WARNING: If you're lactose intolerant you might want to skip this post because even reading about the rich, luscious cheeses might send your stomach into sympathy cramps!
Last night I attended a cheese and wine tasting class at Cheesetique in Alexandria, VA. The theme was Summertime Cheeses and Rose Wines, hosted by the shop's owner Jill Erber. First of all, I have to say, this was my first visit to the shop and it was definitely worth the trip from Columbia, MD. To start, it's beautifully laid out and designed. The decor is Parisian cafe meets cheesemonger. Obviously, it's filled with cheese - as if that needed to be said - but is also stocked with wines, imported olive oils and vinegars as well as other gourmet snacks. Here are a few photos of the abundant cheese case and it's surroundings.
I don't think I've yet touched on my passion for cheese. I have been known to eat nothing but cheese for all three meals. Many times, I will plan dinner around cheese. I sleep with a wheel of cheese under my pillow and dream about moving to Wisconsin and buying one of those ridiculous cheese hats. Ok not really. But honestly, I love cheese - stinky, creamy, melty, gooey, moldy, hard, rindy, - whatever the qualities, I rarely meet a cheese I don't like. It is one of those magnificent creations, like wine, that is always presenting itself in a new light. There are countless versions of cheese and the stories behind them are as intriguing as many of their unusual flavors and characteristics.
This night at Cheesetique was certainly no exception when it came to enjoying and exploring the world of cheese. We tasted about 10 different cheeses from all over the globe, mainly US and France, including buffalo mozzarella, real Greek feta made from sheep's milk not cow, baked lemon ricotta, honey goat cheese which would be heaven spread on a hot bagel, Purple Haze goat cheese that was flavored with lavender and fennel pollen of all things, and even a creamy gorgonzola.
Despite the fact that I left with a literal brick of cheese in my stomach that probably won't see the light of day for longer than what is natural, if you catch my drift, I enjoyed every single creamy bite. The Purple Haze was my favorite - I even left with a small wheel of it. It's a soft goat cheese with such a unique and savory flavor - I imagine spreading it on a grilled portabello mushroom sandwich or even just devouring the little wheel with some tasty crackers, thus recreating the cheese brick I'm currently housing. Why let a good thing pass? Ok enough!! Back to the point. Here are some pics of our cheese:
And a pic of my cheese-loving companions, Kinnery and Frank.
With this myriad of cheeses, we were served two roses, which Jill called the underdog of the wine world. Interestingly, she explained that roses got a bad name in the 70's and 80's when they started to be confused with blush wines. The fact of the matter is they are two different things. And one way to tell the difference is price. Roses (pronounced rose-ays but I can't get that little thing over the e), are going to be around the $20 and higher mark, while blushes can go for $10 and less. We tried a dry rose and a sparkling, slightly sweet rose. Both went well with different cheeses, however the sweet wine tended to intensify an ammonia taste in some of the stronger cheeses. Overall though, very nice pairings.
One of the best things about the class is truly how much you learn. Jill is a veritable cheese expert! She not only gives tips for creating the perfect cheese plate, but provides a lot of information regarding the making of cheese and it's innate properties. A few tips I'll remember - hard cheeses and sheep's milk cheeses are not good for summer soirees. "Go goat" was her motto for summer cheese plates. She also shared a fabulous tip for making "butter" burgers on the grill - along with a cheese recommendation for spicing up the usual cheddar cheeseburger. Stay tuned! I plan on trying this out for dinner tonight with an update tomorrow.
Overall, a fun, educational evening. If you're in the Alexandria area don't miss an opportunity to join Jill for one of her cheese appreciation tastings - but act quickly because they fill up fast. If you're lactose intolerant and read this whole thing, then you're glutton for punishment. Hate me, not the cheese though. It's too delicate for that.
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