The fine team at Rene Furterer offered a “Champagne and Cheese Master Class” to key editors last week offering a sneak peek at the new Kerite hair care line: Kerite Intense Nourishing Oil, Kerite Intense Nourishing Shampoo and Kerite Intense Nourishing Mask.
Although I left a little “buzzed” from the champagne, I just had to check out the products. It was a beautiful and luxurious experience as I cleansed and conditioned my hair. Launching in November, 2011, these products are something for every salon professional to look forward to!
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.
A recent study at the British Columbia Research Centre reports that a high-protein diet can help prevent cancer. Many people do not realize that cheese is a protein-rich food, that most cheeses have more protein in weight than eggs do.
Tumor cells are fed by glycose, which is produced from carbohydrates, of which cheese has very little. At times, I say that bread (dense with carbohydrates) takes up space that could be better accommodated by cheese, and wine. The bread serves it purposes when you have some with cheese and wine, or with cheese and beer. Just a little bit of bread can help clean the palate so that you can taste the nuances in the cheeses or the beverages more accurately. The bread can serve as a â€œplatformâ€ for transporting the cheese into the mouth, if you believe this is necessary. A high-fiber bread provides one of the only nutrients that cheese lacks â€“ fiber.
The conjugated linoleic acid that cheese offers help to decrease our glucose uptake, which is probably the way that cheese can help you to lose weight, as well as the way that it suppresses tumor growth and kills various cancers: skin, breast and colo-rectal.
Cheese also provides Taurine, an amino acid that has been used in clinics to treat breast cancer. Calcium can help prevent cancer, and we all know that the best source of that important nutrient is cheese. Biotin is a B vitamin derived from cheese which, among many other wonderful contributions to our healthy living, can keep our blood sugar in check, read: reduced levels of glucose.
This is one of the greatest things about pairing beers with cheeses: a cheese that you might not normally choose might actually taste great with the right beer partner, or vice versa. Along with delivering some delightful mixes these pairings can open up new appreciations for second-choice (not second class) cheeses or beers, ones that you would typically avoid.
Part of the key to successful pairings of cheese with the wheat beers is that those beers tend to be especially effervescent, always a plus for cheese partners. The underlying silky textures of wheat beers make smooth platforms for toothsome cheeses.
The wheat beers also tend to be lighter flavored; they can meld into cheeses a little more gracefully. These beers are less bitter than almost all ales. The bitter may be an attractive flavor quality for some beer lovers but it can also present special challenges to cheese partners.
Try a wheat beer wit your next cheese plate, and skip the lemon peel.
Today is one of those days. In describing the climate of the day, an old friend of mine called it â€œcheddar weatherâ€ meaning it is damp, cool, and overcast, with very light breezes. These are the conditions for maturing cheddar, as well as many other cheese types. It is also the kind of weather that can stimulate your appetite for cheese, cheddar included. The cool, damp, and lightly ventilated atmosphere is the type of atmosphere that we maintain in our cheese caves here at the Artisanal Cheese Center. The cheeses mature gracefully in these cave-like conditions.
When you see a label indicating that a cheese has been â€œcave-agedâ€ it probably does not mean that the cheese has been aged in an actual cave; it more likely means that it has been cured in a room that maintains those atmospheric conditions. Cheese â€œcavesâ€ are becoming a more frequent fixture of restaurants and hotels. The conditions they should offer are appropriate for aging most cheeses so it would be almost a given that the cheese had spent some time in a â€œcave.â€
I was invited to assess a cheese cave in a restaurant yesterday. I would rather not say what restaurant it was. The attractive â€œcaveâ€ unit had been recently installed and was shiny and new, with wooden shelves inside, atop which several cheeses were placed. When you opened the caveâ€™s see-through glass French doors, any cool moist air that might have resided within it would be lost almost immediately. Granted, the cave did not have much moisture within it to begin with.
