TOUR DE SNACKS STAGE 3: THE HARPER & BLOHM CHEESE BOARD
While there had been plenty of drama out on the road with crosswinds and cobbles and all that, the fair-weather fan could argue that the “first real test” of Le Tour was coming up. Riders were heading into the Pyrénées for a few BIG days, where the Basque supporters with their vibrant flags and more pyro than you could imagine would be putting the roadside Belgians and their Pommes Frites to shame.
We were expecting the race to really heat up from the get go. While no massive mountains would feature in the professional stage 10, the riders had just completed a rest day filled with e-bikes and whatever the French word for gelato is. Creeping closer towards the Pyrénées and impending doom for some of the less in-climb-ed, it was time to take Gabriel Gaté’s advice on board – time to get regional, get simple and get obvious.
Enter Harper & Blohm
365 Sydney Road, Brunswick VIC 3056
The cheese shop on Sydney Rd was the perfect half-way feed zone for Stage 3 of the Tour de Snacks, their Tour de France cheese box offering a helping hand akin to a sticky bidon as we sought the most authentic regional snacks for the next few days of racing and grazing. At the helm is Olivia Sutton, who happened upon cheese through an earlier restaurant job where she did nothing but eat it. Throughout July, Olivia has put together a collection of stunning regional cheeses that follow the route of Le Tour, often pairing them with equally unique condiments or snacks. As the race head deeper into the Pyrénées, she had just the thing to take our night of snacking to the next level.
THE HERO CHEESE: Ossau-Iraty Grand Cru AOP
If you thought Grand Cru was only reserved for magnums of GH Mumm, you were wrong. This is a sheep’s milk cheese that truly goes next level, taking you on a rollercoaster ride of taste from the get go. Even then, you think you come to the end of it, only to be treated to a multi-dimensional aftertaste that widens the hell out of your eyes. With a taste profile as dramatic as Scorsese’s work, it’s no wonder local roadside cycling fans are showing such fervent passion when the race comes through – they’re all jacked on this cheese.
The home region of this Ossau-Iraty has it’s very own Bike x Cheese collaborative Route du Fromage. You heard right, a route of cheese. Imagine riding your bike through the Pyrénées, all the while stopping off at cheese makers, boulangeries and probably a shit tonne of wineries scattered through the region. You’d never want to leave.
For the night, we would have the Ossau-Iraty paired with a tailor-made condiment. Super regional and absolutely fantastic, these tiny jars of Confiture de Cerises Noires – Basque Black Cherry Condiment would add another loop-de-loop to the rollercoaster ride of this experience du fromage, and prove to be the only condiment, paste or jam we would need for the night.
Under the watchful eyes of local farm animals perfectly matched to their cheeses (we’re talking matched to the EXACT BREED OF ANIMAL), Olivia quickly got to brainstorming other cheese based possibilities for our night. Hand picking cheeses that were so truly authentic, we would be thinking, feeling and speaking fluent French by nightfall.
Le Roi Roquefort AOC
Our French cheese board wouldn’t be complete without “the King of French cheeses” – the Roquefort. In the process of tasting the Roquefort’s on offer, with a few fast whips of a cheese knife on the shop’s marble bench we were taught a few tricks of the trade that would make our life easier a lot later on in the evening.
As for the cheese? Even just a tiny morsel on the end of the knife made you feel like you’d just eaten a whole meal such was its immediate richness. Considering this would potentially be our longest stage of the Tour de Snacks, the fact that something so small could be so complex, rich and filling was an added bonus.
Le Duc Vacherin
Our podium of cheese was completed with the Le Duc Vacherin from the Jura. Encased in a little wooden box, the softest cheese of the 3 would be perfect once the night had truly set in, and the heaters and racing kicked into gear. Olivia shared an alternate recipe for the cheese involving
While running us through the cheese, we were told of an alternative method to eating this smooth and creamy cheese, a situation that involved an oven, some garlic cloves, red wine and herbs. As delicious as it did sound, we couldn’t resist trying some out almost immediately after we got home, deeming it amazing enough to try it at the most pure, unedited uncut version of itself.
While we could have probably stayed there all night learning about, smelling and tasting cheeses, we had a backpack full of snacks and a rainy second half of Stage 3 to take on. Owners Olivia and Ian waved us goodbye into the Sydney Road traffic as we ducked and weaved our way towards the higher slopes of Côte du Ruckers in Northcote, our finish line for the night.
NOW FOR THE SHOPPING LIST!
This time there’s no recipe, but we did head across to one of the most cooked shopping centres in inner-Melbourne, and a centre so cooked it rivals Wodonga Plaza. With their 2 Coles, 50% vacancy rates and handfuls of dollar coin joy ride machines, we couldn’t be talking about anywhere but Northcote Plaza. For all the faults it may have, it certainly delivered on helping us put together the final pieces of our cheese board puzzle, our shopping list no match for the bounty found at a completely unnamed fruit shop, “the Shit Coles” and a Bakers Delight.
Later on Ben swung by to join us for the evening, taking the total count to 5 when including the 2 mischievous while rather affectionate cats. Kip’s housemates would return soon to make it 7, but while they were out we were able to dip our toes into episodes of Taste Le Tour, Vine compilations and video based twitter beef, paired perfectly with our incredible cheese board. Oh to be born in a different era.
Soon the iconic intro music kicked in, as did the French Pressed coffee (we’re keeping things VERY on brand this July). We were bunkered in for the night, as the race hurtled itself towards Toulouse.
On Stage 4 of the Tour de Snacks, we explore savoury snack options as the race transitions from The Pyrénées towards the Alps. Keep track of our stage reports and submit your favourite snacks for review below!