La Cave a Fromage is a fantastic cheese shop in Hove with an accompanying tasting cafe. The shop hosts tasting events in the evening, and also serves charcuterie plates and cheese boards accompanied by perfectly paired wine. A full review of the food served at La Cave a Fromage can be found here.
We spoke to one of their passionate team of cheese ambassadors, Ivo Zenker, and asked him to share his cheese secrets with us. Here’s what he had to say.
What are the most popular products?
The British production is picking up, which is huge obviously. We support a lot of local productions, so we have a few cheese which are really flying out of the door. One classic example is the Lancashire bomb, which is one of the best sellers in general and especially around Christmas time because of the size of it. If anyone is after a gift – say no more.
Comté is another super dooper seller, once customers have had a taste they find it very hard to resist.
A brie de Meaux (declared the King of Cheeses at the 1814 Congress of Vienna) is one of the classics as well, which is a brie from France made from unpasteurised milk from Baron Rothschild estate. He makes the farmhouse bries, which means he doesn’t source the milk from outside of the farm, only from his own farm. Farmhouse Brie is very, very rare in France.
Also the triple cream cheese, the Brillat-Savarin, which we sell. People put a little bit of truffle honey on it and it’s a very sexy product and is popular with ladies.
Goat’s cheese is also very popular in the summer because it’s very light, the hotter we get the more goat’s cheese we sell. Goat’s milk is much easier for the system to digest than cow’s milk because of the smaller size of the fat cells in the milk. The citrus lemon is refreshing to the palette and that’s something people enjoy during summer. Also, the goat’s cheese goes with summery wines, with dry white wines.
What is your personal favourite cheese?
Well that’s very, very hard because I can have a different favourite every day. Lancashire bomb is one of my favourites and comté. Also, there are some fantastic goat’s cheeses from Loire Valley, which are absolutely gorgeous. The Loire has five goat’s cheeses and, basically, one of them is the benchmark for all goat’s cheeses.
Stilton injected with port is absolutely crazy- it’s basically a life changer. It makes sense when you think about it, I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea of people enjoying port and stilton together around Christmas time.
But the trick with this cheese is our guys in the house spend about three months soaking it and injecting the stilton with port so it’s had months to age and flavour the cheese. So that’s one of my favourite ones.
What advice can you give on setting up a perfect cheese board?
First of all, enjoy the cheese at room temperature. When the cheese is too cold the molecules can’t move much because of the environment, obviously the warmer it gets the more they can move– and by the cells moving it helps to develop the flavour. So that’s number one for cheese boards.
My second bit of advice is always start from the mildest one and then finish with the strongest. Start with goat’s cheese and finish with blue cheese and in between just think about is the comté stronger than the brie and taste them accordingly.
We do our balanced cheese boards in here and there are six categories that we cover normally – I always suggest to start with goat’s cheese, move on to the brie-style cheese and then semi hard and hard cheese. One of them might be a sheep milk’s cheese because you start with goat’s cheese and then the brie is mostly cow’s milk cheese so there’s a space for a little bit of sheepy notes. After the semi hard and hard cheese move on to the washed-rind cheese like stinking bishop, or epoisses – all those stinkers – and always finish off with the blue one.
What advice would you give on wine and cheese pairings?
Well 90% of the time you want to try to find the wine which is going to be like a sister or brother to the cheese.
With zesty notes or lemony citrusy notes of goat’s cheese a dry white wine will work like a charm, a sauvignon blanc is a classic example to pair with goat’s cheese. With the dry notes in the wine and a very similar acidity level in the milk, they’re going to be nicely matched together.
With brie, with the bloomy rind cheeses I suggest just a super easy red or any lighter grapes or non-dry whites like chardonnay will do just fine, because you don’t want either of them to overpower each other.
With a hard cheese it depends on the strength of it, it might range from a full-bodied white for a stronger semi hard cheese or another type of non-dry white.
With comté you could have a pinot noir and with aged gouda you probably want a port or full-bodied red – something along those lines.
With the washed rinds (the stinky ones) I suggest sweeter wines – pinot gris, anything along those lines because of the farmyard notes of the washed rinds you can ease the pain a little bit.
With blue cheese the most shocking discovery for most people is that a dessert wine pairs best.
What is the most unusual product that you sell?
The most unusual we have is the brie noir which is aged for a minimum of 12 months so there’s nothing soft about it. I had one case of a gentleman come in and ask for a nutty brie. Well nutty for me is a comté, brie is kind of mushroomy, but the black brie is actually nutty. And I said maestro I haven’t got anything like this but I’ve got something I’m going to surprise you with, try this!
So it’s brie with nutty notes of the kind of comté in the distance and kind of mushroom notes too. It’s really different. In France it’s kind of unique, I was told by a French guy, oh you sell this – I can’t even get this it in France. In France we cut it up and we dip it in coffee.
What is the most pungent cheese available?
We stopped stocking this one, the Vieux Lille (a washed-rind cheese from northern France where it is against the law to take it on public transport) in my eyes is the most pungent. We have a close relative called Maroilles and that can get really full on.
Epoisses obviously is very pungent, I had a customer ask me if they could bake it – can you imagine? I was like you better warn your neighbours.
So the most pungent cheese is probably Vieux Lille. But stinking bishop and some of the washed-rind cheeses when they age can also get full on.
What is your favourite use of cheese in a recipe?
I would say fondue, that’s a cheese recipe from heaven. In the winter we do fondue and raclette evenings and we use gruyere, Beaufort and Vacherin Fribourgeois so that we have a Swiss and French combination. Gruyere is the base of any real fondue – the Beaufort gives an extra sweetness and creaminess and also the Vacherin Fribourgeois – a Swiss cheese from Fribourg – gives extra pungency.Find Flavour Seeker on social media: