Crave or Why We ♥ Cheese

Love me - love my cheese

Clockwise from top – Moser Cru Blanc with truffles, Provolone Mandarino, Moser Cru Blanc with truffles, Cremont

There’s free will – and then there’s cheese. Volition falls away when confronted by cheese. Due to the physiological changes that occur when eating cheese, the pleasure center of the brain becomes stimulted or “turned on”. Eating cheese is thus pleasurable and the brain wants more.

This is an extreme skewered oversimplification of the intriguing class cheesemonger Stephanie Santos presented at Central Bottle Wine + Provisions on February 8th, “Why We ♥ Cheese”. Stephanie’s informative, entertaining and provocative presentation laid out the biological foundation underlying our love of cheese.  She illustrated her talk with a selection of six cheeses accompanied by a choice of three beverages.

  • The first cheese we tasted was a Roomano from Holland. Essentially an aged Gouda – think caramel and nuts or a savory Payday bar – the cheese had some crunch. As Stephanie explained this crunch comes from crystallized tyrosine, an amino acid which when released in the stomach during digestion is ultimately responsible for the “feel good” sensation we experience when eating cheese.
  • Next, for a completely different sensorial sensation, we tasted the heart shaped Cremont, a soft double cream bloomy rind cheese from Vermont Butter and cheese. (A top choice for Valentine’s Day.)
  • The Italian Provolone Mandarino – firm, piquant, spicy – was third. To illustrate the role that smell plays in taste, we began tasting with our nostrils pinched shut, opening them as we chewed, resulting in a rush of flavor as the aroma of the cheese filled our retronasal cavities. Smells and their associations from our olfactory memory also play a major role in our cheese love.

The next two cheeses illustrated the notion of cheese as asphrodisiac. In each case, elements added to the cheese are of themselves pleasure-inducing, further contributing to a sense of well-being.

  • The Moser Cru Blanc with Truffles was outstanding. Unlike many truffled cheeses which are marred by fungi overkill, here the truffle aroma and taste are restrained. The cheese, a bloomy rind from Switzerland and perfectly ripe, was the most elegant cheese of the evening.
  • Just smelling the next cheese brought a smile to my face. The Barely Buzzed from Utah is a cheddar rubbed with ground Turkish espresso beans and lavender oil. Again the aroma of both coffee – at least for me – and lavender promote a pleasurable feeling.
  • We ended the tasting with a stinker – the washed rind Timberdoodle from Vermont. Modelled on Italian Taleggio, the cheese is pliant and meaty. It was this cheese that led to an interesting discussion. As Stephanie related, the mold with which the rind of this cheese is permeated, B. Linens, is genetically related to the microbes responsible for body odor. And since odor – think pheronomes – is so important in attraction, this is just another way in which cheese entices us. (And also why some perceive cheese to smell like stinky socks and not love.)

The three beverages that accompanied the cheeses were well chosen and enjoyable. Since a sparkler sets the tone for an evening, I began with the Ferrari Sparkling Rosé from Ternto, a bubbly fruity blend of Pinot Nero and Chardonnay. I then switched to Jean-Marc Burgaud’s “Les Vignes de Thulon”, one of my favorite Beaujolais. The third, Scotch Ale from Cambridge Brewing, was also successfully paired with the Barely Buzzed.

So if you love or are just intrigued by cheese, deepen your relationship and stop into Central Bottle and, like Alice, feed your head.

The next class that Stephanie will be offering and of particular interest to hopheads is “Cheese and Beer Pairing” on April 4th.

Central Bottle Wine+Provisions   196 Mass Ave    Camb MA   617.225.0040


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