Thursday, July 30, 2009

A nice simple cheese course

Just as I was whingeing about how restaurants never seem to offer cheese these days I walked into one that not only had an interesting starter - a porchetta salad with Pecorino - but a model cheese course: not carrying a supplement but as part of a fixed price menu.

The restaurant was Arbutus and the course a couple of slices of Tomme de Savoie (from La Fromagerie, one of the best cheese shops in London), some nice rustic bread and a few lightly dressed lettuce leaves. Simple, delicious and all you really want at the end of your meal. Other restaurants who say it can't be done please take note!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why aren't restaurants more imaginative about cheese?

I was thinking about this blog the other day and realised that one of the reasons I don't post more often (apart from having too many other things to do) is that I don't often come across an amazing cheese dish in a restaurant. Or a really interesting cheese course that doesn't cost significantly more than a dessert.

There aren't that many chefs who put a named dish with a named cheese on the menu - odd when they are by and large keen to stress the provenance of other ingredients like their meat, fish and vegetables. Food writer and restaurateur Mark Hix is a notable exception and La Fromagerie in Moxon Street in Marylebone does a great job but I haven't come across many others You'd think more restaurants would be offering cheese-based dishes to vegetarians but that doesn't seem to be the case.

It's not good news for Britain's many talented artisan cheesemakers who could do with a showcase for their efforts.

I've come across some great places when I've been travelling, especially in Canada (see picture above) and the States and recently heard about a fabulous-sounding restaurant in New York called Casellula which someone mentioned on Twitter, which offers really imaginative cheese sandwiches and cheese flights.

So come on, restaurant entrepreneurs, why can't we have a cutting edge cheese café in London? Or anywhere else in the UK, come to that. It's not as if there aren't a lot of us cheeselovers out there . . .

If you know of a restaurant where you can get great cheese dishes or an interesting cheese course, do let me know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All you need to know about Portuguese cheese

Having been tied up finishing the other book I'm publishing this autumn (The Ultimate Student Cookbook for those of you who know any students who are off to uni) I haven't had much time to explore new cheeses but wanted to draw your attention to this great post about Portuguese cheeses on the Iberian food and wine blog Catavino

I have to admit I don't know a lot about them myself but had previously read how good they are and have a vague recollection of tasting some excellent cheeses on various trips to Portugal. There's a second post in the pipeline which I'll link to as soon as it appears

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why Cardo is such a special cheese

The buzz at the Bristol Wine and Food Fair, where I've been giving cheese and wine masterclasses for the past couple of days has all been about Cardo, a semi-soft washed rind goats cheese made by Mary Holbrook at Sleight's Farm in Somerset and on sale at the Trethowan's Dairy stand

It's a rare cheese, only made at certain times of year (now) and distinguished by two things: it's set by extract of cardoons, an artichoke-like plant, rather than by animal rennet and its rind is washed with water rather than brine.

Holbrook, who doesn't have a maturing room herself, delivers them up to Neal's Yard and they're matured in a room with other washed rind cheeses but not encouraged to develop their pungency. Basically it turns a bloomy-rinded cheese that would otherwise look like a Brie into one with a slightly crumbly greyish rind (rather than the sticky one you would get with a cheese like Stinking Bishop) and a flowing, gooey centre. The cardoon seems to give a particularly silky texture to the cheese together with a rich, sweet but not at all cloying flavour.

I managed to get a wedge but it was selling like hotcakes, even at the special Fair price of £35 a kilo. You can apparently buy it at the Neal's Yard shops in Borough Market and Covent Garden in London.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More kitsch cheese!

Funny how when you notice something it often comes popping up again. No sooner had I spotted and blogged about La Vache qui Rit when I get a press release about a new 'Cheese Academy' sponsored by Bel, the French company that produces the 'iconic' Laughing Cow (as they describe it) along with Babybel, Boursin, Leerdammer and Port Salut

Rather worryingly this so-called academy, which is fronted by the ubiquitous Jean Christophe Novelli, is actually designed to teach chefs how to cook with processed cheese.

"We never cease to be amazed by the creativity and ingenuity of chefs when presented with the range of Bel cheeses" trills the website. "Some of the dishes we see are works of art, designed to impress; others are simplicity itself, but with a flavour and texture that are just divine."

Er, yes. Among the recipes that may (or may not) inspire you are Pasta with The Laughing Cow Light, peas and mint which contains an inadvisable 500g of powdered stock (a typo, I hope), Shepherds Pie made with frozen vegetables topped with potatoes and Laughing Cow cheese spread triangles, Leerdammer Light Individual Cheese Soufflés and Mexican Fajitas with Port Salut

Coming to a restaurant or pub near you :(