I think one of my favorite things about working, not just in a food department but in a food department within a liquor store, is that I get to taste so many different things. And then I often get to taste them together.
Wine and cheese pairings was such a huge interest to me when I first started working in the Vineyard Market. I thought it was just so neat how two seemingly different things could taste so good together, or how they could bring out such different flavors in one another. At this point, wine and I get along pretty well and I feel that I have a pretty decent understanding of general pairings among wine and cheese. The next step? Cheese and beer–a whole new world for me.
Beer has always sort of been an enigma for me. I totally understand why people love it, and once in a while I could maybe sorta enjoy it myself
BUT I have to say that most of the time, I would rather just…not. And I was totally thinking that I just hadn’t found my deep down connection with beer yet.
Last weekend, however, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting Brooklyn Brewery with some of my co-workers. And let me tell you, my view on beer has been forever changed. I had the opportunity to try quite a few of their beers on tap, and for the first time while drinking a beer, I imagined all the cheeses that might taste good with it.
One that I distinctly remember is Brooklyn’s Naranjito: a lovely Pale Ale brewed with orange peels. This beer has a lightness to it, enhanced by its citrus flavors–immediately upon tasting this beer I was craving a bite of some fresh chevre. Unfortunately, this particular Brooklyn beer is unavailable for purchase in the U.S. (I’m just as sad as you are), but I’ve also found that if you’re looking to pair some fresh goat cheese, Brooklyn’s Greenmarket Wheat has a similarly light and refreshing taste to it that I think would do really well alongside the tangy creaminess of goat cheese.
Here are some other pairings that I’ve found to be successful:
- Brooklyn Lager with Gruyere
- Brown Ale with 3 Month Manchego
- Defender with Black Diamond 5 Year Cheddar
- Summer Ale with Wyke Vintage Cheddar
- Sorachi Ace with Shepherd’s Way Big Woods Blue
These pairings are not set in stone by any means. You might try one of the combinations above and decide you don’t care for that particular beer and cheese together at all–and that’s okay! The greatest thing to me about cheese and beverage pairings is the diversity of it. What I find to be delicious, you might not, and vice versa.
Food and alcohol pairings are meant to be a fun adventure. Not sure what goes well with the beer you have? Experiment! Pick your favorite cheese, crack open that beer, and give it a go. You never know what combinations you’ll fall in love with.
Have you tried a beer and cheese combo that you absolutely loved? Let me know in the comments!
Get it? Because
= Cheese-ter! Right???
Aaaaanyway. For those of you that may not have been aware, this past Wednesday was a day very near and dear to my heart: National Grilled Cheese Day!
Of all the foods I love to eat, grilled cheese holds a special place near and dear to my heart. I can recall eating grilled cheeses as far back as I can remember; they were always my go-to snack when I was growing up. They’re super easy to make, there’s an unlimited number of variations you can do, and come on now, it’s buttery toasted bread with gooey melted cheese–where can you possibly go wrong with that?
And so in honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, I thought I’d give you some inspiration to make your own cheesy grilled concoction! And the bonus? It’s the perfect meal to whip up for any picky little eaters you might have on Easter (like my nephew, oh boy).
- Comte with Anna Mae’s Smoky Mustard
- Gruyere, caramelized onions, & mushrooms
- Smoked Cheddar with honey mustard & cornichons
- Swiss with prosciutto & pickles
- Mozzarella, tomato, basil, & a touch of balsamic vinegar
- Yancey’s Fancy Buffalo Wing cheese, fresh jalapenos, & pulled chicken
- Gouda with apple slices
- Brie with Raspberry Preserves
- Brie, bacon, & apricot
As you can see from just those few combinations, there are so many ways you can go with this! Grilled cheese is so fun because you can pretty much just take whatever you love to eat and press it between two slices of crispy buttery bread. Excuse me for a moment, my mouth is watering…
To top it all off, ladies and gents, I’m also going to share with you a recipe that my friend Karen sent to me the other day that really got me excited to do this post
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Casserole
What you’ll need:
- For Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- 16 slices sourdough bread
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
- one 5.2-ounce container of Boursin cheese (or other soft, spreadable cheese)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 8 thick pieces
- try Lioni Fresh Mozzarella
- For Tomato Soup
- One 14-ounce can tomato sauce
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 eggs
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To Finish
- ½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese
How to do it:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- MAKE THE SANDWICHES: Butter one side of each slice of bread with ½ tablespoon soft butter. Flips the slices over and spread 1 tablespoon Boursin on 8 pieces of the bread. Place 1 slice of mozzarella on top of the Boursin and then finish with one more piece of bread, butter side up, to close the sandwiches.
- Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, place the sandwiches on the hot griddle and cook until both sides are toasted, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Set the sandwiches aside.
- MAKE THE SOUP: In a medium pot, whisk the tomato sauce with the tomato paste until smooth. Heat over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer. Stir in the cream and thyme.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Pour about a third of the hot tomato mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to combine.
- Return the mixture to the pot and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- MAKE THE CASSEROLE: Pour half of the tomato mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Arrange the sandwiches inside the dish and then pour the remaining tomato mixture on top.
- Sprinkle the cheddar evenly over the casserole. Bake until the tomato mixture is bubbly and the cheese is melted, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Let cool for 5 minutes before serving warm.
What’s your favorite way to make grilled cheese?
Spring is my favorite season. Fall is definitely a close second, but you can’t deny the awesomeness that is blooming trees and flowers. And the smell of rain? Oh yeah. Totally.
So now that the warmer weather seems to be finally upon us, it’s time for one of our yearly cheese features: Beemster is back, baby! Well, not that it ever really went anywhere, but all of the Vineyard Markets recently received their large shipment of Beemster cheeses, all at special discounted pricing!
I realize I’m using a lot of explanation points. Forgive me. I just love Beemster. If you didn’t already know, Beemster happens to be one of my favorite creameries for a number of reasons:
- Products are made by small family farmers
- They’re a founding partner of Caring Dairy
- They raise free-roaming, grass-fed, happy cows
- Their high-quality cheeses are hand-crafted and traditionally made
- Their cheeses are naturally lactose-free
- Their Gouda is the preferred choice of the Royal Court of the Netherlands
- They’re eco-friendly & energy-conscious
- No growth hormones or pesticides used
- Their cheeses are JUST SO TASTY, how can you not love them?!
- For more info on Beemster, check out my previous post HERE.
A familiar name for many, Beemster is well known for their Goudas, especially their aged Goudas. Currently, Bottle King’s Vineyard Markets are all carrying three main Beemster cheeses: Classic, XO, and Paradiso.
Beemster Classic is aged for about 18 months and is signified by its black, red, and beige wax. While on the surface, this cheese seems to be very hard, it actually has a super creamy mouthfeel. If you’re expecting this to be anything like your run-of-the-mill Red Wax Gouda, you will be in for a big surprise. Beemster Classic tastes rich and nutty with some slight caramel-y notes.
The next cheese on the list is Beemster XO. The XO is short for “Extra Old”, and this cheese is signified by its monochrome beige wax rind. Similar to the Classic, this guy is aged for 8 more months than its counterpart, making XO a 26 month-old aged Gouda. The extra aging time further develops that rich flavor and results in a more robust cheese with butterscotch and whiskey notes.
Don’t be surprised if you get a little crunchy bite every now and then! Both Beemster XO and Beemster Classic are dotted with tyrosine crystals thanks to their aging process; a sign of their expert cheesemaking.
Lastly–but certainly not least–is Paradiso, Beemster’s Italian-style cheese. The youngest of the three, Paradiso is aged for just 10 months, yet somehow is still full of little crunchy crystallized bits throughout–yum! This cheese is still creamy, though I feel it’s slightly less creamy than the Classic and XO, and the texture does almost remind me a little bit of Parmigiano Reggiano. The flavor is nicely balanced: slightly sweet and nutty yet mildly tangy all at once. An easy crowd-pleaser.
All three of these cheeses would safely do well alongside a Cabernet Sauvignon, but could do equally well against a Chianti or some dessert wines such as Port or Sauternes. Beers could go so many ways. Try an IPA with the Classic and Paradiso and perhaps a darker beer with the XO. Fresh fruit and fig jams for all! And don’t stop there: shred on your pasta, grate into your salad, and eat by the chunk!
