As the weather turns chillier the idea of fondue seems better than a few months ago.
When it was already hot outside, the idea of hot fondue may not have seemed so appealing, though I can recall seeing a crock of fondue on nearly every table in August at the Artisanal Bistro! Part of the attraction to fondue is probably because it is so primordial, like a baby having its first food at body temperature milk. Warming up cheese releases more of those aromatic compounds which are so endearing as well as delicious on the palate.
At this time we have several cheese candidates for delicious fondues, not only the Alpine types but also cheddars, pressed sheep milk cheeses, even blues. The classic fondues call for the aged pressed cow milk cheeses such as Gruyère, Comté, Tarentaise and Fontina d’Aosta or Vacherin Fribourgeois (both of which claim to be the original fondue cheese). The cheeses that work well for fondues also work pretty well for making raclettes and vice versa, such as Val Bagner or Raclette itself. All of these cheeses are so tasty on their own that I see little reason to go to the trouble melting them down; just enjoy them at room temperature.
Yet again, fondues and raclettes are very nice, especially as the weather turns colder. Part of their desirability is the opioid peptides cheese contains, peptides that help us deal with stress and pain (as in the stresses and pains of cold weather).
Fondue is fairly simple to make, and it requires just a few ingredients. We have a fondue mix ready to go; all you need is a little white wine and a crisp baguette. The mix is shredded and mixed, ready to melt down in the wine, and then enjoy. One of our more popular hands-on classes is Fondue. In this class you learn how to make different amazing fondues that are great for entertaining.
The fondue has regained an appreciation in this country after it was nearly forgotten. It could have become extinct due to the inferior quality of many of the cheeses we had available. No wonder they were only so popular! Now we have superior fondue and raclette cheese types that are being crafted here in the U.S., as well as access to many inimitable old world styles.
For more information about Artisanal Cheese, Fondue or Max McCalman, please visit our website.
An article written by a cheese guy would uncover more facets of the mysteries of affinage than one written by someone outside the industry. The recent article in the NY Times made for interesting reading: the pitting of the affinage naysayers and those who are strong proponents of the practice(s). The article concluded with evidence the cheeses that were given extra care were superior to those that had not; one of the cheeses in the latter group was inedible. Whether it was admitted or not there are plenty of things that happen to cheese once it is formed; some of those things are beneficial while many others can be seriously detrimental. Simple aging involves a number of processes that occur on their own, yet careful monitoring of these processes is critical.
An immature cheese has less character than a mature cheese. To bring that young cheese to where it reaches its optimal level of ripeness includes several skill sets, several beyond what the cheese maker generally provides.
While some established cheese mongers claim their cheese-handling task is simple: to avoid screwing up a good cheese, this alone involves far more than temperature and humidity-controlled storage. It is no wonder that many people don’t like cheese. Lazy and imprecise cheese handling (or simple neglect) can yield a lame gustatory experience.
When I call the Artisanal Cheese Center a “day school” for cheese it barely scratches the surface of what we aim to accomplish in nurturing our cheeses. The critical first few hours and days of a cheese are almost always left to the cheese maker. After that the “finishing” is left up to the retailer who then sells it to the end-consumer. Perhaps a better analogy is to call our enterprise a “finishing school.”
To “elevate” a cheese is not rocket science. Some people who handle cheeses seem to have the knack. Under the tutelage of one of those experts a cheese can reach its optimal peak. Without those skills and talent a cheese can easily succumb to the catacombs.
Whether we care to admit it or not, affinage is practiced by a growing number of Americans. Along with the growing appreciation for cheese here, there is a greater need for this expertise. This is one reason the American Cheese Society has endorsed a certification effort for cheese handlers. By this time next year we expect there will be several individuals who have attained this certification. A big part of this will include knowledge of good cheese-handling practices.
Cheese is a living food, a near-perfect food, but it is also a perishable food. The affineur must include safe handling in their cheese studies. Fortunately cheese has some built-in qualities which make it a safe food, safer than most other foods.
For the person who said Portugal and Ireland were newcomers in the cheese world, they should be advised that cheese has been a food staple in both those regions for almost as long as it has been in Italy and Spain, since well before any of those countries were known by those names. What is now called France is as much a newcomer as is Portugal.
What is happening with affinage here in the US is encouraging. With these developments I expect artisan cheeses to taste better and better. Good affinage speaks for itself.
