Thursday, 19 August 2010

Discovering artisan cheese

Last night, a friend and I went to The Empire in Petone for a cheese feast. Mmm, I love cheese! Another Wellington on a Plate festival event, Discovering Artisan Cheese was co-hosted by Paul, owner of The Empire, and Wendy, owner of cultured, a specialist cheese shop right around the corner from me. Paul matched the various cheeses (and accompanying food) with beer, wine, or cider while Wendy demonstrated how to make mozzarella in just 30 minutes.

Cheese tasting
First up was the Red Leicester. This firm, hard pressed cheese was really well matched with the house bitter, Empire Ale. Quite strong in flavour without being overpowering, I could happily have eaten more of it with bread or crackers. In between each cheese tasting, we sipped Mac's Green Apple; apparently cheese tasters eat a slice of green apple to cleanse the palette, and this was a refreshing alternative. Next, we tried a Cheshire cheese with pear paste and served with a creamy Boddingtons Pub Ale. I could have eaten this all night. Crumbly, yet strong in flavour, the pear paste set off the flavour and created an exquisite taste combination. Our third sample was the Sunset Blue, a creamy entry-level blue served at room temperature. Paired with a distinction port, this was too much for me. (I'm not really a blue cheese fan.)

Wendy started demonstrating the process of making mozzarella, using a 30-minute recipe, fiore di latte. This was vastly different to the process I've heard that my Napolitani friend's family use, which can take quite a long time and has resulted in his mother sporting red and scalded hands from time to time. Meanwhile, Paul went about preparing bruschetta, which was paired with a Wairarapa Pinot Noir, Russian Jack. (I must say that I was very impressed with Paul's Italian pronunciation - not to mention his cooking skills!)

Paul makes bruschetta
While Wendy continued with her cheese making, Paul prepared pan-fried halloumi with roast pear and walnut salad. Wow, what an amazing taste sensation that was, especially as the dressing contained raspberry puree. We enjoyed this with a refreshing Mac's Isaac's cider.

Wendy makes mozzarella while Paul prepares a halloumi salad
We went home with tickled taste buds and a thirst for more. Apparently they are looking to host further events like this in the future; I'll be there after enjoying the ultimate wine (beer) and cheese evening!


Alli said...

Sounds absolutely delicious! Looks like a fun time all around - I would love to go cheese-tasting around here. :)

merinz said...

Sounds divine! I love cheese and pears, and cheese and apple together.

Anjuli said...

Cultured is a great wee shop - fab coffee too! Wendy (& her husband Conrad) are friends of mine. Sounds like a great night, hope there are more organised when I get back to Welly :)