Fascinating Tales from the Cheese Master

27 September 2017

The Cheese and Wine bar at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island houses up to 100 of the world’s best cheeses that have been carefully selected by The Cheese and Wine Bar Manager.

Ahmed Sareekh has been part of the team at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island for eight years. Working in hospitality for over 17 years, Sareekh always knew food and beverage was his calling and found great interest in matching fine wines with food. He has grown his knowledge in cheese and wine pairings by taking up specialty training courses both on property at Conrad Maldives and in France.

A question and answer with outlet manager Mr. Ahmed reveals a portion of his expertise on cheese as he explains the art of cheese and core components of incorporating cheese.

Different people like different things and I think when learning to appreciate cheese, it is not about training your taste buds to like something you usually don’t but finding the right type of cheese depending on what you like.” Says Ahmed

“I always ask guests what their favorite food or drink is and based on their answers, I will recommend cheeses that are suited to their palate.”

Given the fact that there are so many varieties of cheese with over 100 types of cheese at the resort itself, not everyone that comes across the bar is bound to know what they want or what they would like.

Very few people know a lot about cheese and wine paring before trying it, and that is why I’m here. I like to make the experience in The Cheese and Wine Bar as personalized as possible.

I ask the guests about their likes and dislikes and slowly ease them into trying different things.”

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Mr. Ahmed says that his personal favorites when it comes to cheese are Beaufort and Ardi-gasna. He explained that the salty and nutty flavors of the cheese marry perfectly with sweet wine.

According to Ahmed cheeses are a rich source of protein and fats. When paired with the acidity in wine it helps to balance it all out. The harder the cheese, the better the pairing it will make. Red wines are great for softening cheeses in your mouth he added.

Goat milk cheese and Sancerre and Sauvignon Blanc. The sharp, earthy creamy notes of goat cheese are very well balanced by Sancerre due to high acidity to balance the fattiness in the cheese, and the grassy notes of Sauvignon Blanc make it a very attractive pairing. “

“Blue cheese and Sauternes or Port. The creamy texture, along with its distinct saltiness and pungency gives blue cheese a very strong flavor. Port and Sauternes are also equally powerful wines with sweetness to balance the salt and good acidity to balance the texture and pungency of blue cheese.”

When asked about the common understanding that stinkier cheeses are considered to be superior Ahmed shared his opinion on the matter.

This is true. I think the challenge for a lot of people is actually getting over the smell, but once they try it, they usually love it. For example Époisses is one of the best triple cream cheeses, however it is made  with a pungent unpasteurized cows-milk and the smell puts a lot of people off.”

He continued on to explain that the secret to cooking with cheese is to be careful with temperature control.

When cooking with cheese, the most important thing to remember is temperature control. Cheese should be cooked slowly with a low temperature, allowing the ingredients to slowly melt and blend together.”

“For a cheese platter, I personally stick to the favorites. Get a good mix of grapes, dried fruits, nuts and cold cut meats and pair with cheddars and Emmenthal.”

The Cheese and Wine Bar, is the Maldives’ first purposely designed cheese and wine room. Guests will enjoy exploring the world’s finest cheeses and wines as well as regular fondue and tapas evenings. The intimate space seats up to 10 guests in a temperature controlled room with new and old vintages covering the walls of the space. 

When entering the room, guests will immediately be drawn to the black volcanic sand that covers the floor of the restaurant. Flown in from New Zealand the sand is a stark contrast from the pure white sand that covers the island’s beaches. The fine grains of sand caress guests’ feet as they sit at a high bar table sipping on wine served in finest stem-less Riedel crystal.