Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cheese Club V - The Cheeses and Dairy Chain*

Cheese Club is back, this time with a hardcore experience for the strong of heart, steady of resolve and supple of liver. There were moments of calm and light, but most of all it was full-on, full-tilt, three-chord screaming and messing with your head. We were joined by Miranda, James and Felix, the Hyphen-Warlocks, and some continent-spanning wines, from the lovely Vasse Felix Shiraz in the west to the perky Brokenwood Cricket Pitch in the east. And so, down to business...

Le Chevrot. Yeah, ok....

Le Chevrot - you know the biggest problem with Cheese Club, apart from the cholesterol? Expectations are raised; raised some more; and, just when you think there's no cheese ceiling left to shatter, you're brought crashing down to Earth covered in feathers and goo. And that's what le Chevrot was to me - a nice enough surface ripened goat's milk cheese, but that's all. A gentle goaty tang; some almost interesting (but calming) white mould and a mostly uniform texture. With a ruffled skin it was largely homogenous, and most unlike some of the other more interesting surface-ripened goat cheeses we've tried (say, the Buche Chevre de Poitou). Like Richard Dawkins, it's enjoyable without recourse to magic.

Making moonlight music; mighty nice**

Fin Briard aux Truffe -This is basically just a brie with a layer in the middle infested with truffles. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's a surface-ripened cow's milk cheese with some black bits in the middle. But... But.... What are those black bits again?

This is wonderful stuff. The texture is just like a lovely brie - creamy with a moment of chalk in the middle and a soft and fuzzy rind, but the flavour is deep, sweet and richly earthy. Most of the flavour is in your nose, and it's a warm, infused flavour that comes from underground. If chocolate, compost, damp gardens, beef stock and a touch of Vegemite could combine into something grand, it would be this. We didn't taste much but the memory remains...

Miranda told me the next day she dreamed of this

St Felicien - This made me feel like a cat in heaven, but only because it's like drinking cream from a saucer. I could nod politely; I could roll this around in my mouth while making "hmmmmm..." noises; I could "ummm" and "ahhhh...", but this is like nothing we've had in Cheese Club to date, and by criminy, it's amazing....

It comes in its own terracotta landing pod and with its wrinkled skin looks like a Dr Who brain-villain lurking in the bottom of a gravel quarry. To quote Felicity; "it tastes like it's alive!" But then when you stick a knife in it, it dies quickly and liquifies. This isn't eating cheese; it's drinking cheese. A mild, gentle flavour and texture like thin pouring cream, like a cheese-stick drinking yoghurt... A Lady Gaga cheese - sexy, but thin and a little bit disturbing.

Polish your shoes, guvvna?

Pave de L'Ayeron - Oh no... I'm getting the fear.... This is seriously weird stuff, man... Dennis-Hopper-in-a-tweed-jacket-and-tutu weird... This is a sheep's milk washed-rind cheese; a cheese that looks runny and gooey with a crust of soft, warm colour that speaks of a luscious mouth-feel and a gentle but assertive washed-rind flavour. And it is those things, but it's got something else that takes it beyond the creamy towards a perverse, glue-sniffing experience. It has undertones of industrial solvent and, to quote Emily, the scent of shoe polish. This cheese is beyond good and evil and anything we don't eat will need to be disposed of in a concrete and lead-lined pit. I will eat some more, but mostly out of morbid curiosity.

Careful with that axe, Eugene.

Lindenhoff Aged Boerenkaas - This is the cheese equivalent of an aging hippie turned into a knife-wielding lunatic. In theory it's a Gouda, so it's a cooked curd cheese made of cow's milk, but the Dutch have been keeping this one in their stash for the last four years, next to the golden hash from Morocco and the hydroponic skunk weed. It looks nothing like those soft, doughy balls of flab that I usually associate with Gouda, but instead crumbles like a hard cheese, while the intensity of the flavour is like being stabbed in the head with a windmill full of clogs. Crumbly, crunchy moments (of calcium crystals, apparently) in a rich, stewed, deep flavour with a vicious edge. I'll be cooking with the rest of this - it's far too intense to expose to the naked human taste bud, but should be fantastic in a sauce with broccoli...

A little bit sexy, but only a little bit

Bonta Della Bontazola - This is a creamy blue cow's milk cheese that is near the bottom rung in the intensity hierarchy of Gorgonzolas. At the sharp, pointed peak sits the Gorgonzola piccante, a very blue cheese with a strong tang against a creamy base. In the middle is the Gorgonzola Dolce, just as creamy but with a milder blue mould tang. Almost at the bottom, just above cream, is this Bontazola - a rich, creamy and smooth cheese with just a hint of blue. This is very much the dessert cheese. Cheerful without being assertive, like that nice councillor you know, only a little more blue and without the sandals.

*I can't take the credit for this. It belongs to Alex James, Blur's bass player and cheesemaker.
** with apologies to Dr Seuss.


  1. Nope - even at room temperature it was of pouring consistency... Amazing stuff!