Everywhere you turn now people seem to be talking about pairing foods and beverages, especially the cheese and beverage pairings. This could be partly because we started digging into this study almost twenty years ago and now it seems like everyone’s doing it. Our pairings began with the focus on cheese and wine. The beer lovers hopped on the pairing bandwagon, then spirits aficionados, sakes cognoscenti, tea drinkers, coffee lovers, etc.
Cheese has been enjoyed with beers and wines for many centuries, the other ones are more recent studies. Yet Americans seem to have a near-obsession with the pairings, whatever the food and beverage, as though if we get it wrong we have made an egregious error. The pairing principles are good tools to use to master pairings but the variables are limitless, and we have to admit that it is a little subjective.
Our preferences for certain cheeses or wines (or other beverages) likely has a big say in our pairing assessments. For example, if we are particularly fond of Pinot Noir we might find more successful pairings with that grape than with a wine we avoid. The same goes for the cheeses. In our Cheese & Wine 101 class we dissect the pairings of several cheese types with a range of wines.
This “laboratory” is probably not the way most people experience cheeses and wines–by mixing them in the mouth and noting what happens as the mixture crosses the palate. It is normally a less formal or academic exercise, one that is more leisurely. We have a sip of wine then we have a nibble of cheese a little later. Most people do not consciously force the two together simultaneously. Even though the “forced” pairing is not taking place in these casual situations the results can be very much the same. If the cheese and wine were not good mates to begin with, they probably eventually leave a disappointing finish.
More often than not, cheeses and wines (or beers) do work well together. Again, we all have our personal preferences and sometimes the confluence of flavors and aromas between the cheeses and beverages can bring out new flavors and aromas which some of us may enjoy while others do not. Those aromatics are what “seals-the-deal” in pairings not just with cheese but with all foods.
The balancing relationships between cheeses and wines have several parallels: the “fruit” in the wine (or beer or other beverage) balances the salty or savory characteristics in the cheese. The saltier cheeses pair better with the fruitier wines, generally even better with the so-called “dessert” wines. Those wines with higher levels of residual sugar should be called “cheese” wines. When you already have sweet in your dessert why would you want to top it off with a little more sugar in the wine? One of the classic matches between a cheese and wine is the one between a salty Roquefort and a sweet Sauternes.
Another balancing act between cheeses and beverages is how they relate to overall “size” of flavor. The bigger flavored cheeses can annihilate a milder wine. It is usually better to have the cheese and wine find a matching fullness of flavor otherwise the cheese can change the wine into water, so to speak. The gentle wine may wash the big cheese down nicely but the subtleties in the wine may be lost.
We have found that the more acid cheeses generally work better with the more acid wines. All wines are more acid than all cheeses. If the cheeses had those low pH levels they would be intolerable. This is more a relationship of harmony than an actual see-saw balance. This is perhaps one reason why beers and cheeses can mate so well, the pH levels in beers are rarely as acid as those in wines.
Speaking of beers, the texture of each partner plays a not insignificant role. The effervescence in beers helps to lift up the butter fats and acids in cheeses so that they swirl around in the mouth like Balanchine. Wines have their textures too; it is not just “advantageous” sparkling wines and still wines. The mouth feel of still wines can be notably different. One varietal such as a Chardonnay has a round texture compared to a Sauvignon Blanc. This overall mouth feel is drawn from a number of qualities: acid, astringent (as those presented in tannic wines), trace minerals, barrel influence, and any effervescence.
Cheeses obviously have their own textures. Some are liquid like water while others are nearly as hard as granite. This is a relationship between cheeses and beverages that may be a little less important than others yet we have found that the firmer the cheese the better the mating with the beverage. This could be partly because the flavors in the cheese become more focused as they harden and age; the salts become more pronounced – those salts which play off the liquid partner so well, especially a liquid partner on the sweeter side. The softer cheeses often work best with the more effervescent beverages. The flavors in a younger softer cheese can be a bit scattered and unfocused compared to the harder cheeses. The bubbles provide a little texture to the duet.
Again, in more cases than not, cheeses and wines or other beverages do work well together. There are the occasional bad marriages but they are much less frequent than the successes. It should be noted that the hungrier and thirstier you are the more likely they pairings will be pleasing.
