February 22, 2009

A cheesy dinner

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Last night a small group of Hong Kong's foodies gathered at Caprice for dinner. Those in attendance included a famous blogger (no, I'm not talking about myself), a prominent journalist, and publishers of a popular dining guide. I was honored to have been included as part of this select crew.

The theme of the dinner was...cheese! Anyone who has been to Caprice would probably have been introduced to their amazing cheese selection, many of which have been sourced from the famous affineur Bernard Antony. Nowadays the restaurant has a cheese room where Jeremy the maître d' stores his precious babies.

We met in the lounge of the restaurant, and started with a bottle of NV De Sousa Cuvée des Caudalies. This blanc de blancs was made from grand cru grapes from vines which are more than 50 years old, and disgorged in February 2005. Wonderful nose of caramel, toffee, vanilla and minerals. Very smooth and a bit sweet on the palate, with pretty low acidity. It's pretty amazing to find a non vintage Champagne which drinks like it's been aged for years, as the caramel and toffee nose would seem to indicate. I am reminded of the Champagnes from Jacques Selosse.

We also nibble on some cheesy puff pastry, as well as a plate of jamon iberico. What a nice way to start dinner... After chatting for a while, we finally moved to the chef's table behind the kitchen, where we had direct access to the aforementioned cheese room.

We started with an amuse bouche of tuna - raw and seared tuna with some black olive dressing. The flavors from the herbs on top worked to balance things out.

Next came a platter of 4 cheeses, each paired with a different wine to compliment the flavors:

Galet de Bigorre - from the département of Hautes-Pyrénées, this was a very creamy and smooth goat cheese, with nutty flavors and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
2005 Pierre-Bise Savennières Roche aux Moines - the very first vintage of this cru made by proprietor Claude Papin. Nose of plastic and minerals, with toasty notes emerging later. The wine was very ripe and sweet on the palate, which worked well with the cheese.

Chaource - from the département of Aube southeast of Paris, this was first salty then a little acidic on the palate. Very nutty. The flavors were really enhanced by the Champagne, as the acidity and the carbonation neutralized the salty taste.
NV De Sousa Brut Réserve - this blanc de blancs from grand cru grapes had nose of toasty oak, marmalade and lemon citrus.

Colombier Fermier - this Burgundian cheese starts with a touch of salt, followed by a little acidity and then, amazingly, a sweet aftertaste in the mouth.
2006 Michel Bouzereau Meursault Les Tessons - ripe and sweet nose with floral, mineral and toasty oak notes. After palate was sweet when tasted with the cheese.

Tomme de Brebis Corse Bio - this organic cheese from Corsica had a distinctive smoky nose, and the flavors were a bit mild and slightly acidic. Thi was also paired with some fig jam.
2005 François Feuillet Nuits-Saint-Georges La Charmotte Cuvée Marcel Gerbeaut - a very forward wine, with a fruity nose of sweet raspberries.

We took a break from the cheese, and had some delicious leg of lamb. The Pyrénées lamb was fed on freshly sprouted leaves of grass. The meat was pink and tender, and just fatty enough to have that distinctive flavor. The exterior has been rubbed with some rosemary for the classic combination. We also had some salad and a delicious helping of orzo, cooked Provençale-style with black olives, zucchini and red peppers.

We had a bottle of 2004 Jamet Côte-Rôtie to go with the lamb. Lovely nose of pine forest, mint and a little smoky and floral. After additional aeration we got oriental spices, cloves and patchouli. Beautiful wine.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty stuffed at this point...as was most of the party. I wasn't able to finish the lamb, as I wanted to save room for some more cheese.

Time for the second platter, which again consisted of 4 different types of cheese individually paired with wines. The flavors of these would be much stronger than the first four.

Mimolette extra vieille - from memory this is aged for 18 months. I have always liked this cheese, but today I would experience a revelation. Jeremy paired it with the flagshp white beer from Hoegaarden. This was an amazing combination, as the strong, salty taste of the cheese was completely neutralized by the cold, sweet taste of the beer. Everyone at the table was impressed with this pairing.

Munster - this wasn't the average Munster that you'd find in your supermarket. From the Alsatian département of Haut-Rhin, this was a pretty stinky and salty cheese. The nose reminded me of Chinese fermented tofu (腐乳), or even a little bit of durian...
2006 Albert Mann Gewurztraminer - floral and mineral notes, with a slight hint of lychee that is typical of this varietal. A classic pairing with the cheese.

Comté - my favorite cheese at Caprice. This has been aged for 4 years, and Jeremy tells us that he's got the last two wheels produced in 2004 by his supplier. He is looking to age some for an additional year and see what it would taste like. We watched him use a steel wire contraption to cut a slice from the wheel, and I realized that what's he's holding in his hands is actually a garotte that is capable of decapitating someone...but enough about that. Love the intense flavor and the crystalline salt here.
1996 Michel Pichet Château-Chalon - there is no better combination for this cheese than this oxidized wine from the same region of Jura.

Roquefort Le Vieux Berger - very strong blue cheese from sheep's milk made by one of the few producer who isn't part of the Société. I only nibbled a little bit as I'm almost bursting by now.
2005 Mas Amiel - this is a fortified wine made from Grenache Noir. I was first introduced to it at Vinexpo last year, and I really liked it. Quite appropriate to have a sweet, fortified wine paired with a strong and salty cheese like Roquefort.

Some of the group also sampled the wonderful Epoisses, paired with a glass of Macallan 25 Years. Unfortunately I just didn't think I could take it. I was content to have a double espresso to help with my digestion...

This was an awesome dinner. We were able to sample the best selection of cheese from Caprice, and given the quality of their goods that is saying a lot! Now that I know it's possible to plan a dinner entirely revolving around fine cheeses (and wines of course!) I look forward to returning for another round... perhaps in a different season in order to get some different varieties.


MorgChop said...

The cheeses sound wonderful and I have a few more to add to my list to try.

I have actually had the mimolette/hoegaarden combination and it is very nice. Mimolette is actually Cam's favorite cheese so we have it around a lot. Comte and Epoisses are some of my favorites so we have them quite often also.

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed, you really memorised all of what Jeremy was saying, without taking notes! It was a fun evening but I wished more than once that my stomach was a bottomless pit.


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