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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!

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.

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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?

April Cheese of the Month – Comté 6 month

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.

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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.

Try it:

  • 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!

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February Cheese of the Month -Wyke Smoked Cheddar

Ya know, I was thinking the other night…

There are so many cheeses out there in the world. And I just feel like…

smoked cheeses…

…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.

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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.

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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!

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.

Oma-gosh!

I’ve done it again!–found another amazing cheese, of course.

If you’ve been keeping up with me here are the BKVineyardMarket blog, you may already know that I kinda have a thing for stinky cheese. Now if you haven’t been keeping up with me or you’re not all that familiar with the diversity of cheese, “stinky cheese” is just a more blunt way of saying “washed rind”. Washed rind cheeses are simply cheeses that have been “washed” or bathed in some sort of a brine during their aging process, imparting a new class of flavors and sometimes making the cheese quite pungent (read more about washed rind cheeses here).

omaThe reason I’m going into this? We just got in to the Glen Rock location a new stinky cheese–and it’s delicious. My friends, meet Jasper Hill’s Oma.

Jasper Hill Farm, a highly regarded creamery, not only makes their own specialty cheeses, but they actually specialize in aging others’ cheeses in their unique cellars. Oma is one of these such cheeses. Coming from Von Trapp Farmstead in Vermont, Oma is a delightful raw milk cheese, made entirely with organic cows’ milk mostly from Jersey cows. It’s aged for about 10 weeks before it’s pulled and sent out for purchase!

Now when I call Oma a “stinky cheese”, please do not let this scare you. Washed rind cheeses come in a variety of shapes and sizes and, most importantly, pungency. That being said, Oma is a very approachable washed rind cheese, similarly to Taleggio but with just a little more oomph. My assistant and I got to give it a taste yesterday and we both agreed it’s a winner. The paste is springy but spreadable, sort of like St. Albray, and the flavor isn’t oma-piecesquite as pungent as it is complex. It’s got a buttery almost meaty taste to it followed by a very subtle sweet note. If you want to go big and try the rind, like my assistant always does, it gives a whole new taste to the cheese, introducing a nice earthy note.

With its flavor profile, I think this cheese could go well with a variety of beers; Jasper Hill recommends trying it with a Belgian Dubbel. As for wine, you could go red with a nice Burgundy or Pinot Noir, or if you prefer white try a good Riesling. As divine as it is by itself, you know I always have some accompaniment suggestions for you; try it with some roasted salted nuts or fig jam, and of course some crusty artisan bread.

Laura Chenel Cabecou Herb – July Cheese of the Month

Whew! The holidays are finally past us again–at least for a little while. And what a better way to wind down than with a brand new yummy cheese!

This month we bring you an incredible new goat cheese: Laura Chenel’s Cabecou Herb.

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Laura Chenel was a pioneer of commercializing goat cheese in the U.S. She began her company in 1979 in California with the mission of making goat cheese a sought-after American food. She traveled to France and worked alongside a handful of cheesemakers before returning to create her own goat-y masterpieces. The Laura Chenel company was sold in 2006 to Rians Group, a group that buys small family producers with the promise of maintaining their original integrity and traditions. Today, the creamery has been awarded for its environmental achievements with their “green creamery” and continues to use only local dairy that is GMO and rBST free. This is how we’ve come to discover the goat cheese wonders that are Cabecou!

A nice domestic cheese hailing from Sonoma in California, Cabecou (CAH-beh-coo) is a fresh goat log that has been sliced into discs and dried for about a week before being marinated in an oil mixture. Laura Chenel currently produces two varieties: Spicy and Herb. Currently, all Bottle King Vineyard Markets are carrying the Herb as our new featured Cheese of the Month. Coming in an adorable little pail, each tub contains about 4 goat discs that have been soaked in a marinade of bay leaf, peppercorn, and other fresh herbs, resulting in a luxurious and savory bite.

I love love love this cheese on some fresh artisan bread, so you can really soak up some of the oil. Pair it with a bright Sauvignon Blanc or even a Champagne for some play on texture.

To make things even better, being our Cheese of the Month we’re able to bring you this fantastic cheese at a fantastic price: $8.99 $5.99

Be sure to stop into your local Vineyard Market this weekend to have a taste!

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