What’s your favorite Beemster cheese?
I know, I know. You’re all saying, “But Amber, it’s not technically April yet!”
Well, I’m sure you’re not all saying that, but I know some people are. And to those people I say, it is officially April 1 in New Zealand!
Really, though. Google it.
ANYWAYS. That brings me back to my point: our newest Cheese of the Month! Many of you may recognize this classic cheese. An oldie but a goodie, the Bottle King Vineyard Markets are featuring Comté! If you’ve been with us here for a while, you may remember Lauren’s post way back when on this cheese.
Hailing from the Franche-Comté region of France, this semi-hard, alpine-style cheese is made from raw cow’s milk–one of my favorites! In my opinion, raw cheeses–that is, unpasteurized cheeses–just offer so much more than their pasteurized counterparts; they’re fuller, richer, more flavorful. This particular French one may strike a familiar note with all my die hard Gruyère lovers out there. When I describe Comté to my customers here, I often use the phrase “the French version of Gruyere” (may neither the French nor Swiss strike me down…). Its lovely full flavor is all wrapped up within its firm, yellow paste and natural, rough, brown rind.
Comté is an incredibly versatile cheese. When you’ve got a nice, fresh hunk of it, it makes a delightfully nutty and earthy addition to any cheese platter; however, this cheese is also a fantastic melting cheese and a great substitute for anywhere you would normally use Gruyère.
- atop French Onion soup
- in a grilled cheese with Anna Mae’s Smoky Mustard (my favorite)
- as a base for mac and cheese
- as a base for fondue
- melted over sauteed onions
- in quiche
- on a cheese board alongside some rustic crackers & Dalmatia Fig Cocoa Spread
- in anything and everything that involves cheese
Another amazing thing about Comté? It makes a great pairing with a variety of different wines. Try it with an aged Port, a lighter Riesling, or a fruity Merlot or Pinot Noir. You simply can’t go wrong!
Some of you may already know this, but I think the mass majority is unaware
that I am, in fact,
And I’m not just talking about cheese. Sure, I’m a cheese nerd, but I also consider myself a nerd in the conventional sense of the word: I love comics and video games.
So anyway, my point of bringing this up is that this weekend, I will be leaving the great state of New Jersey for a video game convention in Boston. My boyfriend and I will, of course, be staying in at a hotel for a couple nights–which means snacks are in order!
Lucky for me, we just got in a new treat to the Vineyard Market: Di Bruno Bros. cheese spreads. Here in Glen Rock, I started out by bringing in two of the three flavors they make, and I’m so excited to tell you about them.
I feel like I get asked pretty often for some sort of a beer cheese or beer dip, so ladies and gents, the first flavor by Di Bruno Bros. is Smoked Gouda & Beer. A mixture of cheddar and gouda, this spread is rich and smooth with some pieces of pimento scattered throughout. I could definitely taste the smokiness from the gouda right away on my first bite, and then the beer presents a lovely end note. I could see this great with crackers or pretzels alike, or even melted into some mac and cheese. For all you smoked gouda-lovers out there, this is certainly an item you should check out.
Now, if you don’t know me yet, hi my name is Amber and I’m a chili-head. I love spicy food. The spicier the better really. So as you can probably guess, the other flavor I decided to bring in is a spicy one, called Abbruzze. This flavor has chili flakes, garlic, and herbs and is definitely not a spread for the fainthearted. If you really hate spicy food, this spread is probably not the one for you; however, if you can handle a little heat, I think it’s something you might really enjoy. This one is cheddar-based and has a really nice blend of spices in it making it rich and complex. The heat creeps up on you a bit, and in a range of “not spicy at all” to “it burns your tongue off”, I’d say this guy is on the medium-to-hot side.
Both spreads come in a nicely packaged resealable container, making them perfect for my mini-roadtrip this weekend. You can expect my boyfriend and I to be chowing down on these suckers before bed.
Have you tried Di Bruno Bros. spreads? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Is anyone else ready to stow away their winter sweaters already? I mean come on now, this nice weather is just such a tease! Unfortunately though, spring is still a little while away, and although my allergies are in full swing (anyone else?), winter is certainly still upon us.
