A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a cheese and wine tasting with Max McCalman, author of Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best and The Cheese Plate. Quel Fromage hosted this wonderful event and graciously asked me to provide the desserts.
I was a bit intimidated by the guest of honor as I am an admirer of his work and his knowledge. Knowing that he is very well traveled and has impeccable taste I was perplexed as to what desserts would do justice to the amazing cheeses and wines that we were sure to sample.
I came up with a menu that included an assortment of three sweets.
1. Raspberry Macarons with homemade raspberry preserves
2. Strawberry Tartlets with Mascarpone Mousse
3. Camembert Chocolates with crystallized honey
I managed to use cheese in two of the three… not bad!
I must say that the cheesy chocolates were quite delicious and a hit. The texture of the interior ganache was out of this world. The triple cream cheese gave the ganache body and a unique creamy texture and flavor.
I made sure that Max had a chance to try one and I was so impressed that he was able to tell me exactly which cheese I had used in the chocolates. Although the cheese flavor was definitely pronounced I figured since I used 70% Guanaja chocolate that the chocolate would over power the cheese. It really was a beautiful balance of a slight savory, salty flavor from the cheese and an intense full bodied chocolate. The crystallized honey garnish added a nice sweet finish.
8 oz. 70% Valrhona Guanaja
6 oz. Camembert (or try a nice blue, goat, etc.)
4 oz. Heavy Cream
Combine cream and cheese in a sauce pan. Heat over low heat just until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand one minute. Whisk vigorously or use a Cuisinart or an immersion blender to emulsify.
I was so fascinated with the information that Max presented. I am a lover of cheese and especially cheese prepared in the artisan fashion. My cheese knowledge is very limited at this point but I hope to change that!
We were given a brief lesson on cheese production and a rather passionate lecture on the health benefits of cheese. Max insisted that he ate a very large amount of cheese and he continues to loose weight. (Sounds like he needs more sugar in his diet!)
I wish I could give more details about the cheese we tried but did I mention there was wine there too? And a lot of it I might add. 8 cheeses and four wines each of which we tried with each cheese…. I’m no mathematician but that’s a lot of wine (32 pairings to be exact).
Lucky for me I walked away with a gorgeous signed copy of Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best and an even bigger appreciate for cheese.
photos courtesy of gabriel boone photography