I’m on a quest to find Manila’s best cheese boards, and in the course of my search, I decide to make my own. Though cheese can start or end a meal, it can also be the main course supplemented with a salad and fruit.
My food books tell me that I should choose cheese from several categories (hard, soft-ripened, blue, etc.) and I do set out to do it by the book but I’m seduced by the selections at the deli. So I go with what I like and disregard dictum. I buy a Raw Mild Cheddar aged for 60 days, smoked Gouda, and a wedge of Truffle Noir cheese that’s irresistibly intoxicating.
I think the best cheese boards are those with biscuits, definitely not a nod to my food books that behoove that bread is better. I like biscuits but I want something aside from the usual. Browsing through the supermarket, I find something that pleasantly surprises me.
It’s a Malaysian brand called Julie’s that offers an entire line of biscuits, both sweet and savory. At first I relate it to the local Julie’s bakeshop but when I catch sight of the Bahasa Malaysia on the packaging which I actually understand since I grew up in Indonesia, I take a closer look. Established in 1980, Julie’s is focused on quality, its products free from preservatives and additives. The biscuits are in individual packs of two or three, perfect for grabbing and going, or preparing a cheese board, as the case may be.
For that, I choose three types of biscuits to go with my trio of cheeses. The Wheat Crackers are solid with a delightfully wheaty flavor. They have a nice salty end note also reflected by the Butter Crackers which are unexpectedly buttery for a packaged biscuit. Then there’s the Oat 25 which intrigues with its lengthy list of “10 Grains”: oat, rye flakes, sesame, triticale flakes, cracked spelt, barley flakes, wheat flakes, millet, quinoa, and brown flax. So tasty and healthy too! In addition, Oat 25 also comes in another variant, strawberry, but that’ll have to wait for another time.
When I was in grade school, my favorite snack was Ritz Crackers’ N Cheez. The rectangular pack came equipped with a small red “spatula” that was meant to spread the cheese (dip) onto the crackers. My happy school moments were made of these but I don’t even know if this particular snack still exists. Still, it’s what I’m reminded of when I bite into the Cheese Sandwich biscuits, also made by Julie’s. The cheese filling is imported from the US and the entire biscuit is tantalizingly crispy and just salty enough to make me want to eat more. It makes me sentimental. I just won’t look at the nutritional and allergen info that’s so thoughtfully included on the packaging because it doesn’t hew with my carefree grade school memories when calories didn’t count.
Because I’m nuts for peanut butter anything, I also like the Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies. Each bite sends a cascade of crumbs – so light! so undeniably addicting! – with a peanutty flavor shooting through the buttery crunch. The Le-Mond (yes, that’s its name) Puff Sandwich has a perky lemon zing tempered with a mango-flavored cream. The combination is unique and takes some getting used to I‘ll admit, but it grows on me.
Rich Tea Oat and Butter Waffles, which taste like lengua de gato with the addition of a unique mesh top.
MARIE biscuits are one of my ingredient stand-bys when it comes to making cookie pie crusts. Nothing can beat blitzing and pressing in crumbs when I’m too darn lazy to fashion a crust with flour and butter. Lately however, I’ve replaced MARIE with Julie’s Rich Tea Oat. A dead ringer for the former, it’s even got ‘Rich Tea’ embedded onto its front. I like this biscuit because it’s as hardy as MARIE and can make a pie crust of integrity. Its flavor is also similar with a distinctive and pleasant oat-y note. My simple cheesecake couldn’t be happier with the upgrade. As an aside, research shows me that Julie’s also makes a biscuit called a Big Marie that looks like the MARIE that I know. Small world, but I’m sure that Julie’s Marie is better.
Biscuit line available at all larger supermarkets.