One of my friends loves the wine and cheese classes offered through the Artisanal Cheese Center. It’s affiliated with the restaurant but has it’s own separate location and it’s where some of the cheeses are made and where the classes are conducted. I learned this way as I panicked a bit underground once I realized I wasn’t headed to Park Avenue, but instead Tenth Avenue. A bit of a difference!
Thankfully I arrived in on time, almost catching the very beginning of the welcome reception. We were greeted by glasses of cava and a table adorned with a spread of various cheeses as well as fruits, fruit spreads, and even cheese fondue. From there, we entered into the classroom. At each setting, there was a full cheese plate of seven different cheeses, two glasses of wine (one white, one red), and a glass of water, as well as a couple of bread baskets per table.
The class we were taking was Cheese & Wine 201: Live Better, Live Longer. Our class was lef by Max McCalman, Artisanal’s Dean of Curriculum and Maître Fromager. I’ll admit that his presentation was a bit wordy at times, especially for that late on a Friday evening, but it did have interesting tidbits about cheese that I’d never heard, including:
- Raw milk has a heat sensitive cortisone-like favtor in the cream which aids in combating allergies.
- When eaten with fruit and vegetables, cheese offers an almost complete diet.
- Taurine in cheese helps your body to break down fats (therefore leading him to joke that “cheese makes everything okay” – a fact we all know is oh so true…)
- Compared with milk, cheese contains the same nutrients in higher concentration with quality fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, but with less water.
We were given a sheet of paper to take notes, rating the cheese with each of the wines on a scale of -2 to +2 (the plus denoting most favorable). For our cheeses, we were able to try:
- Laurier – Vermont, goat milk
- Fleur du Maquis – French, sheep milk
- Evota – Portugal, sheep’s milk
- Pont l’Evêque – France, cow milk
- Roncal – Spain, sheep milk
- Tarentaise (aged one year) – Vermont, cow milk
- Roquefort (aged three months) – France, sheep milk
The wines we were tasting were a New Harbor 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and a Barton & Guestier 2008 Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan Côtes due Rhône from France. I tended to like the sheep and goat milk cheeses the best. Ironically, I didn’t realize it was one when I tried it, but when I bit into the Roquefort, I reconfirmed my extreme dislike of blue cheeses. Pass!
As interesting as we found the class content to be, we were somewhat distracted by our fellow classmates on the row in front of ours. They’d arrived late, made everyone move around so they could sit together, and proceeded to touch and make-out throughout the entire class. That was annoying enough, but that was not all. Oh no. The guy was gunning his wine back like he was doing shots or doing a keg stand. I don’t think he got the memo that the point was to first each of the wines alone and then try it along with each of the cheeses on the plate. He was out of wine before we’d reached the second cheese, and begging for more. They came and refilled it, and then he turned around and gunned it again. When they came back over to refill his glass a second time, he actually told the assistant that they could just leave the wine there so they would not have to keep coming back over, to which they told him they could not as there was an entire room of other students to attend to.
He then turned around and tried to take the wine from the empty chair on our row, which we’d already planned to split amongst our group. I couldn’t resist, piping up, “Excuse me. What do you think you are doing?”.
He grunted and grumbled a bit (perhaps the accoustics were thrown off by his random hat?), and replied “I was going to refill my glass because I’m out.”
I glared back, “Well, some of us have not yet had refills, so we were planning on putting that to use here. Thanks.”
He turned around, but not before grabbing another piece of bread from our basket. He’d clearly come with an appetite as if he were going to a steakhouse. Not exactly appropriate for a wine and cheese class, monsieur.
Even with our interesting classmates, we did thoroughly enjoy the class. It was a fun way to spend a Friday night and tackled something I’ll admit to not knowing too much about. I have a feeling we will return back for another. And I know I definitely am curious to try their restaurant now.