On the Lamb: Amsterdam 2012 (Part Zes)
The Bloggist Is Away

That went well, didn’t it?

As first time visitors to Amsterdam, Joanne and I certainly covered a lot of ground the previous day. By my fuzzy recollection, there was a market, a brewery, a museum, a distillery, and a bakery.

It was, all in all, a rather productive first day for us newbies in this little patch of Holland. We found Amsterdam beautiful, to say the least. It was quite mind-blowing too, because being Chinese, the only Holland that I knew firsthand was the hopia kind.

And I’ve been spelling it wrong all my life, apparently. [thanks, Holand Hopia]

We then rode a canal cruise into the evening, finding ourselves back at the hotel at the ‘early’ time of 8:30PM (or just after sunset). It felt a lot later than that though, partly because we imbibed quite a bit of the strong stuff, but also because our internal watches were still set to Manila time: our brains said 2:30AM.

I clearly remembered all of this after we got to the hotel.

On this, our second day, girl-beard Joanne and I had a simple objective: keep up the good work but stay away from the alcohol. We would start off with a bus tour, because what better way was there to indulge our sedentary selves? In this land of bicycle lanes and bicycle-barrows (for groceries and kids), the two of us would continue on being wasteful tourists by burning fossil fuels. It was a rather efficient way to take in the sights of beautiful Amsterdam (with audio commentary, to boot). The only hitch was that we had to stay for the entire ride… we couldn’t freely disembark when we wanted.

Even during emergencies like this.

With that part of our sightseeing itinerary over with, we made our way to the West Canal Belt again for a pre-booked cheese tasting session. This was most ideal for us frugal Third World tourists – a cultural experience that counted as touring AND eating.

As justification for this photo of me taking pictures of cheese.

Please note that I do not aspire to any sort of sophistication. I’m not a cheese expert. I do not consider myself a gourmand… I just like to stuff my face with edible organic matter. Is that the definition of gourmand?

Yes. Yes, it very much is.

Having arrived an hour early, we looked for a nearby place to take in a quick and light (read: cheap) meal. Luckily for us, there was a kebab/shawarma shop on the same block. Thereby lies one of the biggest quandaries relating to food in Europe (and in most of the Western world, for that matter)… outside of the big international chains, why does fast food often equate to kebabs?

This kebab shop we found was strategically situated next to a ‘coffeeshop’ (appropriately called The Grey Area). The kebab shop owner most likely came up with his business model when he realized the obvious: stoners would always be hungry…

And their demographic would surely want their kebab, dude. [thanks, Wikimedia]

We inadvertently partook of the smoke wafting in from the joint(s) next door that, after lunch, we definitely felt ready for cheese tasting. While waiting for the rest of our group, the friendly staff at the Reypenaer cheese tasting rooms asked us to look around. The shop by itself was pretty impressive:

Especially since they gave out free samples.

Reypenaer is Gouda cheese that has been aged in a hundred-year-old cheese warehouse in the city of Woerden. Gouda, of course, takes its name from the popular cheese town where it originates. Incidentally, the Dutch pronunciation of ‘Gouda’ sounds like ‘cow-da’. For the rest of us lesser types, it is acceptable to pronounce it either as ‘gow-da’, or…

Cheese is also good for everyall, 25 hours a day. [thanks, GoodAh]

But enough lugaw. Reypenaer is pronounced, aptly enough, as ‘ripener’. Please remember this, because pronouncing it differently may lead to weird consequences. One does not ‘rapen’ cheese without violating at least three laws of nature – and no, blaming the victim is never a valid defense, even if it’s a particularly attractive cheese.

“Mmm… matured and shaved.” [thanks, AWOIAF]

The company that makes Reypenaer, Wyngaard Kaas, is not a cheesemaker per se. It simply matures locally sourced cheese, to produce Reypenaer of different vintages. These varieties, it must be said, are among the best in the Netherlands, being favorites among Michelin-starred establishments.

We were to start with two goat Goudas: Wyngaard Chèvre Affiné and Chèvre Gris, four and ten months old, respectively. These were followed by four differently aged versions of (cow) Gouda: six-month-old Gouda, one-year-old Reypenaer, two-year-old Reypenaer VSOP, and the two-and-a-half-year-old Reypenaer XO Reserve.

Big kiss. Big hug. Reserve.

In a classroom-like setting, our small group took to our chairs and cheeseboards. We were given pens and paper, a glass of port, and a nifty little contraption called ‘Le Guillotin’:

Be careful of le finger. [thanks, Reypenaer]

We were told to slice the cheese thinner the older they were because aging made for intense flavors. Having a wafer-thin slice of VSOP, for example, allowed one to appreciate the nuances of the mature cheese better; devour a block, however, and you get a Cheetos explosion (presumably). As we sniffed and nibbled, we were also taught how to look for certain details in the cheeses. We first looked at the colors, noting that goat cheese remained a milky color, while cow cheese grew steadily more yellow-orange with age (due to the carotene in the cows’ diet). We next checked for smells, such as bread, buttermilk, mushroom, wine, wood, GOAT, etc., and then graded for taste (i.e. sweet, tart, salty), while also taking into account the intensity. We then rated the cheese for consistency or texture… as all of the cheeses we sampled were Gouda, they were all generally firm. It could be discerned, of course, that they became gradually grainier and less rubbery the older they were (the former as a result of minerals). Deciding on the Reypenaer XO Reserve as a favorite, Joanne and I made a mental note to get some on the way out (at a discount, too).

On the sheets where we wrote down our observations on the aforementioned criteria, we also included ‘overall impressions’. This certainly taxed my vocabulary for adjectives (would that I could cop out and just say ‘awesome’ every time). After surveying our ratings (I gave high ones), the affable cheesemaster, Ron, then gave out our certificates:

“I hereby certify this weirdo with the facial hair to be an expert in curdled and aged mammalian gland-fluid.”


If you want the organic CONTINUATION, please click here.

If you missed what happened immediately before, please click this.

If you want to rewind back to the start of the Amsterdam write-ups, please click this instead.

If you want to go through past TRAVEL pieces, please go here.

If you want to visit stuff about FOOD, please go here.

Categories: [food], [travel]

[1] Comment

1 Comment »

  • JoQ says:
    October 24, 2012 A.D. at 8:04 PM

    I sure miss me that good ol’ 2 1/2 year-old cheese, I do. This lady loves cheese.



Leave a Reply