It’s almost winter and among the things that I associate most with the season that seemingly takes up half of the calendar in Montreal are rich and hearty meals. That got me thinking, what rich meal would be complete without a cheese plate? The answer is no rich meal. So, in the spirit of remaining topical, why not a post about cheese? Without further ado, here are some of the cheeses that will be making regular appearances on my cheese plates over the coming months and a few tips on how I like to enjoy them. I hope you’ll share some of yours as well.
Valdéon (Spanish blue cheese)
- Valdéon is a blue cheese made from a mix of cow and goat’s milk. It’s wrapped in Sycamore leaves, which according to my research allows certain bacteria to penetrate the cheese and add a level of complexity (it also looks cool). Pungent, sharp and salty, this is a strong blue cheese. Valdéon happens to be the first blue cheese that I started buying regularly, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
Caccio di Bosco (Italian Pecorino)
- This is Pecorino dotted with flecks of black truffle. For my money it’s one of the most addictive cheeses out there. The saltiness of the Pecorino combined with the garlicky, earthy truffle taste is just too good. It’s impossible to have just one bite.
Roquefort Carles (French blue cheese)
- Another blue. What can I say? Blue is the best. I saw a sign at Fromagerie Atwater the other day that described Roquefort Carles as “le secret des Roqueforts”. I’ve been eating this blue cheese for a few years now, so it’s no secret to me. If you’re looking for a strong creamy blue (stronger and more moist than Valdéon) you won’t be disappointed. The taste is so sharp that it will give you that stinging feeling at the back of your jaw. Good stuff.
Any Triple Cream Brie
- With all those smelly, strong tasting cheeses it’s nice to have an ultra smooth, creamy and mild brie to balance things out. As a side note, I feel like Brie is the “gateway cheese”. I know that for me it was the first “fancy” cheese that I started eating. Actually, during my first trip to France, about 5 years ago, all I ate was Brie (and only the pasteurized version). Anything else was far too smelly for my taste at the time (even Camembert), how times have changed…
Cheese is fantastic on its own. In fact, I have a friend who insists that the best way to enjoy blue cheese is to stick a huge gob on the roof of your mouth and let it melt. As good as that is, I find that the right sidekicks make it even better.
In the bread / cracker category I like sliced baguette that is grilled until it is slightly charred around the edges (doing it on the BBQ works well), particularly with blue cheese. If you haven’t tried this, do so. There is something about the combination of the burnt bread and the sharpness of the blue cheese that just works. If I’m not having bread, I’ll often go with Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps.
I like to balance out the saltiness of cheese with something sweet. A favourite is fig spread (Fromagerie Atwater carries a good Dalmatian fig spread). Honey is also good. A couple of times I have had truffle infused honey; pair that with the Caccio di Bosco and you’re dealing with next level stuff.
To wash it all down there are a number of possibilities. Port is probably my favourite. The sweetness of a nice tawny seems to be made for salty cheese. Red wine is of course a good bet as well, but far too few people (myself included) drink white wine with cheese. A fresh fruity white wine can pair beautifully with a potent blue, once again bringing together the salty with the sweet.
So, those are some of my favourite cheeses and my favourite ways to enjoy them. What are yours? Leave a comment and let me know.