On March 19, a very eventful day, after our visit to Peñamellera Alta (La Cueva Llonín and La Aula de la Miel), in the afternoon Nacho Molina took me to visit Manuel Monje Torre's quesería in Panes in Peñamellera Baja.
When the Denomination of Origin control board for Cabrales drew the demarcation lines, the village of Panes was left out. Manuel Monje, who has made his pasteurized naturally bluing Monje cheese for more than sixty years, told me “Our cheeses are in the style of Cabrales, but each producer has his own style and methods of producing cheese, so our comes out somewhat different. Some Cabrales cheeses come out too dark, some too white. We strive for consistency of color and flavor. We go for less weight volume–which he says is based on humidity–which means higher quality. We used to age our cheeses in caves that had prehistoric paintings, about which I kept quiet. When we moved our cheese curing operations to Panes, the Asturian government took over the caves.”
Monje is creamy, easy to eat and does not have as sharp a favor as some aged Cabrales. When young, it does not appear to be as blue, but with air the color darkens.
After our visit to Monje, Nacho Molina and I had lunch (and a very revealing personal conversation--great guys' talk) at the Hotel-Restaurant Covadonga in the town of Panes. After lunch Manuel Monje re-joined us for coffee at the bar, where I took these photographs of domino players and habitues of the bar.
In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés.
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