It was a gorgeous afternoon yesterday, perfect for ripe cheese on the patio.
Picture cherry trees in blossom, birds canoodling on telephone wires, carpenter bees weaving in loopy script around gutters. Such was the scene at yesterday’s Blue Cheese-Off in Center City Philadelphia, hosted by Blue Cheese Goddess Tracy T. She met her guests with ice-blue nails, a full skirt, and a bandana dotted with constellations.
When I arrived with my valise of blues, guests were sipping demi cocktails in the kitchen – thanks to the exquisite liquor cabinet that BC Goddess recently inherited from her landlord’s deceased kin. I enjoyed a thimble-full of something that tasted like my grandmother’s 4711 eau de cologne and began unwrapping my selection. Our man, the Blue Cheese Brit, followed close on my heels, full of gusto, as he had just paid a visit to his personal cheese boy at Di Bruno Bros., acquiring “a blue that would change our lives.”
As the sun dribbled low and the birds got down to business, Madame Fromage uttered a few grandiloquent things into the atmosphere, and began, for lack of better word choice, to cut the cheese. The Official Cheese Bearer passed out the first selection, followed by a dish of palate-cleansing baby carrots. Over the next hour, the six of us sampled 5 blues, ranging from mild to “life-changing,” with only a single near-fatality. Alas, the Official Cheese Bearer had to withdraw himself from the tasting after he suffered tongue-burn.
Here is our cheese flight, from mild to mondo:
- Blue Suede Moo, Keswick Creamery of Newburg, Pa. (cow’s milk, raw)
- Cremificato Verdi Capra, Italy (goat’s milk, raw)
- Birchrun Blue, Birchrun Hills Farm, Chester Springs, Pa. (cow’s milk, raw)
- Buttermilk Bleu Affinée, Roth Käse, Wisconsin (cow’s milk, raw)
- Cabrales, Spain (goat and cow milk, raw)
The Blue Suede was a crowd-pleaser, likable and friendly. The blue-cheese novice in the group found this delightful. The Cremificato was the most beautiful cheese on the plate, a snow-white slab with pencil-thin blue lines; it was frosting-wet with a delicate bite at the finish. Birchrun Blue was deemed “most tempting for repeat samples,” while the Bleu Affinée garnered the most raves for tasting like a “true blue” – buttery and sharp with a strong slap at the end, plus an “incredible mouthfeel.” Alas, the Cabrales did change our lives.
We tasted it on spoons, as directed by the cheese boy at Di Bruno Bros., scraping the hard surface to loosen multi-hued crumbles. Friends, it was so blue, it burned. The Blue Cheese Goddess compared it to a “topical anesthetic,” while the Official Cheese Bearer ran into the kitchen, claiming he couldn’t feel his tongue. The Blue Cheese Brit simply inhaled deeply, as if from a fag, and declared, “This takes me into the cave.”
The sun went down, and the sky shifted from blue to blue-black. New guests arrived. Ceviche was served. Cucumber martinis appeared between the blue-tipped fingers of our lovely hostess, and when the night was almost over – as the gumdrop course arrived – I looked over at the cheese platter to see that it had been reduced to a few rinds in the moonlight. Ahhh, beautiful. What is better than strong cheeses in spring, eaten among friends? I think I will raid the crisper and read some Rimbaud.