COLIN Chandaras talks about cheese the way most people talk about their friends.
The Valençay, a type of goat cheese from the Centre region of France, used to have a perfectly pointed top like a pyramid, said the French-based cheese specialist.
Story has it that when Napoleon came back from his unsuccessful foray into Egypt during the Battle of the Nile, the French leader chanced upon a piece of the fine-grained cheese in the castle of Valençay.
“In a fit of rage, he drew his sword and cut off the top of the cheese. Since then, the cheese has always been made with a flattened top,” said Chandaras, who is in Manila this week for Sofitel Manila’s “C’est Trop Bon” festival in connection with France’s National Day on July 14.
Chandaras flew in with 210 kinds of French cheese for Sofitel’s month-long celebration.
After the Valençay, he eyed the Morbier Bichonne, a semisoft cheese made from cow’s milk, which has a prominent crooked black line that is very visible when sliced.
Waste not, want not
Chandaras said there would be times when cheesemakers from the small village of Morbier in Franche-Comté would have leftover curd not enough to make another entire wheel of cheese.
“They would press the remaining curd by evening and spread ash over it to protect it by night,” he said. “The following morning, the cheese would be topped with fresh morning milk.” Thus, the horizontal lines in the pâte or soft, doughy portion inside the cheese rind.
Chandaras prepared a plate of several cheeses for sampling by reporters.
There was Bleu de Gex, a creamy semisoft blue cheese still produced in small mountain dairies of the l’Ain and Jura region using traditional methods handed down from the 14th century.
The Pelardon (from the Old French word for pepper) spends two to three weeks in a well-aerated cellar, he explained, giving it a full, rich, milky flavor that lingers on the palate.
The Maroilles had a powerful smell; Chandaras cautioned that its rind could overpower the taste of any wine paired with it.
Sofitel Manila recently offered guests a rare chance with Chandaras giving a cheese-appreciation session at lunch and dinner at Spiral’s L’Epicerie.
Having trained with master cheesemaker Pascal Beillevaire, Chandaras serves as the official envoy of Fromagerie Beillevaire, a world-famous French cheese manufacturing company.
“What I love about cheese is that you have hundreds of possibilities in its production depending on the season of the year, the taste you’re looking for and other factors,” he told reporters during a special presentation by Beillevaire’s exclusive distributor Chef Selection at Sofitel.
Sofitel has lined up a series of French-themed events this month to mark France’s National Day.
Tomorrow (July 8) at 3:30 pm, Chandaras and Sofitel executive chef Denis Vecchiato will lead a cooking class featuring French dishes at Spiral (P1,500 per person).
Saturday would have the Sunset Bar as venue for an indulgent soiree featuring barbecued specialties and Provençal dishes paired with Chateau Routas’ finest vintage.
On July 10, Le Bar holds a cheese- and wine-tasting event with Pascal Beillevaire himself sharing the secrets of the art of cheese and wine pairing.
French wine master Matthieu Lerat will speak about paired wines.
To commemorate Bastille Day on the 14th, Spiral will present a sumptuous buffet spread for lunch (P2,100+) and dinner (P2,750+) followed by fireworks at the bay while Sunset Bar will have a poolside barbecue and live entertainment (P2,450+) that night.
A special Sunday brunch at Spiral featuring “bloody revolutionary cocktails” and musical entertainment await guests on July 17.
The C’est Trop Bon festival, an homage to French history, culture and tradition, runs until July 31.