Sweet dreams are made of cheese…

…who am I to dis a brie?  As you may have guessed, this post is all about cheese and my recent experience of a cheese appreciation course!

Regular readers of the blog will know how excited I was about this experience – a cheese appreciation course!  Not that I need to be ‘taught’ to like cheese by any means, but this educational course was to teach me a few things I didn’t know about this wonder-food!  This was a Christmas present from my parents (they know me very well!) and I couldn’t wait to book it.  The course took place at The Australian Heritage Hotel in The Rocks area of Sydney.

The Australian Hotel Sydney

I don’t know if any of you have already been to this pub, but it has so much character and is known for stocking hundreds of different Australian beers –  it also has an interesting selection of ‘locally’ inspired pizzas such as kangaroo, emu and even crocodile!  Anyway, onto the cheese…

We received a glass of bubbly upon arrival and soon went through to the wine emporium room where the tasting plates, were laid out with matching wines, beer and sourdough bread.  How wonderful does it look!

Table presentation at cheese appreciation course The Australian Sydney

The plate above has ten very different samples of premium cheeses, which starting at 12 o’clock are:

  • Jannei Buche Noir – Goat’s Milk, Lidsdale, NSW
  • Brilliat Savarin – Cow’s Milk, Normandy, France
  • Fleur du Maquis – Sheep Milk, Corsica
  • McLaren Vale Camembert – Cow’s Milk, SA
  • Camembert AOC – Cow’s Milk, Normandy, France
  • Cabot’s Cloth Cheddar – Cow’s Milk, Vermont, USA
  • Gruyere Vieux AOC – Cow’s Milk, Franche-Comte, France
  • Epoisses AOC – Cow’s Milk, Burgundy, France
  • Cashel Blue – Cow’s Milk, Tipperary, Ireland
  • Roquefort – Sheep Milk, Roquefort Sul Souzon, France

In the centre is plum and walnut slices to cleanse the palette and to accompany each cheese if we wished.

Plate of cheese at The Australian Sydney

We were told that all cheeses in the world can be classified into one of the seven categories: fresh, bloomy, washed, semi-hard, hard pressed, blue veined and processed.  The plate above gave us a good mix – and some of these cheeses retail for up to $240/kg, so we were really being spoilt!

Our host Claudia was just brilliant, and what she does not know about cheese is probably not worth knowing!  She clearly has such a passion for good cheese and spent this 90 minute class telling us all about each of the cheeses in great detail, from its origin, how its made, the flavours, to what to match it with.

Our host of the cheese appreciation course The Australian Sydney

With most cheeses she would ask us to taste one of the drinks beforehand, then try a different wine or beer and taste it again for a very different experience – it really was quite spectacular! We were welcome to use the bread with the cheese or just eat it alone to get all the flavour.

Cheese tasting course The Australian Sydney

One revelation was the difference between Normandy region Camembert and the Australian (McLaren Vale) version – it soon became clear why Normandy is so famous for it, they tasted so different. Apparently there is legislation due to be passed which prevents any cheese maker outside of this French region calling a cheese Camembert to keep its exclusivity.

Another trick she showed us was blue cheese with a chocolate brownie. Now blue cheese isn’t really one my favourites but I was too curious not to…it is actually pretty good and I recommend giving it a try!

Chocolate at cheese appreciation course The Australian Sydney

My favourites on the day were the goats milk cheese, the Fleur du Marquis and the Gruyere which had a delicious espresso coating.  I am visiting Hunter Valley in a few weeks and look forward to refilling the fridge with a little more education!

This was such a great experience, thank you very much Mum and Dad!  I highly recommend it to any other cheese fans out there – I have no doubt that you’ll learn something new!