The cut cheeses inside were cracking and drying out; this was not a happy sight. The cheeses may have retained most of their flavor but the textures were brittle. The cool temperature helps maintain the cheeses for an extended period, but without sufficient moisture that period can be shortened. Instead of â€œcheddar weatherâ€ the environment within that cave was more â€œSahara weather.â€ Some cheeses can benefit from a little drying, especially the younger ones, but the drying stage is a usually a short one for cheese maturing.
One of the problems with that cave was that it was simply far too large for the amount of cheese that might go through that restaurant. Had it been a smaller unit with more cheese it would have worked better. This is a frequent problem with the design of cheese caves: though they look nice, they are often too large and cannot maintain the humidity levels to prevent cheeses from drying out. And again, those French doors were part of the problem.
The restaurantâ€™s plan was to have an attractive cheese cave in the small private dining room where wines were also cellared, and again, not in ideal conditions. Too often, architects and designers think of the aesthetics without considering the â€œcheddar weatherâ€ that is preferred for storing cheeses. I suggested that the FromagÃ¨re fill up the unit with several sturdy aged cheeses such as Goudas, Alpine types, and pressed sheep cheeses. I recommended that she use the unit for display of whole wheels only, and that she keep all the cheeses that she needed for actual service in a smaller box within her least cold refrigerator. It is far easier to achieve that â€œcheddar weatherâ€ in a smaller â€œcave.â€
Granted, cheese can put up with a lot of abuse. It holds up much better if you give it a little TLC. I recommend that you order less but order often; leave the storage to the pros. One way to make sure that your cheeses arrive and remain in good form is to order Maxâ€™s Picks on a weekly basis. I go through the caves and select cheeses that I would have on my own plate that day.
These three fine cheeses have special Fatherâ€™s Day meanings for me. The Pecorino delle Balze Volterrane is a style of cheese that delivers a lot of bang for its buck (something that my father has always cared about greatly) partly because it is an unpasteurized sheep milk cheese. This signals plenty of flavor and aroma. The olive oil and vegetal notes come through, even after the cheese has been cut and left out for hours. It is a â€œprimordialâ€ cheese, from a family of cheeses that have been produced for millennia around the Mediterranean. The Pecorino delle Balze Volterrane is very nutritious: chock full of protein, vitamins, minerals, as well as the cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid. I want all that flavor, aroma and nutrition for my father, for myself, and for my daughter as well.
The Sbrinz we have in our caves now is what I call the â€œgrandfather of Parmigiano-Reggianoâ€ because it is another ancient type of cheese whose recipe was the inspiration for the Parm. My daughterâ€™s first favorite cheese was Parmigiano-Reggiano. She could nibble on a chunk of it for hours when she was a toddler. There are no better sources of Calcium than what is offered in those two cheeses.
One day I presented her with some Sbrinz, which until that day, I thought was merely a â€œniceâ€ cheese. After tasting it, she said that she would like some more. I remember that morning well. It was eye-opening to me â€“ how she helped me recognize its qualities, by simply asking for more. Having those two cheeses helped make her MVP of her sports teams while growing up in lower Manhattan: basketball, softball, baseball, soccer, and hockey. In her early years she enjoyed her Sbrinz in larger chunks, though it is a cheese that is best enjoyed when it is shaved thin.
The Geit-in-Stad is a Dutch cheese produced from goat milk. My father likes the goat milk. He had some when he was a young boy. He also has a sweet tooth, and sweet is part of the allure of this cheese. When we include Geit-in-Stad as one of our featured cheeses at events, it is often the favorite. And a tip of the hat to my motherâ€™s side of the family, the Dutch part, for that countryâ€™s many centuries of cheese making expertise.
The cheese is produced with unpasteurized milk,which happens to give it an extended shelf life, as well as a full aroma and flavor. A generous dose of umami rounds out its flavor profile while the aroma takes you to one of the most beautiful places on earth â€“ the Alps. You could easily consider having this cheese on its own. It has an eggy flavor; it reminds me of scrambled eggs, with a touch of salt and no pepper, cooked in butter.
