Nothing beats a cold night in front of the fire – a fire, anybody’s fire or even just a nice picture of a fire – than a bottle of red and a block of good cheese.
Looking at prescribing a mid-winter menu for a bunch of friends, you could be a bit hedonistic and splash out for a dessert made entirely of cheese.
Prompted to do the same recently, I went to the cheesiest guy I know – Ian Hornblow, the cheesemonger at Moore Wilson. Ian is a fellow you will have seen serving in restaurants, running a butchery, serving up a giant paella, dealing smallgoods, and so on – but wherever you know the name from, you’ll know he’s got food on the brain.
The fromagerie at Moore Wilson is a steel walled safe in the midst of the store and delving into it is best left to the professionals, and fortunately there’s always one on hand.
Ian’s central piece of advice is to make sure you time the cheese right. That means finding out what’s coming in and planning to have one that is about ripe when you’re looking to serve it up. From there the options abound.
Doffing his esteemed hat to an even more esteemed fellow, Ian ran us through the basics, armed us with a few samples, and said go see Ludovic at Le Marche Francais.
Le Marche is on Thorndon Quay and Ludovic Avril knows cheese. Importing the stinky, subtle, sweet and savoury best from France, any expectation you have of a cheesery will be exceeded here.
Beaufort, Ossau Iraty, English and French cheddars, Stilton, Tomme de Chevre, Comte, not to mention the brilliant odour of a melting Raclette. Pasteurised, unpasteurised, 400 grams or 4 kgs, they have it.
The store is decorated with Euro-fare, from $40 bulk bags of French country herbs to an eclectic collection of sodas and beverages from the northern hemisphere. The cheese fridge is packed, and the tasting knife is always ready to allow you to sample, sift and sample again. Their advice is occasion specific, taste specific, accompaniment specific, but there is one generic rule. “No crackers sil vous plait! Get yourself a baguette,” comes the genuine French plea.
Cheese has to be one of the finer ways to spend the afternoon, after dinner, after lunch, after you wake up etc etc – you get my drift. Le Marche has a bunch of cheesy recipes ready for the taking too, so you don’t have to wonder what to do with it.
We can’t really wrap up a fromagerie salute without mentioning the Scheckters out at On Trays in Petone. South African inspired, you’ll find a damn sight more than cheese in their deli aisles, but their cheese collection is special too.
If you bounce round these guys and you can’t find something soft, hard, runny or smelly to wrap your tastebuds around, I’m clearly doing something wrong. Cheese out.