Monday, 22 May 2006

sydney specialist cheese show

Yesterday Jonas and I went to the Sydney Specialist Cheese Show which is run by the Australia Specialist Cheese Association ($35 for entry). These things are always such a fight to get through to each stand to talk to the makers and taste the products. There were 20 Australian cheesemakers represented (around 150 cheeses) as well as two wine makers, a beer brewery and makers of cheese accompaniments: glace fruits, fruit pastes and olives.

I came to understand that I have a real passion for goats’ cheese, and luckily I had the opportunity to try some excellent examples.

Willowbrae (Hawkesbury, NSW) produce excellent goats’ milk products including yoghurts as well as marinated fetta and a delectable array of curds. They have around 100 goats which are milked twice daily. The products were so creamy and rich, and many of the curds come rolled in flavours such as sun-dried tomatoes, peppercorns and olives. This producer was one of my favourite discoveries.

Udder Delights (Adelaide Hills, SA) is another goats’ cheese favourite. Although not as artisan as Willowbrae, they certainly produce some good goats’ milk products such as the gorgeous bucheron-like brancoleite, which I first tried on holidays in the Adelaide Hills.

Jannei Goat Dairy (Lidsdale, NSW) is also worth a mention for their fresh curd and the cheddar chevre which was a hard cheese and had a great nutty flavour.

King Island Dairy’s (TAS) Black Label Double Brie was a lovely example of how a big, commercial chain can still produce a wonderful cheese. According to their tasting notes they handcraft the cheese in a traditional French ‘Brie de Meaux’ style and this produces “secondary mushroom flavours” which “move from a Swiss brown to a more earthy porcini [cep]” as the cheese ages. We really enjoyed the oozing, creaminess of this cheese. They also produced a great cloth matured cheddar that had a good bite.

The Hunter Valley Cheese Company (NSW) produced a great fresh cheese called Riley’s Fromage Blanc. From the Upper Hunter Valley, Hunter Belle’s gold medal winner was the delicious Goldenbelle, a washed rind cheese with a gooey, creamy centre.

Binnorie Dairy (Hunter Valley, NSW), a three year old dairy, produced great labna (marinated, drained yoghurt cheese) and a blissful concoction called Duetto (a blend of gorgonzola dolce and marscapone).

Ashgrove Cheese (Elizabeth Town, TAS) came up with a unique “wild wasabi” which was their own semi-hard cheese flavoured with Tasmanian grown wasabi. I preferred this hard hitting flavour, whereas Jonas leaned towards the milder wasabi flavoured club cheddar from Maleny Cheese.

There has got to be a favourite of the day and Jonas and I unanimously agreed that Shaw River Buffalo Cheese (VIC) took this accolade with their buffalino. Started in 1995, they use pure water buffalo milk from buffalo originally imported from Italy and Bulgaria. Their wonderful buffalino was such a unique and interesting discovery that we were both blown away. This cheese is pale white and is extremely creamy and crumbly. It’s flavour is tangy and fruity with an aftertaste that's almost port-like. Apparently they first made it as a cooking cheese (because of its excellent melting properties) but it soon became popular as a table cheese. There were two other varieties to try, a smoked buffalino and a much, much stronger Lady Julia, which was made akin to cheddar processes and aged 12 months. This had an unbelievable kick and was unlike other cheeses I had tasted at the show. Shaw River Buffalo Cheese also make yoghurts, mozzarellas, paneers and curds from the buffalo milk. We were pleased that the buffalino was for sale at the show and bought 250g for AUD$5.

Also worth mentioning were the delicious glace fruits from Simarloo (Lyrup, SA). I tasted quince, pear, apricot, fig and a wonderful bitter-sweet orange slice, which turned out to be my favourite. The makers explained that some producers start their fruit off in brine, whereas they pumped the fruit full of sugar syrup to replace the natural fruit juices with sugar and this is what makes them so plump and jammy.

Maggie Beer’s (Tanunda, SA) spiced pear paste was also an excellent discovery, matching well with goats’ cheese, both curds and other soft varieties.

To wash all these down, I continually sipped upon the excellent Yarrabank Crème de Cuvée NV (Yarra Valley, VIC), a refreshing sparkling rosé with a lovely, creamy foam.

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