In The Armchair

Cheese Board

Posted in Food by Armchair Guy on August 18, 2009

I don’t know much about cheese, but a couple of days ago I had the pleasure of having a knowledgeable cousin set up a Cheese Board.  This British course consists of grapes, olives, and a selection of cheeses.  The idea is to get a variety of contrasting tastes and textures (and even looks) of cheese.  A red wine like a Cabernet goes with it particularly well.  You just eat pieces of the cheese, enjoying the taste and texture and flavour, and liven it up with bites of grape and olive in between.  We added a few strawberry slices as well.  Crackers are also an important part of the cheese board, I was told, but we forgot to buy any.  I thought I’d put it up here before I forget my impressions.

So let me plunge in and describe the cheeses.  Now you have to remember that I don’t know the cheese lingo, so this may not be how aficionados describe them.  The cheeses my cousin selected were:

1.  A Swiss Emmental.  This was a semi-hard, mild cheese, pretty much the same as the common “swiss cheese” slices generally available in the US.  We used an imported version.  This was mild and easy — a good thing, since all of us (other than my cousin, the expert) were cheese beginners.
2.  A French Le Roule.  This one was a white, spreadable cream cheese coated with garlic and some herbs and folded into a spiral.  It was I think the fattiest of the cheeses, a little stronger than the Emmental because of the herbs.  You could taste the richness — part of what made it delicious.  Another beginner-friendly cheese.
3.  A Swiss Gruyere.  This was the most interesting of the lot.  When we first unpacked it, it had a pretty strong smoky-moldy smell that emanated from the thin, dry “rind”.  It made me a little chary of trying it.  This was the only “stinky”, non-amateur cheese on the board.  But once I got started, I began to appreciate the complexity of this cheese.  The chalky/moldy/smoky flavour offset the fairly standard creamy texture (a bit harder than the Emmental).  It got to the point where I was almost enjoying this cheese.
4.  An English Cheddar.  This was an imported, aged, super-sharp cheddar.  The differences between this cheddar and the usual blocks of mass-produced stuff were striking.  First, it was slightly dried-out, to the point where it looked a bit like sonpapadi — and it even flaked like a dense sonpapadi.  Adding tremendously to the texture was the fact that there were a few barely-perceptible, tiny salt/calcium crystals that crunched between your teeth.  The crunch was so mild I kept wondering whether I was imagining it, but it was there.  And finally, the flavour was a little like that of Amul cheese (!) — with the slightest itch on the tongue.

All in all, a great delicious fun item, though my arteries are probably clogging up.  I think about once or twice a year is more than enough for me!


One Response

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  1. Bekaar BokBok said, on August 20, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Aaah, I think this is the first thing i’ll start missing about UK, – a good cheese board.

    We had this quite regularly at office parties, to the point that I started thinking of seriously trying to be a cheese connossieur.

    I remember there was once a very soft, almost liquid, swiss cheese which smelt exactly like an open sewer, but tasted incredibly good. Maybe your cousin can identify it from this description. 🙂

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