cheese plate by Rachel, age
Batifole 744 Gerrard St. East 416 462-9965
“The Best French Food in Chinatown!” proclaims
the tongue-in-cheek sandwich board outside this
packed and popular restaurant, which brings residents
of Riverdale a rare local alternative to pho,
chao sieu and dim sum. Not content to rest on
that (miniscule) laurel, the team at Batifole
offers a well-executed menu of Gallic classics
including choucroute, duck confit and frites
mayonnaise, which place this neighbourhood spot
among Toronto’s better French restaurants.
So, how good is the Best Cheese
Plate in Chinatown? Like everything on the
plat de fromage is well priced ($12) and
generously portioned (5 x 30 g pieces). Unlike
the several appetizers and mains that offer diners
a walk on the wild side (cheval tartare, anyone?),
the cheese selection is “France light.” A
recent plate featured Morbier and Fourme d’Ambert,
whose gentle, fruity delicacy makes them an unusually
polite pair from the typically more challenging
washed rind and blue cheese families. Standing
in unannounced for Brie de Meaux and Beaufort
d’Alpage were a Brie Ordinaire and Gruyère.
Industrial Port Salut, which has been standing
in for its former self (a noble Trappist tomme)
for over a century, rounded out the plate.
Each piece of cheese was neatly
cut, and in perfect condition, but the restrained
flavours and pasty textures tended toward uniformity.
The effect was somewhat like drinking a fruit-forward,
soft-structured, simple wine. While the first
sip may be tasty, a whole glass is too much of
too little. But hey, wines like that are mighty
popular, so Batifole’s board is likely
quite successful as is. And the ability to offer
cheeses in peak form is no easy matter, when
most tables go directly from meat to dessert.
To my taste, the accompanying zingy red onion
and raisin compôte, the phenomenally fresh, toasted
walnuts, and the glass of Banyuls – a velvety
mouthful of dried red berries, currants and leather – were
the stars of the cheese course.
Read previous reviews here
Trappist-Style Beer and Cheese:
Tasting Notes, April 2006
First Pair: Blanche de Chambly (Unibroue)
and Triple-Crème du Village de Warwick
The beer: Cloudy pale amber in colour
from bottle refermentation, the Blanche expresses
notes of wheat, a touch of clove and grapefruit.
Light and refreshing on the palate with pleasant
and subtle hop bitterness on the finish.
The cheese: Cream-enriched with
a velvety bloomy rind surrounding a semi-soft
to flowing heart that smells of cultured butter
and white mushrooms. Full dairy flavours and
notes of nuts and mushrooms develop as the luscious
paste melts in the mouth.
Second Pair: Goudenband (Liefmans)
The beer: A Belgian ale with less
of the malty sweetness of many of its counterparts.
The beer is a deep amber colour with a mocha
coloured, persistent head. Lots of nutty, spicy
notes on the nose that carry onto the palate.
Tart cherry flavours in the mouth and a hint
of pineapple and cheese. Long full finish.
The cheese: Smooth firm taupe coloured
paste with a strong fruity and savoury aroma.
This classic cheese is resilient but rich in
the mouth, with moderate acidity and balanced
sweetness and salt. Long finish with flavours
of pineapple and ham.
Third Pair: Pineapple Lambic and
Thunder Oak Reserve Gouda
The beer: A wide array of aromas
are offered by this Belgian fruit lambic. Intense
pineapple aroma is accented by clove, caramel
and banana, all of these components also on the
palate. Soft, full mouthfeel.
The cheese: Sweet and spicy aromas
and a brittle paste that is rich and slow to
dissolve. Full and balanced sweet, tangy and
savoury flavours. The finish expresses wood,
cumin and soy sauce.
Fourth Pair: Orval and Munster d'Alsace
The beer: This dry Trappist ale
has an intensely aromatic character showing floral
and fruit notes, as well as gamey notes. Full
head with lasting lace leads into a full, firm
mouthfeel with a tart, refreshing sour cherry
The cheese: A venerable cheese with
an orange-pink, sticky rind, bulging yellow paste,
and intense aroma produced by washing the rind
during affinage. Ripe Munster smells of fruit,
hay and milk, and tastes spicy, tangy and slightly
Fifth Pair: Maudite (Unibroue) and
The beer: Medium mahagany colour
with a sweet roasted malty and mocha nose. Palate
is full and slightly sweet with warm citrus notes
and light spiciness of coriander and clove. Only
slight touch of bitter hoppiness to keep the
The cheese: A dense off-white cheese
streaked with a loose network of deep blue veins.