A post on Vegetarian Blues has me in fits. An old article from the Orlando Sentinel is quoted:
Of all the potentially addicting foods, cheese may be the most complex. In research studies using vegan and vegetarian diets to control cholesterol or reduce body weight, most participants soon forget the lure of ice cream, sour cream, and even burgers and chicken. But for many people, the taste for cheese lingers on and on. Yes, 70 percent of its calories may come from waist-augmenting fat, and, ounce for ounce, it may harbor more cholesterol than a steak. But that cheese habit is tough to break.
Give me a break! Yes, cheese has addictive properties but I am fully certain that the consumption of cheese is a good addiction to have, and for many reasons. It is interesting to note that the first two foods cited as easy to â€œforget the lure ofâ€¦â€ are also dairy products: ice cream and sour cream. The lure of dairy is always present, the primordial food that milk is in its many forms.
One of the biggest reasons why it is so difficult to give up on cheese is that our bodies know a good food when it eats it. Those addictive opioid peptides found in cheese actually help control our food intake. They also play a role in motivation, emotion, and the response to stress and pain. If a food delivers a lot of nutrition while helping to control our appetite then a little additional motivation and alleviation of pain should be permitted.
The article goes on to say that the cheese industry is looking for those Americans who will eat it straight out of the package, whatever the cost to their waistlines or cholesterol levels. It fails to mention a number of cheese components that can help you to slim down. Along with those appetite-controlling opioid peptides there is the satiety factor to be considered. Cheese (being a near-complete food) tends to satisfy us so that we do not crave excess amounts of food, cheese included. A little bit of cheese goes a long way.
A misconception I often hear is that it is the fat itself which makes us put on weight. More accurately it is instead the excess calories we consume but do not expend. Of course you can derive calories from fat, but you can also derive calories from protein and carbohydrates. The fat that is found in cheese not only makes the cheese taste good, it also helps to satisfy our cravings. That fat also breaks down into some mighty important fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. Multiple studies of the type of CLA found in dairy products have shown that it helps to reduce our weight; some studies indicate that a diet that contains this fatty acid can reduce abdominal fat! Another benefit of CLA is that it decreases whole-body glucose uptake. This is what we want.
There are several other good qualities of this addictive food. Cheese is an excellent source of the amino acid which suppresses our appetites and helps to reduce body fat â€“ tyrosine. Other amino acids, vitamins and minerals that are derived from cheese help to lower our cholesterol levels and control our appetites, and to metabolize the fats and proteins that we do consume.
The cheese industry does not claim that cheese is perfect but given a choice of foods there is no other that matches the complete nutrition that cheese provides, and there is no other food with a better track record for food safety. Cheese is derived from our first food â€“ milk â€“ our first and only food for the first several weeks or months our lives. Unfortunately, what in many cases passes for cheese is so far removed from our first food that it is no wonder that cheese has been repeatedly and viciously maligned. Yet even those processed cheeses are still better foods for us than most any other, and a safer food too.
By the way, my cholesterol levels are amazing and I am quite slim. My HDL is 163 and my LDL is 64, not bad for someone my age. Good genes donâ€™t hurt but the 100 pounds of cheese that I eat each year does not seem to be hurting either.
I am so excited to share these photos with you! My sister got me a 3-month subscription to Artisanalâ€˜s Cheese of the Month Club for my birthday. My first delivery arrived in July, and I am just giddy with excitement! Cheese is my favorite food in the world (even more than dessert, can you imagine?) â€“ if I could only have one food for the rest of my life, I would choose cheese. I would never tire from the variety of textures, aromas, and flavor profiles; Iâ€™ve never met a cheese I didnâ€™t like! As a restaurant devoted entirely to cheese, Artisanal is one of my favorite places to dine in the city. But enough about me, letâ€™s get on with the CHEESE!
