Last week I attended another Citysearch Eat Drink Learn event, this time the topic was cheese at Andrew's Cheese Shop in Santa Monica. The shop's owner, Andrew Steiner, says cheese is the controlled spoilage of milk. Using terms like fermentation, bacteria, aerobic, pasteurization and ammonia this cheese 101 course seemed more like a science class, granted a more interesting one than the ones I remember back in school though.
Let me break down some of the parts that I found most interesting. Just like how champagne can't be called champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region in France, otherwise it's simply sparkling wine, Brie cheese can't be called Brie unless derived from that province of France. More accurately most Brie-like cheeses are more accurately called bloomy rind cheese or Camembert from Normandy. Also, the rind is there to protect the cheese and to help it age, however, most believe you have to eat it as well, but Andrew says eating it is a matter of preference. It's made to be edible, but the white exterior is a mould growth of Penicillium that grows on the exterior of the cheese and again for preservation purposes. Now I no longer have to feel guilty for not liking the rind. Also, it's carbon dioxide that causes the holes in Swiss cheese.
Apparently, when selecting a cheese, you are looking for a cheese with complexity, eat it slowly and take it time to absorb all the flavors. Also, Champagne is the best drink to complement the eating of cheese along witth white wines over red.
The shop offers these classes on a regular basis for $25 along with single mixers and grilled cheese and beer nights. Check out their site for a schedule.