Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For the love of cheese

Currently half way through a four session cheese-tasting course hosted by the wonderful Sheridan's cheesemongers. When I mentioned this delicious learning experience not a few friends seemed to assume I was actually teaching the course - ah, can but dream. On reflection this assumption seemed less like a delightfully farfetched compliment and more an indicator that my lifelong relationship with cheese may be shading slightly into fanatical. I quickly dismissed such thoughts to devote four evenings to eating even more of the greatest food ever created.

It was hard to gauge, but almost from the off I began to suspect that I might be among the more, shall we say, 'dedicated' cheeselovers in attendance on the course. For example, the first of eight cheeses we tasted at the initial session was one of my favourites, St. Tola goats cheese made in Co. Clare by (as I learned that night) Siobhan NicGharbhaith. Terms like 'addiction' get bandied about so easily, instead let's say that the extent of my dairy-based interest started to reveal itself when I realised that not only had I already tasted and could easily identify by sight all the cheeses on the first night's tasting list, but I also had photographs of most of them from cheese-buying extravaganzas of Christmases past. So here's some St. Tola from 2010:


This taste was closely followed by Camembert de Normandie AOC, from Normandy in France, where I had always believed it had to be from in order to be called Camembert at all. But apparently Camembert can be made in many places, while only Camembert de Normandie AOC is made in that area and has the protected name and quality. I learned that to gain the the Appellation d'Origine Contrȏlée mark the cheese must be made by one of only a handful of producers and produced only in small wheels. Thus the type of Camembert I have been happily purchasing on Christmases past, such as this one below, is more 'rustique', being larger and overall less flavourful. Take this one from last Xmas, imagine it smaller and more delicious, by which of course I mean involving more and different moulds, and you are part of the way there.


Next up was a particularly tasty piece of Gubbeen, a very well known Irish cow's milk cheese made by Giana Ferguson in Cork. Fair to say Gubbeen was part of the renaissance of Irish cheese-making in the last few decades. And lo and behold it was on my Christmas list last year:


Then there was another favourite, Epoisses. Intense, powerful, gooey, fantastic. On this occasion, eaten with a spoon. It would be entirely deniable to say that I did the same at home with my own stash of Epoisses, or later dropped the spoon altogether in favour of my finger. Perhaps not surprising that this orange wonder from Burgundy in France was also in last year's photographic lineup:


During the evening, others at the table commented that they had never tasted Epoisses or indeed heard of some of the other cheeses on the list. At this point I had the realisation that it hadn't even occurred to me in advance to think that I might encounter a cheese on the course that I'd never heard of, or even, probably, hadn't tasted before. But that doesn't mean anything. I don't have a problem. I just like cheese. You know, occasionally find gnawed rinds in my coat pockets kind of 'like cheese'. Same as everyone.

I will have to return to the other four cheeses we tasted that evening, as I must away, right now, to the third installment of this cheese-eating wonderment.


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