Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cheese Classes at The Sofitel

The Sofitel Washington, DC recently launched it's series of cheese tasting courses, taking place now through the end of March. 

Executive Chef Loquet of iCi Urban Bistro and Sue Dailey, Washington's premier expert on artisan cheese, will host two additional classes on March 1 and March 27, covering European vs. American cheese making, and Oregon's Rogue Creamery, respectively. 

It the launch of this three part series, guests were able to taste their way through the basics of cheese. Sue Dailey first talked guests through the cheese making process, offering a display of her personal photos taken at Chapel's Country Creamery in Easton, MD as a visual guide to this process. Sue also offered a few tips for keeping your cheese tasting its best, as she is a firm believer that the shelf life of cheese qualifies it as being the best investment you can make. She explained that it's best to cut the cheese from both sides, and it's best to wrap your cheese in a breathable material such as parchment paper (as opposed to smothering it with shrink wrap)particularly when it comes to softer cheeses. She also explained that if entertaining guests with a cheese tasting, it's important to ease your guests into the stronger flavors by offering softer cheeses first, and to also not serve your cheese with sides that contain overpowering flavors (such as garlic crackers).

With all this in mind, the cheese tasting began, with an abundance of fresh bread kept within easy reach. 

The menu items listed above were served in two portions, with the first five listed cheeses served on one plate, and the last five cheeses served on a second plate a nice while later.

The Crottin from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, made from pasteurized goat's milk, was soft and fluffy in texture, with a wonderful fresh milk taste.

The Bijou, an aged Crottin, was a standout from this first set of five cheeses, and was the softest and creamiest of the bunch.

The Shenandoah, made from Sheep's Milk, was the first tangy cheese on the plate, and the start of the tasting of the harder cheeses. 

The Tumbleweed Cave Aged, from 5 Spoke Creamery in Goshen, New York, a cross between a Cantal Fermier and an aged Cheddar, was my preference over the two harder cheeses served in the first course.

If these five cheeses aren't enticing enough for you, five more awaited guests of this Cheese 101 course.  Once again, the softest, creamiest bunch of the set was the standout, and this was found in the Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, Virginia. I also really enjoyed the Smoked White Cheddar from Fiscalini in Modesto, California. As Sue was quick to point out, it's not the smoked cheese from your mass produced cheese and meat basket!

In addition to a tasting of ten cheeses, guests were provided with a list of cheese and wine parring tips, and a ham and cheese sandwich recipe from Chef Loquet.

If you're ready to stop reading about cheese, and ready to taste it, you can sign up for one, or both, of Sofitel's upcoming classes by calling Vincent Gernigon at 202-730-8418 or e-mailing him at Each course is $50.

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