When Cheese Takes The Cake
Whoever thought of serving a wedge of blue cheese with a walnut cigar? That’s what Paul Kimport of Johnny Brenda’s came up with when he highlighted cheese from Birchrun Hills Farm during Beer Week. Yes, yes, I know I have been on a Birchrun Hills bender, but today I really just want to talk about cheese for dessert.
Here’s why: most restaurants either offer a cheese plate or some sort of cheesecake if they feature cheese on their dessert menu. At Johnny Brenda’s, a restaurant and music venue in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, the presentation of cheese as cake gave me a little head rush. I loved eating a white chocolatey slab of Birchrun Blue with crisp pastry on the side. Many chefs would have baked the cheese into the pastry, but I appreciated being able to really taste the cheese, then mix it with other flavors.
Kimport wowed me with his second presentation, too: a meaty slice of Fat Cat with sabayon sauce, blueberries, and homemade flatbread topped with sesame. Fat Cat is a yeasty cheese, very creamy, with quiet mushroom notes. I would never have considered putting it with a vanilla custard or with blueberries. In fact, I would never have served it for dessert. But, oh miracle!
I loved the texture of this dessert. The cheese is fudgy-pudgy, like rich pudding — how lovely to eat it with contrasts: crisp crackers, milky cream, squirt-tastic berries, and light-as-down microgreens. The flavors did a moonwalk: wheat, fruit, toasty sesame.
As someone who has been steeped in researching cheese pairings for the last seven months, I have to say: these two plates shifted the way I think about cheese. I hope Johnny Brenda’s hosts more cheesemakers!