Oh, the goodness that was waiting inside this box was tantalizing:
I opened up the package, and packed in an insulated bag were four odoriferous bundles of heaven:
Also included was a â€œCheese Clockâ€ which provided â€œessential wisdom for selecting, presenting and enjoying Artisanal Premium Cheese!â€ â€“ well, if thereâ€™s any type of wisdom I like itâ€™s cheese wisdom:
Finally, Artisanal included a detailed description of each cheese with suggested wine pairings and flavor notes:
While this blog unfortunately doesnâ€™t have taste-o-vision, below are photos of each cheese, as well as the included description in the notes. First off, Robiola Nostrano (Mild):
â€œThe Robiola Nostrano is produced by Stagionatura Guffanti in northwest Italy. The cheese tastes a little like a Brie but it delivers a luscious flavor that you do not find in the bries we have available to us in the US. The soft unctuous texture is especially pleasing. The rind allows for good air exchange that enhances the overall quality of the cheese. This version is made with all cowsâ€™ milk, though occasionally they have one available that has other milks added. The Robiola Nostrano is not a cheese that you will have to worry about having any leftovers; they are so delicious that they are invariable finished properly.â€
The texture of this cheese is rich, creamy and luxurious on the tongue. The taste is mild, hence the recommendation to start with this cheese, and what a delightful start it is!
In the Medium category, we have Stella Royale:
â€œStella Royale is a traditional style of pressed sheep milk cheese from northwest Spain. The milk for this especially nutritious cheese comes from the Churra breed, a native of the region that is able to thrive throughout the extremes of the seasons. The high quality milk produces a cheese with a full-flavored nutty flavor that lingers luxuriously on the palate.â€
The Stella holds its own with a drier, slightly crumbly texture and just the lightest hint of a bite. I especially enjoyed it with the tiniest nibble of fig cake â€“ the sweet and salty juxtaposition was very satisfying!
The Bold selection was Tomme Fermiere dâ€™ Alsace:
â€œTomme Fermiere dâ€™Alsace is a firm, washed-rind (smear) cowâ€™s milk cheese made in the Alsace region of France. We receive this cheese into our caves and continue the maturing process for an additional two to four months, washing each wheel several times with a light Alsatian wine. This dramatically accentuates the lactic flavors and develops long, fruity notes with hints of mushrooms, grass and butter.â€
Unlike the Robiola, this cheese has a firmer, more robust texture â€“ however, it is just as creamy and buttery. I tasted notes of the wine wash on the Tomme Fermiere dâ€™Alsace, which I especially appreciated. Heavenly!
To round off the plate, we finish with a Strong selection, the Bleu dâ€™Auvergne:
â€œBleu dâ€™ Auvergne is a name-protected (Denomination Origine Protected, DOP) cheese from the Auvergne region in south-central France, where it has been made since the middle of the 19th century. Bleu dâ€™Auvergne is made in the traditional manner from cowâ€™s milk and features blue veining throughout. Its moist, sticky rind conceals a soft paste possessing a grassy, herbaceous and (with age) spicy, pungent taste. Here at the Artisanal Premium Center, we allow this cheese to drain until it reaches the creamy consistency we desire. Bleu dâ€™Auvergne pairs well with Alsatian Rieslings and classic dessert wines such as a Sauternes.â€
I said I wouldnâ€™t name favorites, but that was before I met Bleu dâ€™Auvergne â€“ if you love blues, you will LOVE this cheese; I sure did! Suuuper creamy, tangy and very â€œspicy,â€ this was the perfect specimen of a blue. I dare you to find a better one, I dare you!
And below is a group photo, arranged as suggested by the Cheese Clock guide! Yummmm:
Iâ€™m waiting for my sister to enjoy the cheese with me this coming weekend, but as you can tell from my descriptions, Iâ€™ve sampled a small portion of each â€“ and they are gooooood. I canâ€™t wait to try a heartier portion of each variety this weekend, but my favorite thus far is the Bleu dâ€™Auvergne (couldnâ€™t you tell? haha) â€“ its juxtaposition of creamy texture and tangy bite is heavenly. Iâ€™m a lucky girl! I think this may be my favorite â€œthing-of-the-monthâ€ Iâ€™ve ever encountered. Now if only there were lifetime subscriptionsâ€¦
For more information, contact:
Black Twig Communications
314-255-2340 x 103
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Cheese Connoisseur Announces Book Signing Tour in St. Louis Author Max McCalman will be making appearances at five Schnucks locations
NEW YORK (July 20, 2011) â€“ Artisanal Brands, Inc. (OTCQB:AHFP) today announced that Max McCalman, Dean of Curriculum and MaÃ®tre Fromager at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center, will hold a book signing in St. Louis, Missouri on July 29 and 30 to promote his third book, Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a MaÃ®tre Fromager. McCalman will appear at the following St. Louis locations:
Friday, July 29, 2011:
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Schnucks Arsenal, 5505 Arsenal Road
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Schnucks Richmond Center, 6600 Clayton Road
4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Schnucks Ladue, 8867 Ladue Road
Saturday, July 30, 2011:
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Schnucks Lindbergh, 10275 Clayton Road
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Schnucks Des Peres, 12332 Manchester Road
â€œMax is one of the cheese worldâ€™s most respected authorities on artisan cheeses and he has been a highly visible advocate for artisan cheesemakers around the world,â€ said Daniel W. Dowe, president and CEO of Artisanal. â€œMastering Cheese is the first of Maxâ€™s books to include extensive information on the artisan cheese revolution in the United States. We are all very appreciative of the work Max has done for our company and the entire industry.â€
McCalman is America’s first restaurant-based MaÃ®tre Fromager, and Garde et Jure as designated by France’s Guilde des Fromagers. He joined New York City-based restaurant Picholine in 1994 where he created the restaurant’s fabled cheese program with Chef-Proprietor Terrance Brennan. McCalman later established the critically acclaimed cheese programs at Artisanal Brasserie & Fromagerie restaurant, followed by the Artisanal Cheese Center, both in New York City.
