Anyone who knows me well, would be aware that I am a cheese lover. Pathological cheese lovers have an overwhelming desire to share their passion and so I have provided cheese tastings with all the trimmings for my children since they were quite young. These included palate cleansing, pear, cabernet, quince pastes and tasting notes.
Yes, I am the woman who scans the imported cheese case in Woolies every week hoping to nab a special and yes, I am the woman who almost every week will have 8 or 9 cheeses in her trolley – camembert or brie, ricotta, haloumi, parmesan, mozzarella, cream cheese, gorganzola or goats cheese, feta, bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella.
The gift from my partner for my recent birthday was a Cheese & Wine Appreciation Experience at Fort Denison on Sydney Harbour. The regular experiences are run by McIntosh and Bowman Cheesemongers. Claudia Bowman was our hostess for the two hour event and it was truly a rapturous and memorable occasion for me. Think kid in a candy store….
We caught a bus from home to the city (about an hour) and walked quickly (ran) the 700m from Wynyard Station to Circular Quay to meet the Fort Denison Ferry. Claudia greeted us there and informed us of the sequence of proceedings. There were 23 of us in all – all couples but one lady with ages ranging from early 20’s to mid 60’s.
Claudia’s passion and knowledge of all things cheese just oozes from her like the heart of Normandy room-temperature Camembert. She is passionate without being over-the-top and shares her knowledge and opinion without pretentiousness or arrogance.
On disembarking our ferry we are served sparking wine to take up to the top of the Fort where the canon is and the wind was. Photos with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background were pretty much obligitory.
We then repaired to the tasting room which was beautifully decked out with our 10 cheeses, three wines, sour dough roll and later Coopers Ale and chocolate ganache.
We had range of fresh, bloomy, washed rind, hard pressed and blue veined cheeses with Australian and European of the same type to compare. Cheese for tasting is arranged clockwise from 12 o’clock – mildest to strongest. We are encouraged to taste the effect that a dry fruity white, a bold red, a dessert wine and a Coopers Ale has upon the cheese and the effect the cheese has on the tasting of those beverages.
Some QI’s that stayed in my head after the event included:
- There are no buffalo herds in Australia. All buffalo milk is imported from Europe to one of the 6 producers in Australia
- Holy Goat Matured Skyla is an award winning Goat’s cheese of $240 per kilo from Sutton Grange, Victoria. They have only 68 milking goats and cannot keep up with local demand – thus the price.
- Australian Camembert appearance and flavour bears no resemblance to the real thing from Normandy, France largely because we use food grade chlorine to clean cheese making equipment and different rennets etc and this radically effects the resultant product. French Camembert, when ripe, smells a little like cooked cauliflower or broccoli. This distinctive smell took me instantly back to my days in France as girl of 18.
- There are 7 types of cheese: Fresh, Bloomy, Washed, Semi-Hard, Hard Pressed, Blue Vein and processed (everything else) from 4 types of milk: cow, sheep, goat and buffalo.
- The highest fat cheeses are the hard pressed because, of course, any fat has been concentrated in them. This then is my license to gorge on buffalo and fresh goat’s cheeses.
- Chocolate and blue vein cheese together taste amazing – seriously – you need to try it.
My partner who is not as big a cheese gourmand as I and who is quite particular, enjoyed this experience and felt it was excellent value for money.
Claudia let me take home a set of cheeses in a little container for my 13 year old daughter to try. I set up a simple tasting for son (22) and daughter. Son devoured them before I could finish the tasting notes on each one, but daughter, after telling him to slow down, savoured hers like a true gourmande. It’s good to know the cheese/brain washing has not been wasted on her.