Today marks the last weekend of my last academic summer holiday in my LIFE. :O Good thing I didn’t quite waste it. On Saturday, I attended a cheese workshop at Hullet House. The workshop was part of a 5 day festival organized by One Minute Before called Cheese Refiners Days. They invited 2 cheese refiners from France, Philippe Marchand & Dominique Bouchait, to give a series of talks.
In addition, Chef Philipe Orrico of Hullet House and Food Designer Loïc Serot also took part in the festival. More information on this site. I miss French cheese soooo much I had to join!
As my sleeping schedule was so screwed up for the past month, I couldn’t sleep until 5 am, but had to wake up at 9:30 to get to Hullet House in time for the 11 am workshop. :S I had a massive headache that morning, but thankfully a lot of good cheese and wine woke me up.
First of all, Monsieur Marchand gave a talk on the origins of cheese. He identified the different categories of cheese, which I don’t really remember, but looked it up on his website afterwards. They include:
1) Les pâtes fraîches: fresh cheese
2) Les pâtes molles à croûte fleurie: soft cheese with a bloomed rind
3) Les pâtes molles à croûte lavée: soft cheese with a washed rind
4) Les pâtes persillées: blue cheese
5) Les pâtes pressées non cuites: pressed cheese which is not cooked
6) Les pâtes pressées cuites: pressed and cooked cheese
7) Les pâtes fondues: cheese fondue
8) Les recuites: cheese made from cooked whey (which is called lactosérum in French…that’s so cute! haha. it DOES look like sérum)
9) Les fromages de chèvre: goat cheese
Monsieur Bouchait also gave a little introduction about what a cheese refiner does. Basically, they refine cheese. He has his own gave for refining his cheeses, and everyday, he would have to go and check up on every block of cheese to decide what to do with them: turn them over, add stuff to it, leave it alone, or decide that it’s ready to sell, among other things. Don’t think this is an easy job though; Monsieur Bouchait has tens of thousands of cheeses, and some of them can weigh 40-50 kg. Some need to be turned over DAILY! So you definitely need to be strong.
Monsieur Bouchait also recently became a Meilleur Ouvrier de France 3 weeks ago, which is a title awarded to craftsmen who win a competition held every 4 years. Not only cheese refiners can get this award – other categories include chocolatiers, bakers, weavers, photographers. To get the award in cheesemaking, he was tested in cheese identification (name, production, age), cheese cutting, cheese making, etc. At the workshop was a table of cheese pieces he created, decorated according to the region or characteristics of the cheese.
Of course we got to taste some cheeses, accompanied by wines provided by LKF Wines. Unfortunately I didn’t write down the names of the cheeses. I remember there was Chabi cendré (goat cheese covered in ashes), Shropshire (an English blue cheese with an orange colour), and several kinds of chèvre. While this was happening, we were also being filmed by a French television crew…so anyone in France, watch out for me on French TV! LOL
Also tried to have a little chat with the cheese refiners to try to practice my French >< it’s deteriorating! I can still understand them thankfully. Monsieur Bouchait talked about walking through our local markets and seeing huge green fruits which looked like pineapples, but with spikes. I told him that it’s called durian. He then asked me if it’s good………..and unfortunately I burst out with “Je n’aime pas!!!!” ahaha…someone beside me was more neutral and said you either like it or you don’t. Obviously…I don’t.
The Mariners’ Rest downstairs was also set up as a local French cheese market, which is super cool! They had loads of cheeses, baguettes, and confitures on sale. It felt like I was back in Paris again…>< I didn’t get any on Saturday, as I wasn’t returning home right away, and I remember what happened last time I carried a block of Brie around for half the day before returning home (see here). And Paris isn’t even as hot as HK.
So, I returned on Sunday to get my cheese haul. The 2 cheese refiners were there, as well as Chef Orrico and another chef. I really enjoyed the experience as it totally felt like I was at a fromagerie in Paris! I asked to try any cheeses I wanted, and asked for suggestions. In the end, I got 4 different types of cheese. Going to try to comment in French lol…I need to practice. Excuse my sudden return to English sometimes.
Mon premier choix est le Shropshire. C’est un fromage de vache persillé à pâte orange inventé en Ecosse. It’s orange due to the addition of annatto, a natural food colouring, and is very crumbly. In fact, it was kept in glasses. Not unsimilar to Stilton, it’s even sharper and tangier. C’est très très bon! I can eat this all day.
Alors, j’ai essayé des fromages pressées. J’ai decidé d’acheter le Napoléon, le fromage de brebis inventé par Monsieur Dominique Bouchait! Il est affiné pendant 12 mois. The rind is brownish grey. The pâte is very creamy, avec une belle texture. It’s chewy but yielding. There is a smoky taste to it. Ni trop fort, ni trop doux, c’est parfait! J’ai acheté un grand part parce que je crois que je ne peux pas trouver ce fromage à Hong Kong…c’est dommage!
J’ai essayé les autres fromages avec un couleur orange aussi. C’est la Mimolette! J’ai voulu essayer ce fromage à Paris, mais je n’ai pas eu le temps. Une femme à côté de moi dit que la Mimolette semble une citrouille…haha! Il y a la Mimolette jeune et la Mimolette vieille. La jeune est mi-molle, with a tangy, milky taste. The old one is quite dry and crumbly, but plus, plus fort et j’aime mieux. The rind is grey and sparse. It is very distinctively nutty.
Enfin, j’ai choisi un fromage frais, le Petit Frais au lait vache, parce que je n’ai pas essayé avant. C’est pareil avec le fromage blanc. Very tangy and fresh tasting, with a high moisture content. J’ai mangé avec du miel et de la confiture. Miam!
J’espère que les affineurs pouvent retourner à Hong Kong à l’avenir, parce que ses fromages sont SUPER bon et j’aime le marché aussi! Il me rappelle de bons moments à Paris…