Thought I’d gone on another perfectionist hiatus, didn’t you? Alas, this one was technologically-imposed. I finally got my computer back, after a hefty bill and wait. I don’t want to be a brat about how long the “straightforward” repair took, but I think empires may have fallen faster.
Before I had a chance to put my computer, complete with new motherboard, to good use over the weekend, I got strep throat and spent the better part of this week sending my immune system into battle instead of battling through the half-sentences in iPhone notes I took for the blog during my computer’s vacation.
Now that my antibiotics have kicked in, let’s have a catch-up. Pull up an armchair and some quince, will you?
Last week I got to attend a wine tasting with iYellow Wine Club, run by one of my favourite wine-os (don’t worry, Mom, you’re still number one), Angela Aiello. I always have a great time at her events, so I was looking forward to this one, which looked like a doozy: Sampling Trapiche‘s new wines Pure and Extravaganza, topped off with food pairings.
It’s the first time I had been to an event alone, much less with a cheese-blog agenda, so I wasn’t sure how to tackle the whole networking thing. After saying hi to Ang and the iYellow peeps I already knew, I received a hefty glass of the first wine to taste, Pure. Inspect the legs, check, smell, check, sip, check, repeat. Try to stop thinking about how Trapiche reminds you of Capiche? and repeating it in an Italian accent like a visual-cue earworm. Awkwardly glance around, hoping to catch the eye of someone else looking to converse with a fellow professional (none), check. Oh look, that woman is painting a plate.
Her name was Jacqueline, the resident artist at the Ritz. She paints all of the plates in the restaurant, some of which were displayed on the walls – there’s a little-discussed career path for you. She had the sort of friendliness that makes you wonder whether you actually do know the person, because people are generally not so warm toward complete strangers, but she was. A good start to my getting-to-know-you endeavour. Here’s how the plate turned out, which she finished in about an hour and change (!).
After my conversation with Jacqueline started to taper off, I began to play spot-the-willing-conversationalist again and landed on the man’s name-card next to me. His blog name had a pun (Hi Mario!). We were bound to be friends! Turns out, there’s no easy way to strike up a conversation when everyone else seems to know each other, you just have to power through the awkwardness. Before long, we were nerding out about cheese, him explaining proper names and locations for beloved rinds while trying to follow my vague, half-remembered characterizations, although I did manage to adequately describe Don Heliodoro. I am not an imposter!
From there it was smooth sailing, as he introduced me to some of the more seasoned wine writers and industry people in the room and I began to feel more well-connected. That, and I was well into my second glass (which did not bode as well for me when I tried to ascertain whether I was actually rocking back and forth on my heels during the winemaker’s speech or whether that was second-glass goggles).
The second wine tasting, of Extravaganza, was at iYellow’s Wine Cave. There were Venetian masks, frogs’ legs (au revoir, Michigan J.), duck tongue tacos (found that out after I finished, probably for the best) and cricket-studded chocolate donuts.
There was also, blissfully, a cheese plate.
Apparently, there was a “cheese room” at the Ritz that I missed in my nervous haste to connect with people (Never. Again), so to say that I was excited to see the spread would be an understatement. After I made a beeline to confirm the rumours, my reaction went like this:
One of the cheeses Mario and I had been talking about was even on the roster, Idiazabal. Score! Here were my notes on the offerings, three of which (all except the Camembert) I’d never had before:
– Very meaty
– Smokey (Wiki tells me the cheese is usually un-smoked though, interesting – anyone know which part of the process creates the smokey flavour, then, or is it the milk?)
– Like smoked kielbasa, minus the mandatory pickles and cheddar slices on a vegetable cracker at family gatherings
– Deliciously dry
– Full flavour with a touch of bitterness; rich
– Middle-range flavour – not quite as mild as a Bleu Benedictin but not as strong as Stilton
– Tasted faintly of fennel, but I tried this shortly after my duck tongue tacos (without cleansing my palate with quince first, I know, slap my wrist) so it could’ve been leftover hoisin flavour
– Creamy, mold wasn’t especially flavourful, which I liked
– Deliciously salty
– Briny (it’s not exactly the same as salty, shut up)
– Lighter taste when it begins to crumble
– Strong buttermilk flavour and caramel taste, right at the finish
Camembert, that ol’ faithful
– Very grassy and buttery
– Just a touch of tanginess
– Reminds me unmistakably of broccoli (the prominent vegetable flavours were driving me nuts with vague recognition – that’s what it tasted like!)
There was also some quince jelly, which I mistook for sausage – it was dark – but which complimented the Camembert and paired well with Old Amsterdam’s saltiness. I explained it to one of my newly-minted buddies with Fruit To Go as my reference. I can have my cheese and ’90s lunchtime staple comparisons and eat them, too, Trapiche?
How do you approach networking? Ever tried any of the above cheeses? Let me know in the comments or @xCheeseTheDay (brand new!) on Twitter. I’ll be catching up on belated Flavours of the Month next, and there’s a fancy domain coming, too!