First time visitors to Flour Child, a bar that prides itself on its extensive drinks list, we were impressed with the decor, with large illuminated displays of cleverly arranged bottles of alcohol in cabinets along walls and leading down the corridor. Situated on the first floor, in a prime location on Acland Street, the venue has a long wall of large windows, looking out onto the passing world on the street below and beyond. Fellow diners tell us that in summer, the windows are opened up, giving the place an 'indoor/outdoor' feel.
Flour Child - impressive decor and large windows along one wall. (Image from Flour Child's Facebook page.)
We were greeted with an Aperol Spritz, which was included in the $80 price of the masterclass and dinner and then shown to one of the tables along the wall of windows.
We were introduced to Giorgio Linguanti, owner of That's Amore Cheese, and co-host of the evening. By way of background, Giorgio arrived in Melbourne in 2004, not speaking a word of English. Within four years, he had not only opened his own cheese company, but also won an award for his cheese, and has since continued to win awards. Giorgio started with just one cheese - Bocconcini Leaf - because he identified a gap in the market, and he soon developed a strong supporter base within the Italian restaurant community in Melbourne.
These days, that's Amore Cheese operates a large facility in Thomastown, which includes a cheesery, deli and cafe. The company is now supplying cheese to more than 10 countries, has a team of 100, and makes more than 40 types of cheeses.
With these credentials, we felt like we were in safe hands as we embarked on the 12-course cheese-based degustation dinner.
Giorgio explained that the fresher soft cheeses paired well with seafood. I admit I was dubious, but two dishes in and I was convinced. The first was Oyster with Buffalo Mozzarella, which was a flavour sensation. The creamy mozzarella, oyster and a spoonful of plump trout caviar worked harmoniously, yet was bursting with flavours.
Oyster with Buffalo Mozzarella. (Writer's image.)
The second course was Bocconcini Leaf with smoked salmon and spinach. As previously noted, this was the first cheese produced by Giorgio when he started his business, and he is still understandably proud of this product. Bocconcini Leaf is sold as a flat Mozzarella sheet, ready to be filled and rolled. This mild cheese worked beautifully with the salmon and spinach, and it would be an easy way to prepare an impressive looking starter for a dinner party.
Bocconcini Leaf with smoked salmon and spinach. (Image credit: David Bignell.)
After these courses, there was a break while Giorgio provided a demonstration of how to make mozzarella. In what appeared to be some type of cheese alchemy, Giorgio somehow created perfect rounds of fresh mozzarella from what started off as a wet bowl of curd.
Giorgio Linguanti - cheese alchemist! (Image credit: David Bignell.)
Even better, we then got to sample the fresh mozzarella, which was creamy and smooth, and a million miles away from the plastic-wrapped version you buy in a supermarket.
We moved onto a dish which is a specialty of Flour Child's - a Mortadella and Burrata Pinsa. 'Pinsa' is the Latin word for 'flat bread'. It's different from a standard pizza because of the unique blend of flour used - a combination of soy, rice, and wheat flours and dry yeast. This recipe and the unique mixing, kneading, rising and stretching process is not practiced anywhere else in Australia. It produces a pizza that is crunchy on the outside (even when cold) and soft in the middle. There was no danger of this Pinsa getting cold!
Mortadella and Burrata Pinsa. (Writer's image.)
There were too many courses to cover in detail, however, another standout was the pan-fried Buffalo Caciotta with honey and mint. It was served on a platter with truffled cheese and mushroom arancini, with ricotta mayonnaise. The hit of sweetness from the honey paired so well with the soft creaminess of the Caciotta.
Pan fried Buffalo Caciotta with honey and mint. (Image credit: David Bignell.)
The meal was rounded out with - what else but a cheese platter! This was the opportunity for Giorgio to showcase some of his bolder flavoured and speciality cheeses: Drunken Buffalo, Squacquerone and Buffalo Blue. They demonstrated that Giorgio is a versatile and masterful cheesemaker.
And of course, no degustation would be complete without a dessert. Here, there were two on offer - Pinsa-Misu, and Cannoli - the latter a specialty of That's Amore's sister business, Cannoleria by That's Amore. Sadly, I had eaten so much by that stage that I could only gaze longingly at the platter of sweets in front of me.
Dessert platter - Cannoli (left) and Pinsa-Misu. (Writer's image.)
Each of the courses came with a recommendation for a matched drink, with drinks available for purchase at bar prices.
I felt this was a well structured, informative and indulgent evening - heaven for any cheese lover. The organisation was very professional, including communication with attendees in advance of and during the session. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this session to others.
Flour Child is a great venue, and I have a feeling we'll be back for a drink soon.
While at this stage, there are no further Cheese Masterclass and Degustation Dinners scheduled, Flour Child does have two other masterclasses coming up. On 27th April, there is Italians Down Under, an evening in collaboration with Pikes Wines, which has been growing Italian grape varieties in Australia since 1993. There's also a Sparkling Wine Cocktail Education Experience, which includes three cocktails you can make yourself then consume. These nights would make a great gift for the foodie in your life, or grab a friend or two and get involved. Keep an eye on the Flour Child Academy's page for upcoming events, including a possible repeat of the cheese masterclass.
Or for a deep cheese experience, consider a visit to That's Amore Cheese, 66 Latitude Boulevard, Thomastown. It's open seven days (closed public holidays). That's Amore also runs cheese making classes.