World Cheese Day: Crash course on how to eat your cheese
By now, we know that there’s a day dedicated to celebrating all things good, right? And today (June 4) happens to be the National Cheese Day. So how does one enjoy one of our most loved foods? Well, by consuming it the correct way (read: learning how to pair it up with the appropriate beverage, acquainting ourselves with various ways it can be indulged in, and yes, even learning how to pronounce the names of a few).
So, let’s get started with a little crash course. We have to start with the basics. Are the city foodies indeed cheese literate? “Arguably, yes! Go to any retail store and there is a sizeable range of cheese from soft, semi-soft and hard either fresh or aged. As telling is that the variety comes from many countries — French, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, Mexican and, interestingly, locally made cheese. There is a cheese for every palate and every occasion, so it would stand that the residents in Dubai particularly know their cheese,” says Colin Campbell, Corporate Chef, Abela & Co., a food service company in the UAE.
Agrees Roxanne Auriel, restaurant manager, Couqley French Bistro & Bar, JLT. She credits the curiosity towards cheese to the fact that people are increasingly attending events like grape and cheese pairing, cheese nights, and even having cheese at home. “We have seen our cheese platter delivery increase since last year. At the restaurant, it has always been a popular item.” Auriel shares one of Dubai’s favourite cheese has to be the melting Raclette as it is comforting and gives the (much needed) feeling of winter for anyone who eats it. Michel Karkour, CEO and co-founder, Les Gastronomes, shares how in the last few years, Dubai has come a long way in terms of cheese literacy. “We have seen many cheesemongers start proposing their products in the UAE, whilst I believe there is a huge development in terms of cheese offerings, cheese knowledge is still somewhat missing.”
Is there anything known as a favourite way to indulge in cheese? “Our Cheeseboard Bites come conveniently pre-cut into cubes so you can use them for a grazing platter or snack on them straight out of the pack,” says Izzie Reid, a dairy technologist and professional cheese taster. Izzie eats over 3,000 cheeses each year to ensure Marks & Spencer’s customers globally get only the very best varieties. The brand sells a wide selection of top-quality sliced and grated cheeses, including varieties such as Jarlsberg, Gouda and Edam. “These types are ideal for adding to recipes or topping your favourite dishes,” she adds.
At Couqley, the cheese platter is mainly ordered as a sharing starter, but a few guests prefer to finish their meal with it instead of sweets. Their most loved dishes that are made of cheese is the Baked Truffle Brien En Croute. According to Campbell, cheese works in any shape and form, we can’t blame him now, can we? “If you are having a party with a group of people and you order the large cheese platter which can be shared between eight or ten people,” he says. Other than cheese platters, Abela Online has few interesting offerings like the Cheese Sambousek, otherwise known as Rakakat bi jibneh. These are crispy bites filled with a blend of cheeses, parsley and thyme. They even offer Crispy Rolls filled with cheese and dates.
Moving on to pairing, what does one consume as a beverage with the cheese assortments? Cheese and apple have always been a winning combination, and so it’s no surprise that Marks & Spencer’s tart Sparkling Normandy Apple Juice pairs perfectly with some of their soft cheeses such as Normandy Brie or Goat’s Cheese, where it cuts through their creaminess. “For stronger blue cheeses like the Mature Blue Stilton or Blacksticks Blue, you’ll want a medium-sweet drink such as our Sparkling Normandy Apple & Pear Juice,” adds Reid. Interestingly, Les Gastronomes, a gourmet grocery delivery platform in the UAE, has just developed a new cheese and tea experience, the first in the world, they claim. “Based on the same concept as cheese and grape tasting, we have conceptualised this offering,” shares Karkour. The offer is not available on their portal but can be placed by contacting them directly.
Pairing cheese with tea
Tea is similar to grape in the sense that many teas have high tannins and different degrees of astringency. Flavours and aromas of each tea depend on the local characteristics of the area the tea was grown: soil, weather and climate, and the way tea leaves are dried and cured.
A few examples of tea and cheese pairings are:
Black teas have the most tannins; therefore, they go well with Blue cheese or Gouda.
Being less oxidised, green teas would be best with Goat cheese or Brie.
Chamomile teas are good with fresh cheese like Mascarpone.
And as the red Rooibos herbal tea contains nutty and vanilla flavours, it would be paired with Cheddar or Camembert.