Since Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, circumnavigation of the globe has been inextricably linked with eccentricity. Nellie Bly was the first to break this literary target in 1889, using a large variety of transport methods. In 1929 Eckener made it his journey in 21 days, aided by a Zeppelin airship, and between 1982-83 (stay with us, we are learning things folks) Australia’s Dick Smith used a helicopter. As part of the Spring Street Grocer’s Cheese Education Events Calendar, we had one hour. And for eccentricity we had our charming, comical, flat cap (called a cheese cutter cap in New Zealand)-adorned French host, Victor.
The Cheese Cellar already ticks many of the boxes that Melburnians consider important; it is a quirky institution hidden away in plain sight, it’s gourmet, it’s cultured (har har har) and it’s delicious. Descending down the spiral stairs at the back of the store, you are greeted by a small serene white tiled cheese room.
Today there was also a table beautifully set for 16 which Victor moved around, talking easily and passionately about the love of his life, fromage. His knowledge was extensive, with a friendly and lightly comic style that made for easy listening. Consuming supermarket brie at a party or adding pre-shredded parmesan to pasta would clearly never be the same (or possible) again.
Like Jules Verne’s novel, we were taken on an intrepid journey, albeit across a plate with five cheeses from three continents. Not only were we to be introduced to this world of new cheeses, but also to the unlikely places that they were being produced. Logically we started locally sampling The Sheep Sensation of South Gippsland, an easy soft first step. We departed from Australian shores to the cheesy familiarity of France for some 14th Century history and Chaource. Next was Ireland, where we learnt how an ex-fashion designer had turned her creativity to produce wonderfully soft Durras cheese, and how these find their way to Melbourne. Soaring across to the Netherlands, we entered the complex flavoured and orange (of course) world of the 36 month aged Raypenaer. Finally we headed to the USA for some of Oregon’s sublime Caveman Blue.
Each stop and each corresponding cheese is not simply illustrated by the explanation of what to expect from the cheese itself or drinks to pair them with (beer, cider, white wine). The intimacy of the event is in the tales about the producer, the animals they breed for the milk and how they have made their mark on the world of cheese. In this specialist, artisan world, these were some of the cheese pioneers, and we felt lucky to have met them. Victor too, having been given the freedom to source the cheeses for Spring Street Cellars is making his mark too.
Now, where were the cheese puns in this piece? Well, they were Caerphilly placed at the end, of course! The experience was amazing. You would be mistaken if this you thought this was Nacho Cheese journey. We will definitely be Camembert for more. You can Feta your life on it!
Duncan was the most illegible bachelor in town, but times have changed, although he is still a purveyor of Melbourne’s surprising, quirky, and cultural events.
The Cheese Education Calendar Events continue on 13 and 27 August at Spring Street Grocer (157 Spring St, Melbourne VIC).