No two Chardonnays are the same, not even those produced within the same village. Of course the age of the wine carries some weight, as it certainly does with cheeses. One reason for the huge popularity of the Chardonnay grape is its success with many foods, cheeses included, as well as being a perfectly suitable wine to enjoy on its own.
I had the great pleasure of tasting two Chardonnays within a range of six wines recently. They were both Puligny-Montrachets, one was a 2006 and the other was a 1988. Though a twenty-three year old white Burgundy such as a Puligny-Montrachet might seem to be pushing it, this one was still very much alive, vibrant, resplendent with good fruit and not oxidized. On the other hand, the 2006 might sound like a youngster, as the Montrachets donâ€™t usually come into their own until they have had a few more years in the bottle.
The seven cheeses we tasted with these two beautiful wines were perfectly ripened; all the cheeses happened to be French â€“ a request from the host. The younger wine was a smashing success with the first four cheeses we tasted: Roves des Garrigues, Brillat Savarin, Abbaye de Belloc (a bit of a surprise) and the Epoisses (a no-brainer) and it also paired well with the Cantal and the Carles Roquefort (yes, this match can work). The 2006 Puligny-Montrachet was only okay with the Raclette, which was gorgeous by itself but a little too pungent. The older 1988 Puligny was beautiful with the first two cheeses yet the matches brought out different aspects. The 1988 was good with the Abbaye de Belloc and more successful with the Epoisses, nice with the Cantal and the Raclette, but only okay with the Roquefort.
The way these white Burgundies married with each of these cheeses brought out different nuances, from the wines and from each of the cheeses. None of the matches were disappointing. Overall, the cheeses scored as well with the wines as they did with the 2003 Sauternes!
It is little wonder that Chardonnay is such a popular varietal; it plays well with many foods, cheeses especially. I recall a few mismatches with this grape but they are rare. The quality of the cheeses helped make these pairings work well, no doubt. Few Epoisses can match the peak where this one was, semi-soft with just a little of its â€œheartâ€ remaining in the center. When I first looked at the several wheels of Epoisses I thought they might be a little too liquid, a little overripe. Instead they were buttery, creamy, pungent, smooth, only slightly salty and aromatic, and recognizably cow. This cheese is one whose care we provide is unsurpassed.
I have to admit: those Puligny-Montrachets were not too shabby either. To have aged out as well as they had is a testament to the care they received. For anyone who rebukes Chardonnay should try a nicely aged white Burgundy, preferably one of the Montrachets; and then to bring out the best that those wines can offer, pair it with a few of the cheeses mentioned above. It becomes a little more difficult to tolerate a lesser Chardonnay once youâ€™ve had one of the best but these cheeses can elevate the lesser Chardonnays just fine.
Today, you can find entire aisles of grocery stores filled with different beers. The selection of beers often far exceeds the selection of cheeses. Americaâ€™s taste for beer has gradually shifted toward the fuller-bodied ales and away from the lighter lagers. Our per capita consumption of â€œlightâ€ lagers still far exceeds that of the bigger ales, yet the trend toward the heavier direction is apparent. One might think that the lighter-flavored lagers do not measure up to the bigger ales on the â€œartisanalâ€ scale, what with the way that the larger producers appear to be directing their creative energies into those vats. This has been the focus of most of the newer microbreweries as well. These bigger-flavored beers remain a niche part of the beer market yet that niche is growing.
There could be something to be said for getting flavor for your beer dollar. Possibly. It could partly be the desire to get more alcohol for that dollar, as many of these bigger beers have elevated alcohol contents. These levels often approach the levels found in table wines. It bears mentioning that those fuller flavors can hide those higher alcohol levels, perhaps unrecognizable until you have had that â€œone-for-the-road.â€
Many of these new craft beers are flavored with other ingredients besides grains and hops. The added flavorings can make for delicious brews but they can also overwhelm meek cheese partners. Flavored beers and heftier porters and stouts can dominate cheeses. They tolerate few insipid cheeses. On the other hand, strong cheeses can be beautifully quenched with the lighter beers.
