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The Cheese Diary: February 2012

The quest in cheese tasting continues. This month, there were a couple of French and a couple of Swiss cheeses on the plates. Given the spirit that kick started this project, you must be wondering why I am not devouring only French cheeses and have instead grabbed some Swiss produce at the same time. Well, some of these cheeses are popular and when it comes to food, sometimes, it is hard to stop at the modern border. Consider though, historically, by region, then I guess (or so I hope) I’m not too far off in my mission. ;)

Week 5: Gruyère
Originated from the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland, Gruyère is a hard pressed-and-washed cheese made from cow milk. Its aging time typically runs for a few months and the longer it’s cured, the more complex its flavour. With rusty brown rind and pale cream pâte, the cheese cracked relatively easily when cut into and its texture in the mouth felt dry and somewhat crumbly. It tasted nutty yet sweet, of which this sweetness reminded me of P’tit Basque from a couple of weeks ago. It is a handsome cheese by all means, although I suspect this wedge that we’ve got is a middle-age affinage variety. I should have grabbed some grand cru variety too for a comparison.

Week 6: Mimolette
There is a small disagreement of the origin of this cheese. A couple of my friends believe it’s Dutch but it’s supposed to be French, from the northern city of Lille. It is, however, made to imitate Edam, except it has orange flesh (Edam is in creamy shade of yellow) with rind of soft sand colour. Its shape is a tad particular, nearly melon-like when whole. Yet another hard cheese, and I think we’ve gone to the other extreme to last week, choosing one that was rather aged, because it was really hard to cut into it and likewise, eating it. Taste-wise, it was nutty but relatively mild nonetheless. Not particularly memorable, I’m afraid, but I was told this was not a good wedge of mimolette. Perhaps I shouldn’t write it off just yet.

Week 7: Tête de Moine
This cheese comes in a very pretty serving. Pretty? Yup. Pretty. Massive thanks to Chloé* for picking this up just so I can try it! carnation-like cuteness to boot. Swiss in origin, the name of the cheese means “a monk’s head”, a hat tip to the original producer of this cheese – monks of the abbey of Bellelay. It is cylindrical in shape, but in order for the flavour to develop, it is “cut” circularly using a girolle, then gathered together, resembling the flower carnation. The thin slicing method meant the texture of cheese in hold was soft and pliable, and it quite melt in your mouth. The flavour of the cheese was rather complex, aromatic yet nutty (sorry, I am not quite the turophile yet to be able to describe it properly). A joy to behold and a delight to taste.

Week 8: Beaufort
Back to another hard cheese this week (I need to expand to other type of cheese soon) Beaufort is a hard cheese from cow’s milk and it is very similar to Gruyère but with longer affinage time (double that of Gruyère). Its shape is a tad particular, as the mold in which Beaufort is pressed in has a concave shape to give it “heel”. In addition to the distinctive heel, its rind is brown in colour and it has yellow pâte. Texturally it is rather smooth in the mouth but there’s a spicy note to it, which took me by surprise. There’s complexity to the flavour too, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s to my taste. I’m on the fence for now.

* On an important note, I must also say many thanks to Frédéric. Between him and Chloé, they have been the biggest supporters of this project thus far. Not only are they going the extra mile to get cheeses for me to try, they’re essentially funding the cheese tasting for each and every time they bought yet another variety – which is pretty much all the time! I am a very very lucky girl. :D

Roadtrip ended in Colombo

This is it. The final stretch of our journey in Sri Lanka, from Galle to Colombo, with a distance of about 120km along the south-western coastline between the two cities. A memorable roadtrip, that’s for sure, with plenty of adventures and misadventures as you’ve read through the series of this blog entries. (And thank you for sticking out with me despite the delays in getting the entries out!)

Even our drive to Colombo was not without its own drama. A few days earlier, we had encountered some problem with the air-conditioning system as we were arriving in Ella. It was supposed to be fixed but not even half way through the drive (right after Balapitiya), the system failed again. This time, we didn’t have the benefit of the cooler temperature of higher altitude and the heat in the van as we approached late morning/midday was becoming more and more unbearable.

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The old fort of Galle

Galle was the penultimate destination of our journey, and after a week of moving from city to city, we were looking forward to getting to Colombo where we would stay for a good few days. There’s nothing like a new bed every night (and not knowing where you’d sleep the next day) to make us appreciate the comfort that would await us in Colombo – our luxury hotel in Colombo was the only that we’ve booked well in advance and which we agreed to splurge on. More on that in the next post.

Prior to arrival, we have booked to stay in the New Old Dutch House within the fort city through the phone, of which I had a verbal price confirmation, that it was inclusive of taxes etc and ensured that accommodation and food would also be provided to our driver. On checking in, we found ourselves enchanted by the distinct colonial feel to it but soon felt we’ve been had – Nilan was being accommodated elsewhere at an additional charge to us (we were later told the room provided was with poor facilities and even trickier to find a place to park the van we were travelling in) and without food, and they even tried to add taxes to the price of our room.

