Climbing the north face of Ruckers Hill, one restaurant at a time
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Cheese Club Six - Revenge of the Curds
Cheese Club has returned, this time with revenge, vengeance, more revenge, a club with nails in it and a glass of wine. Oh, it's had sand kicked in its face by a buff lifesaver before, but now it's back with cheeses strong and ruthless enough to melt your head from the inside out. So surrender now, before Cheese Club gets all fromagier on your arses (or "asses" for our American friends).
Besace Chevre Affine - After the damning-with-faint-praise disappointment of the Le Chevrot during the last Cheese Club goat experience, expectations weren't high for the Besace. Expectations weren't helped by the sight of this ugly, abstract beast of a cheese. Between the normal wrinkles of a surface-ripened goats cheese; a light dusting of ash; a protuberant, translucent layer of soft-ripened flesh; and a shading of blue and grey mould over the surface, this cheese would strike terror into the weak of heart. But not into mine, oh no. And lo, I was rewarded, for this is a cheese of Perigord and 0f glory. Although it had a modest heart of chalky fudge, it was mostly surface-ripened gooeyness. It was light on the goat tang (while still being balanced) and rich in the layers of mould and flavour. Oh, I love this.... Oh... Oh... I'll umm... stop now. People are watching.
Oh lord... Less than pretty. But so wonderful...
Rouzaire Camembert - As regular readers (I'll return your mower on Sunday) will know, I'm historically not a big fan of the surface-ripened white-moulders, but you know what? I'm beginning to come around. We've had some great ones (the Brie de Nangus in particular) with deep, earthy flavours, and this Camembert is close to its equal in raw power. Still with a stripe of chalky crumblation in the center, it was soft but firm with a rich flavour of mushrooms and cauliflower. This is glorious, but in a relaxed way. It's still got a week before it ripens properly but still, eh? Eh?
I want to believe
Saint Vernier - This episode of Cheese Club was turning into a lesson of surprising power, but this is the exception that proves the rule. Washed rind in name; washed rind in appearance but white-moulder in taste. Weirdly, this was a far milder cheese than the Camembert. A glorious orange tint underneath a white-mould fuzz, this looks like a small Camenbert that's been inadvertently tinted. And that's what it tastes like. It has a subtle washed-rind stink (if that's not a contradiction in terms), but once you taste it you wonder where all that smell went to. This still has some chalk in the centre, so I'll give this one a couple of weeks and see what happens. Sweet packaging by the way: it nestles softly in a plywood sunflower. Awwwwwww.
Nothing to fear here
Coolea - Coolea is an Irish, cow's milk cooked curd cheese in a Dutch style. Obviously. This was a couple of years old and was a luscious, buttery cheese with an intense nutty and caramel flavour. It still has a little cooked-curd smoothness, but with an almost imperceptible grain. It's not as an intense as the Lindenhoff, and thus isn't subject to enforceable standoff distances, but it is still wonderfully intense. Deep without being scary, like Radio National. Wash it down with a Toohey's Old or a 3 Ravens smokey one.
Coolea than you'll ever be
L'Etivaz - I have this ongoing problem reconciling my Cheese Club experiences with the proclaimed neutrality of the Swiss. This picturesque, peace-loving, clock-making nation, supposedly wielding nothing more dangerous than an implement designed to remove stones from horse's hooves, produces cheeses that our Aunt Agatha describes as "total ball-tearers". Of course, aunts have changed since Bertie Wooster had them, but these cheeses haven't. And L'Etivaz has all of the rich, grinding gorgeousness of an older, more voluptuous hard cooked curd cheese. Swiss cows that live downstairs in chalets; milk cooked over wood fires; banks that respect anonymity. What a life...
L'Etivaz. Stand well back.
Crozier Blue - Carrying on this edition's focus on intensity and approachability, the Crozier Blue is a blue sheep's milk cheese from Tipperary, meaning the UK is effectively surrounded by tart Roquefort-style cheeses, both East and West. I'd be surrendering pretty much straight away if I was them, hopefully to be welcomed into the creamy acidity. Lovely blue tart balanced with a soft texture, buttery but light. Again, a cheese intense but not overwhelming. This is an excuse to open a bottle of something sticky, and so I shall.