Tag Archives: Afrim Pristine

Headshot of Afrim Pristine over various cheeses

How to Build a Better Cheese Board: Ask a Cheese Master

The world of cheese is ever-evolving and Afrim Pristine is a lifelong student of its multitude of flavours, textures and potential. Now, he’s hitting the road in an epic global journey on Cheese: A Love Story to check out some of the ways chefs celebrate cheese in all its forms.

For years, Afrim, who co-owns Cheese Boutique along with his brothers Agim and Ilir, has been gradually taking over the public-facing elements of the family business from father Fatos, now retired. Although he’s got the credentials — he’s a maître fromager (as part of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers) and has a knighthood conferred by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France — Afrim’s main skill is making cheese accessible and understandable to the general public along with the chefs who he counts as regular customers and friends. As the person behind the counter at Cheese Boutique, he’s spent 25 years figuring out how to assess peoples’ tastes and what to offer them, and we’ve asked him for his best techniques in figuring out the best cheese board to please your guests.

Afrim Pristine answers questions at his shop, Cheese Boutique in Toronto

Related: Secrets From a Cheese Master

Ask the Right Questions

If you ask Afrim to make you a cheese board, be prepared for two things: to sample a lot of cheese and to answer a bunch of questions, from what you’re eating and drinking for dinner to what cheeses you like and dislike. “My job is to know what people want before they know they want it,” says Afrim. “The more I know about their tastes, the more I can factor into the decision about showcasing whatever cheese I think they’re going to like.”

Consider Seasonality

We vary our food and drink to the seasons, but when it comes to cheese, one thing that’s often forgotten is the weather outside. “It’s summertime right now. In my opinion, I think a super fat, pungent French Burgundy Normandy style cheese is too much: it’s too heavy, aromatic, and pungent,” he says. For warmer weather, Afrim suggests lighter options such as delicate buffalo mozzarella, whipped herbed ricotta, a fresh young youthful goat cheese or a semi-soft, mild-mannered Ontario gruyère.

See More: Afrim Pristine’s Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread

Be Willing to Experiment

Although people tend to cling to a few tried and true favourites and formulas when assembling a cheese board, Afrim encourages people to take their cheese exploration to a new level. “I don’t think there should be any hard and fast rules when it comes to cheese,” he says. On the show, Afrim was taken aback by chef and “Sorcerer of Entlebuch” Stefan Wiesner at Michelin-starred Gasthof Röessli, who served him Emmental baked with charcoal. At home, trying a curveball or an unexpected surprise on a cheese platter can bring a similarly memorable experience to the table. Afrim likes to astonish people with a piece of monte enebro. “It’s covered in greyish mould, like if you left a loaf of bread for a few days, and it’s goat’s milk unlike the majority of cheeses made in Spain from sheep’s milk. It’s creamier and funkier,” he says.

Make Smart Choices

Although variety is key to cheese boards, get creative with sizing according to your budget. “Have five to seven cheeses, but consider getting some smaller pieces to squeeze in a few extra flavours,” says Afrim. Having more choices allows your guests a better chance of finding something that they will enjoy, without necessarily raising the cost for you. “Not everyone is going to love a blue, but try to have a goat, sheep, semi-firm, a firm, blue, and a fresh cheese, hitting every category,” he says. “You can’t make everyone happy, but if someone walks away loving five of the seven cheeses, that’s all they’re going to remember.”

Various cheeses on a wooden board

Related: Baked Camembert From Cheese: A Love Story

Don’t Buy in Bulk

Buying smaller quantities has other advantages when it comes to crafting a cheese board. “I never buy, or I never tell my customer to buy cheese in bulk. It has a life, and it does go off, especially if it is going in and out of the fridge, so buy what you’re going to enjoy,” says Afrim. “The maintenance, love, and care you give to cheese is equally important to it being made well with good quality milk and good technique. And a consumer’s job is not to store cheese, unless they happen to have a cheese cave—like we do. It’s my job here is to handle the cheese.”

However you construct them, cheese boards are both a unique expression of individual tastes and a way to share them with friends and family. Afrim sees cheese as a near-universal language that translates around the globe, bringing people together. “I love cheese, and I think a big part of this is showcasing the respect for such a simple ingredient: an ingredient we all love,” he says. “In this industry, like-minded people make magic.”

For more of Afrim’s great tips, check out how to buy, store and eat cheese or watch some of the most magical cheese moments from the show.