In Mastering Cheese, McCalman condenses his vast knowledge into a single, one-of-a-kind volume that is the ultimate masterâ€™s class on cheese. The book presents in-depth information on everything from production methods and the laws that govern cheese naming, to choosing what cheese to buy at the grocery store and what wines or beers to pair with it. Organized into twenty-two distinct lessons, each lesson focuses on eight to 15 cheeses and ends with how-to information on creating a tasting plate from the knowledge garnered, bringing the experience to delectable life.
Mastering Cheese won “Best in the World Book on Cheese” for 2011 from the esteemed Gourmand International World Cook Book Awards, and was a finalist in the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Food & Beverage Reference/Technical category for 2011.
Artisanal Premium Cheese recently launched its products in St. Louis area Schnuck Markets along with its four-color cheese selection and wine and beer pairing system called the CheeseClock by Artisanalâ„¢. The CheeseClock by Artisanalâ„¢ gives consumers the guidance they need to confidently purchase cheeses and pair them with wines and beers in the very same fashion as a professional chef would present them in fine dining from mild to strong. Cheeses available include: (mild) Laurier, Rocky Sage, Brillat Savarin, Geit-in-Stad; (medium) Camembert, Pecorino Sardo, Tarraluna, Stella Royale; (bold) Uplands Pleasant Ridge, Artisanal 2-year Cheddar, Tomme Fermiere Dâ€™Alsace; (strong) Gouda Aged 4-years, North Country Blue, La Peral, Artisanal Roquefort.
About Artisanal Premium Cheese
Artisanal Brands, Inc. markets and distributes a line of specialty, artisanal and farmstead cheese products, as well as other related specialty food products under its own brand to food wholesalers and retailers, as well as directly to consumers through its catalogue and Web site, artisanalcheese.com. The company is based in New York, New York. For more information about Artisanal, visit www.artisanalcheese.com.
We may consider Pilsners to be on the light side of the beer spectrum but this does not mean they should be taken lightly. When it comes to pairing them with cheeses the Pilsners can hold their own with some of the big guns, stinky cheeses included.
The water used to produce the best Pilsners is softened; this helps give them clarity and it allows the hop aromas and flavors to come forth. These distinct aromas and flavors is what give Pilsners their heft, while the alcohol contents of most of them remain moderate. This hop-forwardness of Pilsners can present pairing challenges to some of the milder goat cheeses, whereas other less flavorful lagers can meld pretty well with that family of cheese types.
Not to over-analyze it but we want to mindful of the potential for mismatches, particularly when they occur with goat cheeses. The goat cheeses can clash with some beverage partners, while on the other hand, the good goat cheese matches can be sublime. When the clashes do occur we just want to make sure that we donâ€™t blame the goat! Goat cheeses have been much-maligned long enough. As I have noted over the years, the first no-no I get from people contemplating a selection of cheeses is the avoidance of goat.
The second no-no we hear when people select their cheeses is to skip the blues; almost as many people shy away from the blue cheeses as those that skip the goats. On the blue (strong) end of the cheese spectrum is where the Pilsners may also falter. For most cheese categories in between these two bookend cheese types, the milder goats and the big bad blues, Pilsners perform admirably. To savor the finer qualities in a Pilsner you may want to skip over the blues.
