Melbourne Cheese Festival 2015 - Top 3 Picks



So, what does a young, female, Melbournian cheese connoisseur do in the middle of October? That's right, she looks forward to the first-ever Melbourne Cheese Festival, and spends the entire week leading up to it visualising all the cheese she'll get to stuff into her face.

However...

The Festival itself was a letdown. It was extremely cramped, to the point where it took over five minutes to travel two meters. There weren't lines for samples, so everyone just crowded around the tables, and hounded the staff for sample after sample. Some booths ran out of cheese much sooner than expected. At one booth the staff did not bother to properly cut and serve the samples, so everyone just scrabbled for as much as they could get their hands on, until there were only crumbs on the cutting boards. Speaking of said crumbs, even they were picked and scraped from the boards, with people licking them from their fingers. They might as well have licked the boards, and called it a day.

One stall had no staff present, so it was completely unmanned. I saw a delicious looking dip labeled as some sort of chilli dip, and because I like everything spicy, I was very keen on trying it. It was perfectly creamy, light red in colour and looked every bit as peppery as it should be. So, I grabbed a clean paddle pop stick, dipped it in, and licked it. Only to groan in disgust and horror.

It was salmon dip. Salmon, of all things! I was torn between weeping, and losing my temper at the staff member that was supposed to be running the stand. They were still nowhere to be found, so I moved on, feeling like someone had crapped all over my cheesy parade. On top of the festival being packed like sardines (pun intended), I had unwillingly and unknowingly consumed animal products, and I was on the verge of giving up and going home.

Until my friend lead me into another area just as packed, but with more cheese, as an attempt to distract me. So, determined to not waste their time and effort, I set about looking for vegetarian cheeses. There were a small amount of vegetarian ones on display at the festival, so I had much difficulty sifting through dozens of cheeses. However, the following three caught my eye, though I didn't bring any of them home with me.

Fromageries Riches Monts' Le Rustique
If you're looking for an authentic French camembert made in Normandy, with all of the following qualities, you have hit the jackpot with this one. This has a super creamy, almost melty, texture, ismedium-bodied in flavour with heavy nuttiness, and smells a bit strong, though the scent does not do this cheese justice. With a natural rind, and matured in a wooden box for a few weeks, it is a truly spectacular cheese, and definitely not what you expect after years of eating shitty, and overly salty, commercialised Camembert form chain department stores. I'll always be keeping an eye out for this one, because it is bloody worth the $16.00 price tag. 

Bongrain Cheese Company's Saint Agur
Please forgive me for the completely unflattering photograph of this cheese. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to photograph cheese when you have your camera pushed up against the glass case, and the cheese is still too far away? My camera skills does not do this cheese justice. However, it is indeed one of the best double-cream blues I have ever had the fortune of sampling. It's so creamy that it's spreadable, yet so strongly flavoured I moaned in delight. Now, this is what I'm talkin' about! I could seriously sit down with an entire wedge, and polish this baby off in mere minutes. It's tangy, buttery, rich, slightly salty, sharp, and spicy. The price tag you see in the photograph is for per kilogram, and let me tell you this, you won't regret it! I seriously wish I brought some home.


Cypress Grove Chevre's Midnight Moon
If it hadn't been for the name, I would have never stopped long enough to taste this one. As soon as you look at it, you think it's just another hard and crumbly goat's cheese, and you've had some really good one, so why bother trying this? Wrong. So wrong. It's hard, yes, but not crumbly at all. It literally melts in your mouth, and you're surprised by the caramel and nutty undertones. Definitely not what I expected, but it's still a great cheese for the platter. It wasn't until I went home, and looked this one up, that I'd realised I had my first ever Gouda, and it was a beautiful first-time experience. Have you ever had brown butter? This is it in cheese form.

Well, that concludes my top three picks from the festival. As for the festival itself, I would not go again, not until they hold it in a much larger venue, such as the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and is a proper cheese festival; a gathering of all cheesemakers and retailers, and focused solely on cheese, wine and accompaniments. Until then, I'll visit the cheese farms, instead of this poor excuse of a festival.

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