Every day I thank my lucky stars that I am not lactose intolerant because a life without cheese would be devastating. Lactate pills would become a mainstay of my life. My normal routine for enjoying cheese is either with crackers, a baguette, a slice of fresh fruit or even as a stand alone sample. However, with the abundance of cheese in the world aging in caves and other damp places, I decided I could use a little help in categorizing all of the curds and whey out there. Therefore, off I headed to the world-famous Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge MA for a class entitled “ Feeling Sheepish.”
Enter Adam, the master of the sheep’s milk realm, the king of the Formaggio warehouse domain, and an overall outstanding storyteller. Looking like your “average joe” — big guy, baseball cap donned on his head, and with tad of a gut from eating too much cheese — Adam knew how to keep his cheese audience’s attention. A cheese tasting class is the easiest class you could possibly ever take. After all, you just sit at a table with a delightful plate of artistically arranged cheese and 2 glasses — one for water, one for wine. Nibble, drink and listen!
For Adam, just the thought of the flavor of a sheep’s milk cheese brings a smile to his face. They are aged longer and are more seasonal. Because sheep don’t produce an abundance of milk, the cheese is super rich, full to the brim with nutrients, and therefore highly caloric. Did someone mention cholesterol? Who cares?!
One of my favorites was the Saveur du Marquis from France plated with a smidgen of golden honey. Adam painted the perfect picture as he described the sheep clamoring about, eating the Marquis amongst the bramble and wild plants covering the mountainous terrain of an island. The sheep’s milk is made into cheese, which is then rolled in dried bits of the herbaceous marquis to give the cheese a hint of the marquis. Smear a tiny thimble of Gaec Miel de Printemps honey (from the same area) with a bit of cheese, and your senses awaken. Immediately you are mentally transported to the Mediteranean. What a delight!
In the Feeling Sheepish class, we tasted a total of 8 varieties of sheep milk cheese — from an amazing Feta to the classic Pecorina drizzled with a saba-like Vincotto. The Pecorina/vincotto combination was unforgettable, along with the reference Adam made to the Pecorino being similar to a little old lady making cheese on a hot summer day… pleasant, approachable, but watch out!
And of course for many, the best was saved for last: the Roquefort Vieux Berger was paired with a miniature slab of 70% Cacao Madagascar. A serious blue veined cheese, the Roquefort Vieux Berger is aged only in the caves under Roquefort, resulting in a salty, creamy taste and slight tangy bite. When eaten alongside the dark chocolate, it was absolutely, mind altering good!
A great class always ends with an entertaining story or an interesting question that keeps one pondering, and we were not disappointed. Our Cheesemonger had educated us on the the importance of cheese for survival, how cheese is made, washing rinds, which rinds are edible (if you can eat it, then eat it), licking 9 volt batteries (don’t ask), cheese storage and a basic tip: buy cheese for a reason, not the whole season! But in the end it came down to Adam’s final question, “Do you like chocolate milk or lemonade?”