Splendid cheese ceremony
For the Bucket ListBy Panos Kakaviatos 8 December 2018 If you ever find yourself near Basel, Switzerland, do yourself a favor and reserve an evening of the “Cérémonie des Fromages” at the famous Antony Eleveur de Fromages. The sheer talent of owners Bernard and son Jean-François (never – ever say “pasteurized”), shines bright over an all-cheese dinner. I am not a cheese specialist, but the quality and purity of flavor from the cheeses aged here is undeniable. Indeed, the owners seek only the very best producers of cheese across France and from other parts of the world and then proceed to carefully age the selected cheeses. From an 18-month aged Comté, by way of Reblochon, Laguiole (yes, the same place where they make the famous knives) and Brillat Savarin, to Brie de Meaux, the classic Alsace Munster and Fourme d’Ambert … among many others … some 20 cheeses are served over a five-course cheese ceremony. After each serving, Jean-François explains a bit about each cheese while relating his father’s story to found the business – and you can read about that in my report from a few years ago. Indeed, the dining room is chock full of famous celebrities who have visited the establishment, such is the quality of the cheese here. The cost is 75 euros, but for 130 euros, you could have the five courses of cheese with selected wines. And for 150 euros, better wines. As serious wine and food fans, our group went for the gold and paid 150 per person. As you can see in the pictured menu, we were not disappointed. ? Take for example the smooth Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Cuvée Edmond 2012: it went so well with the warm Brebis Chaud, served over a toasted slice of the great Pain Poilâne. The creamy melted sheep cheese was matched by the bright acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc in the Sancerre. As 2012 was a warmer vintage, the Sancerre also conveyed a certain richness that also nicely agreed with the texture of the cheese. I brought a lovely Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2008 Riesling from Trimbach, with a higher level of acidity that went particularly well with the Claousou and Petit Fiance cheeses, also creamy and rich and in need of the brightness of the white to cut through their opulence.
Next came a lovely somewhat earthy but undeniably cherry noted Pinot Noir, the Pierre Bourrée Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Les Blanchards, a delicate enough red to match especially well the Reblochon, Moelleux de Revard and an older Tomme au Marc. But we were hardly finished when Jean-François offered us the choice of either Château Bonalgue 2006 (Pomerol) or a Côte Rotie Blonde du Seigneur 2010 by Georges Vernay.Having enjoyed much Bordeaux in the recent past, I opted for the latter and we were thrilled with the pepper and blackberry fruit aspects to this smooth and suave wine. Until this point, is was the best cheese and wine pairing as the spicy yet svelte red went down like a dream with the rich Brillat Savarin, the P’tit Mosellan and proved oh so yummy with the fabulously classic Brie de Meaux. But you know what? This evening actually went to 11, to borrow the famous Spinal Tap phrase, as Jean Francois pulled out his last bottle of the super Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 1999. Such full bodied texture, ginger spice and – yes! wet stone (along with hints of dried flowers, of pot pourri) – was never heavy or thick in aspect. A pristine wine, dry yet rich indeed, in impression at least, and such a perfect match for the Vieux Boulogne, Munster Alsace and even the blue Fourme d’Albert. I preferred it with the first two, but the wine was able to match the mold well enough. The latter cheese stages featured the added indulgence of perfectly roasted potatoes with sea salt and an amazingly smooth and refined French butter, the Beurre de Vendée from western France. Only recently did friend and wine and food expert Robin Kick MW wonder on Facebook about what makes French butter so good. It was just such a moment for us to marvel as well over how darn good the butter served here was. Almost an afterthought but a lovely one was the dessert: homemade apple tart served with a sweet Coteaux du Layon from the Loire Valley that went down smooth. And special kudos to one of the best coffees I have ever had in France: at least it counts among the best, certainly up there with a coffee I once had at the Louis XV in Monaco. So smooth and elegant, I could not believe we were in France …. So, from A to Z, the Cérémonie de Fromage should be on any wine and foodie’s bucket list!