Anthony Femia’s top 5 Aussie cheeses for autumn
Spring Street Grocer‘s award-winning cheesemonger Anthony Femia gets a sparkly glint in the eye every autumn.
March signals a shift in quality for local cheese, when dairy farms start producing richer milk, while cheeses made with the end-of-summer milk are ready for consumption with their sweet and floral undertones.
“It is truly exciting time to be involved with artisan and farmhouse cheese in Australia as we are an infant industry and growing in quality and selection,” Anthony says. “To be honest, it is too hard to choose a top five with so many fantastic cheeses, but these are the five I am enjoying at the moment.”
1. Prom Country’s Waratah
Moyarra, South Gippsland, Victoria
Prom Country Cheese is owned and run by Burke Brandon, son of Trevor and Jan who make incredible cheeses at Red Hill Creamery (a must visit whenever you are in the Mornington Peninsula). Burke and his partner Bronwyn are involved in the entire process from growing the pastures, breeding and milking the sheep, making the cheeses and maturing them for you, the consumer. The Waratah is a very unctuous sheep’s milk washed rind that glistens with tiny fat holes when cut showcasing the rich milk that is used to make this little number. Although it has the typical pungent aroma of a washed rind with hints of wet hay, this cheese has delectable savory flavours that linger on the palate with undertones of sweetness and meaty notes. The Waratah is the perfect cheese for the cold night in with friends or loved ones.
2. That’s Amore Burrata
It’s impossible to resist the charm and smile of That’s Amore‘s Giorgio Linguanti, the Sicilian native who immigrated to our shores in 2004. He bought with him the knowledge and experience of making fresh mozzarella and other traditional stretched Italian cheeses using buffalo and cow’s milk and Melbourne has been forever grateful since. The burrata is a decadent and divine cow’s milk stretched curd cheese, named Champion cheese at the 2013 Australian Grand Dairy Awards. It’s like a money bag where it is filled with the sweetest cream and curd to create a beautiful cheese that pairs so well with the incredible late summer tomatoes we have available here in Victoria. There is nothing more romantic visually in the cheese world then cutting into a fresh Burrata and watching as the delicate interior oozes out its lush flavours.
3. L’Artisan Petit Paul
L’Artisan Cheese is in the beautiful region of Timboon, close to Port Campbell and the Great Ocean Road. It is here surrounded by this beautiful landscape that third generation cheese maker and owner Matthieu Megard, who hails from the Jura Mountains of France, makes his stunning French Alpine inspired organic cheeses. One in particular that we are enjoying here at Spring Street Cheese Cellar is the new semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, Petit Paul. The rind is washed in the first month of its maturation and the cheese is held for a minimum of four months before it is ready for consumption. This initial washing of the cheese attracts an array of interesting micro flora to the rind, taking the rich milk character of this cheese to the next level on maturity. It possesses long lingering savory notes with underlying bitter and earthy characteristics close to the rind, with a rich roasted nut flavour mid palate.
4. Myrtleford Butter Factory’s Butter Curd
Although this is not a cheese, I couldn’t leave this extravagant number off my list. Located in high country with views to Mt Buffalo, the Myrtleford Butter Factory is well worth a visit to see butter making in action, taste local produce and eat copious amounts of beautiful sweet butter fresh off the churn. Naomi Ingleton’s inspiration for the fresh butter curd is Swedish virgin butter from the famed restaurant Noma where Naomi visited during her Churchill Fellowship of 2012. This is a semi churned butter curd that once you try it you will see why this is on the list as it is like no butter I have ever had. Soft and pillowy texture gives way to a sweet and acidic flavour with just enough richness from the pure fresh cream Naomi uses. You can even use it as a butter dip. G0 on. I won’t judge you.
5. Berrys Creek Tarwin River blue
This beautifully balanced Berrys Creek Tarwin River blue cheese is made by Barry Charlton and has been recognised as Australia’s best blue at the Australian Grand Dairy Awards this year. The pate of the Tarwin blue is straw coloured with striations of greenish blue mould. It is creamy and rich on the palate with a long intensity and definite earthy tones married to contrasting notes of syrupy spice and peppery flavours of the blue mould. It is currently in my top two blue cheeses along with the Colston Bassett Stilton of Nottinghamshire.