By Sally Prosser: Cheese. Melted on toast. Grated over a hot baked potato and mashed into the steaming flesh. Running off the plate and chased with a cracker. Sliced into a sandwich, primped with pickle. Liquid and bubbling in a fondue. Sprinkled over pasta, melted on pizza. When my daughter goes vegan the most difficult thing to replace is cheese.
Where to find the best cheeses in Dubai? Let me show you my favourite haunts for this wonderful stuff – plus where I go for vegan cheese.
Market and Platters
Known for their seafood platters, this gourmet paradise has over fifty different types of cheese. The majority are from France, supplied by producer Beillevaire, and there’s a good range of cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheese mainly from raw milk. Enthusiastic and helpful service, Chef Ray recommends his favourite soft, hard and blue cheeses as Brie de Meaux, Comte and Forme D’Ambert.
Market and Platters is located in Marina Pinnacle Tower, Dubai Marina. www.marketandplatters.com
Don’t be overwhelmed by the array or the prices at Eataly in Dubai Mall. Some canny shopping will uncover a few gems. My tip is to buy a huge block of their Grana Padano. It may seem expensive to fork out 100 aed in one go but it’s the best value for this quality in the whole of Dubai. Store it well and it will last for ages too. Bonus tip: Keep an eye out for their occasional events, which includes a class on making mozzarella.
Eataly is located in Dubai Mall. www.eatalyarabia.com
Before all the specialist choice we had Carrefour and it’s still a good bet for cheese if you choose wisely. Ignore the array of mass produced block ‘Cheddars’ and plastic looking stuff. Go for individual whole cheeses from small French producers. The Mont D’or (only available in winter) is very good value (if kept a bit too cold). Leave to ripen in your own fridge and remove well before serving to come to room temperature.
Carrefour Hypermarkets are located in various loca ons across Dubai. www.carrefouruae.com
La Cave a Fromage
Tucked away on the back wall of this space dedicated to good food, my eyes boggled when I first saw the varying sizes, shapes and colours of the vast array of cheese. Managed by some seriously nerdy cheesemongers, this is the very best selection of European cheese you will find. My previous gripe was where were all the British cheeses, however they now stock an incredible range including a nutty Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop, a raw milk Derby (from the Staffordshire Cheese Company) and a farmhouse Caerphilly. It’s a blue cheese lover’s haven.
Chef Russell Impiazzi of Lafayette Gourmet recommends his favourite soft, hard and blue cheeses as Xavier David Saint Marcellin, Testun al Foglie di Castagno -wrapped in chestnut leaves – and Devon Blue (one of my favourites too).
La Cave a Fromage is located in Lafayette Gourmet, Galeries Lafayette, Dubai Mall. www.galerieslafayettedubai.com
Jones the Grocer
I’ve spent many a happy time in the special cheese rooms in the Jones the Grocer shops at the Al Manara branch and more recently the new one in the Dusit hotel. The cheese is well stored and displayed; you can taste before you buy and all from small, specialist producers. It’s top of my ‘go-to’ list for my Christmas Stilton. Their exclusive partnership with Paxton and Whitfield (the oldest cheesemongers in England established in 1797) has brought new British treasures but they are strong on French, Spanish and other European specialist cheeses too. Royal warrant holders Paxton and Whitfield make all sorts of crackers, biscuits, chutneys and preserves to go with cheese so you could be munching on the same favourites as the British Royal family. Bonus tip: Register for their cheese club and cheese-tasting nights.
Jones the Grocer, Sheikh Zayed Road (opposite Times Square) and in the Dusit Al Thani. www.jonesthegrocer.com
All cheese is a processed food but at one end of the scale it can be packed full of E numbers and ‘matured’ with chemicals in days rather than months, and resemble plastic rather than food. Simple farmhouse methods relied on the alchemy of combining milk with a starter and letting the unique natural forces in the atmosphere do the rest. A cheese maker told me that most cheese is made with vegetarian rennet these days even if not mentioned on the label. My issue with vegan cheese is that when you read the label it has too many ingredients that wouldn’t normally find their way into my kitchen. I’ve had a go at making various nut cheeses at home, but they don’t give you the melt factor when cooking. Having said that, it’s different with Chef Athena, a committed vegan chef of Supernatural Kitchen in Lafayette Gourmet. Athena makes artisan raw vegan cheese in small batches which take up to two weeks to make depending on the variety. Instead of milk products they use cashews and vegan probiotics from which they are able to create fresh sliceable so cheese, cream cheese, medium hard air-dehydrated cheese with a rind, and a firm cheese which is also air dried. The flavours are intense and convincingly ‘cheesy’ plus they add other herbs and spices for interest such as chilli paprika, fresh lemon and thyme, truffle, chive, Italian herb, pink peppercorn and smoked sea salt.
You can find the packet stuff in Jones the Grocer, Tidjoori (800 pizza and Freedom pizza use it in their vegan pizzas) and Be Supernatural Kitchen. www. tidjoori.ae, www. facebook.com/BeSuperNatural/
Be Supernatural Kitchen We met Chef Athena in Be Supernatural Kitchen, the Fully Raw Vegan Restaurant that seeks to connect between food, health, body and mind. The menu has been revamped and the dishes that we tasted not only looked beautiful, but tasted delicious as well. We believe that the reason one turns into Vegan should be based on one’s inner belief and philosophy rather than resorting to what is currently a trend. But if you do turn strictly Vegan and do not want to eat anything that contains animal products, honey, gluten, dairy and refined sugar, then at least there is one place to serve you vegan Spring Rolls, Tom Kha soup, North Indian curry with Cauliflower rice to Truffle Beetroot Ravioli. And not to mention the vegan Cheesecake!
Recommended Cheesy tip: Meat the Cheese night at Cave in The Conrad Dubai. Enjoy an evening of unlimited servings of curated artisanal cheese, charcuterie and wines – both red and white, every Tuesday from 7:00pm – 11:00pm for AED 245/person. www.conraddubai.com
[This story has been written exclusively for FoodeMag dxb.]