Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cheese from Un-Cheesy Places

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

The January Cheesy Wine Down Wednesday tasting class challenged the Co-op's Cheese Buyer Suzy to find us some cheeses from un-cheesy places for the February class last night. Suzy accepted the challenge and came through with seven cheeses from six states you would not naturally think of when looking for cheeses. As well as some fun cheeses to try we also had Shane pouring free samples of the Co-op Wines of the Month from Riebeek Cellars.
The first cheese on our plate was Salty Sea Feta from Narragansett Creamery in Rhode Island. While Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State, this is the perfect cheese to match their ocean theme. While I didn't think this feta was particularly salty, it would definitely be a great summer salad cheese with melons and a glass of sweet white while enjoying some salty ocean breeze.
The next cheese we tried was a camembert-style double cream from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. The Green Hill cheese was everything you expect when you see gooey buttery cheese on a platter. Smeared on a cracker with some fruity spread, any cheese snob would be very impressed with the texture and tang this cheese from Georgia brings to the palate. I wonder how this would come out if I baked it in pastry, probably delicious, let me know in the comments if you try it!
So I had been sipping the Riebeek Cellars Chardonnay to start and I thought it went well with the first two cheeses. Then we moved on to the Sauvignon Blanc as I tried the Everton alpine-style cheese from Jacobs & Brichford in Indiana. This was an ok combination, the cheese was sharper than a Gruyere, but a milder flavor than what I was expecting after reading the description of this "meaty" cheese. I imagine this would go well in a fresh leafy green salad, well spring is just around the corner so the leafy greens will be bountiful soon!
Next up was the Ameribella from the same company. I heard a rumor that when they opened the cheese to cut it, it had a very intense smell. Hmm... I am not a big fan of smelly cheeses but I was here to try new things, so after hesitating I breathed in and took a little nibble. Not bad, with the Sauv Blanc this was a pretty good pairing on my tongue as it melts around your mouth, so smooth and pasty almost. I bit off a little more enjoying the soft texture then moved on to the next cheese, the Appalachian from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia. A lightly cooked, pressed-curd cheese this bright cheese did not go well after the smelly Ameribella. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed as I breathed out and could smell that all familiar "stinky" cheese breath coming out of my nose, yech! I quickly took a sip of the Pinotage which amplified it even more, so I nibbled some more of the Appalachian trying to move on from this unfortunate layering of flavors that my brain did not like. Ahhh, much better. I found myself rather surprised that the order in which I was trying the cheeses and wines was really affecting the taste and smells quite dramatically. I went back and nibbled a little more feta and decided that yes, compared to the last few cheeses, it really was salty. Have you experienced a strong layering of flavors with different cheeses before? Was it enjoyable?
Now for some fun facts; the Pinotage is a red wine grape cultivated in South Africa, a real treat I thought as notes of plum and fruitcake rolled back over my tongue. A new world wine, the first vines where created in the mid 1920's and the first wine from the grapes in 1941. If you want to try something different and you enjoy lighter style reds, I definitely recommend trying this, especially for the sale price as part of the February 2015 Wines of the Month.
Back to the cheeses, next on the plate Suzy found us from Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Colorado a sticky pale cheese called Sunlight. With it's cheery orange rind I didn't connect the dots that this was goat cheese. I started with a small bit and let it crumble around my mouth, yummy. Came in for a second taste and then I got a slight goaty flavor. With the onion chutney I almost didn't guess that this was a goats milk cheese.
And my favorite cheese of the evening was Big John's Cajun from Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah. This spicy hand-rubbed cheese would be great on a big juicy burger but as a cheese on a platter your friends will definitely enjoy it just as much. With distinct orange marbling throughout the yellow cheese, as you nibble your way towards the rind the cheese starts to heat up with spicy goodness. I thought this cheese worked well with the Riebeek Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon we sampled.
But the tasting didn't end there! The Co-op's Bakery Box pastry chefs had whipped up some Cheesecake of the Month for us to try. The White Chocolate Key Lime Blackberry Swirl was a huge hit among us all. This fresh treat was a great ending for another fun event at the Co-op. As usual it is nice to see familiar faces every month and make some new friends too.
You can find the cheeses, wines and dessert right here in the Concord store, just ask any of our friendly staff for help.
I hope everyone enjoyed the evening and I look forward to their suggestion for the next class in March where they have asked Suzy to sample cheeses we can compare like camembert versus brie and a sheep milks feta versus a goats milk feta. They created quite the list for Suzy to find. To sign up for our next class or to read more about our cheese tasting classes click here.

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