Food classes, we think we know it all, and then take a class and realize that we know nothing. Okay, a little dramatic maybe, however, sitting in on a cheese tasting class at The Cheese Cave in Red Bank I honestly have to say that I learned quite a bit.
Every thing about this class is appealing. The elegant table setting, the eagerness of fellow students, and of course the first hand knowledge acquired from the owner/ instructor of the class, Stephen Catania.
Everyone is served a plate with the same variety of cheeses and accompaniments. The plate is set before you like a clock face for a reason. You start and end with the same cheese as everyone else, learning about the characteristics of each cheese. Where the cheese comes from, how long it has been aged, where and who curates the cheese, and what sort of rind the cheese winds up with are all important factors. You learn to discern the four characteristic factors of each cheese, appearance, aroma, texture and of course, flavor.
As we worked our way around the plate, I was in awe of how one cheese tasted so remarkably different from the next and how each jelly, jam, or nut was paired so perfectly in flavor. Touching on the intricacies of cheese making, where the cows or sheep are raised and how the cheeses are treated while they are aging was fascinating. Some key information learned; some cheese rinds are rubbed with lard, blue cheeses and roqueforts are injected with bacteria, and that whether a cheese is made from pasteurized or unpasteurized mild changes the flavor.
Having access to a world class cheese shop is such a lucky thing, but having a cheese monger who is happy to share his knowledge with you, well, that is wonderful. I never felt anything but confident when serving a cheese platter at the many parties we have had, but now, a door has opened to the vast variety of flavors out there and my choices will be more assured. Proof positive that you are never too old to learn and you may think you know enough but there is always someone out there who can teach you more.