Sit down to a vertical cheese tasting
A vertical tasting does not mean you must eat standing up – indeed the best way to do it is comfortably seated. The proposal is from Manteigaria Silva, which has for some months now been perfecting cheeses from the Azores and the Serra de Estrela that are now to be tasted in the shop here in the Market. José Branco Junior of Manteigaria Silva has a sparkle in his eyes when he talks about the experiments that he has been carrying out for months, if not years, on Ilha de São Jorge and Serra da Estrela cheeses. Now he can finally unveil for tasting what he, his father and his sister have been planning since the first days when they opened their shop here in the Time Out Market. Yes, a cheese with the same age as the Market features in these two vertical tastings of queijo da Ilha and queijo da Serra, each of which includes one type of cheese, but cured for different lengths of time. “The cheeses are not produced by us; what we do is attune and highlight the flavours that are naturally present in the cheese through the process of curing in a chamber where the humidity, temperature and light are controlled,” explains José Branco Jr, adding that it is a process of trial and error. “Not all cheeses can be improved and there are some lots whose development can’t be controlled.” When a newly arrived lot of cheeses are tasted, it is already possible to tell which have potential. It is at the Manteigaria Silva shop in the Market that visitors may now enjoy the two vertical tastings. The one with queijo da Ilha de São Jorge comprises four cheeses with different curing times: four, 12, 24 and 50 months. The latter is the oldest cheese that the Manteigaria has and to get to this “masterpiece” many others fell by the wayside. In the first experiments with the cheeses cured for 50 months, around 50% of production was binned, says José Branco Jr. The vertical tasting of queijo da Serra comprises cheeses cured for 40 days, four, 8 and 12 months. At each stage the cheeses have different flavours. In the case of Serra cheese, the 40-day cure brings a creamy texture; at four months fruity flavours emerge; and at 12 months there are flavours of walnut, tobacco and barrels. After 50 months, meanwhile, the queijo da Ilha has a spicier flavour. A tasting of this kind is a solemn affair and, to be appreciated as it should be, it must be done with a sip of water and bite of green apple between cheeses. At the end the wines come in, and here the choice should be suited to each cheese, starting with the whites and ending with stronger wines such as port. A toast to this very special tasting – unique in the Market and, we believe, in Portugal. The vertical tasting of Ilha de São Jorge cheese costs €24 and that of the Serra cheese €22. Available until it runs out at Manteigaria Silva in the Time Out Market.