Mould. As kids we’re taught it’s bad. We know from a young age to throw away green-tinged bread or the fur-covered apple found in the depths of our school bags. Which is probably why paying money for a small triangle of mould-infested cheese is confusing for some, even as adults. That and the fact it stinks.
If you’ve grown up hating the blue member of the cheese family, take comfort in the fact that once, even Australia’s top cheesemonger hated blue cheese. His standard school sandwich was filled with ox tongue, tomato and blue cheese.
“There was nothing worse than opening my lunch box in summer and pulling out the funky and soggy sambo mum made me,” Anthony Femia of Maker and Monger says. “I scared everyone around me as I unwrapped the cling film.” Now he wears a T-shirt emblazoned with his favourite brand of blue cheese. There’s hope for you, too.
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If you’ve tried blue cheese before and didn’t like it, perhaps it was a Danish blue. It’s available everywhere and it’s crumbly and very salty. Femia says it can tarnish your experience of blue cheese unfairly when there is a range of other blue cheeses available, from mild and creamy blue-bries, to the spicy, velvet Roquefort.
Pairing can play a big role in your appreciation of blue cheese, too. Never eat it by itself. “Always eat blue cheese with something sweet,” Femia suggests. “Fresh, seasonal stone fruit, a quality fruit paste or a drizzle of honey will contrast the spicy blue notes with sweet flavours.”
Some consider blue cheese a dessert far more delicious than any crème brulee or parfait could ever be. Femia uses a piece of 70 per cent single-origin dark chocolate as a cracker, then spoons blue cheese and natural honeycomb on top, while sipping on a fortified wine from the Rutherglen region, or Sauternes in France. “Nothing finishes a romantic dinner better than this combination,” he says.
Warning: mouldy cheese in dessert form can cause disputes. Femia was setting up the cheese cellar at Spring Street Grocer when the gelato bar out the front first opened. “The gelato maker, Massimo Bidin, still doesn’t talk to me after we made the gorgonzola gelato,” he says, laughing. Bidin doesn’t eat cheese, but agreed to let Femia make the gorgonzola gelato as long as the flavour was subtle. Femia tasted the batch while Bidin was out, and added another four kilograms of gorgonzola (the batch was just eight kilograms) and whipped it up so he wouldn’t realise. “He reckons three years later he can still taste blue cheese in every gelato he makes,” says Femia. “It was like frozen blue cheese … and the texture was perfect.”
If you don’t eat cheese before bed because you’re afraid of “cheese dreams” (aka nightmares), it’s okay. The British Cheese Board did a study that found cheese actually caused “pleasant nighttime fantasies”. Sure, there were a few problems with the study, including that there was no placebo, and that it was run by the cheese industry, but it also found the dream you have depends on the type of cheese you eat. Apparently, people who eat blue cheese before bed have trippy and bizarre dreams featuring warrior kittens and vegetarian crocodiles.
If you’re on board with weird dreams and you want new ways to incorporate blue cheese into your life, how about blue-cheese perfume? Eau De Stilton was a limited-edition fragrance created by the makers of the cheese in the UK. At least you’ll only attract other lovers of blue cheese … or wine drinkers.
Whether you’re only beginning to dabble in blue cheese, or you already eat it for breakfast, there’s a blue-cheese dish tailored to your experience level.
Where to try entry-level blue cheese
Chicken tenders with blue-cheese sauce at Belles Hot Chicken, Fitzroy
Saint Agur French blue cheese (recommended by Femia as the blue cheese to start with) at D.O.C., Albert Park
For-the-brave blue cheese
Blue-cheese raclette (coming soon) at Maker and Monger, Prahran
Big Bluey cheeseboard at Shifty Chevre, Fitzroy
Emily Naismith is a founder and host of Ingredipedia, a factual food fight podcast made in Melbourne. To learn more about blue cheese and hear an in-depth interview with Anthony Femia, listen to the blue cheese episode.
A special thanks to Tipo 00 for supplying the blue cheese.