Santa Monica: Cheese 101 at Andrew’s Cheese Shop
I didn’t grow up eating cheese. It was just something people sprinkled on my food occasionally. I have to admit I am generally dairy-free unless I’m out– which admittedly I’m out a lot and I do have an obsession with mac and cheese. This is going to sound really strange for a food writer but I feel I don’t need dairy, it’s just something I ate occasionally. When I hear people talking about living on just bread and cheese for the rest of their life, I always think they are crazy.
That is until I went to this class. I may not consider cheese my deserted island food but I have a better appreciation for it.
First, let’s take something like brie. I just always thought it was melt-y stuff you put on bread. I often wanted to just eat the bread. That sort of brie at parties didn’t taste like anything. We tried the Brie Fermier, a cow milk cheese from France. It was fantastic. It had flavor, a bit of funk and salt and overall something I wanted more of. And it went with the white wine very well. Andrew also gave you the option of red wine or craft beer.
The class was set up with two long rows of chairs in front of the display cases. Andrew really did go into the history of cheese and for someone like me who never really thought where it came from, I was very interested. I love food history and nerding out about factoids. Andrew described cheese making as a discovery some dudes made when riding around with milk held in animal stomachs on a hot day. Or maybe it was months of travel. Eventually all those skins of milk bounced around and turned into a type of cheese. Rather than throwing it away, people cautiously then enthusiastically ate it.
How we got bleu cheese was an equally astonishing story. Over in Roquefort, France, a monk was having a lunch down in the caverns where the cheese was made and he left his rye bread sandwich in the cave. Next thing you know, the thing gets moldy and the spores fly into the cheese. Rather than throwing it out, it turned out to be delicious. Now rye bread is deliberately left on hooks in the caverns. And people import the spores like the cheese makers in Stilton, England and even in Portland, OR where some of the best bleu cheese is made.
We tasted a total of 8 different cheeses. I liked most of them. There was one that even my new-found cheese heads friends couldn’t stand. We’re looking at you, Abbaye de Bel’Loc from France. It’s a good thing the Cashel Blue from Ireland made up for it.
After we learned more tidbits about cheese- like there are cheese seasons and get good cheese from a reputable source (i.e. Andrew’s Cheese in Santa Monica), we looked at the wares and cheese for sale.
I would love to come back for grilled cheese night. Now that sounds fantastic. The shop has a great selection of craft beers and that’s what’s paired with the grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course, you can come back anytime for sandwiches. The menu looked great.
Andrew talked a bit about how when he got older, he grew to like the really funky cheeses. Perhaps that’s what is happening with me.
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