I love to travel and planning the journey is just as exciting as the trip. Exploring new parts of the globe with twisted roads and landscapes can be just as magical as the destination. While preparing for a gathering of friends and family, shopping for the event is just as fun for many of us. As culinary standards have increased for home cooks, we still fall back on tried and true pairings that work for most of our guests.
Wine and cheese has been served around the world for hundreds of years highlighting local customs and flavors. Yes we all acknowledge there is a scale from spray cheese out of can and moon shine to works of art. However, many of us find our niche and enjoy it.
Recently Central Market hosted a wine and cheese pairing event. I walked through the store sampling and reawakening the fun in finding something new. The store provided selections in vignette settings from different parts of the world. Many of our domestic cheeses have roots in Europe and South America. For example the Wisconsin Deer Creek Vat 17 cheddar with a background of strong English cheddar with a good bit at the finish pairs beautifully with cabernet. At home, I enjoyed a ruby port with it.
I was delighted to see a taste of home, the Marin French Cheese Company of California, Camembert showcased which my sister was employed to pack as a kid. It was a staple of our home and served with French bread from the Sonoma Square. Always present at Christmas with a glass of champagne. After my parents had returned from a trip to France and toured various champagne houses, it became a family tradition to add a touch of Apricot Brandy to a glass of champagne. I continue that tradition today in memory of my dad.
At times, I really feel that we try too hard to bring something exciting to the table to keep up with the Jones. Dining is not a Power Point presentation that needs to have fly-ins or acrobats to grab your attention. I get no one wants to look at a lifeless plate. Nevertheless, we should not overlook the simple duos that flavor tells the story. I learned that night serving a little fig preserves with brie can be the bump that your cheese plate needs. It brings color, texture and flavor. Central Market also prepared recipe cards that gave pair sweet and savory options to serve with the cheese.
I am happy to see cow milk based cheeses are becoming fashionable again. St. Albans of Vermont, French styled soft cheese that can be served cold or warmed. It was paired with a Merlot that was very enjoyable and a good beer would be great too.
At times, you just need a little something to chew on while watching a good movie. The Oklahoma made Caciocavera by the Lovera family is a hard cheese that is wonderful with olives and salami or ham. It really reminded me of the Brooklyn pork stores with the cheese hanging in the back of the counter with the gourd shape and twine.
As a party of two for dinner on most nights and working full time, Central Market’s premade dinners are very good and perfect when you are pulling into the drive way at 7pm. The Gorgonzola raviolis and blueberry mascarpone tart are a must for any household. The chef-prepared hot cheese dip that included roasted tomatoes also made it into my shopping cart.
We are all living in the ‘now demand’ lifestyle while being available for work twenty-four, seven. We find ourselves applying the new dirty word of multi-tasking in our down time. For example, my friend Carrie and I enjoyed catching up with a grand reserve chardonnay sitting in front yard passing out Halloween candy. The last time I truly sat down to enjoy a glass of wine and a plate of cheese was when I was on vacation in Spain a few months ago. Is it really necessary to fly 10 hours away to enjoy what life has to offer? After making sure my chardonnay was not knocked over by super heroes and zombies, I am making myself stop after a delightful journey through Central Market. I am stopping to smell the roses, leaving the phone on the charger, turning off the TV for a bit of music, a chilled Riesling and nosh on local cheeses.