Beer and Cheese May 22

Beer and Cheese Pairings May 22nd
The powers that be left me three cheeses to sample on Friday which made me chuckle.  The Friday late afternoon/early evening of a three day weekend is going to be slow.  In fact as I walked to work that afternoon, I could hear the usual din of Manhattan getting quieter.  It was as if some superhuman force had found the volume knob and was turning it down.  I chose two of the cheeses and told them that getting through two would be optimistic.
I was wrong.  Yes, the store was slow, but that gave the shoppers a freedom to stop converse and take an interest, and perhaps with the holiday relaxing them a bit was a factor too.  It was a very successful evening.  The first cheese on the board was Tramonto Rosso, an Italian cow’s milk cheese from Friuili that was rubbed in grape must from red wine production.  The cheese was earthy and balanced with a tinge of finishing flavor coming from the rub.  Fearing that a lack of traffic would force me to hawk the board longer than usual, I deliberately chose a very fizzy partner, Bittersweet Symphony, the Gaverhopke/Tired Hands collaborative Belgian Pale Ale, I needn’t have worried about traffic.  People swarmed the board and we wound up selling six bottles of the beer in the first five minutes I was on the floor.  The cheese intrigued customers but didn’t incite their passion.  I was delighted.  The Bittersweet Symphony is one of my favorite newish beers; it dials back the citrus and pine notes and delivers a cool minty flavor that goes wonderfully with the yeastiness of the brew.  These flavors complemented the subtle earthiness of the cheese nicely.
The second cheese also had a red wine connection.  Affineur Malo is a gruyere-ish cheese from Switzerland that has been washed in Pinot Noir as it ripens.  The result is an almost caramel nuttiness with a light grape-y finish.  I chose another Gaverhopke, the Extra, their malty Quadruple with distinct overtones of vanilla and molasses.  I figured that sweet finish and the nuttiness of the cheese would bond.  The Extra is also upwards of 12% ABV, which seemed to abet the holiday spirit.  This time people were blown away by the cheese, though we sold a couple of bottles of beer too.
Overall I was very happy.  The Gaverhopke isn’t cheap; we sell it at $6.99 for a 12 oz bottle, but I’ve been arguing that if you get twice to three times the pleasure from that bottle that you would from a bottle at a  $2.99/3.99 price point, then it’s a good buy.  I’ve been making a parallel argument in cheese for years, and I’m pleased to see it take hold in beer.  It’s an argument unique to my setting, though.  Manhattan denizens are typically paying between two and three thousand dollars a month to live in shoebox sized apartments.  To make it worthwhile, they–er, we–have to maximize our pleasures in other ways.bittersweet symphony

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese May 20

Beer and Cheese Pairing, May 20.
The cheese manager requested that I sample her latest addition, a mixed milk Manchego.  It was made from the milk of sheep, goat and cow.  The flavor was smooth yet complex; there were the usual citrus notes balanced by a little sweetness and a slight salty finish.  I initially thought about something hoppy.  I shied away from my first choice, the Meadowlark IPA because it’s already selling really well.  The Maine Beer Company Weez would work, but since MBC beers sell so well already, I didn’t see a point (aside from enjoying a few sample cups on my own),  I decided to go in a different direction thinking that the caramel notes of the Schneider-Weisse Aventinus would do the trick, but as I reached for it, I saw the perfect choice, the Apostelbrau Bavarian Pale Ale.  Yep, a German Pale Ale, it’s more fruity than hoppy and has just a slight bitterness in the finish.  It was a winner.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese Pairings Monday May 17