So to brighten your day a bit, I’m here to tell you all about our new Cheese of the Month for March: Sour Cherry Bourbon Chèvre from Mackenzie Creamery.
Before I start drooling over this cheese, let me just start by telling you a little bit about the creamery itself. A relatively young company, Mackenzie Creamery was created in 2007 by Jean Mackenzie after she took a cheesemaking class while she was on vacation–and just like that a love and passion for cheese was born. In the few months that followed, Jean Mackenzie became licensed to produce goat cheese in Ohio and Mackenzie Creamery was created. Today, the business continues to be family-run, with Jean’s son overseeing operations as the company continues to grow.
What I love so much about Mackenzie Creamery (aside from the fact that their products are delicious) is
A. I think their packaging is unique, playful, and creative and
B. the company has great values.
Mackenzie’s products are all natural and hormone-free, and the Creamery has played a big role in boosting the local economy in their area. By expanding the local market for goat cheeses, Mackenzie Creamery has increased the demand for these products and thus created more jobs for local farmers.
“Our handmade artisan goat cheeses are produced from goat milk purchased from a local dairy located just three miles down the road. The milk is all natural and contains no synthetic hormones, antibiotics or chemical compounds. It is gently transported from dairy to creamery, one of the factors that contributes to its rich, smooth qualities.” –Mackenzie Creamery
We first debuted this creamery back during the holidays with their Fig and Cognac Chèvre cups–which were out-of-this-world delicious. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out we were getting another variety with sour cherries and bourbon.
Each 4.5oz cup is filled about 1/3 of the way with sour cherries soaked in bourbon, and then the cup is filled the rest of the way with Mackenzie Creamery’s award-winning chèvre (French for “goat”). The way you’re supposed to serve it is to let it come to room temperature (take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes ahead of time) and then flip it upside down onto a dish so the cheese/cherries pop out. If you’re having any difficulty, just take a butter knife and just run it along the outside between the cheese and the container.
But oh my gosh is it so good. One of my assistants here doesn’t even really like goat cheese and he thought it was fantastic. The goat cheese is just soooooooo creamy, and the bourbon cherries have just the right about of sweetness.
This wonderful delight is absolutely perfect slathered on a baguette and served alongside a glass of red wine and some salted mixed nuts for contrast.
Now available at your local Vineyard Market–grab it before it’s gone!
Ya know, I was thinking the other night…
There are so many cheeses out there in the world. And I just feel like…
…are so underrated.
Like our February Cheese of the Month for example: Wyke Smoked Cheddar! You may recall last summer when we featured Wyke’s Ivy Vintage Reserve Cheddar, which is among my favorite cheddars. Wyke Farms has been producing cheese for a long time and has certainly paved their own way in the industry through their delicious and high-quality products.
Wyke Farms has a long history of cheesemaking for over 150 years. Family owned and operated, they’ve been producing cheeses using traditional methods and the family’s original recipe from their grandmother Ivy for generations.
The newest addition for us at the Vineyard Market’s is Wyke’s Smoked Cheddar. This baby is aged for about 12 months (OK maybe not such a baby…) before then being smoked for a solid 16 hours to really develop that rich flavor throughout.
Personally, smoked cheeses can be hit and miss with me and I really think it’s tough to find a really nice one; however, I think Wyke Farms has hit the nail on the head with this one. If you’ve ever tried their Ivy Vintage Reserve Cheddar, this Smoked Cheddar is reminiscent of that, with the same rich creaminess and fairly mild base flavor, but boldened by the smoking process. The smokiness is prominent but not overpowering, and you don’t get that over-the-top ham sort of flavor that you get with a lot of smoked goudas. It’s really just a nicely well-balanced creation.
With this, I think a good medium- to full-bodied California Cabernet Sauvignon would work nicely, or if you’re a white wine drinker a slightly oaky Chardonnay would also do well. As for all my beer drinkers out there, give this Smoked Cheddar a go with an Amber or Brown Ale, or even an IPA for some contrast. And what the heck, if you want to make a party out of it, serve this cheese on a board alongside some salted peanuts, hearty rye bread, and your favorite mustard.
What’d you think of this month’s Cheese of the Month?
Be sure to stop in this weekend at your local Bottle King Vineyard Market and ask your cheesemonger for a taste!