I don’t write a lot about food events on my blog. The truth is, sometimes I’m not sure what to say without sounding a little cocky like, “Hey, look at me, I got invited to this cool event and was treated to some really yummy food.” That’s not quite my style, but this event was worth talking about. For one thing, anyone could go, and even though I didn’t pay to attend, I can assure you it was totally worth the $45 admission price. In fact, it would have been a bargain at that price — nine incredibly good cheeses, a multi-course meal, six wines, and most importantly, advice from renowned experts. The event was hosted at the steakhouse and cafe upstairs at Fairway at 74th and Broadway. True story — I didn’t even know there was a restaurant upstairs, but now I’m really glad I do. Before I move on, that’s the dessert cheese course above (all cow’s milk cheeses) — Langres (the really oozy one) from the southern Champagne region, Le Chatelain Camembert (so good!), and Livarot from Normandy.
This is what the event was all about — renowned cheese expert Steven Jenkins selected the cheeses and walked us through the tasting. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak about cheese, whether it’s a sit-down dinner or not, don’t miss it. Jenkins’ enthusiasm for and knowledge of cheese is unmatched.
This was the first cheese course (all goat cheeses), served with a salad of frisee, asparagus, and potatoes — Queso Clara, Leonara from Leon which is northwest of Madrid, and Queso Vare. These were all great.
And these were the sheep’s milk cheeses — the Torta del Casar up front (creamy heaven), Moliterno Gigante (a Fairway exclusive) from Sardinia, and Pecorino Toscano.
I don’t want to skip over the wines, but what I really want to rave about is sommelier Joshua Wesson. You know how sometimes sommeliers at fancy restaurants are kind of snooty, using terminology that makes no sense, making you feel bad because you’re actually worrying about the price? Wesson is the opposite of that kind of sommelier — he’s got a great sense of humor, and he’s able to make anyone (seriously, your aunt from the suburbs who drinks boxed wine would feel comfortable around this guy) feel right at home. I walked away from the event having learned new ways to approach wines and to appreciate how they’re paired with certain foods, whether to compliment or contrast flavors and textures. I won’t list all the wines we tasted here, but the Robert Biale “Black Chicken” 2009 Zinfandel (Napa) was pretty amazing.
Did I mention there was a multi-course meal with the cheeses and wines? We sat down to a borscht shooter and the frisee-asparagus-potato salad. If my photo of the eggplant gratin and lollipop lamb chops aren’t pretty enough, then just take my word for it — both were fabulous. Seriously, does Fairway sell that eggplant dish in the market to-go, or can someone send me the recipe? There was a peach apricot tart with vanilla ice cream for dessert that I forgot to photograph (but here’s a shot on Instagram). I couldn’t eat the tart portion because I’m gluten-free, so I was too busy disassembling mine so I could devour the peaches and ice cream — what a great way to end the meal. And if all that wasn’t worth the price of the event alone, there was a goodie bag to take home too. If you live anywhere near a Fairway market, or maybe even if you don’t, I highly recommend you keep an eye out for any upcoming events like this one.