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Beer & Cheese, a love story

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!

Happy Grilled Cheese-ter!

Get it? Because

Cheese

+ Easter

= 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

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How to do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Pour about a third of the hot tomato mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to combine.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Sprinkle the cheddar evenly over the casserole. Bake until the tomato mixture is bubbly and the cheese is melted, 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving warm.

** Recipe from HERE


What’s your favorite way to make grilled cheese?

Beemster’s back!

Image result for beemster logoSpring 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.

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Beemster Classic in all its glory

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.

Image-1 (18)

Crumbly yet rich and creamy Beemster XO!

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.

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You’ll be in paradise with some fig spread spread on chunks of Paradiso

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?

January Cheese of the Month- Beehive Fully Loaded Whiskey

Are you all ready?

Because I’M BACK. (cue parade)

I first need to just say some apologies for my disappearance from the blogging world for the last few weeks. No matter how hard I try, the holidays somehow always take over at the Vineyard Market and leave little to no room for other activities.

But don’t worry- the new year is here, full of new cheeses and new posts! The first of which being this one, about none other than our newest Cheese of the Month.

Beehive Cheese Co.
This special cheese comes from a company we’ve featured before: Beehive Cheese Co. You might recall their unique take on cheese, winning us over with oddly delicious classics such as TeaHive and Barely Buzzed.Well folks, I’m happy to say they’ve done it again. This time we bring you a drunken sort of cheese; Beehive’s original cheese creation soaked in High West Whiskey.

Image-1.jpgThe base cheese, called Promontory, is Beehive’s own invention made in Utah from Jersey cows’ milk. An Irish-style cheese, I’d say it sort of reminds me of a firm cheddar mixed with a little bit of Parm–where you could go wrong with such a delicious combo? And then to top it all off, Beehive Cheese Co. infuses their Promontory cheese with High West Whiskey for a still-buttery and tasty base followed by a flavorful bite from the whiskey.

For both non- and whiskey-lovers alike, this cheese would make a great addition to any table. Snack on it alongside some salted nuts and honey. Wash it down with a bold red wine, an IPA, or–of course–a nice glass of whiskey!

Get your piece of Beehive’s Fully Loaded Whiskey now at your local Bottle King Vineyard Market, on sale for just $7.99 $4.99!

* Check with your local Bottle King for availability.

December Cheese of the Month – Mini Kunik

WOW. You know it’s going to be a crazy holiday season when I can barely find time to write on the blog (yikes!).

But don’t you worry, guys and gals, because you know I’d never return to you empty-handed. I may have taken a brief hiatus, but I’m coming back full-force with a delightful little gem of a cheese.

(Drumroll please….)

Say hello to our new Cheese of the Month: Mini Kunik!

Coming from a creamery that I personally love, Nettle Meadow, this cheese isn’t one to overlook. Appearing to be just a cute little wheel of brie, these little Kuniks are so much more.

Being a triple-crème made from a blend of predominantly goat’s milk with cow cream mixed in, Kunik is a sure choice for both goat-lovers and those on the fence about the usually-tangy milk because the addition of the cow cream really smoothes out that goaty flavor and adds an extra creaminess (no pun intended) to the texture.

One of the things I love about Nettle Meadow is that they’re a domestic and local company, hailing from just a short drive away in upstate New York. Weighing in at about 4oz. each, these mini wheels of Kunik are the perfect addition to any cheese platter or the perfect snack to split over a bottle of wine (or to eat by yourself over a bottle of wine…cough, cough…). For a killer pairing, enjoy Kunik alongside a nice bottle of bubbly with some fresh strawberries, or a freshly opened bottle of your favorite Belgian blond ale.

mini-kunik

Now, I know what you’re wondering: you’re sitting there thinking, “Okay, so we’re just about at the end of this post and she still hasn’t told me what the heck a ‘Kunik’ is!”–don’t worry, the suspense would be killing me, too. The meaning is actually quite literal: the word “Kunik” translates to “snowball” in eskimo, which is a pretty close comparison for these pure-white, little cheese wheels.

