked beans that I make at home, but were lighter, with firmer white beans in a fresh tomato sauce. Not what I was looking forward to, but not bad either - they were Kylie Minogue when I was expecting Wagner. The eggs were baked on top of these and were alright, but the yolks were a little harder than perfect and there was a splodge of uncooked white in the center. A quick stir into the beans fixed the white problem but the yolks were well beyond translucent and thus repair. The prosciutto was crisp, salty and thin. A not-at-all bad dish, although potentially improved by breaking the egg yolk into the middle of the dish where it will cook the least.

Macaroni cheese and boy

Will's macaroni cheese was generously cheesed, baconed and onioned. The onions in particular were golden and lusciously sweet, and the whole sticky ensemble was crunchily crumbed.

Everything else was tickety-boo; the staff were helpful, it was quiet and generally relaxing. So in summary, while I can't speak definitively about Chowhound, I can speak positively enough to say we'll go back and try breakfast again.

On the other hand, the name's a bit naff...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gold Leaf

There's something fantastic about Gold Leaf in Preston and I mean fantastic in the true sense of the word. From the street, Gold Leaf is just a staircase at the end of a pretty grungy walkway that connects High Street with a car park, but once you step over the empty boxes, newspapers and freshly delivered bean shoots and climb those stairs, POW!

Like walking through a wardrobe and discovering a winter wonderland, you step inside out of the gloom. Gold Leaf, however, is no monochrome land of restraint ruled by a White Witch; the decor in the foyer is straight out of Tom Wolfe's Electric Cool Aid Acid Test. As if the Merry Pranksters have driven their bus through Hong Kong on their way to Las Vegas, bold lighting, bright colours and revolving chandeliers mix with lobsters in tanks and an overall sense of chaos. At this point if the maitre d' turns out to be an octopus in a gold lame jacket you'd probably take it in your stride.

Obey the dumplings

Once you're past the entrance, the other surprise is Gold Leaf's sheer size - it's huge and there are far more people scarfing dumplings gathered together in one room than you would expect from the street. And while it's noisy and there are hard surfaces everywhere, it's not too loud.

Although Gold Leaf does yum cha/dim sum every day of the week, Sunday for me is The One True Yum Cha Day.

Dumpling-on-Dumpling Action!!

Tea comes quickly (and is refilled often, as it Was Meant To Be) and within moments you're fighting off the trolleys. There's plenty of the normal fare done really, really well - steamed dumplings; seafood in all sorts of guises; gai lan; prawn wrapped in bean curd wrappers; scallops on tofu; little fried wantons and other crunchy parcels; and sheets of unctuous, pearly-white rice noodles with more seafood.

More please!

For me the perfect yum cha experience has a mix of the new and the familiar, and "new" this time was slices of eel, cut like tiny fish steaks and cooked in a dark sauce. This was luscious and fatty with a sweetness to balance the fish.

I can haz eel?

In the "familiar" category, apart from dumplings upon dumplings, I have a soft spot for turnip cake. There's something wintry and comforting about these fried slices of bland daikon, studded with Chinese sausage, ham and spring onions, even if they looked like slices of congealed dishwater that have been shallow fried. Balanced with light, prawn dumplings and scallops on ethereal soft tofu, they make up the important stodge course.

Turnip cake. Mmmmmm....

And that's what yum cha (or dim sum) is all about - balance. It's the balance of chaos and comfort; the familiar and the unfamiliar; the steamed and the fried; the subtle and the spicy; the light and the filling. Of course, yum cha also requires that there are children running around tables, the noise is rambunctious and there's a four-trolley pile up threatening to cover you in steamed dumplings and gai lan. And, perhaps strangely, in the middle of this chaos on a Sunday morning I find a kind of peace and some time to contemplate my lot. There's a joy about yum cha that reminds me of how good life and family can be.

Emily and the octopus

Alex dumples

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A trip to Preston Market becomes Paella

Saturday at Preston Market. Mission: to make paella.

We bought some fish...

