Since it opened three years ago, Cheesetique has become one of our favorite places to shop – not just for cheese, but also for all kinds of foodie novelties like truffle salt and acacia honey. Between the allure of the foods themselves and the eager-to-help staff, it’s hard not to like the place. Throw in something as cool as cheese tasting classes, and we want to be your best friends!
Jill Erber, the proprietor, has been holding cheese tasting classes all along, but now that they’ve moved into their new, larger location (complete with its own cheese and wine bar in the back), she has the space to really do them right. To celebrate this, the first tasting class in the new shop was held last month, and they went all out – featuring a selection of double- and triple-cream soft-ripened cheeses and matching them up with Don Conde, a terrific Spanish sparkling wine.
For $30 per person, guests got to sit at the tables (and the bar) in the rear of the store and were greeted with plates that held ten cheeses – bries, a camembert, and a truffle-studded goat cheese whose decadent taste led Jill to include it despite the fact that it was not a true double- or triple-cream cheese. The first half hour of the program can be described as the ‘educational’ component of the evening; Jill walked us through the cheese-making process and described the way these cheeses aquire their salty-sweet richness as they age from the outside in. One of the more interesting facts she shared was that the butterfat contents that are referenced when talking about double-cream (40% or above) and triple-cream (70% or above) cheeses only refers to the solid matter in the cheese – if it’s a particularly light and high-moisture cheese, the butterfat content of the cheese in front of you can be significantly lower than what you read…though there’s really no such thing as a low-fat soft-ripened cheese (at least not one that I’d want to try!).
By this point, a look around the room confirmed that there were more than a few people like me who were lusting for the chance to dig in to the samples before us – and a few others who had already succumbed to the temptation. As Jill and her staff distributed the cava and talked about the importance of waiting until you’re ready to serve when it comes to opening sparkling wine, I took another look at the ten cheeses on my plate.
Some of the cheeses were practically melting as they sat at room temperature – turning them into gooey masses that required a cracker (or a knife for those who prefer to taste cheeses on their own. Others retained their shape, but the they were soft and silky as we tasted them one after another. Most of the cheeses were made from cow’s milk (the proteins lend themselves to the soft-ripening process), though we tasted one or two goat’s milk selections as well.
And I came to a sad realization – there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. After a while, it became harder and harder to taste the nuanced differences in the various samples; they blurred into one big rich and salty flavor that lingered on the palate and blended nicely with the light tartness of the sparkling wine. Taken on their own, several of these cheeses were truly amazing – Delice d’ Argental and Saint Simeon were true standouts – but as a group, they were just a little too much to appreciate.