|A selection of goats cheese produced by Domaine de la Pommeraie|
Last weekend saw an assortment of riad and restaurant owners take a break from the busy season in Fez and trek out towards Immouzer on a quest for goat's and sheep's cheese, writes Vanessa Bonnin
We had been invited to taste a range of artisanal produce at Domaine de la Pommeraie, a 12.5 hectare farm in the Middle Atlas, which produces cheese made from goat's and sheep's milk, as well as honey, apples, plums, peaches, apricots and cherries. The cheese is produced using an ancient Amazigh (Berber) method of fermentation.
We had rather foolishly arrived on time for the event, somehow forgetting we were in Morocco where nothing ever starts on time. Our second elementary error was not eating lunch beforehand, optimistically believing that bread and the much anticipated cheese tasting would suffice.
So you can imagine that after two hours on a very empty stomach, gazing at a buffet of cheeses arranged enticingly that we were not allowed to touch, we were feeling rather, well, cheesed off.
The only explanation we could get was that we couldn't start until everyone had arrived so in desperation we sat at a table and started eating some dried fruit and olives that was obviously meant to go with the cheese but by this stage - 4pm - we were so ravenous we didn't care.
Finally, at 4.30pm, the big cheese arrived - the Wali of Fez himself - and we suddenly understood why we had been made to wait so long. We felt rather 'sheepish', but delighted as platters of cheese held by white-coated waiters began to make their way towards our table.
The Jben du Douar was slightly acidic, so went particularly well with the honey. This was followed by Le Berbére, a very fresh and buttery tasting cheese that would have benefited from a little more aging. The creamy Tomme Mimoun was very popular with the table, bringing comparisons with Camembert.
The Kandri had a more distinct goat flavour and was sticky on the palate. Our youngest taster, Francesca, described it as "a bit fizzy"! We then went off the menu (which had listed a ten-course tasting extravaganza) and tried a sheep's cheese. This new product had a great nutty flavour and a long finish and quickly made the top of the list so far.
|The herd of 180 goats at the farm feast on lush foliage and herbs|
The emergence of a dish of hand-churned butter also went down well, particularly after being described by a waiter as 'Beurre Berbere' (try saying it quickly) which for some reason caused us to dissolve into fits of giggles. I think we were all a bit giddy after finally getting food in our bellies, but our raucous table undoubtedly caused some to think that we'd spiked our home-made ginger juice with vodka. Tsk, tsk, all those foreigners are alcoholics...
La Buchette de Cedre was up next and despite being rolled in cedar this smooth, soft cheese didn't have a strong flavour. The final installment was La Mousse au Chevre, a lovely mousse served in a glass with strawberries - light and fluffy with a touch of sweetness, this was pronounced "a splendid dessert".
In the end we tried six of the ten cheeses on the menu, plus one surprise sheep's cheese, and all were noteworthy. What really got our goat however, was the star cheese - a special goat's cheese with a mould added that makes it green rather than blue - was nowhere to be seen! This had been anticipated as a highlight but we didn't get to try it. Fortunately my husband had purchased one earlier on (as he had to leave before the event got underway due to work commitments) and I got to try it later at home. I can confirm that this cheese has the most depth of flavour of all and a wonderful smoothness. It's a shame not everyone got to try it as this is definitely their best product.
Domaine de la Pommeraie
Ain Chiffa, Imouzer Kandar
|Domaine de la Pommeraie owner, Tariq Lechkar|
Words: Vanessa Bonnin
Photos: Suzanna Clarke