If I were allowed only one guilty pleasure in life, it would be cheese. My half-German blood might have something to do with it or perhaps it was the early exposure to cheese, either way my taste buds have always tingled at the thought of the eminent mouthful of cheese. Whether its hard or soft, made of cow’s or goat’s milk, strong or mellow, there is always room in a meal for cheese, in fact I love cheese so much my boyfriend sometimes calls me “mouse”. Growing up, I couldn’t remember any names of cheese but alluded to their appearance or taste. Stinky cheese was Stilton or Camembert, cheese with holes was Emmental, pizza cheese was Mozzarella, plastic cheese were those individually wrapped American cheese slices that tasted like… plastic! Why I chose to eat the plastic type when I had other, better choices available to me still baffles me.
These days, being a cheese enthusiast, I am always on the hunt for good quality cheese, whether it is of a familiar type or a kind I’ve never heard of. There’s a whole world of cheese out there to be explored, get out of the rut of buying the same Chcddar or Brie. The key to getting to know different cheese is to try new types. As the saying goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, don’t be put off by mold or the overpowering smell some cheese have, often I’ve found that the uglier or smellier a cheese, the more I enjoy it. Visiting a good cheese room or shop and speaking with the staff that work there will also help you discover new types. Tell them what kind of cheese you like or the flavours that you are drawn to, and ask for recommendations of something similar, or be daring and take a chance on the unknown!
My favourite cheese shop in London is La Fromagerie in Marylebone (next door to Ginger Pig), a place where cheese is revered and celebrated. The cheese room is set behind glass sliding doors and inside the aircon’s blasting, it’s like stepping into a giant fridge. Then the aroma of a thousand cheese hit you and your eyes scan the rows and rows of dairy goodness in front of you. Whenever I visit, I’m like a kid in a sweet shop. All the cheeses have labels telling you the name, country of origin, source (cow/sheep/buffalo) and a description of the taste, sometimes a recommendation on flavour pairing as well. The staff that work there are very knowledgeable and have introduced to me countless new types of cheese. When I hosted a cheese fondue and raclette last weekend, I bought all the comte, gruyere and raclette I needed from there. The staff were helpful enough to help me cut the big blocks of raclette into slices (something a lot of places wouldn’t do, citing “health and safety” which is code for “I can’t be bothered to do it for you”) Apart from the cheese room, they sell quality foods from cured meats, vegetables to condiments and there’s also a cheese and wine tasting area.
My second go-to place for cheese is Borough market, where you will find a great range of English, French and Italian Cheese. The vendors always have samples available for trying so you can always try new kinds before committing to buying a block. I always leave the market with a giant haul of cheese. Other noteworthy places to go are the cheese room in Wholefoods High Street Kensington and La Cave a Fromage in South Kensington.
*All photos were taken in La Fromagerie