I love cheese; you can probably gather that from the name of my blog itself. But European cheeses have an extra special place in my heart, especially the raw (lait cru) ones, so bold in flavour and intensity.
France, in particular, with more than 1,200 varieties, is home to some of the most celebrated cheeses while other European countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands have earned repute for specific varieties of cheese.
Cheese produced in the European Union undergo stringent checks throughout all production processes. All cheese in Europe needs to be traced through every stage of product development dating back to its origin. I like that they take such pride in accountability for the quality and safety of the cheese that they create and supply.
We recently had the pleasure of listening to food and wine expert Edwin Soon give a talk on cheese appreciation at Scotts 27. He gave a fascinating summary from its history, process, types and existence in so many cultures (from Europe to India), to the worlds of tea, whisky and wine in terms of pairing options.
And what better way to truly grasp cheese appreciation than tasting those cheeses with the suggested pairings. Cheese and wine, sure, that's common. But cheese with tea and whisky? Oh man, I am such a cheese person and a tea person, but have never thought of enjoying both together. My eyes have been newly opened.
Here are the combinations we tried (and you can win some of these cheeses to try yourself; see end of post later):
1) Gouda paired with Jasmine Gold Tea
The Gouda and light floral black tea pairing really surprised me - I absolutely loved it. The mild saltiness of the semi-hard cheese danced well on the tongue when awash in tea.
2) Comte paired with Earl Grey Tea
A lot of people liked this combination. The Earl Grey also seemed to work well with quite a few other cheeses on the platter.
Different types teas will likely affect the cheeses in different ways - black tea being malty and woody, green tea being grassy with a hint of seaweed, and white tea being sweet and soft. Oolong with its medium body and flavour is probably the most versatile to pair with cheeses.
3) Brillat-Savarin paired with Cote du Rhone, E.Guigal Blanc
The Brillat-Savarin is another of my favourite cheeses, but this one was the mildest and possibly creamiest one I've ever tried. The white wine is perfect for cutting through the fatty triple cream cheese with its acidity.
4) Munster paired with Bourgogne VV, Henri Perrot Minot
Some of us still fondly recall the pungent yet memorable Munster we had at Stroobant's Saint Pierre - he interestingly paired cheese with beer that time back in 2010; it worked brilliantly. I've been looking out for Munster ever since. We had this Munster with red wine from Burgundy. It becomes a totally different creature altogether.
5) Fourme d’Ambert paired with Quinta do Silval 1997
Blue cheese is often eaten with port. This classic combination of a strong cheese with a fortified wine only makes sense. The port tones down the saltiness of the blue cheese, and lets the background flavours bloom.
Also, if you want to tone down the flavour of an overly strong cheese, you can use this trick as told to us by Edwin: spread some butter on your bread or cracker before you add the cheese.
6) Aged Mimolette paired Laphroaig 10
Oh how the Laphroaig burns like a live dragon down your throat. But it sure makes hard cheeses like Mimolette come alive. You certainly don't normally think of whisky to have with cheese, but if you like the drink, you should try this combination.
7) Calvados Camembert paired with Singleton
This divine Camembert is finished with a soak in Calvados apple brandy (I actually have a bottle of that at home, fresh from Normandy). Sorry my tasting piece of Camembert was too smashed up to photograph, so here's a picture of the whole gorgeous slab.
This ripe and intense Camembert went superbly with the Singleton whisky which is a bit fruity and sweet. I found it is available here (yay!) from Julien Bompard's La Fromagerie! But I know I will be banned from eating this at home as this raw and unpasteurised cheese is so strong.
In a nutshell, here's how you can appreciate the nuances of cheese, tea, wine and whisky.
But generally, for cheese pairing, there are no hard and fast rules; in fact, you may be pleasantly surprised when you go rogue and try out brave new combinations.
European cheese is also ideal for cooking. In fact, before the talk, we were treated to delicate cheese canapés: Cheese Fondue with Bacon Emulsion (featuring Emmental and Gruyere) and a Blue Cheese & Orange Marmalade Butter Toast.
Owner of Scotts 27, Chef Julien Bompard (right) says, "There are numerous applications for European cheese when you are cooking with it and endless varieties to choose from. Depending on the cheese and your chosen cooking method, its flavor mellows or heightens, making it very interesting to work with. Even a final grating of a specific cheese over a dish can serve to enhance it further with an additional savoury note not found in any other seasoning. Or you can enjoy it simply in the form of an elegant cheese platter with crackers, fruit and condiments. European cheese is a truly beautiful product to cook with and savour."
Meanwhile, we have a nice giveaway of cheese products worth S$50 for one lucky reader!
Yes, you can win a set of these lovely cheeses and my envy:
c) Fourme d’Ambert
e) Calvados Camembert
1. Like the European Cheeses Facebook page.
2. Share this post on any of your preferred social media platforms, and tag me or leave me your link or account below in the comments. Please make the posts public so I can see them.
You can also easily join the contest via the Facebook Fan page post or Instagram post. Share and tag your friends whom you'd love to enjoy the prize with! The more you share, the more chances you'll have to win.
Contest deadline is 30 November 2015, and the winner (chosen by random draw) will be notified by email or via the social media platform.
UPDATE Dec 2015:
And it's a lucky no.13 who has won, and that's Vincent Nyeo from Facebook!
Thank you, CNIEL and the European Union for inviting us to the cheese appreciation session, and for sponsoring the prize.