I took this photo last night at the end of dinner with my friend Amie at Celeste on the Upper West Side. The restaurant’s owner, Carmine (who Amie knows through the wine business) brought us these two spoons at the end of the meal with tastes of their homemade black licorice gelato. I’m not really a fan of black licorice but it was subtle… at first it tasted like coffee or dulce de leche but then the licorice taste slowly creeped in and lingered at the end. It’s not something I’d order again, but one thing I’m learning through this cheese experience is that it’s important to taste and smell EVERYTHING in order to develop your palate. And I can see that it’s working already. My palate is definitely improving and I’m getting much better at identifying flavors and ingredients. It’s really cool – and tasting and smelling everything is pretty fun homework anyway.
Of course, we couldn’t dine at Celeste without ordering a cheese plate. Carmine is very passionate about his cheeses and picks them all by hand – no shipping his cheeses! Amie told Carmine that I am interning at Murray’s, so he made us a special plate of 10 different cheeses paired with 10 different accompaniments. Unfortunately, I have no idea what any of the cheeses were called – he was running around super busy and didn’t have time to tell us… and even when we asked about a specific cheese, he has such a strong Italian accent and talks so fast that I couldn’t understand what he was saying! So… I just had to taste and enjoy.
Now I swear – this was the CRAZIEST cheese plate I’ve ever had. I think Carmine was trying to challenge us – he knew that I work at Murray’s, so he picked the funkiest, boldest, weirdest cheeses he had available. And they were WEIRD!! There was one that was sort of a brown color – it had such a bite to it, that it resulted in both of us making scrunched up goofy faces as we finished our tastes and washed it away with some Prosecco and bread. Out of the 10 cheeses we tried, I probably only liked 3 or so – but it was definitely fun trying new and rare types that I’ve never seen before.
I’d like to start trying out cheese plates all over NYC in order to find my favorite. So far – The Jakewalk in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn has been number one in my book, but there are many more to try. Next on my list is Casellula in Hell’s Kitchen. Tonight Adam and I are taking a Bourbon & Cheese pairing class at Murray’s. Should be an interesting class. This is my last week as an intern in the caves and then next weekend is the big cheese university boot camp – so my cheese education is definitely not coming to an end!