Antonelli’s Cheese 101 Class

As luck would have it, I happened to check my email as Antonelli’s Cheese Shop sent out their weekly newsletter complete with a newly announced cheese class schedule. I jumped at the chance to sign up for their ever-popular Cheese 101 class, which tend to sell out as quickly as they are released. The class, led by owner John Antonelli and shop cheesemonger Kara, was an exceptional experience I recommend to novices and connoisseurs alike.

Antonelli's Cheese Board

Antonelli’s Cheese Board

While the class might have sold itself as intro, there was nothing basic about the generously portioned selection of cheeses we sampled throughout the evening. Composed of seven different cheese and various accompaniments, the board was both aesthetically and gustatorily pleasing. The different varieties represented each classic style from a wide range of regions, textures, and tastes. (Notes on each can be found after the jump.)

We were encouraged to try each cheese alone first to get a feel for the flavor before trying it with any of the plate’s other components. This allowed us to get a better understanding of the complexity of each variety first before tasting how the flavor notes changed when paired with sweet honey or salty charcuterie.

As we tasted the cheeses, John and Kara thoroughly took us through the different components of each variety – from the individual flavor profiles, origins and history, and how each is made. Ever the consummate host, John’s passion for his business, genuine appreciation of its patrons, and enthusiasm for sharing his love of cheese is infectious; truly, it’s impossible not to enjoy oneself while attending a class.

Though the Cheese 101 specifically focuses on exploring cheese, Antonelli’s offers guests the option to purchase wine or beer specifically selected to pair with night’s offerings from the shop or BYOB in return for a $4 set up fee. Most classes are priced at $35/per person. Stay tuned for upcoming classes via Antonelli’s website.

The Cheeses (Clockwise from top right)

Mozzarella di Bufala – Italian, Made from Water Buffalo milk; This fresh, melt in your mouth cheese is mild and tangy, with just a hint of salt. Top pick of the night!

Goat Camembert – California’s Cowgirl Creamery Goat’s Milk Cheese; Soft-ripened, creamy cheese with a mild yet decadent flavor. Much more approachable and subtle than expected.

Pave de l’Aveyron – French Sheep’s Milk Cheese; Washed rind ‘stinky feet’ cheese with a distinct gamey barnyard flavor. Though not my normal preferred variety, it had an unexpected balance and complexity that made it a standout.

Cumberland – Tennessee’s Sequatchie Cove Farm Cow’s Milk Cheese; Semi-soft raw cheese from an artisan maker that would have been perfection on a grilled cheese. At first bite I wasn’t sold, but paired with the charcuterie, it worked.

Coolea – Irish, Cow’s Milk Cheese; Firm, creamy cheese with a rich nutty, slightly sweet flavor that would be delicious with a cold beer. Delicious crowd pleaser!

Capricious – California’s Acahinda Cheese Co. from Goat’s Milk; Hard, moisture-free cheese with a chalky texture and salty flavor. Though generally a fan of hard cheese, this was one of my least favorites on the otherwise exceptional board.

La Peral – Spanish Cow & Sheep’s Milk Cheese; Full-bodied cheese with a unique, pleasantly pungent flavor that is slightly mellowed by a hint of sweetness reminiscent of gorgonzola. This is a blue those resistant to blues can get on board with, especially when paired with chocolate and a glass of red wine.

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, 4220 Duval, Austin, TX 78751, 512.531.9610.

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