California travel expert Veronica Hill zips across Flightline, the longest zip line in the Continental United States at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, in this episode of California Travel Tips.
Veronica Hill: They say California is all about the cheese and I am on my way to one of the best cheese tasting galleries in the state, the Loft in Laguna Beach. Located inside Montage Resort, this award winning restaurant channels local farmers for a menu of the finest seasonal and organic cuisine, I am here for a cheese tasting with Fromagier Janice Howell who travels the globe in search of rare artisanal cheeses, honeys and other delights for her creations. Janice Howell: The cheese galleries are very unique and specifically designed, programmed to make a memory for all of our guests and what we do, we design boutique compliments to compliment the flavor of all of the different cheeses that come in. We have anywhere from a 100 to a 150 and when we go to a table, we interact with our guests. We are going to make a unique experience just for their flavor profile. We also have over a hundred honeys from all over the world, 38, 40 different countries to really show off the different cheeses as well. Veronica Hill: I had no idea there were so many honeys out there. Janice Howell: Yes. Well, as much as the—different then all the nectars are going to be different and produce different kinds of honey. We have guests that all come into in three times a week and we have to have something new within their flavor profile that definitely something new and exciting for them. And we find that our guests that come in regularly, their palate tends to grow and grow and grow and we really like that. Veronica Hill: Do you have any particular favorite cheese in here? Janice Howell: Oh gosh, everyone ask that. Absolutely, it depends on the season too. You know, I have certain soft cheeses, medium cheese, hard cheese. It is about eight different categories of cheeses so you tend to have your favorites and you know they are like my children so it’s like, how do you say, “Oh I love Johnny more than I love Suzy.” It doesn’t work that way. The whole idea of the program, all of the different fromagiers are very established cooks in their own right and we all know how to make beautiful sauces and compliments all day long but we don’t want to disguise, so it is a really delicate balance and making sure the cheese is going to be the star of the show. We have our cheeses arranged here like a little map of Europe, we start with Italy and Spain and the vast portion of the—in France and Switzerland so far and are good is from Holland and then our miscellaneous British Isles and then our domestics. Out of the 100, 150, we’ll have about eight really heavy hitters as they like to call them that guests always ask for. “Oh, I have to have that orange cheese”, that is not a cheddar, you know and it would be our beautiful, one of our aged goudas. Right now, I love a cheese from Wisconsin of all places such a cheddar style, a cheddar not being my favorite but I can’t stop eating this and it is at the top of my list, it is called a raspberry— Veronica Hill: Oh, that sounds good. Janice Howell: That when you smell this, it just fills all of your senses and that is what you want from a good cheese that is going t have all sorts of different profiles. And this one in particular has been washed in a raspberry beer, so it gives all that yeasty smell to it and flavor the tang of the raspberry goes into it. It has got a little salt crystals like maybe when you are age goudas, has some carameliness to it like that but it is when you smell it, it is going to smell like fresh brioche or a croissant and you are just going, “Oh my gosh!” you know, it is fabulous and well put up, beautiful—the best thing of trying different things with it but the best thing that seems to acts in it is a raspberry blossom honey nectar and when it goes on that, it just blossoms in your mouth and so you are going, “Okay I can’t get enough of this.” Veronica Hill: Amazing. Janice Howell: And that is what we aim for. Veronica Hill: All right, let us taste. Janice Howell: Okay. What I have prepared for you today is one of our perfect bites. We like to nick name some of our perfect bites, this one happens to be the “Trip to Hawaii.” It is fro—, a double crème and that just means they have added extra butter fat to it to make it so rich. This cheese is a cross between t whipped cream and butter. So, you can’t go wrong with this. It is a brie style but it is not a brie. Very mild and gentle, that is its character; it is supposed to be that way. It doesn’t mean it is not a really high-end artisanal cheese. On top of that is a—let’s see, a sage blossom honeycomb and then on the bottom is one of the our crackers that we make in the house and it is a cashew honey oat cracker so all these flavors are going to recognize each other in their mouth, in your mouth and what we put on top—this happens to be one of the things that we did not duplicate and it is a lilikoi butter and the lilikoi butter is from the nectar of passion fruit and it is very much like—if you had to say lemon meringue pie but if that doesn’t take you back to Hawaii, each one of our perfect bites are supposed to be taken all at once, so watch your eyes. Veronica Hill: That is amazing. Janice Howell: Thank you. Veronica Hill: Thank you. If you are cheese fan, don’t miss to visit to the Loft. The Trip to Hawaii alone is worth the track.