And don’t think I’d let you down on the deals–Mini Kunik wheels are currently on sale for just $6.99 at your local Bottle King Vineyard Market. Grab yours before they’re gone!

*Availability may vary by store. Special pricing while supplies last.

Up & Close with Vermont Creamery

Now, as a cheesemonger, I know I should probably love all cheeses and creameries equally–but I do have to say Vermont Creamery has a special place in my heart. One of the few creameries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, my experience there was more than I had hoped for.

We arrived on a gorgeous, sunny day to a small unassuming building with a little plaque reading “Vermont Creamery- Creamery Office”. Inside, we were greeted with warm smiles and some good coffee (unlike the cup I’d had at the hotel’s free breakfast…). As I slurped my cup of Joe, we were introduced to our tour guide for the day, Sam Hooper (relative to co-founder Allison Hooper), and as our coffees settled into our bellies, we geared up for our tour of the creamery.

And by “geared up”, I mean scrubbed up!

Creameries are incredibly controlled environments; everything including temperature and humidity is controlled to ensure the quality of the end product being made. Before entering, you have to scrub your arms, elbows down, and wear sterile scrubs, head to toe–including a very fashionable hairnet. Then we were finally ready!

And let me tell you, walking through Vermont Creamery was such a homey experience; everyone says hello to you and to one another, and it’s so evident how passionate they are about their jobs. While the creamery does in fact use advanced machinery for many aspect of their production, many of their artisan cheeses still require a human’s touch. Take for example their Bonne Bouche, which is hand ladled and rotated during its aging process, and their Herb Goat Log, which is literally hand-rolled in herbs (No pictures were allowed, but I saw it, I swear!).

When we finished our walkthrough of the creamery, we were treated to a cheeselover’s dream lunch–a cheese platter of course!–featuring the creamery’s own delicious cheeses, butter, and crème fraiche.

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With our bellies satisfied, our next stop was the goat farm where Vermont Creamery gets a lot of their milk. I’m totally a dog person and I think they may well be one of the cutest things in the world–but if you’ve never seen a real goat in person before, they might be a close second.

vermont-creamery-farm

Ayers Goat Dairy, also accompanied by a cute little sign, a bit of a drive from the creamery itself, and boasting the largest single rooftop solar field in the state.

We got to see where the goats hang out, where they breed, where they’re born (even got to see some newborns!), and of course where they’re milked twice a day. Excuse me while I bombard you with some photos…

So before I get carried away with these adorable goats, there are so many reasons why Vermont Creamery is super awesome, so here’s my short list to sum it up:

  1. Super delicious, high quality products–
  2. –made by passionate people.
  3. Family-owned and run
  4. Good to their employees
  5. Environmentally friendly & sustainable
  6. Certified B Corp
  7. Supports local family farms
  8. Supports the local community
  9. Hires lots of women (50% of management! Yay gender equality!)
  10. LOOK AT THOSE GOATS

Vermont goat.jpg

Have you gotten the opportunity to visit any creameries you fell in love with? Tell us about it in the comments!

September Cheese of the Month – Dziugas

And just like that, folks, summer has come to a close–more or less. While the official first day of Fall has yet to come, I’m sure most of us can agree that the time for sunny beach days is now a thing of the past in exchange for back-to-school and soon-to-come crisp weather.

Anyone else as excited as I am?

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If not, you will be once I tell you about our awesome new Cheese of the Month! I give you: Dziugas! Looks like a mouthful, I know, but it’s really quite simple with a nice soft “J” sound: joo-GAHS.

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Hailing from Lithuania–don’t worry, I didn’t know they made cheese either–this cheese is aged for 36 months, resulting in a hard and almost crumbly texture. And just wait until you take a bite. The flavors are bold and complex; nutty but with a subtle sweetness. Dziugas reminds me almost of an Italian-style hard cheese because it’s got a nicely sharp but well-balanced bite.

With so much flavor, Dziugas makes for a delightful pairing with many big red wines or even a Brown Ale or Saison. For some super tasty accompaniments, try it with fresh figs and prosciutto.

Bon appetit!

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