Say cheese to culture

CHEESE has come a very long way since the days of squares of Coon stabbed on to toothpicks with one hand while firmly grasping your stubby with the other.

These days we have a complete cheese culture – no pun intended. At a gathering these days you are more likely to pick up smoked Cheddar, pungent Brie or a washed rind soft cheese than find a slice of Coon attached to a toothpick.

These days toothpicks serve only to rescue you from a trip to the dentist.

Why this resurgence in cheese?

If you look at our current eating trends you will admit that we are, besides being more cultural in our tastes, slowly evolving along the European way of life.

(Please let the liquor licensing laws change so we could soon enjoy a palate of cheese and a glass of wine at our favorite café)

Just as we have embraced the flavours of our Asian neighbors, they and we are embracing the foods of our European friends, who have bought to our shores a fantastic array of different styles of cheese.

While making cheese here in Australia is relatively speaking in its infant stages, compared to Europe, we are making some impressive inroads with the likes of cheese coming out of the Gippsland and King Island areas and our own Fantastic Karvella Goats cheese.

You have to go back to the days of inventing the wheel to get an understanding of how cheese evolved.

It is suggested that it happened by accident after leaving a pot of goats, reindeer, or sheep’s milk in the sun or exposed close to a fire for too long and a curd resulting.

History would have us believe that cheese is unquestionably linked to domestication or herding-farming of livestock.

It is said that a frail young David on his way to deliver supplies of cheese to his brothers to sustain them while hurling rocks at the Philistines bumped into the giant Goliath and accepted his challenge and promptly put him in a screaming heap.

No doubt he would have been nervously slicing up a few bite size bits before he entered the first round of his slinging match.

I am surprised that the Dockers haven’t cottoned on to this, goat’s cheese in stead of oranges at half time.

History tells that the different styles of cheese were born out of situation, such as hard cheeses like Pecorino and Parmesan were produced to help sustain Roman soldiers on long journeys as they travelled across their expanding empire.

The northern parts of France and Belgium were dedicated to soft cheese such as Brie and washed rinds as a result of the advancement in fermenting and farming of livestock. And it was the Mediterranean people, in insular communities, who created there own varieties of cheese such as feta born out of a necessity to provide an additional source of nutrition.

Inevitably though, it was monks who refined the cheese making processes and documented detail for the birth of a worldwide cheese market.

These days thoughout Europe you can find stores dedicated to only cheese.

Cheese merchants are now found liberally scattered around the UK.

For example, when living in Bath in the south west of England my local cheese merchant would have a sizeable queue every Saturday and would hold tastings every Wednesday.

Here in Australia we have not quite got to that stage, however there is a slow movement towards the establishment of specialised cheese merchants.

In Perth we have a leading light in the form of the Blue Cow Cheese Company run by Nick Bath and his partner, Pip.

Nick set up Blue Cow a little over three years ago after seeing an opportunity in Perth to support a market that was crying out for some experienced support.

Nick developed his passion and knowledge of cheese walking the cheese counter in London at Harrods and then running a small deli in one of the Conrad gourmet stores.

Returning to Australia, Nick worked with an eastern states company handling the agency for among others King Island before heading over here to the sunny shores of Perth.

Nick and the Blue Cow Cheese Company now offer a truly specialist service to the restaurant and retail trade in Perth.

Nick established the company to provide a link to support the traditional artisan small cheese makers throughout Australia.

He puts a focus on quality above all else.

With a team of five, Blue Cow are now widely recognized as the leaders in cheese supply in Western Australia.

The Blue Cow’s dedication to providing total service is unquestionably second to none.

Shaun Maher from Alto’s in Subiaco tells me “such is the service offered that you are invited to taste the cheese in the temperature-controlled van before you make your selection. You are given detailed tasting notes on the cheese selected, you are assured of freshness.”

“Nick ultimately lets the cheese do the talking, which is why when we serve the cheese in the restaurant we use Barretts Sour dough and a simple garnish such as raisins to complement the plate.”

I had to ask Nick why Blue Cow, and Nick told me that “blue is a traditional dairy colour, and walking into a restaurant or retailer it would help avoid confusion, who is going to forget the name, it maybe a little out there but it has longevity”.

Another shining cheese becon is Christopher Hillers Food in Subiaco.

Set up in 1999, Food is a gourmet’s delight that is full of a range of products from herbs and oils to pate and the piece de resistance – the walk-in cheese room.

The cheese room is Perth’s first dedicated cheese room.

Temperature and humidically controlled, it houses some 80 odd different cheeses from around Australia and Europe.

Christopher says: “I wanted to create an experience similar to those found across Europe. Sydney and Melbourne have some great concept stores that involve cheese and Perth at the time didn’t so I saw it as an ideal opportunity.”

The cheese room provides an opportunity for you to learn about the cheese you are purchasing and not just pick it up and add it to your shopping trolley; it is a room dedicated to cheese.

You are able to get a freshly cut portion of your choice, you are able taste before you purchase and the educated staff will help in your selection by informing you on how best to serve and if it will complement what you are endeavouring to achieve.

Christopher tells me “he loves seeing the expression on people’s faces when they first walk into the room. I enjoy the expressions that tell you that you have exceeded their expectations, we do try and provide a complete service”.

As an addition to the cheese room, Food also runs a cheese club in conjunction with Blue Cow Cheese, which sends you a carefully selected selection of the best seasonal cheeses available.

Packaged in a wooded box and delivered to your door on a day chosen to meet your requirements, complete with tasting notes on each of the cheeses and together with wine matching and serving ideas.

At present there is about 130 members who are indulging in the 1kg of various cheeses that are offered every eight weeks.

There is a new world awaiting you if you have not discovered the joys of cheese.

Next time you are looking to put together a selection of cheeses for a dinner party or office function, try some of the following places for a selection a little more intriguing.

Food By Christopher Hiller

151 Rokeby Road

Subiaco 6380 2000

The Re Store

231 Oxford Street

Leederville 9444 9644

Blue Cow Cheese Company

Unit 5/25 Frederick Street

Belmont 9477 5277

New Norcia Bakeries and Deli

163a Scarbough Beach Road

Mt Hawthorn 9443 4114

Mr Fresh

Carine Glades Shopping Centre

Shop 12 Beach Road

Carine 9447 4066

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