Monday, December 21, 2009

Cheesy Fun Playing With Slow Food at the Baricelli Inn, Cleveland Ohio

On Saturday, December 19, Chef Paul Minillo and his Baricelli Inn hosted the Third Annual Slow Food Cheese Tasting, (links to my accounts of the first and second) which benefited the Northern Ohio Slow Food Convivium. Over forty people gathered to hear Chef Paul discuss and serve six artisanal cheeses (all available for retail sale at the Baricelli, as are many other hard-to-find cheese varietals). 

Our afternoon began with a choice of red or white wine:

I actually tasted both, and both (available for retail sale at very modest prices) paired wonderfully with the cheeses.

Chef Paul began by noting that we would be tasting fewer cheeses this year than in the past, because, as with wine tasting, too many varieties in a short period overwhelms the palate. The first four cheeses were, as last year, set out for sampling on cutting boards, with walnuts and sliced pears, and crackers and fresh On the Rise bread were in baskets to accompany the goodness.

Returning to Board 1, we tasted the cheeses in pairs (as Chef Paul had suggested):

And then, board #2:

Chef Paul explained that the last two cheeses would be brought out after we'd sampled the first four, because they were both "runny" cheeses, and one was so young that it would "turn to soup" if allowed to remain too long at room temperature. The first four tastes follow:

Jaquin Pointe de Bique & Isigny Camembert


Amazingly (since I'm not a big lover of Bleu cheeses), the Jaquin turned out to be my favorite of the day - especially when paired with pear.

Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam & Pleasant Ridge Reserve Raw Cow's Milk

As the only non-creamy cheese, the Pleasant Ridge was, well, very pleasant. Mild yet distinctive, it was a nice taste and textural break from the soft, rinded, stronger flavored cheeses. The Mt. Tam was especially tasty paired with the walnuts.

About a half hour into the tasting, the last two cheeses were brought out on individual plates:

Left to right, they were:

While some people felt the Grayson was too strong (some used the term "ammonia" to describe the sensation) - I liked it, provided it had an accompaniment (and the red wine - white didn't stand up to either of these last two cheeses). I liked the Epoisse even better than the Grayson. Despite the Epoisse's assertive flavor, I really enjoyed it.

As Chef Paul predicted - it was easier to enjoy and distinguish the cheeses with a smaller number of tastes. And I enjoyed every one, right down to the rinds (which again are not usually my favorite part of the cheese course). Once again, Slow Food and the Baricelli Inn combined to provide an educational and tasty two hours of playing with our food.

As we did last year, a bunch of us continued the festivities at the nearby L'Albatros Brasserie after we finished the cheese tasting. Unfortunately, the light and brickwork at that venue did not co-operate with my camera very well, so I cannot share the food we played with there - but I can tell you that it was a wonderful end to a tasty day full of food, drink and friends.

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