Everyone likes cheese, right?
OK, except maybe the lactose intolerant, and some people are averse to blue cheese. I love it all. Aside from one bad experience when I ate far too much camembert one Christmas and was subsequently quite ill, I will usually happily eat ALL the cheese, all the time. And yes, I am aware it's not terribly healthy, but pffff, I don't care (much), and yes, I am also aware there is a old wives' tale that cheese gives you crazy dreams... Awesome! Bring it on.
|Cheese counter at Milk the Cow St Kilda|
In 2012, St Kilda was all abuzz with the opening of Milk the Cow (157 Fitzroy St, St Kilda), a 'licenced fromagerie' - which I take to mean 'cheese shop that sells alcohol'... unless you need some kind of special licence to sell cheese? (Apart from unpasteurised cheese - which I'm pretty sure is illegal - I don't think you do.) Intriguing. A bar that sells cheese? Or a cheese shop that lets you drink? Eat/drink in, or out? I was interested to check it out, but never actually got there until early 2015 (I know... pretty lame), to take part in one of Milk the Cow's special events (a common occurrence). It was a matched cheese and wine night, called (aptly) Perfect Match Monday. For this particular night, the products came from the Mornington Peninsula: the cheeses from Red Hill Cheese, and the wines from Crittenden Estate.
|Lights like cow udders (on purpose!)|
When you first walk into the St Kilda site, it's set up basically like a restaurant (including table service), only it also has a huge, long cheese deli counter on one side, featuring every cheese imaginable (over 150 from around the world, according to the website). So. Much. Cheese.
|Cheese and wine flight for Perfect Match Monday|
For the Perfect Match night, they waited til all booked guests had arrived, then served up a flight of wines and individual cheeses per person, along with bread and crackers, of course. Someone from Red Hill Cheese talked about each cheese, followed by someone from Crittenden Estate speaking about the wine matched to each cheese.
I didn't take notes (sorryyyy!) and it was a while ago, so I don't remember which cheeses I liked best and why, but I do remember liking them all! Out of the wines, I remember the Fume Blanc was my favourite (trust me to remember the wine over everything else).
Meanwhile, a second Milk the Cow venue had opened in Carlton (323 Lygon St, Carlton) in late 2014 (Northsiders, rejoice!). More recently, I attended one of its Fondue Nights. The Carlton venue has a different layout: longer, thinner and darker, with the event held in the upstairs function hall. Same deal: once all patrons were seated, the presentation began - this time, by Milk the Cow's public star, Regional Manager and Cheesemonger, Laura Lown. (Founder and Managing Director, Daniel Verheyen takes more of a background role.)
|Cheeseboard and Gluhwein|
Our first round of cheese was a shared platter featuring four different cheeses, each used in the fondue that followed, apparently. Lown talked us through the flavours, textures and history of each cheese, whilst we devoured them along with a steaming teacup of Glühwein (basically a German name for spiced mulled wine). This time, I paid more attention, but couldn't possibly pick a favourite, because I liked all the cheeses. Yep.
For our second (and main) course, we were each served a mini pot of cheese fondue, kept warm by a tealight candle underneath, and served with chunky bits of bread. Whilst enjoying the novelty of poking a bread bit into the fondue and lifting it high to let the cheese stretch off, then eating many of these over and over, Lown demonstrated how to make fondue. Basically, there's a crapload more to it than you'd expect - not least, multiple cheeses, HEAPS of garlic, and kirsch - plus a whole bunch of technique, of course. Definitely doable, but I am eminently lazy, and much like cooking fish, soufflé, curry, or basically anything involving strong smells, culinary know-how or lots of ingredients/time, I prefer other people to make fondue for me.
This fondue was delicious, but very rich and strong in flavour, and there was no way I would have been able to finish it. (The first course of cheeses obviously contributed to that stance.) My friend and I both suffered that evening, due to all that rich food, in amounts our stomachs were not used to. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and would go again. For $45.00 per person, I thought it was very reasonable. (Not sure my friend could handle that much cheese again though. Anyone else up for the challenge?! There was even a man playing accordian!)
Open as a regular walk-in bar as well, Milk the Cow ensures they change their cheeseboard offerings regularly. A couple of other times, I went to the St Kilda site and tried their Supreme Platter, also shown here for your viewing pleasure:
|Supreme Platter SUPREMELY CLOSE UP|
Milk the Cow hosts myriad events (sign up to their mailing list or see the website for more info), and apparently also specialises in cheese towers (eh?!) and hampers. If you are even vaguely interested in eating cheese, I suggest you check out one of their venues.