Clearly, I can’t stay away from a good thing for long. It took approximately a month for me to make my way back to the Chapel Hill Whole Food’s for another class, and as far as I am concerned, it was three weeks too long. As the saying goes, a glass of wine and wheel of cheese a day keeps the doctor away. Or something like that. Just go with me here, a girl can dream. At the very least it should work to keep the therapist away because who needs therapy when you have wine and cheese?
This time, I sprung for a cheese class. As much as I loved the wine class, I thought this would be a fun way to mix things up. And I heard wine was included. So I texted my friend Sophie to see if she would be my date for the night and the next day it was official…I am a whole foods wine and cheese class groupie.
Before I get further into the experience, I think it is worth taking a second to explain just how Sophie and I know each other.
Sophie is from Maine, and I am from North Carolina. Where did we meet? Guatemala…in 2006. Both of us were part of an amazing summer program called Where There Be Dragons (If you are in High School, BEG your parents to let you go on one of their trips), and we were assigned to be roommates when we lived in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. We regularly spent all night laughing about the disgusting papaya juice our host family fed us or how we liked Guatemalan sweet bread so much that ouR host mom literally started hiding it from us. Sadly, even though the sight of a sweet bread roll reminds me of her to this day, we were horrible at keeping up and nearly a decade passed. Then, shortly after I started my blog, she messaged me and said “Hey, you’re in Chapel Hill, I’m in Chapel Hill, let’s meet up!”
I about fell over. What are the chances!? It was my blog that made her realize we were living only miles apart. Fast forward a week, and we were catching up over beers. Fast forward three more weeks, and we were learning about cheese in the back room of Whole Foods.
Funny how life works like that.
Anyways, back to the main event, cheese making and affinage.
The class started out with the Whole Foods cheese monger and a man from Goat Lady Dairy explaining the 8 stages of cheese making: milk setting, curd cutting, dripping and draining, curd fusion, pressing, salting, and special treatments (and in some cases, affinage, a fancy word for aging). It was so interesting to hear how much precision and effort goes into creating cheese. Instead of wondering how it is so expensive, I am now wondering how it is so cheap! This stuff takes work!
We started out with two fresh goat cheeses, one that had been smoked and one that had not. The smoked goat cheese was out of this world! It tasted like eating a camp fire, but in the very best possible way. Less weirdly, it could also be described as tasting like bacon..
Next, we moved onto some soft-ripened cheese, which were also excellent, but would have been more delicious had I had something to spread them on. I was literally smearing the cheese goo off my place mat with my finger. A level I am willing to stoop to for cheese goo, so really, only a minor detail.
Next, we moved onto a washed rind cheese, which was very delicious but smelled exactly like dirt. It was crazy to me how the smell and the taste were so different. Taste- incredible, bring me another slice. Smell- Hakuna Matata, I am digging in the dirt for worms. I also loved that this cheese was called Oma, after the cheese maker’s grandmother, since that’s is what I call my grandmother too.
Next we had a lindale cheese, which is similar to a gouda. It was tasty, but overshadowed, in my opinion, by what was up next.
This cheese was, by far, my favorite of the night. When it comes to sweets, caramel flavors reign supreme for me. One whiff of this cheese, and the only scent that comes to mind is the aroma of making fresh caramel or toffee. I was sold before I had even tasted it. In fact, I spent about five minutes just constantly smelling it before we finally got to the tasting. I’m going to look into having it replicated in a candle haha!
The final cheeses we sampled were two varieties of blue cheeses. Both, unsurprisingly, delicious. I am curious in looking into why I am not allergic to blue cheese even though I am allergic to penicillin, which is used to make it!
This was not only a lot of fun, but I learned a lot about cheese making and all the small steps along the way that transform milk into the hundreds (thousands?) of varieties of cheese that are available. There is another cheese class focusing on goat cheese on May 8. I am sad to say I will not be attending since I graduate the next morning, but I highly recommend these classes if you are in the triangle area! They’re $15 a person and can booked by calling the customer service desk or going into the store yourself!