Anyone who knows me well knows how I feel about cheese! I adore it. The riper, smellier and stronger the better! Soft cheeses so ripe they are practically oozing their way off my plate. Blues that are pungent, sharp, creamy and piquant. Delicious rinds containing flavoursome cheesey goodness that makes me grin with delight!
So, when I became twitter friends with Matt of Pong Cheese, online purveyors of fine quality cheese, I whiled away some happy time salivating over their website.
But what’s this? In their tempting online shop I found a selection box for men and another for women, a set of cheeses recommended for connoisseurs, a range ideally suited to a picnic and even cheeses grouped by city or country of origin. All well and good.
But where were the strongest and smelliest? Those cheeses so beloved to those of us who love the ultimate cheeses?
Ever responsive to the wishes of cheese aficionados (or should that be desperados?), Pong Cheese responded by creating The Ultimate Pong Box! An olfactory and gustatory whallop! And since I’d proposed this new box, Pong very kindly sent me one to check out!
The current contents of this fabulous selection are Epoisses de Bourgogne, Munster, Oxford Blue and Finn. The cheeses are dispatched in a sturdy box, securely nestled within shredded paper, with a small coolpack to keep them cool but not too cold.
Opening the box feels like my birthday has come early (though as it’s next month, the timing isn’t bad, actually!)
Epoisses is one of my all-time favourite cheeses in the world and I buy it often, most commonly from Waitrose, who offer a great selection of quality cheeses. Unctuous verging on sticky, the smell of this Burgundian cheese is often compared to smelly socks or sweaty boxers but don’t let it’s foetid reek put you off – this is a cheese to be reckoned with. Very ripe on arrival, the marc de Bourgogne-washed rind was liquidy and the inside was spreadably soft. The taste didn’t disappoint, delivering a heady kick of pungent meaty savouriness or umami.
Next up is Munster, a cheese I’ve tasted only a few times before and not for quite some time. Next to most cheeses it’s a stinker but far less of one than Epoisses. Also made from cow’s milk, in the mountains of Alsace, this is a smooth, creamy flavoursome cheese. The rind is milder than I had expected, though perhaps that’s only in comparison with that Epoisses. The cheese has a lovely sweet salty taste.
From France to England and a cheese made at Neal’s Yard Creamery in Herefordshire. Finn is, as Pong put it: “an amazingly stunning soft cheese: rich, luxurious and devilishly oozey.” Made from unpasteurised cow’s milk and suitable for vegetarians, Finn is the only triple cream cheese made in England. It has a mouldy white rind around a butter yellow interior which, if the cheese is left to ripen fully, likes to make a run for the side of the plate! The taste is as gratifyingly rich as one would expect from a triple cream soft cheese but it also has the unexpectedly tangy sharpness of a blue cheese without the blue!
And on to the Oxford Blue, the only one of the four cheeses I had not tasted before. Pong’s website tells us that the cheese is made on a small scale but becoming very popular, and I can certainly understand why. This creamy, semi-soft blue was apparently developed in Stilton in 1993 as a creamier alternative to the traditional harder blue of the area. It’s fabulous! The rind is white with patches of grey and brown mould. Inside is a phenomenally goeey cheese with generous veins of blue that provide a very, very moreish depth of flavour. This cheese is also suitable for vegetarians.
Any negatives? Well, only a couple of minor ones:
One is that the cheeses were at different levels of maturation/ ripeness and therefore not suitable for serving on a cheeseboard at the same time, which I would have liked to do. It might be nice to offer an option on the website to specify whether customers would prefer their selection to be ready simultaneously or not and also whether they’d like them at optimum ripeness on arrival or a few days later.
And the other point is that while the packaging is sufficient if you’re at home to take delivery the box couldn’t really be left outside (in a specified place) until you’re home, as is the case with other fresh food suppliers. This may make it more difficult for office-based customers to take delivery.
However, all in all, the box is an absolute treat. If you are ever struggling to think of a gift for a foodie friend (me in particular) you should look no further! And, of course, this is also a great option for those of you not fortunate enough to live locally to a great cheese monger’s but wanting your fix of high quality cheeses.
Would love to read your feedback on other Pong Cheese selections!