|L'Espalier's cheese expert Louis Risoli cutting a piece of cheese for me to taste.|
Thanks to Joseph Goins, Ann Marie Fretts, Bridget Wall and Karen Chin for posting their questions for Louis Risoli of L'Espalier on my Facebook page. Here are the cheese expert's responses:
Joseph: Is it true that cheese cannot host any pathogenic molds, those that make humans sick?
No, I wouldn't think so. It all depends on the cheese. Mold is a component of cheese but not all molds belong on cheese. In general, if cheese is getting a little bit of blueing on it, just cut that part off.
What is your favorite cheese with champagne as an aperitif?
I would probably go with one of those really lush French triple-crèmes like Brillat-Savarin, Pierre Robert or Explorateur.
I don't like rind. Does that make me look like a neophyte?
No. The rind is a personal preference. As a general rule, the rind on soft cheese is usually going to be edible. Give it a try and see if it enhances your experience. If it does, go with it. If not, don't. On hard cheeses, I know some people who eat the rind on every cheese. Personally, I don't eat the rind on hard cheeses because I don't think it enhances anything. My rule of thumb is that if it looks like tree bark, I don't eat it.
Ann Marie: Mr. Risoli's monthly Cheese Tuesdays are a must for all cheese lovers! Having attended two, I'm looking forward to do one more before Christmas. Please ask if he would consider hosting them more frequently heading into the Winter Holiday Season!
I would love to but the restaurant is so busy during the holiday season that we just don't have time for more Cheese Tuesdays.
Mary Kay: For those unfortunate people, like me, who haven't been to one of your Cheese Tuesdays, what is the format?
We serve a three-course savory dinner and cheese usually comes into play in the preparation of most of those courses. We have a glass of paired wine to match with each course. Our beverage director Lauren Collins co-hosts Cheese Tuesdays with me. She takes care of the wine part. And then everyone is served their own plate of cheese. There's a different theme every month so the cheese selection reflects the theme of the month. In October, we'll feature cheeses that won the competition at the American Cheese Society Conference in August. After that, I talk about the cheese, we eat it and then we sing a song about cheese.
You sing a song about cheese?
We do. We sing a different song every month.
Are there that many songs about cheese? I'm trying to think of one.
Well, I write them. I find popular songs and change the words so that they're about cheese.
Your cheese evenings sound like a lot of fun.
Bridget: I love L'Espalier and their professional staff... the cheese experts, the wine and tea sommeliers. Does Mr. Risoli have suggestions for a set of three cheese and wine pairings that someone with a graduate student's budget could serve at a cocktail party?
Let me think about this for a second because she would probably want three different styles. Often European cheeses are less expensive than American artisanal cheese, so she may want to go with all European cheese. For goat milk cheese, I would pick something like Bûcheron, which is both easy to serve and relatively inexpensive. That would pair beautifully with a Loire Valley wine like a Sancerre. Let's also do an Italian Taleggio, which is going to be soft and creamy with a little bit of earthiness and a nice depth of flavor. And again, it's easy to serve and isn't over the top expensive. Let's stick with regions, more or less, so maybe something with Sangiovese grapes like a Chianti. And then a blue cheese. Did you say that Bridget lives in Massachusetts? Then let's go local with Great Hill Blue, which is from Marion. It has really bright lively notes, a bit like a French Roquefort. Almost a lemony flavor. And that would match up really nicely with something a little bit on the sweet side. Hmm, but not overly expensive. Let's get back to that later. Great Hill Blue is probably available at Whole Foods or Central Bottle in Cambridge.
Karen: Please ask Mr Risoli what his favorite cheeses are in Boston.
Do you mean local cheese made near Boston? Well, that would be Great Hill Blue otherwise there isn't a lot of cheese made in this area. If we expand the geographical region to include all of New England, I would say anything from Jasper Hill Farm. You can find it easily. I won't name really obscure cheeses that you won't be able to get. Woodcock Farms is another one of my real favorites. It's also in Vermont. They have a variety of styles so you can find a lot of different cheeses from those two farms alone.
Talking with L'Espalier's Louis Risoli, one of the first cheese experts in the USA (Part 1)