Aromas are direct, evoking damp cellar floor
and fermenting fruit. The mould imparts a bitter,
mineral undertone to the pleasantly sweet and
salty paste. Bittersweet finish.
Beer and Cheese: Tasting Notes, May 2006
First Pair: Fuller's London Pride
The beer: Light bronze colour with
a medium head. Lightly toasted malt aromas and
a hint of cocoa and yeast. A mouthfilling palate
with a refreshing, lemony finish.
The cheese: A young cheese with
light, pale lemon-white paste and a mild lemon
yogurt aroma. Gentle but balanced flavours include
notes of sweet cooked milk and tart fermented
Second Pair: Innis and Gunn Oak-Aged
Ale and Comté
The beer: Aged in malt whisky barrels
that impart vanilla, toffee and orange aromas.
Interesting hint of spearmint on the nose. The
palate delivers a light malty sweetness with
a touch of chocolate. Warm, balanced finish.
The cheese: Golden yellow paste
indicates summer Alpine pasturage. Expressive
aromas of toasted nuts lead to a long bittersweet
finish with herbal notes. Texture is waxy and
Third Pair: Neustadt "10W30" and
The beer: Dark amber colour
with aromas of caramel and roasted barley;
medium bodied, with notes of coffee and toasted
on the palate. Refreshing balanced bitterness
on the finish.
cheese: The pale, flaky, occasionally
veined paste of this cloth-bound cheddar is intensely
aromatic, with herbal and savoury cured meat
notes. In the mouth, citric acidity is balanced
with sweet, rich browned butter and made lively
with salt. The finish is long and layered.
Fourth Pair: Hockley Valley Dark
Ale and Bonnechere
The beer: Nut-brown colour with
medium head, alon with aromas of caramel and
roasted coffee. Same flavours are on the palate
along with a refreshing balance of hoppiness
and malty sweetness. Toasty medium finish.
The cheese: An unusual artisan cheese
with a toasted rind. The semi-firm paste absorbs
smoky, hickory-wood aromas and slightly sour
flavours from the charring. Well balanced and
Fifth Pair: McAusan's St. Ambroise
Oatmeal Stout and Colston-Basset Stilton
The beer: A cup full of flavour!
The colour is deep black with lasting mocha coloured
head. Aromas are of chocolate, espresso and malt.
The creamy texture is accompanied by flavours
of toasted nut, dried leaves and earthiness.
Long balanced finish with judicious hoppiness.
The cheese: Blue-green veins form
a loose network throughout the creamy yellow-white
to tan paste. Aromas are earthy and full, punctuated
by an herbal sharpness. Smooth and slow to dissolve,
the paste is surprisingly sweet, with flavours
of cocoa underlying the piquant mould.
collaborations between Quebec and Ontario
The cheese: Tourelle de Richelieu (Quebec,
raw goat milk)
An ashed, aged chèvre made by Patrick Chaput and aged at Dépendances
du Manoir. Depending on its age, this dense, smooth cheese will be more or
less tart, with herbal and mineral notes.
The wine: Hillebrand Estates Trius Riesling Dry 2004 VQA
Refreshingly crisp, though not austere, with citrus and floral notes to complement
these same nuances in the cheese.
The cheese: Le Cap Rond (Quebec,
raw goat’s milk)
This cheese smells intensely goaty. The paste is very smooth and dense with a
slight flowing texture just beneath the ash rind. Musky, warm, faintly bitter
flavours show well against the wine.
The wine: Chateau des Charmes Viognier
This smooth, medium-bodied aromatic wine has peach and almond
aromatics and complex melon and citrus flavours on the palate. It is well suited
to stronger goat cheeses of equal complexity.
Balanced sweetness, salt and spice
The cheese: Gorgonzola Piccante (Italy, pasteurized cow milk, DOP 1996)
One of the world's great blue cheeses, Gorgonzola has 10th century
origins in Piemonte. This dark blue-veined cheese is salty and
sharp, with earthy
aromas. The dense, sweet, ivory paste provides balance and rich
length of flavour.
The wine: Peller Estates Signature Series Cabernet Franc Icewine 2004
Rich red fruits and spice liven up this sweet but vibrant rarity:
a red icewine.
Five small plates for entertaining
Queso Fresco with
herbs and olive oil on chive flatbreads
Pecorino Staggionato with
green tomato mostardo and Marcona almonds
Munster with caraway
seeds and onion and garlic jam on "everything" crackers
Sao Jorge with membrillo
and fresh figs
Colston-Bassett Stilton with
caramelized walnuts and red pears
Other recent tasting notes:
American artisanal cheese
A wine and cheese dilemma
Notable cheese and wine
AND WINE CHALLENGE:
November 2005 |
asks: Pinot Noir and ……?
