phobicfoodie

My Year of Adventurous Eating

Say Cheese! August 7, 2011

Filed under: Next!,Restaurants — PhobicFoodie @ 10:12 pm

I’d like to state here for the record that I do not love sheep’s milk cheeses.

They have a very distinctive, strong flavor which I’m sure you would recognize as sheep, even if you have never had lamb or mutton before in your life.

Having gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about the Great, Epic Cheese Plate Tour of Boulder!

What I thought would be an inexpensive, low-key evening of cheese and wine and conversation turned to a considerably costly adventure.

Let’s just say I underestimated exactly how guilty I would feel about walking into a fancy, expensive restaurant and ordering only a $16 cheese plate.  Especially when the service is so amazing!

My friends Sarah and Ridge and I all began the evening at The Kitchen, where an amiable and understanding waiter helped us choose a flavorful caveman blue cheese and a soft, creamy sheep’s milk cheese called perail papillon.

The Caveman Blue presented less of a challenge than I expected.  It came with hearty multigrain bread with dried cranberries in it, and lovely, dark, rich honey to drizzle on top.  The flavor reminded me somewhat of a soft Parmesan with a strong, flavorful, moldy undertone that I can only describe as blue.  The texture was crumbly but spreadable.

If you look closely at the inner angle of the wedge, you can see the track of mold left by the needle that was used to inject it into the cheese.  Interesting!  Well, interesting to me anyways.

The sweetness of the honey and the chewy, toothsome bread created a perfect complement to the blue cheese and I found myself day dreaming about a salad of spicy greens (like arugula) topped with bacon, candied walnuts, pears and Caveman Blue!  Altogether, the blue was a pleasant experience and I am looking forward to having another chance to try it!  Maybe after we’ve worked out the whole living situation.

Did I mention we are moving?

Did I mention our move-out date in our current apartment is also our move-in date at the new place?

Did I mention that I am in a complete panic about the fact that we are going to have to move all of our stuff out of this place, into the new place, and clean the old place…

all in one day?!?!

Aack!

Ahem.

Anyways.

The Perail Papillon, despite its enchanting name and seductive, brie-like texture, had far too strong of a muttony undertone.  This, as I understand it, is supposed to be one of the appealing things about this cheese.

To that I say…

“Meh.”

It came with lovely, toasted, honey coated almonds and the same crusty bread as the blue cheese.  It was a mild, creamy cheese that really reminded me of brie, and I found myself truly wishing I was enjoying it more.  The wonderful young man who provided us with such excellent service really went above and beyond to make my cheese experience stellar!  I appreciated it more than I can adequately express, but it doesn’t change the facts.

I just don’t love sheeps’ milk cheeses!

From The Kitchen we headed to Frasca and met up with Hubby.

If you ever want to go to a place that really makes you feel important…like a movie star…or maybe royalty….Frasca is the place for you!

The amazing service began when I made the reservation on Wednesday…the friendly voice on the other end of the line asked if we were celebrating a specific event.

“No,”  I laughed, “I just heard that you all have a fantastic cheese plate so my friends and I decided to come and try it!”

I realized that she must have been taking notes when our waiter came to the table, smiled, and before any of us opened our mouths to explain our quest said:

“I hear you are here to try some cheese!”

Wow.

Let me just explain that Frasca is the sort of restaurant where one expects to order a complete four course meal and be completely enthralled by each course.

It’s the sort of place where they have a nationally known sommolier who will pair each course of your meal with the perfect wine.  And he’ll pick each wine out just for you!

It’s the sort of place….

well, it’s the sort of place we certainly couldn’t afford to eat at often, but where we’d like to eat any time we could afford to!

Our waiter listened to the story behind our adventure, nodded, and said something along the lines of “I know just what to do.  Leave it to me.”

So we left it to him.

As other servers passed by our table, I found myself mourning the four course meal I was missing, until our waiter came back with three lovely cheese plates arranged so that everyone at the table could sample each cheese.  The cheeses were accompanied by enormous slabs of thick-crusted, rustic bread and small, crisp sweet rolls with dried fruit…I thought they were probably currants.  Condiments followed in the forms of red pepper jelly, marinated grapes and sweet, golden honeycomb.

The expert sommolier came by and chatted with us briefly about our cheese selection.  Hubby and Ridge selected a full-bodied Chianti, while Sarah and I split a glass of Hungarian white wine.  It was rich, golden, and nectar-sweet with a flavor reminiscent of mead.

If I could remember the name of it, I’d share it with you here.

But alas…

It was a perfect complement to the blue cheese–Blu del Moncenisio–a whole cow’s milk cheese.  The blue cheese was creamy and very rich, and had a very strong mold flavor.  I enjoyed the first couple of nibbles and then found the blue flavor a bit strong for my taste.  The creamy texture coated my tongue more that the crumbly Caveman Blue had, and after a few bites it became a bit over powering.

On the other hand, the flavor of the wine blossomed and became intoxicating on so many levels when sipped after a taste of the cheese!

I am beginning to understand people’s obsession with wine and cheese pairings.

The other cheese that really jumped off the plate for me was the Juni.  The cheese itself is made from cow’s milk with a taste and texture I thought similar to a mild, salty farmer’s cheese.  What made it pop is that it is filled with crushed juniper berries…you know…like the stuff they make gin from?  The juniper took the cheese from unassuming and simple to extraordinary.  The juniper berries were piney and peppery and floral all at once.

The other cheeses on the plate did not stand out as much to me, but for the sake of thoroughness I’ll list ’em anyways!

The wedge in the top center of the photo above (between the blue on the left and the juni on the right) was a Pecorino Foglie di Noci, a sharp sheep’s milk cheese with a flavor similar to pecorino romano, but slightly softer with a stronger sheep flavor.

Just to the right  of the Juni was the Robiola Bosina, made with a blend of sheep’s milk and cow’s milk.

Next was the Burrata, which was not on the menu (our waiter really did knock himself out to make sure our cheese experience was complete and fulfilling!)  It is made with mozzarella and cream and is rich and wonderful.  It was probably my favorite cheese…but it was also probably the least adventurous!

The cheese with the rind and the soft, creamy inside was the Nuvola di Pecora, also a sheep’s milk cheese.  I think a sheep’s milk cheese lover would find it’s silken texture and mild flavor and creaminess a revolution!

Sadly, I did not.  But I did sincerely appreciate all the work our wonderful server did to make us feel special and well taken care of!

The last stop on our cheese tour was Mateo, the little French restaurant with big flavors and an upscale but not too uptight atmosphere.  Alas, by the time we hit the doors and found our seats, we were simply too cheesed out to eat any more preserved dairy products!

We slid into our seats, ordered beverages, then looked pleadingly at our waiter and said something along the lines of:

“Veggies please?”

As always, Mateo came through with a spicy, velvety curried squash soup and crunchy, zesty quinoa salad for me!

Hubby swiftly devoured a petite plate of silky gnocchi, while Ridge and Sarah swooned over what appeared to be earth shattering sea scallops.

They told me they were life changing.

The moaned and salivated and wept over them.

The told me I absolutely must try them!

And I told them…

“Maybe next time…”

But in the meantime…

I have every intention of heading back to Mateo to try their cheese plate!

And goat cheese has yet to be conquered!

Let the quest continue!

And for those of you who may be craving a refreshing beverage after all those photos of cheese…

This is for you.

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