“This cheese should smell like a cave.”
I found that an intriguing introduction as we prepared to try fromage number four at a cheese and wine pairing on Monday night at Paper. Our end of the table had plenty of reactions.
- “He’s right: it does smell like a cave.”
- “I think it tastes like a cave but doesn’t smell like one. It smells smoky.”
- “Let’s be more specific. It smells like the northeast corner of level B3 in the Shuangjing Carrefour car park after a heavy rain [if the smell includes hints of silver iodide, change that to “after an induced rain”].”
- “I’m not a caveman.”
That cheese–Saint-Nectaire–stood out as the oddest of six on a night of nibbling and sipping. It would be an excellent item for a game of Twenty Questions.
“First question: Is it made of milk?” “Yes!”
“Does it smell like a cave?” “Yes!”
“Is it cave cheese?” “Bingo!”
The cheeses were provided courtesy of Paulin Assouvie of Votost while Philip Osenton of Wine Culture and Carole Lahournere and Romain Vandevoorde of Le Baron supplied the wines. Here are some takes on the night.
- While the Saint-Nectaire is love it or hate it, most of the other cheeses, including the Brie, Camembert, Neuchatel, and blue were tasty and accessible. My favorite: Maroilles. This one had a washed rind and a soft chalky texture that became buttery in the mouth. And it was a bit stinky: think a touch of ammonia plus the odor of three-day-old toe-jammed socks. (See, just because I didn’t go to the Yen Halloween party doesn’t mean I can’t bring up my fetishes.)
- Favorite pairing: The Blue D’Auvergne with the Primo Joseph “Moda” Cabernet-Merlot 2006 (Wine Culture). I like this wine because of its strong fruit: Osenton says the grapes are dried on straw mats for more concentration. It blended well with the cheese.
- Most intriguing pairing: The Camembert went well both with the Jean Chartron Bourgogne Chardonnay 2006 (Wine Culture) and the Domaine du Mas Blanc Cosprons Levants 2004 (Le Baron). As Krishna Hathaway from Aman Resort put it: the cheese made the white wine taste better while the red wine made the cheese taste better. Call that one a toss up.
- Most intriguing wine: Domaine du Mas Blanc “Le Blanc des Junquets” 2007. I liked it because the aroma evolved in the glass: I picked up some herbs, flowers, minerals, a touch of honey, and some kind of medicinal odor. (But, unlike with the Saint-Nectaire, no socks). Someone else described it as “like tea”. Given we drank a pair of bottles, and a couple went to the reviewers listed on the bottle, there are at most only 296 left (it was a 300-bottle run).
- Favorite part: The distinctiveness of each wine and cheese.
I also enjoyed trying Paper’s lapsang souchong-infused Jameson’s, though I’m not sure a second glass was smart on a Monday night.
This event was hosted by Shauna Cho and Shanti Christensen of Paper. You can find some of the cheeses at Aman Resort, Scarlett, and Café de la Poste. For the wines, check the websites of Le Baron and Wine Culture (Osenton notes the “Moda” Cabernet-Sauvignon is available at Maison Boulud and the Fairmont Hotel).
Other wines tried: From Wine Culture–Marcus Molitor Wehlener Klosterberg Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2006 (Germany), Cape Campbell Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 (New Zealand), and Irvine Pinot Gris 2006 (Australia); from Le Baron–Château Bel-Air Perponcher Grand Vin Blanc 2007 and the Champagnes Soutiran Blanc de Blancs (Grand Cru) and Lassalle Cuvée Angéline 2002 (Premiere Cru).