From the looks -- and tastes -- of it, it seems that the first Artisan Cheese Fair was a stinkin’ success. That is meant to be taken in a positive light; think blue-veined Gorgonzola with its distinctive moulds and powerful aroma. That’s just one type of the 80-plus artisanal cheeses that were flown in from France, courtesy of Chef’s Selection, the exclusive distributor of Beillevaire in the Philippines. For over 30 years, Beillevaire has been making and selling a wide range of dairy products that include wood-churned butters, creams, desserts, and over 300 artisanal cheeses from 200 artisan and farmhouse producers. To pair with the range of cheeses, Sommelier Selection served eight different wines at the event. For one day, the Long Bar at Raffles Makati was transformed into a fête du vin et fromage.
When I first entered the venue, all I saw was a spread of dairy in all shapes and sizes -- blocks, cubes, cylinders, pyramids, cones, etc. It was a tad overwhelming, but truly an enticing feast for the eyes. An assortment of nuts, fresh and dried fruits, preserves, spreads, crudités and hors d’oeuvres peppered the spaces wherein cheese was absent. I thought to myself, “How do I tackle the showcase in front of me whilst taking notes like some of the enthusiast attendees?” To be fair, I’m not a ‘cheese expert’ but in cheesus name, who does not enjoy cheese?! I decided I would just pace myself, sample as much as I could and take pleasure in the opportunity to experience popular varieties, unknown types waiting to be discovered, hard to soft cheeses made from cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, as well as wood-churned butter and yogurt. What a mouthful.
The highlight of the afternoon was sitting with the guest of honor himself, Pascal Beillevaire. The cheese maker shared his expertise and talked about some of the cheeses from the diverse display. You could sense the passion in his voice when he referenced the look, smell, press (the texture of the paste), and taste of the various cheeses. We learned that the milk Beillevaire uses is raw and processed in its natural and untreated state; this results in cheeses that are more complex in taste and variety. It’s clear that using the traditional craftsmanship of which Pascal is skilled in is what sets apart his products from others. From his humble beginnings as a dairy farmer, Pascal has earned his cheese master title by working tirelessly to develop what is now a broad offering of dairy products under his brand. From salty to sweet, grassy to herbal, nutty to earthy, creamy to crumbly and everything in between, there was undoubtedly something for everyone.