Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cheese Tasting From Paddy's

Paddy's Cheese Market used to be right across the street from me when I lived just off of Whyte ave. Just after I moved downtown, it moved to a small minimal area just west of downtown. Finally, once I had moved to St. Albert, I got a chance to finally visit this local retailer, and I realized what I had been missing the whole time. I had always assumed that specialty stores equated to very high prices, but really, the price is great, especially when you factor in the quality. I now regularly pop in to pick up some cheese. I love that you can get the amount that you want, as opposed to a huge chunk. It ensures that I don't end up spending money on cheese that will go bad before I can eat it.

For Christmas 2008, Brooke got us each "something by the month." My husband was getting cookies by the month from her, my father in law was getting cakes, and I was given cheese. It was an excellent idea, and while the baking kept up pretty well, I didn't end up getting cheese every month as expected. To make up for it though, Brooke decided to have me over one evening to do a cheese tasting to make up for the shortfall. I was thrilled!

I gave Brooke carte blanche on picking the cheeses, and with some help from the knowledgeable staff at Paddy's, we got a diverse assortment. Going counter clockwise starting from the left on the wooden fish plate, we got Appenzeller, Riopelle, Wensleydale, Pont Couvert, St. Paulin, and finally Pont L'evesque. We had a number of other food items to enjoy with the cheeses, including blackberries, dried apricots, almonds, pear chips (that Brooke baked just before I arrived, and tasted like pear candy), melba toast and french bread slices. As we went along, we added in a cured ham, some balsamic vinegar, honey, sundried tomatoes, vegemite and marmite, just to try some different combination.

We started with the Riopelle. It was the softest cheese in the bunch, and was like a creamier, slightly sour tasting brie. This cheese was one of both of our favorites due to it's texture. You can actually spread it onto bread like butter, and when you eat it, it is lovely to roll it around in your mouth. I loved it with the pear chips crumbled on top so that the slight sour taste of the cheese was contrasted with a delicious crispy sweetness.

Next up was the Pont L'evesque. It is similar to brie, but slightly more firm, and very very mild in taste and is not stinky at all. It was nice paired with the sweeter items such as the fruit and the honey. This is a safe choice for those that don't want a strange cheese.

Third we gave the St. Paulin a go. It reminded me of a cross between cheddar and gouda. It had a mid range firmness, and would be a good choice for sandwiches. It didn't pair all that well with fruit in my opinion, but it went nicely with the cured ham and the nuts.

Fourth up was the Pont Couvert. It was the other front runner of the evening for the best cheese of the bunch. It was a bit of a surprise. The rind looks very rough, and the colour gradient changes from the edge to the center. We expected it to be firmer, but the center was actually quite creamy. It tasted like a mild goat cheese or a very mild version of a stilton (seeing as stilton is quite strong). I loved this cheese with blackberries! I don't know why, but it was just a magical combination for me. It was so good, it almost ended the night for me as I was getting pretty full.

We followed that up with the Appenzeller. Brooke did not like this cheese at all, but I didn't mind it. It was like a stronger swiss cheese. It would probably be nice on a french onion soup. It was nice with nuts, as they toned it down a bit, and I had leftovers the next day melted on a tuna sandwich, which was tasty because both the cheese and the tuna were strong enough to hold their own. Beware of keeping this in the fridge as it is very stinky, and stinks up the place.

Our last cheese was the Wensleydale. It was very crumbly and difficult to eat in pieces. I expected it to have a strong, salty taste, like a feta, but it didn't at all. It was surprisingly mild, and I can't say I liked it much. I think it was the disconnect between the texture and the flavor. I expect mild cheeses to be creamy, and after some of the stronger cheeses, it just was not a stand out for me. Brooke didn't mind it and thought it might be nice in a salad.

Having a cheese tasting is a great way to spend an evening in. You can also have fun with wine pairings to spice it up a bit. The staff at Paddy's can be very helpful in putting together a variety of flavors and textures for you to experiment with, and new cheeses are a great way to create new recipes!

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