This celebratory evening started with passed hors d'oeuvres and bubbly in one of my favorite apartments on the upper west side. This was a great way to pad the stomach before full lactose invasion. Although, in all honesty, I couldn't wait! And I know I wasn't the only one eyeing the blocks of cheese so prominently displayed on the kitchen counter. It didn't take much for our very own Murray's expert Taylor to grab the attention of all twenty adults, eager to learn what the evening had in store for us. To sum it up - 6 cheeses and 6 wines, with a huge emphasis on the cheese. I give Taylor a great deal of credit for the beautiful display of dried fruits, nuts, breads, and crackers surrounding the cheese. But, in the end, they were hardly a distraction from the main attraction.
The cheese was presented in order of richness- the lightest being served first. Even though cheese is one of my favorite foods and I have had more than my share over the years, I am not going to pretend like I knew the names as she presented them. I did, however, notice I was able to at least recognize each taste - certain that I have at least sampled a cousin version. We started the evening with Monte Enebro, the 2003 award winning goat cheese from Spain. While the interior was extremely smooth and rich (allowing me to identify it as a goat), as I tasted closer to the rind, the flavors were much stronger - different from most I had tasted. The next cheese was Brillat Savarin, a French cow's milk delicacy. To quote its namesake, the famous French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, "a dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye." I couldn't have said it better to sum up my favorite cheese of the night. This reminded me of a gooey, Camembert at it's best - a butter cream delite!
We were then transported back to the States with the Jasper Hill Farm Winnemere from Vermont. Another cow's milk treat, this is what gives stinky cheese its name. While it was the rind that truly was the most potent, the aroma can often turn away customers immediately. I made it past the smell and embraced the woodsy flavor underneath - and actually went back for seconds. It was then back to Europe for the Pecorino Foglia de Noce. On to the sheep's milk and very familiar flavors. This lightly peppery hard cheese reminded me of what I so often buy at the market. While I more than recognized the makers of the next cheese (basically my staple during my college days) - Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, I was nicely surprised by the variety that Taylor offered us. This was unlike most cheddars I have tried as I tasted underlying nut and fruit flavors within - resembling more of a Gouda in the end.
And for the grand finale.... Enter Fourme d'Ambert - a blue cow's milk cheese straight from Roanne, France. While I usually prefer blue cheese on salads or burgers, this was actually a great "starter" blue. The flavors were not too overwhelming, yet had a nice, rich finish. In fact, it actually did well serving as a stand-in dessert course. And, despite having sampled 5 cheeses prior to this one, the Fourme d'Ambert was not lost in the shadows. Taylor did an excellent job of serving small portions as well as spacing out each tasting. We had ample time to socialize, enjoy our wine, and forget about the previous "course" - allowing us to officially cleanse the palate. And, in the end, all plates were cleaned as well. It was such an enjoyable, informative evening. The only problem with hosting such a great event in your very own kitchen is the risk of guests overstaying their welcome. Not that I did or anything... Many many thanks to my favorite American-British-Brazilian-African family!!
Murray's Cheese Shop
254 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014