Monday, December 17, 2007

Playing Slowly With Cheese

Last Saturday, our local Slow Food Convivium hosted a Cheese Tasting at the lovely Baricelli Inn in Cleveland. The Inn is home to the Baricelli Cheese Company, where Chef/Owner Paul Minillo shares his knowledge and love of great cheese.

The Cheese Company Cellar

I admit to some fussiness when it comes to cheese. I attribute this to my rather severe mold allergy. I don't care for veined or rinded cheeses (though I will eat the inside of some rinded cheeses), though I will always taste them before rejecting them. I am also pleased to report that I took most of these photos without flash, for the first time getting the exposure right! Hopefully, I will succeed in making a habit of going without flash.

We began with a choice of red or white wine and a basket of just-baked bread:

Cranberry-Walnut Bread

Chef Paul explained how the tasting would proceed. Our first plate would be warm, to feature the Bellwether Farms Sheep Ricotta.

Stuffed Shell

The ricotta was mixed with salt, pepper, Italian parsley and lemon zest. The pasta was cooked to perfect al dente and the shell was plated over a bit of delicate tomato sauce. The lemon was a twist I would never have expected and it tasted wonderful, though I would have liked a taste of the cheese without it.

The rest of the cheeses were served at room temperature, in two courses. The milder cheeses were first, to be followed by the stronger cheeses. The cheese plates were accompanied by grapes, dried apricots and walnuts:

I usually do not care for dried apricots, but these were marvelous and complimented several of the cheeses quite well.

First Course Cheese Plate
Starting at 9 o'clock with the Lake Erie Fresh Goat Cheese, which offered a fluffy cloudlike goodness. At 12 o'clock is the Oakvale Farmstead Habanero Raw Milk Gouda, followed clockwise by Fiscalini Farmstead Lionza Raw Milk Cheddar, Bellwether Farms Carmody, and finally, the Lake Erie Blooming Rind Goat Cheese, which was quite young.

I liked them all, though I could only manage a small taste of the rind (though I cleaned out the inside quite well!). I expected the Gouda to have more heat, but it was actually a very mellow heat that worked quite nicely. The cheddar and the Carmody were likewise most tasty.

Chef Paul Minillo Explains the Second Course of Cheeses

Starting at 12 o'clock and going clockwise, we enjoyed the Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Point, Uplands Cheese Company's Pleasant Ridge Raw Milk Reserve, Meadow Creak Dairy's Raw Milk Greyson, Roth Kase's Gruyere Surchoix and Roth Kase's Buttermilk Bleu.

These stronger cheeses surprised me a little bit - I usually find Gruyere too strong for my palate, but I really enjoyed this one. In fact, I liked all of them very much - except the rind of the Cowgirl (but I again polished off the creamy inside - yum!) and, try as I did to like it, the Bleu. And the two Bleu lovers at the table said it was a very mild Bleu. Oh well, I did my best before gifting it to my tablemates!

Our afternoon at Baricelli was delightful. Not even the snow falling outside could dim our good cheer. We had such an excess of cheer, in fact, that we could not bear for it to end. So we didn't let it end - about eight of us decided to keep playing together! But that will be the subject of my next post.


  1. The cheese looks great! I went to the Baricelli site to see if there was any info on where I could buy their cheese but didn't see anything. Is it available only at the Inn?

  2. Valereee - I will see if I can get an answer for you!

  3. Valereee - Chef Paul responded to my inquiry as follows:

    they have to come down or over to Baricelli to get cheese-we sell to many restaurants but to get the most selections come on down to the affinage where all the cheeses sleep.

  4. Nancy, thanks! I was afraid of that. As I'm in Cincinnati, it's not a quick trip! It is very difficult to find small cheesemakers. I have been looking down here with no luck.

    Best wishes!