Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cheese Club IV - Death to the Lactose Intolerant

Cheese Club has returned for the first time in a while but was well worth the wait. Joined again by the Urbane Parents and Penny and Kent, we glided our way through six wonderful cheeses and some wonderful wines (a 2007 Clockwork Cab Sauv (Margaret River); a 2000 Elizabeth Semillon (Hunter Valley) and a 2007 Scotchmans Hill Pinot Noir (Bellarine Peninsular)). So without further faffing about...

Cheese! In a box!

Holy Goat Eclipse - Kicking off with a surface ripened, fresh goats cheese, this was a sweet and ugly pyramid of joy. From central Victoria, this was a perfect balance of sweet and sour; lightness and depth. It had a consistent texture of tight, fresh curd (unlike the chalky centre and runny edges of, say, the Chabichou du Poitou), and the flavour was fresh and exciting. Very much a Quasimodo cheese - a little terrifying to look at with its curled, dark rind but sweet and gentle to know.

Holy Goat, Batman! It's as ugly as something really, really ugly!

That's Amore Smoked Baby Scamorza - The other Victorian cheese, this is a smoked and stretched curd cheese, bundled in to a little ball of mozzarella-like cuteness and burnished with a bronze sheen. The curd wasn't as stretched as mozzarella though, and although it had a bit of bounce it was softer than it looked. It had a salami-like, smoked smell, but the richness of the cheese is not overwhelmed by the burny stuff. Very popular on the night, and the best smoked cheese I've ever tasted (out of a small pool, to be fair...).

No ashtray necessary

Edel de Cleron - a washed rind cheese for those who don't necessarily believe that "washed rind" is the same as "biological warfare". This is a cow's milk, surface ripened and washed rind cheese that has all of the rich, gooeyness of a white mould cheese and the flavours of something heaven sent. The washed rind aspect was powerful but not overpowering and the texture varied from the ripe, gooey centre to the resisting rind. It had many layers of scent tussled together into a luscious whole. I think we'll leave the remaining half of this for a week to complete ripening - everything was so wonderfully complicated about this that a bit of time might produce something even more amazing.

Hmmmm.... Just you wait, my pretty...

Fougerous Rouzaire - a Brie, a lot like the Brie de Nangus - strong, earthy flavours; more salt than most local white-mould cheeses but not quite as salty as the Nangus. Popular with the white-moulders. Me? Yeah, as good as any, but I'm not really in a white mould mood. This wasn't on RHCL's recommended list but was an addition to satisfy those pesky white-moulders. Let 'em have their cheese I say. More of the others for me.

Quite nice, but you're going to have to get up earlier in the morning to impress me.

Casa Madaio Acacio de Bufala is made from Buffalo's milk and is a hard, cooked curd cheese from Eboli, Italy. This was definitely the most unusual cheese of the six. Penny described it as being "like a Manchego without the sheep's milk taste", which was a good call. It's texture was unexpected - while it looks like a hard granular cheese, it has a hint of resistance almost like a stretched curd cheese.

The flavour is big and round - the tasting notes talk about a "rich apricot fruity flavour". It certainly has a lovely acid balance and a bit of salt . I'm not quite sure what to make of this; I liked it, but ate it frowning in concentration. Not necessarily one I'd buy again, but only because there are so many other cheeses to try.

Things that make you "Hmmm?"

The last cheese of the evening was Onetik Bluette, a blue mould goat's milk cheese from the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, France. Quite frankly, this knocked everyone's socks off without the sense (or smell) that somebody had just taken their socks off, and was a perfect cheese to finish with. The texture was a blend of softly buttery paste and the slight grain of the mighty mould veins. A blue that everyone could enjoy, without it being bland - not so much sharp as tingly. This could easily become a new favourite and is on the "keeper" list and the "buying again" list and the "yes please" list.

Things that make you go "yummmmm..."

We also took delivery of some Aphrodite Haloumi, from Cyprus. I'll grill that and report back later. All in all an excellent haul.

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