At this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference (now called the Wine Media Conference) we were lucky enough to be educated and entertained by the Cheese Twins for a fantastic session sponsored by Cheeses of Europe. Before you read any further, please pull out your phone and download the Cheeses of Europe app for iOs or Android. You’re welcome.
Chillin’ with the Cheese Twins
While I love brie and eat my weight in mozzarella every year, folks like the Cheese Twins serve as a reminder that just like there’s more to life than Napa Cabs there’s more to life than cheddar. I was introduced to how to make a cheese board that could win awards but, more importantly, I was introduced to new cheeses and pairings. With the help of the app, I can now build better cheese and wine pairings and get more courageous when pairing full recipes with wine. Here are five of my new favorite cheeses plus cheese and wine pairings, and recipe ideas for when you want to really wow folks.
Not all blue cheese is created equal. I mean, they’re all great, but different. The Cheese Twins had us taste Bleu d’Auvergne on its own to start. It’s grassy but spicy without being overwhelming. Cheeses of Europe suggests adding it to salads or serving with apple slices and I’ll second both of those. Especially if the apples are honeycrisps!
Next, the cheese twins had us try it with a little bit of arugula and pinot noir. Incredible how such a simple addition of greens raised the complexity on our palates. The spice was beautifully enhanced. The quick lesson exhibited how something as simple as a tasty green can become more than the basis for a salad or garnish but instead one of two ingredients in an explosive charcuterie.
If I wanted to step up my game even more without going full on, I’d make a pesto of arugula. I love making pesto for several reasons. It prolongs the life of produce and it’s the perfect condiment since it can be added to sandwiches, soups, salads, toast. Seriously. Pesto is my jam. For this, I’d spread a simple pesto and the blue cheese on honeyscrisp slices to make sure that everyone got a good blend. When I make pesto I go light on everything except the base ingredient to make sure that the flavor of the greens comes through. For this I’d recommend:
2 cups arugula (packed tightly)
2 cloves garlic, roasted
¼-⅓ cup toasted hazelnuts (I do a quick chop before toasting to increase the surface area)
½-1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
⅓-½ cup olive oil
The great thing about pesto is that you can make it to taste. Please note that while most pesto includes Parmesan or other salty cheeses leave it out here. Let the Blue d’Avergne and arugula dance.
Beyond the cheese board
Cheeses of Europe offers a selection of recipes including bacon wrapped blue d’avergne stuffed dates and potato soup. In addition, I recommend making one of my fav recipes with Bleu d’Avergne instead of whatever blue cheese you usually grab at the store. Explore these flavors with Cahors, Côtes du Rhône, Port, and Sauternes. For a fun tasting with friends explore how different wines enhance the cheese.
With it’s Cheetos-esque color (I mean that in a complimentary way… cheetos are awesome) mimolette might look like what the powdered cheese in Kraft mac ‘n cheese is made from but I promise you it’s even better. Like a LOT better. Not only does it provide a gorgeous pop of color on every cheese board it graces, but it also tastes incredible. Cheeses of Europe demands we melt it with butter for memorable grilled cheeses. Who am I to disagree with Cheeses of Europe?
I’m nobody. That’s who.
Despite its shocking color, which looks like a melted Crayola crayon, this is no simple cheese. It’s a complex mix of fruit, nuts and a hint of sweet butterscotch. The rind is a gorgeous, textured brown that adds character to the cheese. It’s excellent with dried fruit: try it with apricots and cranberries.
Beyond The Cheese Board
The recipes shared on Cheeses of Europe are incredible, so much so that I’m just going to point you toward the carrot soup and pickled apple sandwich. Now. It’s nearly winter. Hell, it hasn’t stopped snowing for three days here in Vermont so there’s no excuse not to eat soup and sandwich. Just make sure to serve it with the right wine. Cheeses of Europe suggests Cahors, Carignan or Cabernet from Languedoc—which is what I plan on serving it with.
This blue cheese is delicate and spreadable with notes of fruit and hints of fresh mushrooms. It’s a gateway drug for those who are afraid of more intense blues (don’t worry, they’ll get there. Or they won’t and there will be more for us!). Blue and pear go together beautifully, and especially this particular blue. It’s like the Grüner Veltliner of cheeses.
This will work perfectly spread on pear slices or your favorite bread or cracker, or you can enjoy it on a board with dried fruit or jam. For a particularly interesting pairing consider dried banana. Other great fruits for a board with Fourme d’Ambert include fig, prune and apple. Hazelnuts work beautifully with Forme d’Ambert and if you want to have some fun, just drizzle the cheese with a little hazelnut oil. Pair with Cotes du Rhone, Zinfandel or sweet dessert wine.
Beyond the Cheese Board
Speaking of plums (undried prunes), even if you think you can’t bake you can make this impressive and incredible Plum and Forme d’Ambert tart and everyone will thank you for it. Serve with Sauternes.
If you’re into savory, or want something healthy in between the cheese board and tart, Cheeses of Europe provides a simple recipe for a red cabbage and fourme d’ambert salad.
View this post on Instagram
Similar to Mimolette, Epoisses adds visual interest to a cheese board. Originally made by monks, this cheese is silky with a little salty taste and it works perfectly on savory sweet breads and cookies. Seriously, warm it up a tiny bit and serve it with gingersnaps. Or go with freshly-baked, warmed-up cinnamon raisin bread. This wine is begging for champagne but white burgundies and Bordeaux will pair just as well. In the mood for red? Cahors works, too.
Beyond the Cheese Board
It’s perfect as a sweet cheese course. Want it earlier in the meal? Make this potato and zucchini gratin suggested by Cheeses of Europe.
Sainte-Maure de Touraine
Hay and lemon might sound like an odd pairing but just try a bit of this delicious cheese from the Loire Valley and you’ll change your tune. Another gateway drug, this one is perfect for convincing goat cheese haters that they are crazy. It’s got a nutty, lemony flavor and great visual appeal, including the piece of straw and ash that you’ll find as you cut into it. Plus, it’s the perfect pairing for Chenin Blanc. Who doesn’t like Chenin Blanc? Crazy people who don’t like goat cheese, probably.
Beyond the Cheese Board
This cheese screams summer with its hint of lemon. Bring that out with thyme-infused olive oil on warm baguette slices or consider making lemon zucchini salad with tomatoes and sweet corn but swapping out feta for Sainte-Maure de Touraine.
If you’re anything like me, you probably get comfortable with things and make them part of your routine. Let’s not talk about all of those bottles of Limoux in my cellar, okay? Thanks. But seriously, it’s easy to stick with what we know and like. It’s when we venture out of our norm, though, that we find new things to love. So download the Cheeses of Europe app, give it a whirl, and try one new cheese and paired wine by the time 2019 rolls around. And please, find me on social and let me know—I’m always looking for new cheese and wine pairings! Cheeses of Europe has a fantastic and fun online presence. Be sure to follow them on Insta & Twitter and use #makeitmagnifique and #secretsdefromage to join in on the fun.
View this post on Instagram