May 22, 2009

Say cheese...

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I'm back at Caprice tonight for a cheese fest. I had promised a group of friends that I would introduce them to the awesome cheese cellar kept by Jeremy, the restaurant's maître d'. And so it was that on this Friday night, we convened in the private room located behind the kitchen to forget about our troubles for a few hours...

Once again the table has been beautifully decked out, with milk bottles, steel milk cans, antique butter churner and even a cow bell! Some of the candles on the table were placed inside hollow halves of Mimolette. This only added to the excitement and anticipation.

We would have two flights of four cheeses, similar to last time, but would not have a main course in between. From the experience at my last cheese dinner, just the cheese and bread would be enough sustenance. The size of the cheese is deceptive as they are very, very rich...

First flight:
Brillat-Savarin - this triple-cream Brie with 45% fat is a little acidic on its own, but still very delicious. Jeremy decided to spread a bit of the cream of Saint Félicien on top, using the light saltiness to neutralize the acidity. A little nutty in flavor and the finish becomes sweet with the blanc de blancs Champagne.

NV De Sousa Brut Réserve - the blanc de blancs has lots of smooth little bubbles, a slightly yeasty nose and surprisingly low acidity despite being 100% Chardonnay.

Picodon - from the Rhône valley. Jeremy dunked the wheels of this goat cheese in olive oil for three days with thyme and juniper berries. The taste of the olive oil is absolutely yummy, and the cheese is only slightly salty.

2003 L'Esprit de Chevalier Blanc - ripe nose of minerals, a bit nutty, citrus, chalky and gravel. The ripeness of the vintage shows through, especially in the alcohol...

Munster - we were presented with a bowl of boiled grenaille potatoes, and the cheese is placed on top to let it melt. Cumin seeds have been sprinkled on top of the cheese. The saltiness of the cheese made the new potatoes taste especially sweet.

2005 Albert Mann Pinot Gris Hengst - very fragrant nose of sweet grass, apricot, minerals and gravel. Ripe and sweet on the palate. Very classic pairing with the cheese.

Tomme de Brebis Corse Bio - this time the organic cheese was paired with black cherry jam. Reasonably mild tonight with a hint of mold. We were given a sniff of the cheese rind, which smelled strongly of ammonia as it isn't washed during the aging process.

Harvey's Bristol Cream - nutty and creamy as one would expect.

Second flight:
Anneau du Vic-Bihl - this goat cheese from the Pyrénées is very runny, with nutty flavors and high acidity.

2007 Pierre-Bise Savennières Roche aux Moines - now in its third vintage, the wine showed nose of sweet grass, a little citrus, orange rind and minerals.

Gruyère Suisse Etivaz 2007 - Although it has its own AOC, Etivaz is essentially Gruyère made the way it was in the old days. Our wheel was made 2 years ago, and had really strong grassy and farmy flavors with a nutty after taste. This was really, really yummy.

2006 André Perret Condrieu Chéry - nose of lychee, orange, apricot, osmanthus...incredibly floral. Ripe with a slightly bitter finish.

Petit Fiancé - like Munster, it's washed with goat's milk during affinage. This is sooo rich...and a bit salty. The rind is pretty bitter. Production is very small and it's from the Pyrénées.

2004 Auguste Clape Cornas Renaissance - made from younger vines, this wine was a perfect partner for the cheese, with a bit of sweet grass on the nose.

Bleu de Termignon - made in the small commune of Termignon in the départment of Savoie in the Rhône-Alpes region, the production is extremely small with only 4 producers and less than 60 cows. This blue cheese is not made with the penicillium mold as is done with other blues. This cheese was really strong, really rich and really salty...smells of walnut and stinky sweat. As someone remarked this cheese really "blew my head off."

2006 Lunzer Golser Strohwein Vin de Paille Cabernet Sauvignon - this is the second time that Jeremy has served me this wine with cheese. This is really liquid strawberry jam with some orange marmalade, figs and straw. The combination turned out to be really amazing! Sipping the wine with a bit of the blue in the mouth, I swirled the wine around the cheese on my tongue, waiting as the two gradually blended together. The strong, salty taste of the blue really highlighted the strawberry flavors of the wine. It was really, really awesome and definitely eclipsed the Mimolette/Hoegaarden combination from last time.

By now I was stuffed with all the wonderful cheese and lots of delicious bread, but I wasn't gonna pass up dessert and neither were my friends. While they enjoyed the wild strawberry millefeuille, I decided to try out the salted caramel opéra, arabica coffee, dried fruits biscotti and cappuccino ice cream. This was really wonderful and all my favorite elements just worked so well together. And I even managed to put away one of those yummy yuzu macarons...

A wonderful evening made possible thanks to Jeremy's passion for cheese...

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