...and some prawns....

...and some mussels.

Will was hungry... we had a slice of pizza for lunch.

We said hello to some old friends...

...and met them again after they'd had a makeover.

I cooked some capsicums, garlic, bay leaves and onions with oil and smoked paprika...

...which came from a cheerful tin.

Felicity's talking, suicidal prawn amused Will with his constant refrain of "rip my head off!".

Some fish, browned chicken legs and browned chorizo went in the vegetables with the rice.

Some stock and saffron went in and it simmered for a bit before I added the mussels, prawns and pippies.

It was pretty good.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shanghai City Restaurant

Shanghai City is a small, cheap, noisy Northern Chinese restaurant in the Preston end of High Street that specialises in dumplings and hotpot. Half the walls in the restaurant are given over to bain-marie filled with all sorts of meats, fishes, vegetables, noodles and other stuff and the idea is to help yourself and cook what you will in a simmering pot of soup on the table. I'm not usually a fan of restaurant DIY, particularly when I have no idea of the etiquette, but the staff cheerfully explained the procedure and so we happily gave it a go.

Shanghai City Restaurant

We were given the choice between chicken soup, chili soup or a half-and-half pot that meant we could try both, and this we did.

The chicken soup was flavoured with some floating dried herbs, flowers and seed pods I couldn't identify, but it was comforting and perfect, given the wet, cold wind outside. The chili soup on the other hand was a rich red colour, with more chopped chili in every scoop than I would normally eat in a week. It wasn't as hot as it looked, but it was still very, very hot.

Soup to the left of me and soup to the right; here I am fishing around for some lamb

We cooked fishballs, beancurd, pork, cooked lamb, cabbage, dried mushrooms, bean shoots and glass noodles in the soups and tried a few of the dipping sauces. There's a wide selection, although the waitress wasn't sure what some of them were called in English so I can't tell you what they were. The chili sauce (more chili!) was roughly cut and hot, and I think it might have been the same stuff that went into the soup. There was a peanut sauce, possibly a garlic sauce and other mystery sauces, including a dark green one that Emily described as "salty and fishy and a bit ummmm".

The hotpot also came with some excellent spring onion pancakes which were flaky and crisp and a very generous plate of dumplings. These were glutinous with crisp, brown bottoms and filled with a juicy and rich pork mixture. The filling was unctuous - definitely cold weather food. They also have a range of other cooked dishes that don't require hotpotting and these looked pretty good for stuff in a bain-marie.

Spring Onion Pancakes. Crispy....

Now I'm no slouch when it comes to the old hot stuff, but I have never before eaten so much chopped chili. By the time we finished my bowl was almost half full of the chopped chili I hadn't eaten, and I suspect I ate at least the same amount.

Al cooks it

Shanghai City is a fun place to have a comfortable, if slightly messy, DIY hotpot. The staff are cheerful and helpful and the food is great (hey, it's not like I can fault the cooking...) and generous. It was about half-full of people when we arrived and although it only got busier, it was never too loud, even with the Chinese soap opera playing on the telly. And best of all, it's quite a lot of fun.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cheese Club Nine - Bride of the Son of the Revenge of Cheese Club

Cheese Club returns for its ninth time, and frankly it was touch and go there for a few moments. A number of last minute withdrawals due to illness, morning sickness, hangovers and being in Malaysia (not all the same person) meant Team Cheese was a bit thin on the ground. This was exacerbated when co-host textileseahorse got bogged in the country rains and didn't arrive home until well after kick-off. Luckily, quality counts for much and I was joined by Eat Our Way stalwart essjay and Team Cheese star recruit, Dapper Del. So without a moment or skerrick of cheese to waste, let's hear from the cheese...

Holy Goat Batman! Let's put on our Batsuits and go rolling around in it!