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The southern coast

Travelling across the southern coastline of Sri Lanka took us from Tissa to Galle (pronounced as Gaul), our next main destination. We took our time though, completing this journey of about 150 kilometres over 4-5 hours time. We had short stops along the way so we can indulged in spots of photography, plus we also visited a blowhole and a 2004 tsunami memorial site.

The initial part of the road to Galle saw us exiting Tissa but passing by vast open fields and notable turn offs to get to Bundala National Park. Not long thereafter, we began to sight the coastline and stayed driving pretty much along this scenic route. And like everywhere else in the country, we soon also spotted a number of Buddhas along the route, but more notably, we began to notice Buddha in standing position and in different poses. Up until now, those which we have noted tend to be of sitting or sleeping positions.

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Tissa, Yala and safari

After our good and scenic rest at Ella, we took off further south to Tissamaharama – Tissa in short – our base for exploring Yala National Park. A former capital of Sinhalese Kingdom of Ruhuna, today it is a town running close along the man-made lake Tissa Wewa (which dated back to the time when the kingdom was present), with businesses lining the main street and otherwise surrounded by (burnt) paddy fields.

We have opted for a late afternoon/early evening safari at Yala National Park but considering we arrived at Tissa quite early, Claire and I decided to explore the main street by foot after we checked in to a hotel at the edge of the town. As we walked, we were reminded that we were no longer in the hill countries. We definitely felt the heat of the late morning sun.

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A room with a view in Ella

Ella was meant to be our short reprieve from the packed roadtrip schedule, well placed half way through the week. Given the number of posts written for this trip so far, it may seems like it has been a lot longer but we’re actually only four days in! It ended up being a break needed by our driver too. Now, now, no jumping to (wrong) conclusion that we’ve put him behind wheels excessively; rather something has gone wrong with the air-conditioning system.

We were about half an hour from Ella when we spotted smoke streaming out the unit (uh oh) – and it was definitely something that required immediate attention. Luckily the noon temperature in the hill country was relatively cool so the short trip to our hotel without air-conditioning came about uneventfully. The one concern Nilan had though, was that it was poya and he wasn’t sure if he could find a garage that would be open to look into the fault. Hmmm…

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What makes you happy?

I have a few posts that I’ve written up in the last couple of weeks, but the photo processing has been a little slow. That’s why it has been a little quiet around here. They are definitely coming up this weekend, back-dated (I know, it’s cheating a little), as I finally find myself with a little break from the whirlwind of social and non-social activities. Hurrah for me-time! ;)

But I could not resist posting this first. A video, based on the concept of 50 People 1 Question by Crush+Lovely (which I’ve been a big fan of, and I used to post their videos to my social network page), has been filmed in Paris. Seems it was filmed most likely over late last autumn, given the colours of the leaves over many sunny days, and everyone wrapped up relatively well.



So what makes you happy?

Today, I am happy because it’s Friday and it’s nearly weekend. Because I’m looking forward to some time to sleep-in and lounge about the apartment in my PJs. Because I shall have some reading and writing time. Because I will be talking to family and friends living far from me. Because I am plotting (shhhh, sorry can’t tell you what yet). Because I have amazing people in my life. But most importantly, I am happy because I am focusing on the good’s that are in my daily life and while I may be insecure about certain things, I work hard at not letting the negative thoughts take precedent over the positive ones.

To all who listens to my voices of doubts and soothes me that all will be well (you know who you are) – everything takes one step at a time indeed – thank you so much! What will I do without you and your support? *Hugs*

I wish you all many happiness too and have a fantabulous weekend ahead!

Morning hike at Horton Plains

For most part of our ascend by van to Horton Plains from Nuwara Eliya, we were shrouded in blankets of fog and visibility pretty much stayed within the range of a few meters ahead of us. Light drizzle also accompanied us on this early morning as Nilan drove up small and windy road of… well, I don’t really know, since I could hardly see much. Instinctively, I believe, if we ever slipped up, we would be rolling down the side of a pretty high hill.

However the task was not at all daunting for Nilan. The distance we were to cover was just over 30km but it’d take approximately 2 hours. He was busy as ever chatting on his mobile phone (hands free, in an unconventional manner – don’t ask) while Claire and I silently wished he would not be too distracted when he shouldn’t be. Honestly, we had no idea who he’d be talking to at six in the morning. If anyone ring me at that time, unless it’s an emergency, I’d hang up right away. Secretly though, Claire and I were impressed at the strength of mobile phone reception in this country. Even high up at a remote national park was no barrier to mobile telecommunication here!

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