Those perceived imbalances that occur between stronger-flavored beers and lighter-flavored cheeses may be less problematic because of some advantages that beers enjoy. The more obvious advantage is the effervescence. This helps to lift up the acids and fats in cheese so they do not weigh down on the palate. The cheeses and beers can swirl around in the mouth and leave graceful finishes. Most beers have a lower alcohol level than most wines. This is desirable partly because the salts in cheese can make you thirsty. It is more effective (and advisable from a health perspective) to quaff your thirst with a little less alcohol.
A less obvious advantage that beer enjoys with cheeses is the pH levels in beers more closely approximate those of most cheeses. The acids in beers help to metabolize the fats and proteins in cheeses. The salt and sweet on the palate is a balancing relationship, while the pH relationship is one of harmony. The more acid cheeses generally pair better with the more acid beverages. Cheese is (or should be) a little acid and beer is a little acid too. This balance of acids helps make the pairing of cheese and beer more pleasing.
This helps explain why some of the bolder cheeses can pair fairly well with some of the lightest of cheeses; the acids are balanced. The more assertively flavored beers can find those balances and harmonies with cheeses, so long as their flavors are complementary. For example, a chocolate-flavored ale may find a successful mate in a cow milk blue cheese because the aromatics often blend well together, so long as there is that balance of salt (recognizable in most blues) and sweet (indicated by the chocolate in the beer) and harmony of acid levels.
Added to the aesthetic relationships of beer and cheese pairing, the wholesome nutritive qualities of fine cheese coupled with those qualities provided by beers (gentle acids, generally low alcohol contents, and B vitamins) add another advantage to exploring the wide world of beer and cheese partnerships. Plus, in many more cases than not, they just taste good together.
When choosing cheese I always go for variety, the more the merrier. We all have our favorites and there is an argument for having the one â€œperfectâ€ cheese. However mixing them up a little makes it more interesting, by selecting cheeses produced from different milk types, or choosing cheeses from different regions, or cheeses with different types of rind, or with different textures, etc.
The Scot in me dictates that I get plenty of nutrition for my cheese dollar. This makes a strong argument for choosing a variety of cheeses; cheeses have different nutritive values. No two cheeses are the same. Though the wonderfully broad diversity of nutrients in cheese is found in almost all cheeses, the relative composition of those nutrients is a little different. Some cheeses have more beneficial fatty acids than others, some have different levels of proteins and amino acids than others, and some have higher levels of certain vitamins or minerals than others. This is a good reason to try a variety of cheeses. Sign up for Cheese & Wine 201 to learn more about these considerations.
Another argument in favor of variety is that there are many different cheeses and everybody has their favorites. It is a good idea to have at least three cheeses when you are entertaining, even when you are entertaining only one person. You have better odds of pleasing your guest(s) if you have a variety of cheeses. This is a point that I picked up full well years ago when I was running a cheese program in a restaurant. We were able to please more guests when we had the broader variety of types. When we offered fewer cheeses many guests politely declined the cheese course altogether. We actually ended up with more waste when we had fewer cheeses offered, not what might be expected.
The variety will also elicit discussion (should your guest not be especially gregarious) by striking different impressions on the senses, often reminding them of lovely experiences they once had. The aromas in cheese can do that â€“ take you to another time and another place.
You have a better chance of finding successful matches with your wines or beers when you have several cheese types. One of the best ways to learn about cheese, wine, and beer, is to use cheeses as â€œplatformsâ€ for your beverages, just as the beverages serve as â€œplatformsâ€ for your cheeses. It is easier to detect the nuances in a cheese or wine, or beer, if you try the different cheeses and beverages jointly. How different cheeses interact with different wines is highlighted in our Cheese & Wine 101 classes. How they interact with beers is highlighted in our Craft Beer classes.