Welcome to the third installment of our Winter Cheese Plate Winners! Here’s where you’ll find five weeks of our winning foodie bloggers, sharing their personal spins on our Winter 2012 Cheese Plate! This next post in our series comes from Leah McFadden, the ACS-Certified Cheese Professional and blogger behind Shootin’ The Bries, where she recounts her many adventures in cheese tasting! Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the fourth post in this series, from Caitlin Harvey, of Milk’s Leap!
I decided to take the purist approach when highlighting this winter cheese plate . There is nothing like finding a truly delicious pairing and seeing my guest’s eyes light up when they experience the “tasty explosion” that occurs.
Behold, the cheese plate…
We started off with the Comté.
Most of my guests had never had this amazing cheese before. They were pleased with the rich buttery taste and texture as well as the nutty and floral notes. There was some fun discussion on the tyrosine crystals that added the slight crunch to the paste.
For the pairing I decided to stick with the French theme and chose a Vouvray. The high acidity yet slight sweetness of the Chenin Blanc grapes partnered with the creaminess of the cheese to create a flavor reminiscent of butter and honey. On a whim, I added a Zingerman’s Spiced Pecan to the mix and it blew my mind…
Next, the Great Lakes Cheshire.
While I’d only ever tasted the English Cheshire, I was very pleased with this domestic version. The taste is comparable to a bandage-wrapped cheddar with its slightly salty yet earthy and grassy flavor with a “zing” at the end, which my guests and I had fun talking about.
For the pairing, this cheese just begged for a beer. I chose to use the Rayon Vert from Green Flash Brewing, a Belgian-style pale ale. This beer has a touch of sour from the Brettanomyces, is drier and super carbonated with a nice floral nose. The beer, when tasted with the cheese, mellowed out the bite at the end and really highlighted the richness of the milk used to make the cheese. This ended up being the favorite pairing of the night for a few of my guests, including my sister, who ended up polishing off both the beer and the cheese .
And to finish off the plate, the Bayley Hazen from Jasper Hill Farm– a personal favorite.
This cheese is phenomenal. It doesn’t have the intensity of a lot of the blue cheeses out in the market today. The mold lends a small bite but really takes a back seat to the other flavors in the paste. When I tasted it this time around I tasted a lot of butter, hazelnut, and hints of salt. It is a bit on the dry side, so when considering what to pair with it, my mind wandered to the sweeter libations.
I have to give credit to my coworker and partner in crime, Jeannie, for helping me with this pairing. I was thinking about using a Moscato, but she recommended the Saracco Moscato d’Asti … and wow did she hit the ball out of the park! This wine was wonderfully sweet while not being syrupy and really balanced out the slight bite the mold gave the cheese. And because it was a “d’Asti”, it had a little bit of effervescence, which cut through the rich butter flavor of the paste. Out of all of the pairings, this was my favorite. Even my non-blue-cheese-loving guests appreciated this pairing. The flavor with the cheese and wine combined made me feel like I was enjoying a piece of salted caramel. Delicious!
You can see that no cheese was left behind in this tasting. Everyone really enjoyed the cheeses and pairings and I promised to hold another cheese tasting party in the near future. I hope that you all have the opportunity to enjoy delicious artisan cheeses with your friends and family too! Until then…
…my friends and I say “Salud”!