If we skip the mild young goat cheeses and the blues (but do not entirely write either of them off) we can find a broad grouping of cheeses that are Pilsner friendly: most cows, some sheep cheeses (which tend to be versatile with more beverages anyway) and some mixed milk cheeses. The pressed sheep milk cheeses such as the Bianco Sardo, Ossau Iraty, or Stella Royale have their own full aromas that can balance the aromas in the Pilsners.
There are a couple of other cow cheese categories that fit the bill: the cheddar types and the cooked curd or Gouda types. The success with the Pilsners can be attributed to the â€œsharpnessâ€ in those cheeses: the acid, the salt, as well as the texture. When you have all these pronounced qualities in cheeses a chilled Pilsner can be just the ticket. The Gouda, 4 y.o.; the Roomano; the Terraluna or the Quickeâ€™s Cheddar; any of these leave a happy ending in the mouth and tummy.
I trust that you know that cheese is a near-complete food, a delicious food that offers a full range of nutrients, pretty much everything except for vitamin C and fiber. This is one reason why cheese pairs so well with fruits. It is more than the aesthetics, it is a valuable nutritional consideration as well. Cheese has a way of satisfying us before we have consumed enough calories. This is one of several ways that cheese can help you lose weight â€“ that you can reach satiety before you have sufficient calories. You can pick up a few extra calories from the fruit, but for those of us who prefer to have our fruit in the morning, what is our other calorie choice for the rest of the day?
This is where the beer comes in. It is the aesthetic partner, and one that provides some of those make-up calories. Beers have their fruity flavors, some have more than others. These flavors can be hidden when a beer is high in the IBUâ€™s (international bittering units) but the â€œfruitâ€ is still present, or it should be. These flavors help give cheese and beer that potential for matching aesthetically.
We tasted a pilsner with a range of cheeses recently. No two pilsners are the same, of course. This one was a little heavier than most; it was more of a German style of Pilsner. The hops were more dominant so you might consider this a medium-flavored beer. The first cheese in the mix that stood out with this beer was a perfectly ripened Coulommiers. The buttery paste wrapped around the pilsner, hops included, and dissolved into a lip-smacking delicious finish. Sometimes these bloomy rind cheeses (bries, camemberts, double-crÃ¨mes and triple-crÃ¨mes) can leave a little metallic edge so I was not sure how this would play out, though I do recall finding some nice matches between IPAâ€™s and other bloomy rind cheeses. The bitter is a distinguishing feature in beers; it provides a sort of â€œbackboneâ€ for beers. Yet that bitter can also dominate lighter flavored foods, lighter cheeses included.
Speaking of buttery, the Bianco Sardo is so buttery; some would say that it is more â€œgreasyâ€ than buttery. This may not sound like a flattering description, that is until you take into account that the â€œgreasyâ€ includes some delicious butterfats, butterfats that also happen to be very good for you, inside and out. This toothsome oily cheese melded in full well with the beer. With just the right amount of salt, it dissolved into the pilsner gracefully and left a little meaty note.
Next up was Edwinâ€™s Munster â€“ a cheese type (wash rind stinker) that is often paired with lagers and pilsners. Even with the extra hops, this pairing was delightful. It is a wonderful cheese on its own, so it would be surprising if it did not meld well with any beer. Made with unpasteurized delicious milk, with just a little salt, and a good amount of umami; this is a most satisfying cheese: tangy, creamy, warm and savory. The pilsner broke up the paste of this cheese into a stringy texture which reminded me of a perfect fondue.
The Cheddar, aged two-years, was a no-brainer; always is. Any style of beer seems to favor good cheddar. The acid and the semi-hard texture of cheddar give this pairing a nod â€“ the â€œploughmanâ€™s lunch.â€
The Andeerer Schmuggler; it even sounds like a beer cheese. A German fan of this cheese would drive into Switzerland and â€œschmuggleâ€ several wheels back with him, quite probably to enjoy alongside his bier. Even though our pilsner was hoppier than many German styles of beers, the pairing made me happier. It is a pretty good rule of thumb: cheeses with the b. linens surface bacteria work well with beers.
