Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cheese trolley or cheese plate?

I was dining - rather grandly - at Raymond Blanc's Manoir aux Quat' Saisons last night which like many Michelin-starred restaurants still serves their cheese on a trolley (above). I have mixed views about that. On the one hand it's great to have a vast choice of cheeses and have the cheese sommelier (for that is what they're usually called these days) talk you through them.

On the other you can almost guarantee if you go for the stinky cheeses - which I rashly did - that they will ruin any red wine you're drinking. And that the sheer cost of maintaining such a huge selection in tip top condition means that you will be charged extra (£13 in this case) for preferring cheese to pud.

I'd personally rather have two or three cheeses - or even one well-chosen one - served with an appropriate accompaniment such as a few salad leaves, some nuts and some fresh or dried fruit but what do you cheese lovers think? Have cheese trolleys had their day or are they still the ultimate way to serve cheese?


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Taleggio, potato and thyme bruschetta

A rather blurry photo but this is a great idea for a simple snack if you happen to have a few potatoes and some Taleggio to hand. It was served today at my one of my favourite Bristol restaurants, Flinty Red.

I guess you simply need some good quality toast made from country bread (I'd use sourdough), maybe a little sautéed onion, a scattering of thyme, some slices of freshly cooked potato and some Taleggio then just whack it under the grill. Easier than pizza and absolutely delicious.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A perfect cheese platter

Another model way of presenting cheese from South Africa - this time a party platter served at the Creation winery in Hemel-en-Aarde

I love the way the meats - indigenous South African biltong and dried beef and salami are mixed in with the cheese to create colour and textural contrast and the way the cheeses are pre-cut - much more attractive than serving great slabs though you need to be careful not to do it too far ahead or they'll dry out.

There are a few olives and pickles in the middle - you could also add some grilled vegetables - if you like but remember any pickles, compotes or chutneys are likely to make wine pairing more tricky.

Incidentally there were a couple of really good matches here - a Hamilton Russell Chardonnay with the cheddar-style cheese just to the right of the dried beef and a couple of Syrah blends (Creation and Newton Johnson) with the Pecorino style cheese with peppers in the foreground.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

South Africa's amazing cheese scene

Last time I was in South Africa about 5 years ago the cheese was nothing to write home about. This time it's nothing short of stellar. Not so much in terms of the individual cheeses - I've not really had times to get to grips with those - but the way it's presented and incorporated on menus. Here's three examples from the Cape's top winery restaurants:

A crumbed goats cheese salad with figs at Terroir on the Kleine Zalze estate where the goats cheese was rolled in brioche crumbs and deep-fried (above)

A tart of mushrooms and turnip with fromage blanc and microgreens (above) at George Jardine's restaurant at the Jordan winery

And the stunning plate of goats cheeses and melon at Rust en Vrede created by chef David Higgs (below)

It's as much as I can do not to order cheese at every restaurant I go to.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Cheese still life

When I spotted this picture on The British Larder the other day I thought it was so beautiful I had to post something about it and Madelene who writes the blog - and takes the photos - agreed to let me use it. She accompanies it with roast grape purée (great idea) and caramelised white onion breads the recipes for which are on her post.

I love the marble slab the cheese (Paxton & Whitfield's Cornish Soft) is served on (cheeseboards don't have to be wooden), the contrast of colour between the orange-edged white rind of the cheese and the dark, plummy grape purée wantonly smeared over the spoon, the fact that the cheese knife, an interesting shape in itself, shows the mark of cutting the cheese. It shows how a single cheese can be showcased and that you don't need a whole cheeseboard to create a stunning effect. Inspirational.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

L'Art du Fromage: back to the '70s but not in a good way

Following my cheese trip to New York I was inordinately excited that a cheese restaurant was opening in London - even if it was down in the far-flung reaches of London SW10 known as 'Word's End'. L'Art du Fromage describes itself as a 'cheese gourmet restaurant' and 'more than a meal - an EXPERIENCE'. Who could resist?

After a few fevered exchanges on Twitter fellow cheeselover Mathilde Delville decided to hold her birthday bash there and we all piled down for a retro evening of fondue and raclette.

Admittedly it's not the best time to put a restaurant through its paces but I can't help feeling that L'Art du Fromage's owners have missed a trick. With its chalet-style pine tables and chairs it looks totally like a throw-back to the '70s. The fondues were OK but a bit thin with a tendency to separate probably induced by the waiters pouring lighted kirsch all over them. The raclette just tasted like boiled potatoes topped with fondue.

It would be really good to see a sophisticated modern restaurant showcasing cheese but I regret to say L'Art du Fromage isn't it. Fun evening though . . .