Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cheese & Wine for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day coming up and you have no time to do something super elaborate ?
And neither wants to face lines or make reservation at restaurants with time to leave ?
So come and check it out ... this tip is good !

I invited the dear and darling, Cynthia Flowers, to give us tips on assembling cheeses plates and wines.
She is my next-door neighbor and whenever we meet on the veranda of the building, eating outdoors, her dishes always catch my attention. To me, she is a master of beautifully decorating dishes and one that I remember most was a mini wine and cheese she prepared for her and her fianceé. So simple, delicate and elegant . I LOVED !
And then came the idea to invite her to give us some tips, and in this regard, she is a A+.

She took it so seriously , it felt like I have a lot to learn, period. Hehehe !
Maybe because for her, food matters more deeply and to have many varieties of cheeses and sausages at affordable prices, really helps a lot and you feel like taking risks and it gives you more practice in tasting.


She had a friend over while ago and sent me 2 photos and her tips:

" The cheeses on this plate are:

Fleur de Maquis- semisoft cheese of sheepsmilk from Corsica and mainland France, they are encrusted with rosemary, fennel seeds and juniper berries (occasionally with bird's eye chile). This cheese palate ranges from young to maturity citrus flavors with a slight sour tang to an herbaceous savoriness becoming runny and stronger. 

Willi's Bandaged Cheddar at Bleu Mont Dairy- This guy (Willi Lehner) is a Swiss American and 2nd generation cheese maker now living in Wisconsin. Firm, cow's milk cheese which are muslin wrapped; are creamy rich and distinctively sharp. 

Black Goat from Prarie Fruits Farm and Creamery- Goat's cheese which is dusted in a vegetable ash-salt mixture to neutralize the acidity of the cheese, makes it more mellow and buttery.

I always make a distinction when creating a cheese platter, as you can see in my descriptions . I always try to complement each other, choosing completely different options.
You will not want 3 cheeses, all with the same taste !
So try to go with a sheep, a cow and a goat. They have different look, different taste, and are made differently.
It is important to note that the animals are seasonal too and you cannot always get sheep milk, for example.

*** Incorporating interesting accompaniments :
There are many interesting fruit jellies, chutneys and jams on the plate. I don't know if you've ever heard it, Buddha's Hand, but it is strange citrus fruit which is mostly flesh. I think it looks like an old seaman's beard.

There is another unique fruit which we like use and it's called Pawpaw or, the Indiana Banana. Many people compare the taste to a cross between a banana and mango or pineapple, hence the name Indiana Banana. 

It's also a good idea to stay very seasonal or to use special items you may have stocked in your freezer from summer. We are using Kumquats a lot right now because citrus fruits are readily available. Tomato jam and apple chutney are seasonal whereas blueberries are not however, we have cryo-vac'd a ton that we picked in MI this summer so it's a treat to pull them out for something like a winter cheese plate or desert.   

Next time we could talk about "raw" cheese unlike pasteurized or wine / liquor / digestive , etc. ... "

I, myself, have put together a small wine and cheese night for 2 while ago.
You've probably seen the photo, which was published on the instagram. ;)

My combination was really unpretentious and simpler than Cynthia suggested, but inadvertently I hit a pretty good combination, according to chefs and articles online about Harmonisation.

I chose white and fresh cheeses (mozzarella and fresh mozzarella, seasoned), which combine well with light and fruity white wines such as riesling, viognier and sauvignon blanc.

I chose a Riesling that I love, called, Chateau Ste Michelle, produced in Washington State.
This winery is located a few hours from Seattle and my husband took there once. But this is a story for another post ...

I also choose 2 meats (salami mild flavor and parma ham) to give a boost in the mildness and softness of the cheeses.

A small plate with dried fruits (Peanut and cranberries) and fresh (3 types of grapes and green apple) are always good and help "clean" the taste of cheese (and wine) and also give a nice color to your table.
Do not forget the little basket of bread to complete, and crackers.

If desired, use a small little vase with flowers to decorate the production and don't forget the candles for a special lighting.
Nothing heavy, cause the night is just beginning.