It’s been far too long.
I left France in August, leaving behind my cute apartment, my travel pillow and my beloved cheese. By the time I trundled onto the bus from Paris to London, I was kind of done with cheese for the minute – eat cheese for every meal and you too will find it begins to wear a little.
At any rate, I ate a lot more very delicious dairy products before leaving Europe. Cheddar in England to cheer ourselves up after a stupid mistake meant we couldn’t go to Bath after all, clotted cream with honey ordered extremely diffidently in a dirty cafe in Istanbul that proved to be a revelation. Gelato in Dubrovnik, manchego in Santiago di Compostela. I spent a lot of money making sure I got the most out of Europe’s culinary pleasures.
And then back to New Zealand, where cheese is prohibitively expensive. A wheel of camembert that could be had for around 2 euros is usually around $20 here, which hurts a lot. Good NZ-made cheese isn’t cheap, and when you do get into the affordable cheeses, you get into the Ornelle and Galaxy camemberts and bries we grew up with, the cheeses that any European would be truly horrified by. They’re the instant coffee of cheese.
Not all is lost. The cheese counter at Farro Fresh in Grey Lynn remains one of my favourite spots in Auckland, although I do always seem to do considerable damage to my wallet whenever I go in there. Last week, the destructive force wasn’t French at all, but rather, Dutch – a wedge of Maasdam that had been aged for 18 months.
Maasdam is the kind of cheese you draw when you’re eight and drawing a picture of a mouse. It’s a cow’s milk cheese that is ubiquitous in the Netherlands, accounting for some 15 percent of cheese sales. It’s full of holes, which are formed as the bacteria does its work eating the lactic acid, which produces carbon dioxide and by extension, bubbles, or “eyes” as they are known in the trade.
The Maasdam I picked up had been aged for 18 months. We had some trouble cutting into it, as it tended to flake in the manner of a well-aged cheddar (always a good sign). It was firm to the bite, with a good amount of crunchiness. Upfront, it had all that mouthwatering flavour, with a nutty sweetness that put me in mind of caramel and sweet spice like nutmeg. There was some pineapple, as well as an overarching salty cheese tang that brought everything together. Despite being a hard, well-aged cheese, it had a reasonably soft, lingering flavour and it was very easy to eat a lot off all at once.
Type of cheese: Maasdam aged 18 months
Eaten with: Baguette, cornichons and Soave
Rating: 7 out of 10 laughing cows