So, I’ve been to two new restaurants (new to me at least) in the last two days. At both of the restaurants, I ate cheese plates. Yes, I am cheese obsessed. But I think it’s a good thing. To quote Max McCalman (a dedicated cheese scholar and one of the cheese world’s living legends), “Real cheese is good food, plain and simple. It offers a full, healthy complement of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals; it provides all essential nutrients except vitamin C and fiber. Cheese is also a more environmentally friendly food than, say, a porterhouse steak. Clearly, it is a far more efficient use of pastureland than the raising of cattle for meat; over the years, a live cow gives a great deal of milk, which in turn yields thousands of cheeses. We can only eat a dead cow once.” (The Cheese Plate; 2002). Smart man… right? Need to meet him someday.
My Tuesday night cheese experience was at The Jakewalk http://thejakewalk.com/index2.php- a Carroll Gardens restaurant that has a SICK cheese plate. Many of the cheeses come from Stinky Bklyn. I went to The Jakewalk with my friend who lives in the hood. Our moms were friends before our births – and I believe we’ve known each other since we were under the age of one. That is pretty cool – to know someone that long. It is comforting to have a friend who has known you since you were a child – and who still loves you. That’s a 30 year-long relationship. God – I can’t believe I’ve even been alive that long, let alone had a friend that long. Whew.
Meanwhile, at The Jakewalk, we had a fabulous bartender named Jeremy who gave us wonderful cheese suggestions, as I was overwhelmed by the extensive cheese menu – many cheeses I’d never even heard of! We started with Brebirousse D’Argental – a pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese from France. It was delectable and creamy, and luscious…one of my favorites out of the four. The second cheese we tried was Montcabrer – a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from Catalonia, Spain. This cheese was good – but didn’t necessarily rock my world like the Brebirousse. The third cheese we tried was Midnight Moon – a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from Holland. This was really yummy and had that caramelly, cooked brown-butter taste with the little crunchies… like Parmeasano Reggiano or an aged Gouda. We liked this one very much. And finally, we ended with the Fourme d’ Ambert – a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from France. This is my go-to cheese for people who say they don’t like blue cheese. It is the first blue cheese that I totally LOVED… as a person who used to not like blue cheese either. This cheese has the perfect amount of saltiness, creaminess & nuttiness. It is fairly mild too. So if you think you don’t like blues… but you’re willing to test that notion… try Fourme d’ Ambert. It’s wonderful.
Tonight I went to a restaurant called Joseph Leonard http://www.josephleonard.com/on Grove & Waverly. This was a fabulous place I had never been to! I met my friend Wendy, who had been there a few times before and we had a lovely meal of cheese, duck rillettes & white wine (Gruner Veltliner from Austria… one of my favorite whites – learned about it from a Murray’s wine & cheese pairing class). This was my first time having rillettes. I never exactly knew what rillettes was, though I’ve seen it on menus before… it is a meat (in this case duck confit) that is slowly cooked in fat, then shredded and mixed with the fat (in this case butter) to form a paste. It had the consistence of a creamy tuna salad I guess… and they served it with a delicious mustardy mayo & warm country bread. It was AWESOME!! Seriously awesome.
As for cheeses, we had Quadrella di buffala – a soft & creamy buffalo milk cheese (loved it), a french Chevrot – lightly aged goat’s milk cheese with a chalky paste & a tangy goaty flavor, Tarentaise – an organic cow’s milk cheese from Vermont, which is nutty, buttery & delicious, Pecorino Grand Cru – an aged sheep’s milk cheese from Sardegna, Italy – had that sheepy, salty, sweet, crunchy, caramelly taste, and finally a blue cheese that I can’t for the life of me remember!
Anyway – I’m loving all these cheese plates! I can’t get enough! The most fun part of it all – is building up my palate… my friends, whom I’ve shared these delightful dinners with, have been kind enough to indulge me in my cheese teachings & tasting lessons – and in my opinion, when you really take the time to taste a cheese really pay close attention, it is very rewarding. There are thousands of different kinds – handmade around the world. They differ from week to week, season to season – cheese is a living breathing thing and it’s completely got me fascinated! Good stuff. I can’t wait for Murray’s on Friday… it’s back to the caves for me… which means heading home after all the hard work with multiple cheeses to try! YUMMMM.