Sunday, November 24, 2019

Cheesy Dinner

It's probably more common to see a winemaker or sommelier joining us for dinner rather than a fromager, or cheesemonger, but recently I got such an experience with Francois Bourgon of Fromagerie Xavier co-hosting us at Epure in TST for a special cheese-themed tasting dinner prepared by its Chef Nicolas Boutin. I guess I could call myself a cheese lover but definitely not an expert so it's an excellent opportunity to learn more from someone who's a specialist in his trade (and a decorated MOF because of that)

We went straight into cheese from our first course with three different kinds offered to us as appetizer – Parmigiano-Reggiano, Soumaintrain fermier and Comte. We often judged the quality of Comte cheese by the number of months it’s been cellared – the longer the better – but Francois went on to explain to us in details about the subtle difference between the time of the year when the cheese was made (summer time milk yielded richer cheese because of the green wild pasture cows were fed on), or the importance of the cheese being farm-made so cheese was made fresh with quality well preserved. This time, the Comte served was made in July 2017, hence kept for around 24+ months, with the right firmness and good nutty, mineral flavor. Soumaintrain fermier was an interesting one – creamy with a soft, cuddled cream like texture but with intense flavor, like a richer, more "savory" version of the Brillat-Savarin. My favorite bit was the part that is close to the soft rind, the richest bit with some variations in texture. 

We went on with a few dishes prepared using a few seasonal cheese brought from Francois’ own store in Toulouse, founded by his father in the 70s and one he’s been managing since the early 2000s. First the creamy goat cheese from Deux Sevres was served with sorrel, spinach and walnut for a rustic presentation, then the sliced of Ossau-Iraty cheese from the French Basque region was paired with raw oyster. It’s mild in mineral flavor and the semi-soft sheep milk cheese added to the creamy texture. Then Francois led us into the island of Corsica, with the local Brocciu cheese served underneath baked slices of courgette and puree at the bottom.  The “cheese” made with milk and whey cooked to cuddle has a texture similar to ricotta with pungent smell and rich flavor.

Our main course was eel (sourced locally we were told). The thick piece of eel was flattened while searing with the crispy skin and a hint of smokiness, topped with a thin piece of lardo for the flavor, and then on the side, creamy orzo and mild pique peppers. Also on the side was a thin piece of Bortu Ardi Gasna, a comparatively mild ewe’s milk cheese which added to the earthy flavor of the dish.

The next dish was like a triple dose of grapes in totally different shape and form. First was the Tomme Marc de Raisin cheese from the Rhone-Alpes region, usually made during fall season and aged wrapped in grape pomace (leftover from the wine production – how handy) Reminded me of the Testun cheese from Barolo made using a similar method, but this one has less of the “interference” from the grape pomace both in terms of color and flavor, except the rind part which was soften and with a slight hint of the wine taste. It’s served with white pearl grapes over a shot of Cognac, of course, made from grapes.

Pear and chocolate was of course a classic combination, but this time, Fourme Blue Cheese also came into the picture for an interesting combination of sweet and savory tastes. We finished with a dessert trio – the most interesting one was the spoonful of recuite cheese made with whey, honey and a dash of espresso. The neutral flavor of the cheese worked great like cream to the strong coffee to bring out the nutty flavor. And no complaint to the creamy and sweet quenelle of nougat icecream to conclude our meal with.

Other than the Cognac paired with one of the dishes, we went for an all-champagne pairing this evening with excellent selections by their sommelier team. Started with the Blanc de Noirs from a promising young grower champagne house, followed by a Pinot Noir-dominant non-vintage blend. We finished with a well-aged one (2006 vintage and went through extra aging on the yeast) from another excellent grower house, another one dominated with Pinot with a lot of toast on the palate, good minerals, some spices and mild aroma of truffles. The rich taste with good acidity did carry well with the creamy cheeses.

(Dinner was by invitation. More photos can be found in my Flickr album:

When? November 6 2019
Where? Epure, Shop 403, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Bortu Ardi Gasna, Eel, Piquillos, Orzo
Champagne Vouette et Sorbee Fidele Brut Nature (2016 Harvest, Disgorged September 2018)
Champagne Jacquesson Cuvee 741 Extra Brut NV
2006 Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Millesime (Disgorged October 2016)
Hennessy VSOP Cognac
Fromergie Xavier:

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