With autumn upon us and the leaves already
starting to colour and drop, I have officially
begun my search for the type of solace that
can only be offered by a bottle of red wine
in combination with a chunk of flavourful
I am a confirmed seasonal wine drinker. That’s
not to say that I don’t enjoy a healthy
combination of whites, rosés and reds
all year round, but there is something about
fall and the need for sweaters at dusk that
prompts me to pour myself a glass of dedicated
And what’s in my glass during these
gloriously crisp and colourful autumnal days?
Pinot Noir. Light enough to be drunk on an
unseasonably warm October evening, but with
the fruit concentration and silky tannins
to provide substance for more significant
Pinot Noir is a difficult variety to grow
well – its thin, delicate skin is susceptible
to rot, but in the hands of a talented viticulturist
and with the blessing of a good vintage,
this grape can make some of the world’s
most sought after wines. Grown most successfully
in cooler climates like New Zealand, Ontario,
Oregon and, of course, Burgundy, Pinot Noir
generally retains a delicate balance of acidity
and a gentle subtlety of fruit that will
enhance rather than overwhelm accompanying
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes-de-Nuits
Rouge 2002 is an example of elegant Burgundian
restraint, and shows well the delicacy and
versatility of Pinot Noir. The fruit that
makes up this wine is sourced from the northern
half of the famed Côte d’Or,
specifically from vineyards west of Vougeot,
Vosne Romanée and Nuits-St-Georges.
On the nose there are aromas of crushed raspberries
and a faint hint of damp earth and smoke.
The palate follows through with a soft, medium-bodied
texture and just the right touch of tannin
to add structure and moderate ageing potential.
Bright acidity balances deftly with ripe
red berry fruit and gamey barnyard accents.
This wine cries out for a cheese partner…what
selection will step up to the plate and create
a winning combination?
Although I maintain a rigourous,
year-round regime of wine and cheese study,
I do agree with you, autumn brings new energy
to my pursuit of spectacular combinations.
Here is one suggestion for your current dilemma.
The next cool evening that a bottle of Dufouleur
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes-de-Nuits beckons,
grab your sweater and a plump, ripe Nuits
d’Or cheese…. Yes, the name sounds
oddly familiar. Even the lovely, formal,
gold-foil label of this little washed rind
disk could grace a bottle of Burgundy, albeit
from an Appellation Inconnue! As a relatively
modern branded cheese, Nuits d’Or counts
on the thousand-year-old pedigree of its
place of origin (Burgundy, of course!) to
confer respect and recognition. If it were
an undeserving cheese, we’d detest
this cheap trick. Luckily, Nuits d’Or
is delightful, and marvelously well suited
to enjoyment with a glass of well-wrought
local red. Unlike Époisses, Ami du
Chambértin, and other premium pungent,
ruddy cheeses, Nuits d’Or is consistently
wonderful and reasonably priced. In this
regard, it trumps the high stakes gamble
of purchasing French Pinot Noir.
The cheese and wine have compatible body
and complexity. Nuits d’Or shares the
wine’s many-dimensioned balance. To
the eye, the dense, hay-coloured cheese shows
only a hint of sticky surface and bulging
heart. Its aroma is fruity and earthy, but
not excessively mired in the muck of the
farm. As the rich, springy paste melts in
your mouth, salt and acidity predominate,
followed by mild hazelnut sweetness and a
touch of dry-leaf bitterness.
Our match proves successful at enhancing
both partners. The cheese’s full body
and long, rich, perhaps overly salty finish
underline the wine’s fruity, gently
acidic character, and support its delicacy
right to the end. The gamey, barnyard notes
of the wine deliver a funkiness that Nuits
d’Or shies away from. To achieve full-frontal “I’m
in the stall now” impressions, cheeses
often cross the line between ready and rotten, à point
and pourri. Alone, Nuits d’Or hangs
back, but with the wine, it heads toward
the sublime place where development and decay
pause to meet.
Had you challenged me with a cellared bottle
of Chambertin, I would have parried with Époisses
Fermier treated to the best affinage…but
then that’s what Napoleon would have
picked. We’d best leave that combination
to the history books, as its near-perfection
is unobtainable with commercial Epoisses,
and a lean wallet. For a celebratory taste
of fall, I can propose nothing better than
a glass of your restrained, “dedicated
red” and a wedge of my careful, presentable,
retro-respectable, almost stinky cheese.
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