Friday, July 23, 2010

Cheese Club Eight - Night of the Living Curds

The gear

When a barman knows your name it's probably time to reflect on your life so far and wonder if the next few years should be quite as well lubricated as the last few (which, when you think about it, have gone past in a bit of a blur). I was having similar thoughts earlier in the week when Parma at the cheese shop not only recognised me but called me by name. Yes, I realise that I know her name as well, but that doesn't really make it any better.

Two of the Cheese Club 7

Nevertheless, Cheese Club carries on and, like my cholesterol levels, is ever growing. This month the Cheese Club crew grew to seven, so there was no shortage of opinions and definitely no shortage of wine. Team Cheese was textile seahorse, Tom, Francesca, Dandy, Scott, Eat our Way stalwart Elisabeth and myself. The challenge was facing six Italian cheeses with no assistance except for some wine, bread, cornichons and a few biscuits.

Revolutionary biscuits of Italy,
Rise up out of your box,
You have nothing to lose but your wafers
Yum, yum, yum.

(Alexei Sayle)

Two more of the Cheese Club 7

So without further ado, and definitely without any further revolutionary poetry, we begin...

Occell- Tuma dia Paja - like the Easter Show, but flatter

Occelli Tuma dia Paja - This is a humorously flat, striped white-moulder that looks like a Camembert that was sat on by a pig wearing corduroy. The texture was soft like a perfectly ripened Brie but not as dense, while the flavour was mild and rural. Scott described this as "smelling like the Easter Show" - a mixture of hay and farm animals, not surprising given these are ripened on straw. It's made from milk from cows, goats, sheep, ducks, sparrows and... sorry, got carried away there... No duck or sparrow milk, but it does have cow and goat, and the sheep milk was clearly evident. A very good cheese to eat before getting down to the real business of eating cheese.

Ribiola de Grotto - the 1960 station wagon of packaging

Ribiola di Grotto - The most surprisingly packaged cheese I've seen yet. Wrapped like a bar of soap and then a layer of thin wood laminate on top and bottom, it looks like the lactic equivalent of an 1960's woody station wagon. A washed rind, cow's milk, this is one of the best washed -rinders I've tasted in a while. The texture was perfectly smooth with the slight crunch of salt(?) crystals while the flavour was salty and creamy but balanced with the bright orange pungency. Described as "excellent drinking cheese", as each salty bite needed a mouthful of wine.

Occelli crutin tartufo

Occelli crutin tartufo - Regular readers might get the impression we've gone a little truffle-mad here at Eat our Way Up High Street and honestly, it's hard to argue otherwise. This is a cylinder of truffle infused, semi-hard cheese made from cow and goats milk and it left us all reeling. Crumbly, and without the truffle it would be a nice enough - medium fat with a goat tang to finish with. With the truffle though... Phroaghhhhh.... Like a boardroom in a 1980's advertising agency, we passed the plate around from nose to nose, snorting deeply and talking rubbish, such was the intensity of the aroma. Somebody said, "Christmas in July!" Truffles really need fat to help spread the love, and truffle-in-cheese can be even better than the otherwise madcap truffle butter. Pecorino with truffles has been a favourite for a while, but the Occelli is its glorious, scented peer.

Sovrano

Sovrano - a hard cooked cheese from Lombardy made from cow and buffalo milk. A slice from a much larger (35kg) wheel, this is a lovely, pale coloured hard cheese with a bright, slightly sweet flavour. It has a slight crystalline crunch and a long, rich finish balanced with a little tartness (but not too much). This was a hearts-and-minds cheese - a lovely hard cheese for shaving that's not so intense that it can't be used with reckless abandon (and you know how much we love reckless abandon).

Pasti with crumblepaste. Weird.

Pasti - Another hard cooked cheese, this one quite a bit more intense than the Sovrano. It was a much darker, almost orange colour and had a flavour was deep and complex - rich and buttery but with esters that emphasise tropical fruit fragrances. Very intense and crumbly but with an odd textural finish. There were a few awkward moments as we looked at each other wondering, "am I the only one?" but it was consistent for all of us. The cheese 'clumped' and stuck in lumps to our back teeth. Nothing a cleansing raisin or bit of bread wouldn't fix, but disconcerting nonetheless. An intense success, but don't say I didn't warn you about that finish...

Erborinato

Erborinato - A cow's milk cheese attacked with all sorts of wonderful infection, being both a washed-rind and a blue-moulder. This was a cute, fist-sized cylinder with a cute, fist-sized punch. Soft, but the smooth, creamy soft of a washed rind cheese rather than a buttery blue. I can imagine the battle between the blue mould and the orange mould could leave large tracts of land uninhabitable with fall-out, but this cheese brings them together in a controlled way, balancing the competing forces into something pretty special. The blue is intense but it's a broad intensity, like a punch in the head, rather than a scalpel-scythe to the palate.

Another great moment in Cheese Club history.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.


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