Watch Cheese: A Love Story and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

 

 

Cheese Shopping Mistakes

Advice From a Cheese Master: How to Buy, Store and Eat Cheese

Weekly trips to the grocery store just aren’t complete without a stop at the cheese counter. Whether feta for your Greek salad, sharp cheddar cheese for a vegetarian quiche, smoked gouda for homemade pizza night, there’s a cheese that will improve your dish in a way that your taste buds will thank you.  We sat down with a maître fromager (AKA cheese master) and Cheese: A Love Story host, Afrim Pristine for his dos and don’ts for buying cheese. 

Don’t Forget to Plan Ahead

Overbuying cheese is one of the most common rookie mistakes people make, Afrim says. First of all, cheese needs about two to four hours to breathe before being enjoyed. “If you overbuy, store it in your fridge, and take it back out again, the integrity of the cheese isn’t quite the same.”

Related:  The Facts You Never Knew About Cheese

Do Buy in Smaller Quantities

With this in mind, Pristine recommends buying four or five different cheeses but purchasing them in smaller amounts.  When you purchase the right amount of cheese that you need, you don’t need to worry about unintentional food waste.

Four different cheeses on a white countertop with garnishes

Don’t Store Cheese in Plastic Bags

Afrim recommends wrapping cheese in a layer of wax or parchment paper with another layer of tinfoil. This technique will help cheese have the proper amount of moisture it needs, he explains.

“Creamy cheeses can stay in the fridge for a maximum of 7 to 10 days.  Hard cheeses have a longer shelf life, but won’t be as enjoyable after more than a few weeks,” he says.

Do Seek Out Local Canadian Cheese

Did you know that provinces like Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and even Nova Scotia make world-class cheese? Make the most out of living in Canada’s unique cheese culture by trying out different local cheeses.

As a proud Torontonian, one of Afrim’s favourite Canadian cheese is a Mountainoak gouda from Ontario. “Mountainoak gouda is a pretty complex cheese. It’s very salty and nutty, kind of like butterscotch or a bar of very dark chocolate.”

Related: Meet a Toronto Chef Making His Own Cheeses

Three pieces of parmigiano reggiano

Don’t Stick to the Same Cheese Every Time

It can be all too easy to get into a cheese rut. You already know that grated Parmigiano-Reggiano will taste phenomenal over your legendary risotto or go-to Caesar salad, but why not mix it up and try new recipes centered around your favourite cheeses?

Curb any chance of cheese boredom by experimenting with new unique pairings regularly.  For example, if you like Parmigiano-Reggiano, try it how Afrim’s family recipe: a salad with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar, strawberries and basil.

Related: This Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread is a Cheese Lover’s Dream

Cheese counter with several wheels of cheese

Do Be Adventurous

“The best thing about cheese is that it’s personal,” Afrim explains, adding that’s what makes cheese so unique. “There’s so much variety, but I think it’s really up to you on the individual on what you like.”

In other words, don’t be afraid to get out of your element at your local cheese counter and test out a few unique combos in the kitchen. Or you can just try new options for beloved recipes, like these  perfect cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches. Trust us: the flavour payoff of going out of your comfort zone will be so worth it.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Watch Cheese: A Love Story with Afrim Pristine and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Afrim Pristine smiling and holding a plate of grilled cheese

4 Cheeses You Need at All Times, According to a Maitre Fromager

It doesn’t matter if you’re at home making your family a spaghetti and meatball dinner or are sharing a pot of traditional fondue in Switzerland— cheese makes almost any meal so much better. As a staple in nearly every culinary culture globally, it’s also the versatility of cheese that makes it so unique. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into making cheese,” says maître fromager (AKA cheese master) and Cheese: A Love Story host, Afrim Pristine.

For this reason, no matter what type of cheese you’re working with, it’s important to respect the ingredient, he explains. And with more than 25 years of experience, Afrim still thinks that the art of cheese making is all pretty magical. “We sell a ten-year-old cheddar in our store (Cheese Boutique),” he says. “What other foods can you see that are ten years old, and still unbelievably tasty?”

Whether you’re grating a sharp cheddar or are baking a block of feta for an oh-so-trendy pasta dish, cheese has the transformative power to elevate a recipe from simply memorable to unforgettably delicious. Pristine shares how home chefs can set themselves up for culinary success by incorporating these cheeses into everyday meals.

