I was overjoyed when Pangaea invited me to take part in their media event to kick-start their new Tuesday cheese night special! With a warm greeting and a glass of champagne, I was introduced and quickly started chatting up many other successful foodies as well as Martin Kouprie, the head chef and co-owner of the restaurant along with Peter Geary, and their sommelier John Le Bihan.
While starting with a little demo on cheese making, Martin got into detail about his wish to start making the restaurant’s own cheeses for their menu. The process was a series of successes and failures until they came up with the perfect combination of milk, temperature, and other ingredients. Their dedication to food and their enthusiasm towards the whole process is nothing short of inspiring. It’s always so great to see people who are doing what they love and pushing the barriers; seriously though, who has heard of a restaurant making their own cheese? It’s true, they’re the first Canadian and possibly even North American restaurant making cheese to this degree and high quality.
The tasting portion of the event began when we were all presented with a delicately plated sample of cheese, paired with an appropriate wine by their sommelier. As with any cheese sampler, we were instructed to start with the more subtle flavours and work out way towards the stronger flavours. Pangaea’s Camembert-style cheese, also known as the Annex, which is traditionally paired with a Riesling or Cabarnet Sauvignon was instead matched with their in-house Chardonnay. The most unlikely of pairings was hands down the best combination in my books! The slightly fruity flavour of the wine complimented the hardest of the three cheeses without overpowering it.
Next up, the Valençay-style cheese called the Port Lands, is a mix of cow’s milk, ash covered, and paired with Tommasi Appassionate Corvina, Rondinella & Merlot, similarly a Valpolicella is said to go quite nicely with it as well. I appreciate this combination as well, the cheese in particular is what captured my attention as it had a soft inside but wasn’t as creamy as I had originally thought. The wine I found to be very acidic and sweet without being particularly fruity but this aspect of it is what I found went best with the ash covered exterior and the strong taste.
Lastly, and definitely my favourite of the three cheeses was their Cambozola or “Rosedale” cheese which was paired with the Burmester 10 year old Tawny Port. Now I really don’t know anything about port and it’s really not my thing, so I don’t want to interject any comments there. On the other hand, this cheese blew my mind! We were told that it was very buttery in both texture and flavour but I didn’t realize to what extent until I took a taste myself. The blue veins going through the cheese brought in a ton of flavour while the creamy milk portion tasted like butter itself, except better. This very rich cheese definitely isn’t for everyone, but I know for sure that it would become my dad’s favourite faster than you can get the package undone. Spread onto a thin slice of bread, I don’t even know if I could go back to regular butter ever again!
As part of their presentation, we were also given a few helpful tips for serving cheese which I’d like to share with you all thanks to Peter. First of all, if you want your cheese to stay fresh after coming home from the grocery store, the first thing you should do is leave it out for an hour or two, unwrap it from the plastic wrap, re-wrap it in wax paper, and then store it in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge. If you are lucky enough to have drawer dedicated to your cheeses at home, make sure you keep them there so they don’t lose flavour in with any other ingredients in there. Once it comes to serving, take the cheese out of the fridge for an hour, preferably in a cheese dome (which you can just make out of an upside down bowl) in order for it to warm up a bit and let the aromas reignite. And if you really want to get fancy, a few plating tips include placing the cheese in order from soft to hard (in either direction, it really doesn’t matter) and by presenting the cheese with the rind facing away.
Now for you, this offer is going to be a good one! Tuesday nights now at Pangaea is cheese night which means you get to taste three house made cheeses, paired with a glass of red or white wine curtesy of the sommelier all for only $19. And while that sounds great, it gets even better because Martin, Peter, and John will all be there to talk it out and take in your feedback; a little lesson in cheese, wine, and pairings if you will.
I hope everyone gets a chance to check this one out because I really think it’s something that is not to be missed for any enthusiast out there!