Holy Goat Pandora - Holy liquid cheese, Batman! From the outside it looks like a lot of the other surface ripened, white mould goats cheeses (like this one) but on the inside it's something else all together. In fact, it's little more than a gooey, liquid cheese poured into a white mould tube cunningly disguised as something more solid. When I cut the top off ours, as if for a boiled egg, the texture inside was like a thin pouring cream with a small floating centre that hadn't quite ripened. Cutting the side resulted in a torrent of cheese that required bread to sop it up. Beyond the cream the flavour was slightly sweet with a little mushroom flavour and without any goat tang. A cheese that demands an audience.

Fromage de Meaux. Far, far better than a silk stocking full of shit

Fromage de Meaux - A cows' milk white moulder from Ile-de-France and like all great French cheeses, this Brie has a long and amusing history. Charlemagne praised Brie in the ninth century and it was dubbed "the King of Cheeses" by the diplomat Tallyrand (a man famously described by Napoleaon as "shit in a silk stocking") in the nineteenth. This was a lovely Brie, but not as intense or salty as some of the other French white-moulders we've had (such as the Brie de Nangis). A mild, rich flavour that's easy on the palate and doesn't require a whole lot of thinking. This is an introductory Brie, or perhaps a gateway Brie that leads the first-time taster to a life of crime to fund an obsession with the sterner stuff...

No, not "little monster"; Petit Munster. Same origin as "monastery"

Petit Munster - Not, as one might have been led to expect, a small monster, but instead a modest washed rind cheese from the Alsace. Although Munster is considered one of France's more smellier cheeses, this was the pocket-size model that don't have quite the same terrifying reputation as its large-wheel bigger brother. This is not an overwhelming washed-rind biological weapon, but is a beautiful cheese with a luscious, smooth texture and a balance of washed-rind stink and sweet cream. It doesn't have the yeast/Vegemite smell that some of its friends-and-relations do, but would be the perfect follow-on from the Brie on the path towards cheese dependancy.

Roy des Vallees, or we as like to call it, Master

Roy des Vallees - On the surface this appears to be a modest semi-hard cheese ball, about as big as a cantaloupe, made from sheep and goats milk in the Basque-Pyrenees. But its modest looks hide the fact that this cheese is a supervillain in a cardigan; one which DEMANDS TO BE DESCRIBED IN ALL-CAPS!! THIS IS A BLOODY MARVELOUS, RICH, NUTTY, CARAMEL FLAVOUR THAT LASTS ABOUT SIX MONTHS IN YOUR MOUTH! BOW BEFORE THE CHEESE, YOU COWERING, INSIGNIFICANT MORTALS FOR YOUR TIME HAS EXPIRED! THE TIME OF THE BIG CHEESE HAS ARRIVED AND YOU PUNY WALKING HUMAN SAUSAGES WILL BE RENDERED DOWN FOR TALLOW TO SERVE YOUR LACTIC OVERLORDS! BOW!

Sorry Cantal, you were nice but I was thinking about Roy...

Cantal - Cantal is semi-hard cow's milk cheese from Auvergne. It's texture was somewhere between a not-too-old Cheddar and a Gruyere - tight and smooth but with a dense flavour that has just a little sourness to balance the nuttiness. This suffered a little by following the Roy de Vallees, but stood proud when taken on its own the next day. At the time we all nodded and spoke highly of the Cantal, but secretly we are all thinking about the Roy...

Carles Roquefort

Carles Roquefort - The Lord knows I'm not a religious man, but every time when we finish Cheese Club with a soft, buttery blue cheese I can't help think that is How God Meant It To Be. All good things should end with blue cheese, and this would be a fine Roquefort to finish many things; a meal for example, or perhaps a long evening of wine, or even a life. Without getting onto the morbid subject of deathbed cheeses, this would have to be on the shortlist (although, to be fair, my shortlist has about 20 cheeses on it). Creamy yet tart with both a sheep's milk tang and a powerful blue punch, this is a noble and powerful cheese; the sort that looks imperiously down on you from the back of a horse. You don't argue with a cheese like this; you just don't.

Oh, and the mystery guest with the stripe? It's our old friend, Fin Briard aux Truffe