RECAP: 2014 International Cheesemakers Rock Stars Dinner

Last Thursday, cheese lovers from near and far convened in the Upstairs Café at our Rittenhouse location to celebrate and learn about the wonderful cheeses made by the Essex St. Cheese producers!

Just eight years ago in 2006, cheese aficionado Daphne Zepos and Neal’s Yard Dairy partner Jason Hinds came together to form Essex St. Cheese Company and introduced Marcel Petite Comté to the world. Soon, one to two cheeses were added each year, leading up to today’s stellar cheese and cheesemaker lineup of Essex St. Cheese.

In 2012, Daphne passed and left behind a legacy and wealth of cheese knowledge. Her dying wish was to establish a teaching award, as in life her passion was teaching people about cheese. The 2014 International Cheesemakers Rock Stars Dinner benefited the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award and St. James School Neighborhood Kitchen.

As each course traveled out from the kitchen, the cheesemakers shared stories and interesting about their cheeses!

Manchego 1605:  José Luis Martín

Amuse Bouche: Pan con Tomate featuring Manchego 1605, Tuna Aioli, Capperi Croccanti, Bottarga

Aged for six months, this clean, balanced and fruity Manchego has layers of flavor with a nice, light spice. Martín emphasized that the cheese is one with heart. It is an homage to Miguel de Cervantes, author of the classic Don Quixote. The Manchego 1605 was sliced atop a savory tuna aioli with a crunch of bread.

Hafod Cheddar: Sam Holden

Boardwalk Burger & Fries “To Go” Featuring Hafod Cheddar:  Wagyu Beef, Homemade Pickles, Special Sauce, Hafod Cheddar, featuring Fries with Smoked Paprika Ketchup and Hafod “Whiz”

Situated in west Wales, Hafod Cheddar is handmade on a 130 acre family-owned farm with 65 cows. Their first batch of Hafod was made in 2007, and is an old-fashioned British cheddar. Aged for 11-12 months, Hafod has a complex and lengthy flavor as a West Country cheddar. The Hafod appeared in “cheese whiz” form and was also melted atop a beautiful Wagyu beef burger.

Brabander Gouda: Betty Koster

Soup Course: Eastern Peach Gazpacho featuring Brabander Goat Gouda

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Fromagerie L’Amuse! Guests enjoyed the caramel and buttery notes of the L’Amuse Brabander Goat’s Milk cheese atop their peach gazpacho. Betty shared with the guests that her heart cries when we eat goudas only aged 5-6 months!

Comté: Philippe Goux

Salad Course:  Salad of Local Lettuces featuring Marcel Petite Comté Gruyere, Duck Rillettes, Lardoons, Walnut Vinaigrette

This friendly, versatile cheese is delicate and full of herbal flavor. Marcel Petite Comté is made on a small dairy near the Swiss border. Philippe shared that his Comté is the best expression of terroir (terroir = the complete natural environment). Matured at Fort St. Antoine for 12 months, you can taste the love and care put into the cheese. Melted onto a crunchy piece of toast, the Comté stood out well in the salad with duck rillettes, lardoons and walnut vinaigrette.

Parmigiano-Reggiano: Giorgio Cravero

Entrée Course:  Veal Braciolettine featuring Cravero Parmigiano, Lacinato Kale, Fava Chickpea Puree, Di Bruno Bros. Fruttato Olive Oil

Deserving of his title, the “King” of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Giorgio Cravero, explained that his Cravero Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from the Piedmont region of Italy in a town called Bra. His family has owned the factory for 155 years. Today, they export to 19 countries and make millions of wheels! What makes this cheese so unique is its creamy texture and sweetness of taste. The cheese is soft and sweet, which differs from the traditional notion of Parmigiano as a cheese for grating. The Cravero Parmigiano-Reggiano was featured in the savory Veal Braciolettine.

Stichelton: Joe Schneider

“Di Bruno Bros. Lantern”:  Hazelnut Mousse with Stichelton Ice Cream, Candied Bacon Crunch, Macerated Seasonal Berries

Brainchild of Neal’s Yard Dairy, Stichelton is the only raw milk Stilton in the world. True Stilton became extinct in 1989 due to the regulated use of pasteurized milk. Cheesemakers Joe Schneider and Randolph Hodgson were inspired to revive this long-lost, delicious cheese. Hand-ladeled, this blue cheese is made with love and exudes a complex and lengthy flavor. Perhaps one of the most delicious treats as of yet, the Di Bruno Bros. lantern (yes, it was lit with a candle!) included toothsome Stichelton ice cream served with a crunchy pastry topped with bacon, and a side of seasonal berries. This meat and cheese dessert was a certifiable showstopper.