It’s early on a Wednesday morning and St Kilda is just starting to wake up.
On approaching 157 Fitzroy Street we are greeted by a young, smiling woman. Her checkered shirt is buttoned all the way to the top, her hair is tightly tied up and she is sporting a very sharp black blazer. “Hi, I’m Laura, the head cheesemonger here at Milk the Cow”. Young, bubbly and uber trendy, she wasn’t who we were expecting, but then again, perhaps it was wrong of us to assume anything given Milk the Cow’s growing reputation as one of Melbourne’s most innovative and modern specialty cheese shops.
Did you always dream you would be a twenty-something cheese monger?
Haha, not quite. I was one of those people who thought of cheese as something my dad would eat, that blue smelly stuff… I wouldn’t even go to Pizza Hut for the dislike of it. It wasn’t until I moved to London as a struggling student and took a job behind a cheese counter that I fell in love. I worked at various fromageries for seven years before someone saw my cheesy potential and put me through a specialist course.
Wow, so you have a qualification in cheese? Yes. Is there a certificate? Yes. Can I see it? Absolutely not.
OK, let’s talk cheese. What cheese would I find in your fridge at the moment?
Right now I have a great selection of Sartori cheeses from the USA, which were sent to me to sample (it’s a hard life but someone has to do it) they consist of cheeses rubbed in all sorts of things like, balsamic vinegar, chai and Merlot.
Which cheeses are Melbournians going nuts for?
Firstly, we stock over one hundred seasonal, rare and specialty cheeses from all over the world and we love to match it with booze in a way that compliments and celebrates our cheeses. We flavour match anything from our coffee to our cocktails and it is probably our passionate team and their attention to detail that distinguishes us.
Where do you source your cheeses?
All over the globe, our range stems from the UK, France, Italy, Norway, USA, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain and Australia and many more. We really trying to open up the doors into the variety of cheeses that are not typically that accessible here in Australia.
What should we be thinking about when making a cheeseboard?
Definitely balancing textures and flavours, mixing tradition with more climate appropriate cheeses and a bit of forethought with regards to the drinks you might like to serve alongside.
Laura Lown’s Cheese board
1. Something borrowed, something blue: a very traditional cheese has to be Stilton. I would choose a Colston Bassett Stilton.
2. I would pair the Stilton with a light and elegant Brillat Savarin. A triple cream interior, soft fluffy white coating and a balance of both rich and light.
3. To finish the board we need some texture and some bite. A Reypenaer VSOP fits perfectly for our warmer weather. This Dutch cheese is sharp and tangy with faint fruit sweetness.
Laura’s tips to respect your cheese…by choosing the right drink!
Beer: Firm aged cheeses like Goudas. Match a Reypenaer XO (a three year old Gouda from the Netherlands) with a Palm, Belgium Amber Ale. The malty sweet, lightly bitter ale pairs wonderfully with the rich caramel and butterscotch character of the Gouda.
Sparkling: The light and creamy Brillat Savarin is the most decadent match for the French sparkling Monmousseau Brut Etoile. The sparkling has a refined finesse about it with flavours of fig, apple and pear and pairs beautifully with a luxurious triple cream cheese.
Gin: Choose a great quality gin like Gin Mare from the Mediterranean and pair it with a Fleur du Maquis. This is a cracking combination, the gin has been distilled with olives, rosemary, thyme and basil and the cheese from Corsica has an aromatic coating of rosemary, fennel seeds, juniper berries and the occasional bird’s eye chilli. The sweetness of the cheese works wonders with the light citrus notes in a well-made gin and tonic.