If I could be gastronomically reincarnated into another form, I am absolutely certain I would come back as a mouse. It is with this inveterate predilection for cheese that I attended Artisanal’s Cheese Basics class at their Artisanal Premium Cheese Center on West 37th Street last week. If you are as bright-eyed about cheese as I am, THIS is the class for you.
All 14 of us student-guests positively melted at first sight of two scintillating and pungent platters of cheese: soft tomes, bright goats, pungent blues, crowned with baguette hunks, planks of nut bread, walnuts, jams, dried apricots and cranberries. I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t in the famous “cave,” but the Cava that kept flooding my champagne flute quickly helped me get over it.
And before we went into the adjoining classroom, a fresh fondue, also full of alcohol, was put over the flame. I can think of no better way to go than by drowning in a pot of Artisanal fondue. Sadly, the Artisanal man would not tell me what kind of cheese it was; only that I could buy it premixed online (like all the cheeses we would be tasting). Perhaps the key is to keep some mystery in the relationship, because I couldn’t stop sneaking sly dips into the pot all night!
The course itself was informative and sophisticated. Before instructed to tuck into the eight cheeses with which we were presented (yes, we were even taught to proper way to taste both wine and cheese), we learned how cheeses are “blued,” what kinds of milks are used, what kinds of rennet, how rinds are washed and preserved, and how to pair cheese with wine. Then the tasting began. Montgomery’s Cheddar, the Roves de Garrigues, the Ossau au Piment d’Esplette, the Monte Enebro, and the Chaource were all exquisite. No bread as a cushion to diffuse the flavor; and some of these were CHEESE, in the smelliest, Frenchest sense of the word. In fact, I met the first cheese I didn’t like (Brescianella Stagionata); but frankly, it was about time. It spoke to the level of the class that there was a cheese that even this mouse couldn’t quite conquer.
We all left feeling ever-so refined…and drunk. One of our cheeses may have been called "Barely Buzzed," but we were VERY buzzed after our night of gluttony. Upon our exit, Artisanal presented us with slices of praline-crusted cheesecake, which we attempted to relish and gulp simultaneously as we hurried to fall asleep in our taxis home. Four courses of cheese, three glasses of wine, too much Cava, and lots of cocktail party conversation starters. Certainly worth $85. Sign up for the two-hour October 3 class.
Has anyone else tried any of the other classes? Which cheeses are you just not able to stomach? And if you were gastronomically reincarnated, would you be a mouse too?
Artisanal Premier Cheese Center
500 West 37th Street (2nd Floor), New York, NY 10018