See More: This Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread is a Cheese Lover’s Dream

French hard comte cheese on a black plate with a knife

French Comte

French Comte is a big, bold, nutty sharp cheese. It can be purchased in most grocery stores, but that wasn’t always the case 20 years ago. Now it’s everywhere, Afrim says, which makes it easier for any cheese enthusiast to enjoy. For a beautiful pairing, serve a French Comte with slices of prosciutto and a glass of red wine.

Related: 10 Facts You Never Knew About Cheese 

Parmigiano-Reggiano wedge on a wooden cutting board with a grey background

 Parmigiano-Reggiano

A cheese that needs no introduction, Afrim says that even just the tiniest bite of Parmigiano Reggiano is something that he can’t help but savour. “A good, aged Parmigiano Reggiano that’s three or four years old is possibly one of the best cheeses ever made,” he says. In fact, he believes it’s one of the most important cheeses that’s ever been made. “It’s just so complex and versatile. And I love that. It’s something that’s always so easy to snack on.”

Manchego cheese wedge and slices on a wooden cutting board with grapes and a knife

Manchego

If you’re looking for a cheese that can elevate almost any meal, turn to manchego. This salty and tangy Spanish cheese is made from sheep’s milk, and Afrim says it’s the best bang for your buck. Manchego goes well with so many different types of food, he explains, adding that it can be served in a cheese wedge as a separate side dish that guests can munch on throughout the meal.

See More: The Perfect Swiss Cheese Board 

Blue cheese wedge on a white cutting board with jam and crackers

Blue Cheese

Aside from cilantro, few foods are quite as divisive as blue cheese: you either love it or hate it. For Afrim, blue cheese is his absolute favourite. “I love blue cheese because it grabs my taste buds and takes me for a ride,” he says, adding that the saltiness and creaminess are what makes it so great. If you’re hesitant about blue cheese, his advice is simple: keep experimenting.

Since there’s so much variety within mild and strong blue cheeses, it can take some time to experiment and find which type of blue you prefer. For a crowd-pleasing blue cheese dish, try these caramelized onion & blue cheese crostinis.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Watch Cheese: A Love Story with Afrim Pristine and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Afrim Pristine's Stinky Cheese Bread recipe from For The Love of Cheese

This Jalapeno Appenzeller Bread is a Cheese Lover’s Dream

I love using Appenzeller cheese when cooking because of its melting properties and the distinctive aroma it gives off when it’s melted. Image a beautiful summer day on a dairy farm in Appenzell, Switzerland. Flowers are blossoming, and the lush vegetation all around you is waving in a slight breeze. There’s a beautiful scent in the air and then a cow comes along and passes some gas. That’s exactly what your house will smell like after you make this recipe. I call that “pleasant pungeantness”.

Related: Irresistible Grilled Cheese Recipes

Afrim Pristine's Stinky Cheese Bread recipe from For The Love of Cheese

Embrace the Stinky Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 (or 1 hungry Afrim)

Ingredients:

1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
½ small white onion, coarsely chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded
½ cup (125 mL) cilantro
1 can (28oz/796 mL) whole tomatillos, drained
Juice from 1 fresh lime
Fine sea salt
1 ½ lb (700g) round loaf or sourdough rye bread
10 oz (285g) grated Appenzeller cheese

See More: Get to Know Afrim Pristine

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. To make the salsa verde, combine the garlic, onion, jalapeno and cilantro in a food processor. Process the ingredients until finely chopped. Add the tomatillos, and pulse until combined, but don’t pulse the living daylights out of it; be sure to leave some texture. Mix in the lime juice and season to taste with salt. Should you have any leftover salsa verde, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.

3. To assemble, place the loaf of bread on the prepared baking sheet.

Related: BC Wines You Need On Your Radar (Plus Drink Pairings)

4. Using a knife, make cuts 2 inches (5 cm) deep and 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart in the loaf. Rotate the loaf a quarter-turn and make the same cuts again to create 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes.

5. Pour some salsa verde into each of the cuts. Then take the cheese and stuff it into each of the cuts. Cover the loaf with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 7 minutes or until golden brown and cheese has melted.

6. Serve hot and tear this cheesy bread to shreds.

Excerpted from For the Love of Cheese: Recipes and Wisdom From the Cheese Boutique by Afrim Pristine. Copyright© 2018 Afrim Pristine. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

For the Love of Cheese: Recipes and Wisdom From the Cheese Boutique, Amazon, $30.

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Watch Cheese: A Love Story with Afrim Pristine and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

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