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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cheese Pairing

I have a head cold. Specifically a nose cold. I feel fine except for the sneezing. Unfortunately, this means I can't taste a dang thing, so instead of a cheese tasting, today I'm going to talk about cheese pairing. I recieved an email at work from a customer asking about how to pair cheese with fruit and greens. After sending the email I realized that this would be a great post and would give me a little more time to get my nose back too 100%.

*Fresh goat and sheep cheeses (Prairie Fruits Farm, Feta, Capriole): figs (fresh,dried or stewed), honey, fresh peaches, plums. Although fresh goat cheese has a slight citrus zest flavor profile, we do not recommend eating citrus fruit with it. Great with peppery or tart greens like arugula or dandelion.

*Soft-ripened/ash goat cheese (Bucheron, Sofia, Humbolt Fog) do well with honey, figs and nuts like toasted walnuts or toasted almonds. Some light fruit jam like strawberry or blueberry can add to the cheese plate.

*Double and triple creme (Brie, Nancy's Camembert, Picolo): Try some dried fruit like apricots, cherries or cranberries. Most nuts try to overpower the cheeses, so I would stick with fruit; dried, fresh or preserved.

*Washed rind cheeses (Mont St. Francis, Ardrahan, Tallegio): these can be a bit trickier. Ardrahan has a bit of a peanut, smoked bacon, caramel flavor to it. You could try a few shavings of chocolate, some juicy pears, or We might suggest a big fruit jam or compote like spiced cherry.

*Blue cheeses (Stichelton, Rogue River Blue, Gorgonzola Naturale): Most blue cheeses have a natural sweetness to them and go very well with honey and fruit jams such as membrillo, apple, or cherries. If using fresh fruit I would stick with stone fruit, grapes, apples or figs. When using dried fruit your options are almost limitless. In particular we like dried apricots, cranberries and figs. They also pair well with caramelized walnuts or hazelnuts and toasted almonds.

*Cheddars (Cabot Clothbound, 6 yr Cheddar, Montgomery's): are a great category for cheese pairing. For fruit, apples (honey crisp are glorious this time of year), pears, apricots. Nuts are also nice (toasted or caramelized). Jams/compotes such as quince, apricot, fig, blueberry can be a great addition.

*Young Unsmoked Gouda and other semi-firms (Marieke, Chaubier, Lancaster Duet): These cheeses often have a buttery, creamy flavor and texture and can get overpowered by accompaniments. Stick with apples, quince, pears (fresh, dried or spiced and preserved).

*Smoked cheeses (Fiore Sardo, Smoked Mozzarella) Toasted hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts are nice. Tomato jams and vegetable tapanades also do well.

*Firm cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, Manchego): These can go with a multitude of things. Membrillo is a great pairing for a firm Spanish cheese like Manchego or Idiazabal. High quality Parmigiano-Reggiano has a tropical fruit flavor profile to it that we love with pineapple pepper confit, or anything with some sweetness and a little bite.

*Aged Goudas (5 yr, Golden Goat, Coolea): These cheeses already have some nice caramel flavor profiles. They do very nicely with apricots, apples, pears, cherries.

Whenever Using nuts on a cheese plate remember that nuts have a slight bitterness to them that is enhanced when served raw. The best way to use them is either when they've been toasted or candied/caramelized. Pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts are usually best for cheese plates.

As far as salad greens go, arugula is one of the nicest greens for cheese. It has a nice peppery flavor that lends itself very well to cheeses like fresh goat or sheep cheese, earthy Camemberts, Cheddars, or blue cheeses. Taste your greens first. If they are very bitter, you need a cheese to help balance that out. When in doubt, a bag of mixed greens does very well in any situation.

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