When I started my cheese resolution a couple of weeks ago, I had low hopes for myself. I have trouble committing to things that require me to go to the grocery store for anything besides dinner rolls, and if I was going to undertake the Herculean task of educating myself on the world’s cheeses it was going to require a lot of research and money spent on cheeses that made me less happy than sharp cheddar (not to mention getting cold standing in the refrigerated dairy aisle). But little did I know that a panoply of unusual and exquisite cheeses would fall right into my lap!
My luck came in the form of a business trip to my company’s national sales meeting in California, where we stayed in a resort hotel that fed us at every meal so as to effectively trap us there, away from any kind of concerns that didn’t relate to the sale of college textbooks. I’m only trying to make this sound unpleasant, though, because I don’t want you to be jealous of the fact that I was standing on a beach while snow and freezing temperatures paralyzed most of the nation. I also don’t want you to hate me because I got so much fancy free cheese! Sometimes the universe actually does help you to achieve your resolutions/dreams.
This delicious blob of fresh cheese came to me on a meat and cheese plate I shared with my coworkers at a fancy Italian restaurant called Cucina Alessa. Ever eager for my hit of dairy, I grabbed a knot of the mozzarella and spread it across a piece of hard, dry bread. The result was scrumptious, creamy and chewy and warm. My only exposure to mozzarella had been on pizzas, but it was clearly a showpiece on its own.
Large crumbles of this unusually dry cheese appeared on the same cheese platter as the mozzarella, but the Parmesan was the true standout of the evening. Its rich flavor sat heavy on my tongue, sapping it of moisture and making me wish it was the only thing I ever had to taste. To make things even better, the Parmesan was presented alongside a smear of honey for dipping, which added a hint of sweetness to the sharp cheese. Can I have this stuff delivered to me across the country all the time?
Plank-Baked Camembert Cheese with Lambert Beer Peach-Cherry Chutney
When I saw this mound of meltiness at a dinner buffet next to a giant hunk of pork, my first thought was, “That name has too many words in it. That cheese must be hiding something.” But it turns out the only thing it was hiding was a complex but skillfully executed flavor. The plank-baking process had given this soft cheese a firm outer crust that conceals a gooey, overpowering flavor. It would probably border on rank in larger quantities, but the sweet fruit chutney totally contains the situation and makes a food staple a rollercoaster experience.
Now that I’m back in the real world (I’m of the opinion that anyone who lives in California isn’t encumbered by the problems of us mere mortals) I’ll have to locate the kinds of cheeses normal people eat. Though this probably won’t be as glamorous as the foreign cheeses I don’t understand, I have hope that there are many other pleasures to discover on the horizon.
Post by Bailey James.