On my subway ride into work this morning I overheard a pre-teen kid ask his dad who cut the cheese.
Whenever I hear the word “cheese,” or whenever I see it referenced in print, I tune in.
On hearing this question, and then hearing it again a couple more times, it reminded me of what my daughter may have answered years ago when classmates would ask her what her dad did for a living: “He cuts the cheese.”
Snickers all around.
Besides the association with its misinformed association with daunting aroma and poor food choices, cheese suffers from its association with poverty, as though it is no more than a poor man’s steak.
I recall another comment recently: “Or we could just have cheese.”
Precisely: why not?
The “C” word is heard more frequently than ever. I suppose “bad” publicity is better than none at all. The excitement is building; we are poised to see a capacity crowd taking the second American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional™ exam in Madison this summer.
In my current duties I may not cut the cheese at the break-neck pace the way I use to at Picholine years ago, yet I eat at least as much as I ever did, if not more.
Picholine restaurant’s guests who were considering a cheese course usually wanted to try a variety of cheese types (with my encouragement) and they usually wanted to try several (ditto); the average number being about five. Some people would have as many as nine or more cheeses, while a few guests wanted only one or two. Once the selection was determined the question arose, which wine to have with their cheese course. I recommended certain cheese types if they had wine in their glasses, or if they indicated a preference for a particular wine type. Usually however the focus was on the cheese selections, with wine as an after-thought. This was how most people approached this course – with the cheese selection preceding that of the wine.
This happens in other situations: the wine “person” counterpart asks me which cheeses I want to use at an event so they can select the wines around my choices. I let them know that the wines should be chosen first, as diplomatically as I can, that the wines should “drive the bus.” Besides, the cheeses tend to show up when they want to, whereas you can secure the wines well in advance.
A few Picholine diners asked for an appropriate “dessert” wine: port, Sauternes, Madeira sweeter Muscat, etc. Most people chose to stick with table wines, and if they did not already have a glass of something else they would usually ask for a red. Whenever this happened (which was very often) I would look over the several cheese types and think: that cheese pairs well with most Pinot Noirs, that one is better with Merlot, that cheese is nice with Cabernet Sauvignon, and that one does not work with any red, except maybe a Zinfandel. Ah yes, a Zinfandel, which would actually hold up well with all of those cheeses!
Zinfandel became the default red wine partner for those mixed groupings of cheeses. As I looked over my catalog of cheese and wine pairings, I found successful matches with a full range of cheese types: fresh cheeses, aged cheeses, goat, sheep, wash-rinds, bloomy rinds, Goudas, and blues. Several pairings were outstanding and only a very few disappointed.
Its twin sister, the Primitivo of southern Italy, has similar successes with cheeses, though not nearly as many as the California Zinfandels. This follows the relative successes for other varietals, those of the New World and those of the Old. The more austere styles of the Old World are just that, a little more austere compared to the more gregarious wines of the New.
I use to say that I thought that I was weaned on Chardonnay. For a go-to white wine, no other grape has come close. When people simply ask for a white wine, if any other varietal is included in the glass, I will bet that there may be a moment of hesitation, almost as though something might be a little “off.” Even for the A.B.C. (anything besides Chardonnay) crowd, the attractiveness of wines produced solely from this grape makes them hard to dismiss. By “attractiveness” I am referring to the grape’s many flavors and aromas, its supple mouth-feel, and its versatility with many foods. The Chardonnay wines can be so delicious that they can be enjoyed on their own. This is a quality that other varietals may also claim – that they can be enjoyed on their own – yet you can lose that appreciation for them more quickly than you can for the Chardonnays. Their wines seem to offer the complete “meal,” not just the beverage accompaniment quality. Some of those aromas and flavors can be found in other varietals, certainly, yet Chardonnay seems to have more of them.
You could say “No two Chardonnays are the same.” This would suggest a level of connoisseurship beyond the grasp of most individuals, even a bit of snobbery. Yes, they are different, yet they are unmistakably Chardonnay.
The appreciation for Chardonnay extends beyond the ease of its pronunciation. How many ways can you say “Chardonnay?” The name rolls of the tongue and the opportunities for rhyming with it are myriad. The relative ease of pronunciation reminds me of the name “Stilton.” This was the cheese guests requested most frequently during my Fromager tenure at Picholine restaurant. Far easier to pronounce than the French equivalent – Fourme d’Ambert – it may have given some diners a sense of connoisseurship, the recognition of a great cheese name. Interestingly, an old article in the Wine Spectator mentioned the success of pairing Stilton with Chardonnay. This sounded preposterous when I first read it, yet I admit that when I tried the two together, it turned out to be a good match. The success of this pairing was confirmed by participants in a Matchmaking Cheese & Wine class recently; the recognition of the successful pairing was virtually unanimous.
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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.