The Sensuality of Cheese!

Over the weekend, I was invited to a truly unique birthday experience for my friend Duncan. It was a cheese tasting that was led by Julia Rogers of Cheese Culture. Duncan's girlfriend, my friend Jen, organized this great event after having met Julia at a Cheese Tasting she lead at the Leslieville Cheese Market. Jen thought this would be a fun thing to do as an interactive, in-home event!
Julia took us through 5 different cheeses from the different categories including sharp, soft, smelly, mild and moldy. She paired each with different garnishes and of course there was a choice of wine or beer.

We started with a goat’s cheese from France called Chabichou de Poitou. It was paired with a cold slaw of fennel, lemon and black pepper and served on an Asian serving spoon. For me, goat’s cheese always has a peculiar smell and taste where it’s a little gamey. This cheese was very rich and creamy. It paired well with the salad as the tartness of the fennel and lemon worked against the richness of the cheese. Did you know that the words chevre, chabis and chabichou all are different ways of saying 'goat' in francais?

Our 2nd tasting was my very favourite cheese called Manchego which is Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. It was paired with sun dried tomatoes, rosemary and a bit of oil. This is a very flaky cheese that is light but flavourful. There’s a hint of caramel in the aftertaste and this was definitely a crowd pleaser. Julia describes the cheese tasting experience as one that is very sensual. I couldn’t agree more! When describing our perceptions of each cheese, we talked about the texture, smell, what we saw as well as the taste.

Then we moved into Mariolles, a French soft cheese with a white brine, similar to camembert or brie. It was served with sausage, both chorizo and landjaeger. The Chorizo was softer and there was more fattiness in it. I actually preferred this as it was saltier. The landjaeger had a very different texture - it was tightly packed and reminded me of a deli stick. The cheese was very creamy and similar to Brie in taste. The smell was a bit strong but it was still delicious.

After this – we moved to a mouldy blue called Bleu Ermite. This cheese is the oldest Canadian blue cheese and originates from the Eastern townships in Quebec. It was dense with blue veins running through it. This was milder than other blue cheeses I’ve tried but it was definitely one that not everyone in the room could stomach. The stench was sweaty, similar to old running shoes, the texture was soft and taste was very strong and skunky. It’s the mould that creates a bitter, aftertaste to the salty cheese. To compliment this, it was paired with an amazing Spanish fig and nut confection called Pan de Higos. The English translation of this is "Fig Cake" . If anybody can find this for me- I would be so grateful as it's amazing! We had the option to drizzle Grecian Thyme honey to make the experience sweeter or more bearable.
A note for you is the Spanish Cabrales Blue Cheese is one of the most pungent and famous of the blues in the market. Cabrales develops a deep blue vein because it is hand turned and stored in caves until it has been completely grown with natural mold. When speaking about this cheese, our friend Shawn exclaimed he would bathe in this cheese if he could. Boy, would he be a stinky mess!!!
The last cheese we were given was an orange cheese from France called Mimolette. It was dyed orange and the rind was as hard as a rock. The actual cheese resembles a small boulder. There were divots in the rind as cheese mites lived in it and ate the cheese. This was a sharp delicious cheese and a great finale as it wasn’t too strong but was one that everyone seemed to enjoy.

An interesting fact to note: beer is the best compliment to cheese as beer is made with all the things that you would think to pair cheese like bread and crackers since beer is made of grains. You would never think of that but yes, it really added another dynamic to the tasting when drinking beer.

Huge props to Jen for organizing this event!

FYI: All the cheeses and virtually all the accompaniments came from Scheffler's St. Lawrence Market, South-East side
***** stars (out of 5)

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  1. Ah, I envy your cheese tasting experience! Here in Hawaii, one can go to speciality shops for some of these cheeses, but one is hard-pressed to find this sort of variety, not to mention high quality. Great post! It sounds strange saying it, but I love learning about cheese!

  2. Great post. Mimolette is one of my favorite cheeses.