Cilantro cheese

28 Mar 2017

I'm not sure how we first got to taste Cilantro goats cheese, but I think Monica may have dropped into the restaurant one day and left us a sample. Unlike many I enjoy the barnyardy flavours in a lot of goats cheeses and have never found them offputting, but it's always been a bit of an uphill battle to convince customers in the restaurant to put aside their preconceived ideas and try a goats cheese.

So I really was genuinely delighted and surprised to try their fresh cheese, which is sweet and clean in taste, with really no residual goat nuance at all. It's a soft creamy cheese that goes on everything.

We have been using it and selling it ever since that introduction, and continue to love it to this day. Last week we popped over to the Waikato and one of the places we called into visit, was Jenny and Monica at their cheese factory at the Ruakura Research Campus just outside Hamilton. ( Interestingly a book I'm currently reading on the early days of the NZ wine industry references some research on vines that was done at that Campus, and both of these ladies in their lives away from cheese lecture on science).

Their enthusiasm for what they do was so totally infexious, it gives us huge confidence going forward that the future of the cheese world in NZ has moved well beyond the  1kg block of ubiquitous cheddar, and will never be allowed to go back to such boring cheese.

Monica's Brazilian background adds an extra layer of vivaciousness to her descriptions of food and it was from her South American background that she came up with the idea of making cajeta - a type of dulce de leche, but made with goats milk rather than cows - that we also tried, and thought was pretty sublime.

Rick is currently working on ideas for the Autumnal Cookschool Series, which is due to start next week, and I know he was considering using some cajeta in the dessert just to showcase what is a very special product. Hannah pilfered the sample we'd been given to put under some chocolate icing on a cake she made at the weekend, and I haven't got round to asking her how that worked out, but I'm suspecting it was pretty damn fine. And yet interestingly if you told people up front they were about to eat sweet goats milk, the majority would probably respond negatively, so we need to figure a pitch to get people to try it in the cookschools without any preconcieved ideas...

I know when Juliet Harbutt does cheese tastings with us, she never tells people in advance what they're trying until they've smelt and eaten it, and declared it to be delicious. At that point she says it's a goats cheese, and people are invariably astonished because it is so unlike any of the previous goat cheeses they're tried.  Preconceptions can colour the palate, and we don't want that to happen with this yummy stuff.Hmmm...

And then over the weekend we had Giles from the fromagerie at Maison Vauron in for dinner with his wife. We have been in contact with Giles sporadically over the years when we've needed french cheese specifically for something. They import directly, his knowledge is encyclopedic and his palate superb, so we trust him totally. We had a long chat at the end of their meal, and they were utterly delightful and again, completely passionate about what they sell. We have promised to get in touch next time we head to Auckland and he is going to do a tasting with us. We like to support local cheesemakers and will always continue to do so, but that doesn't mean we're been exactly disloyal to also try what is being produced in other parts of the world.

Once upon a time my wine list was exclusively NZ because I felt that as a NZ restaurant I should be supporting the local wineries, and I still feel that way in large part, but am also aware from our own travels, that differently regions of the world have different aspects to contribute, and sometimes it's nice to try and compare and just luxeriate in good taste, rather than being totally myopic! Hmm...



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