Then we come to the magnificent Beeler GruyÃ¨re (that also has some if those b. linens on the surface). The crystalline texture, the depth of flavor; this is a rather profound cheese. One might think that it would overwhelm a pilsner. This bold cheese can turn meek wines into water, so to speak. Yet when you think about the smorgasbord of flavors this cheese offers: nutty, meaty, chocolate, fruity, with a dash of salt; it sounds like a good partner for a pilsner. And indeed it was.
That was the range of pairing successes I found for this pilsner in this setting. It fell flat with the blue. From a previous tasting, I found this same pilsner to be an excellent match for Robiola Rocchetta.
Except for the blues, you can get a fairly broad range of cheeses to pair with your German style of a pilsner.
This may not sound like much of a concern: how does one taste cheese? However there are some methods that we should mention that can help you better taste cheese. The look of a cheese helps to form our assessment, whether we admit or not. The nose gives an even stronger impression, while the tongue can pick up altogether different sensations, and the texture of a cheese figures as well. As we point out in our Cheese & Wine 101 sessions, what seals the deal in tasting is what you have to wait for â€“ the â€œfinish.â€ This is when the aromatic esters in the cheese move up the retronasal canal, leaving the final impression and taste of the cheese.
One of the first things to consider is that you not wear strong cologne or other scents. Because cheeses can be very aromatic, to have other aromas competing with those in the cheese can present conflicting assessments. It is also helpful to have a more neutral palate. Avoiding strong foods and beverages before you taste the cheeses is recommended. Cheese judges are advised to avoid drinking coffee before tasting the competition cheeses.
Drinking plenty of water helps to keep your palate more â€œneutral.â€ Water is a great universal cleanser. Allowing a little time between tasting cheeses gives your palate a little rest so that it come back to a more neutral state. A little bit of a plain baguette or unflavored cracker can pick up the acids and fats left behind by a cheese.
Another tip we offer that may not be so apparent is to taste the cheese a second time, or just a little later. Remarkable differences can be recognized in the flavor of a cheese if you first â€œtemperâ€ your palate with the first bite, then go back for seconds. This is something that Kevin Zraly suggests you do when tasting wine: you have the first sip then have a second. Whatever residual may have resided in your mouth beforehand is smoothed over by the introductory taste followed by the actual assessing taste.
Wine or beer can serve as a â€œplatformâ€ for tasting cheese. Nuances in the cheese may be highlighted with one of these beverages underneath. This may not be considered fair, since the flavors and aromas may be altered by the commingling characteristics in the beverage. Yet they can also help bring out those subtleties that might otherwise be missed. Any alcoholic beverage should be consumed in moderation, otherwise your assessing skills may suffer.
The Swiss have been tinkering with cheese recipes for centuries. They have elevated milk to alpine heights with their creative endeavors. Their talent for producing outstanding cheese can be largely credited to the availability of pristine waters for the animals and for the cheese making steps, to the diversity of plant species provided by respectful land management, to the careful animal husbandry, and to the state-of-the-art cheese making and ripening methods.
Along with all of these considerations they also like to put their own signatures in recipes: either by adding special blends of herbs and spices to the cheese baths, or infusing those blends directly into the curd; or by using different wines, beers, or other spirits in the bathing solutions. One might think that all the extras might diminish the flavors of the milk itself, yet cheese making always involves at least one other ingredient. The added ingredients should then be permitted for use if the end product becomes a delicious cheese that is unique.
I recall my impression when I tasted the magnificent FlÃ¶sserkÃ¤se the first time. I liked the name too. It sounded like it might be a good cheese for your teeth. Then again, cheese is good for you teeth anyway. Like if you were rushing out the door this morning and you did not have time to floss you could make up for it later in the day by having some FlÃ¶sserkÃ¤se?
Then when I found out that it was washed in hops I understood its flavor a little better. Hops are usually associated with the bitter notes they give to ales. In the case of FlÃ¶sserkÃ¤se it is not so much a bitter note that I detect but it is more of a grassy, spicy, piney and earthy flavor that comes through, flavors that are often associated with hops. The milk flavor certainly comes through but the influence of the hops is there.
Keep in mind that most cheeses do pair well with most beers, or in more cases than not they do marry well together. The FlÃ¶sserkÃ¤se is a standout. Whether it is the influence of the hops or just the fact that this is a phenomenal cheese to begin with, and it is good for your teeth.