Thursday, February 3, 2011

In which i am no longer intimidated by cheese

Not a running post per se.....
This past New Year's weekend we were lucky enough to spent the time with my wife's brother, his wife, their darling daughter, and about 50 other people. We went to Baltimore-ish to be part of a Christening, and it was a wonderful time! I say this with an exclamation mark mostly because I truely had a good time, and i usually don't do well in groups larger than 4. Seriously. I get all anxious and blah blah blah.
This time, though, I went at it with a different attitude: i decided that i would branch out while i was there and do at least ONE thing that I don't normally do in these situations.
On NYE, the subject of wine came about. I used to enjoy wine quite a bit. I had been 'intimidated' by it, but went on some tasting tours and such while in Sonoma Valley, and grew to have a deeper appreciation for wine. I am not a wine snob, by any stretch, but i do like to play the part as the situation allows......
My SIL and I were talking about it, and I said something to the effect that I used to be intimidated by wine, but now I am intimidated by CHEESE.
Only a few readers know my SIL, and for those that don't, all you have to do is give her an opening like this, and BAM! she fills the void. Mention that you think jet-skis are cool? BAM! She'll take you out. She'll say things like, "ever thought about trying the trapeeze?" BOOYA! Happy Birthday. (not me, our middle dude.)
So when i made the comment about cheese, her eyes lit up and she said, "well, then, tomorrow i will give you a cheese flight!" (apparently that is what it is called when you start out with one type and move into other types, much like you would sample beers or wine.....)
In the afternoon of NYD, we set out some cheeses:

Click to make bigger and see names of cheeeeeeeeses.
I was instructed to try the cheeses working my way from left to right, or from milder flavors toward the stronger flavors. Makes sense to me! I tried each with a small piece of bread, and even tried some wine. (you may or may not recall that I get HIVES when i drink alcohol. more on that in a post next week!)
Each cheese was distinctly different from the next, and I enjoyed every one.
Thank you for stopping by!
HAHAHAHA....ok, ok. Here's what I thought about the cheeses. Had you going there for a sec, didn't I? Hello? (thump, thump. feedback) Is this thing on?
Brie: NOT AT ALL what I thought it would be. I expected it to run all over the place once we opened it. It did no such thing. It is soft, to be sure, but mildly flavored. As I kept coming back to it, I noticed that it produced an interesting taste AND sensation at the back of my mouth. Not unpleasant, but noticable. Three Stars awarded to Brie.
Chevre: Again, not what I expected. My only exposure to goat cheese has been Feta, and I never could get past the strong flavor and the odd textures. This, however, had a pleasant taste, and was smooth. It was stronger than the Brie (remember the order/reason for the flight), but didn't leave the aftertaste that I half expected. Two Stars to Chevre.
Gruyere: "Full of flavors!" according to my BIL's FIL (follow? that would be my SIL's Dad) It is firm, almost like Cheddar, but has a depth of flavor that Cheddar didn't. Almost smokey, almost fruity (but not sweet).
FOUR Stars to Gruyere.
Almost like a Chiraz when compared with a Merlot. Or French Vanilla when compared to Vanilla. Or not. It is CHEESE for Heaven's sake. You need to try Cheddar and Gruyere side by side. Now. Go. I'll wait.....In the mean time, here is an action photo from the testing....
Cheddar: I have grown up with cheddar, so it was like, well, cheddar. The interesting part was to compare it with the other cheeses (which, again, is the purpose of the flight). I only had a few pieces, and it was ok. I prefer mine EXTRA Sharp, or, as they say in the UK, "mature". (one of us should be....)
Three Stars to Cheddar.
Bleu Cheese: you know, the moldy kind. Lemme tell ya. This.was.GREAT! I had a buncha bleu cheese. It was nothing like the chunks in salad dressing. The flavor was strong, it carried well, and combined well with the crackers AND bread. And wine. I was on my second box of wine at this point (not really), and all i could taste were the tannins anyway. HAHAHAHA. Honestly, the bleu was my favourite.
FIVE Stars to Bleu.
Here's a cheese tasting tip: keep kids away from the table at all costs. As you can see here, if they get too close, they'll shoot laser beams at you. SEE?????
All in all, it was a GREAT opportunity to try something new and be taken through the steps and be given explanations by people who are really passionate about their cheese. SIL, her Dad, and his wife were great. Laughs were had, serious explanations were given, and bellies were filled. Fantastic way to start the year.

So far in 2011, have you stepped outside of your box and tried something that had seemed 'intimidating' to you? Hit me up in the comments!


  1. Both gruyere and chevre are amazing on pizza. And I make a delicious gorgonzola pasta sauce.

    But to answer your, question, not yet. The stack of dishes in my kitchen is slightly intimidating and I will be tackling that later.

  2. Yum! I could probably count on one hand the number of cheeses I've tried and did not like. I especially love Gruyere's nutty flavor and mouthfeel, Brie is a classic, and good bleu cheese like the one you tried can be unexpectedly otherworldly.

    As for trying something that's seemed intimidating to me: in a couple of weeks I'm going to a roller derby event with a friend and will participate in free skate with the derby folks! I used to roller skate every day when I was a kid/early teen, but it's been about 25yrs. I would love to be a rockin' derby chick but I don't know if I'm tough enough. I want to pretend, though, just for a day...

  3. Cheese is our favorite food group at Chez Hutchins, but we are not cheese snobs, we just like great gobs of it on everything. Which is why we have to do endurance athletics. You made me laugh.

    Something intimidating for me that i've tried in the new year? I entered more writing contests. They make me want to vomit :) I sent out more query letters to agents. They do make me vomit :)

  4. I thin oyu would do well to go back to Brie again. She deserves another chance because sometimes cheese just does. I want you to go to your local Whole Foods or other overpriced hippy dippy grocer. Ask the cheese person to show you the 'gooey' cheeses. 'Gooey' is s secret password that will let the monger know you know what you're talking about. Anyway, get some nice gooey brie, a couple of bottles of sparkling water, and a loaf of french bread. Go home and leave the brie on the counter to get to room temp. Then, slice and lightly butter and salt the bread. Toast it nice and toasty in the over and put the brie in the oven also to get extra warm and gooey. Shmear the brie into the toast and email me back for your next cheese instruction.