Monday night’s beer and cheese pairings were dictated by the fromage. I had hoped to shine a spotlight on the Slyboro Hidden Star, a bright delicious if ever so slightly sweet cider from Vermont, but the cheese manager had left a request that I highlight a new Aged Grafton 3 yearGoat Gouda called Gold Reserve. To my palate, Aged Goat Goudas have a distinctly toffee like finish. Hmmm, sweet with sweet didn’t appeal to me, so I postponed the cider and grabbed a bottle of the Grimm Shapeshifter, a Scotch Ale brewed with tart cherries and aged in brandy barrels. Yep, there was a lot going on in that beer: some tang overtones, some tart ones too and a bit of sweetness in the background. I was happy with the pairing; the two items connected in some ways and contrasted in others. I felt people’s palates would be duly entertained.
The only drawback was that it was Monday and people nearly pushed me out of their way and largely ignored the goodies I was offering. Twice I had to pour beer out that had gone flat in the sample cups. I thought that the back story of the beer (it’s made by a Brooklyn based husband/wife pair of gypsy brewers) would be an attraction but I forgot; NYers aren’t listening. OTOH, the dozen or so people that did try it were blown away. I had several new best friends, and we moved about four bottles of beer (not bad given that a. it’s Monday and b. it’s $18.99 for a 22 oz bottle). A few of the people took pictures of the label for future reference. One guy who suffered sticker shock bought a mixed four pack of Stillwaters.
About a half hour before I called it a day, I still had about seven ounces of beer left. We were down to just a few pieces of the goat gouda, so I paired the Shapeshifter with Grafton 3 year old cheddar. Simple straightforward sharpness. That went over very well too, at least to those who bothered.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese Pairings May 17

debutante_cropOn Sundays we do lots of pairings. Sometimes I’m on the floor for six or seven hours hawking beer and cheese.

Naked Flock Cider and Provolone Piccante (5 year old Auricchio)
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve significantly bolstered our cider selection, and I figured this one fit a warm Sunday afternoon. It’s fermented with champagne yeast and sort of off dry, i.e. dry without making you pucker. Cheddar was far too easy a choice, and I figured Alpine cheeses would figure in the mix later (and as it turned out they came into play sooner and later), so I sought something hard and salty as a pairing partner. I found something with both qualities and its aromatic too. Although people seemed to like the cheese, I don’t think we sold any of it, but three or four bottles of the Naked Flock moved.

Evil Twin Molotov Lite and Rolf Beeler’s Hoch Ybrig
This pairing was driven by the cheese. As the hard cider/Provolone finished, I simply decided to grab the first piece of Alpine cheese that looked like it needed to be eaten today. Hoch Ybrig is a white wine wine washed Gruyere-ish cheese with deep nutty and caramel overtones. I figured this would pair well with an IPA. I was leaning toward Evil Twin Yang, but it already sells really well, so I opted for Molotov Lite, the easiergoing version of Molotov Cocktail. It’s a Double IPA brewed with mango and orange puree to highlight some of the intrinsic flavors of tropical fruit and citrus. Usually Hoch Ybrig flies out the door when I put it on the board, but it didn’t today (maybe the piece was too far gone; five cans of Molotov left the building so I can’t complain.

Local Option Morning Wood with Ford Farm Traditional English Cheddar
Morning Wood is an amber ale brewed with coffee and aged in oak barrels, so it has a hearty but smooth follow through. I figured this would be a good match for a grassy, complex cheddar. People thought so, though I don’t think I sold any of either, but the name of the beer always add a bit of mirth to where ever I’m standing.

Westbrook Gose with Beaufort
It took some determined lobbying but I finally got the Gose a dedicated shelf space. It’s already really popular but with the late afternoon growing humid, I decided it would refresh the clientele. The Beaufort is on sale, and I want at least one of the cheeses on the board per shift to be under $20/lb. The Beaufort, a slightly sweet, somewhat creamy and very very nutty French alpine, was $14.99/lb. We sold a ton of it, maybe eight pieces and a few cans of beer too. I suspect that at $17.99 a six pack, the Gose is something that people put on their agenda for next time.

Stillwater Debutante with Jasper Hill Conundrum
Usually for the last tasting I choose whatever appeals to me and there was a loose bottle of Ballast Point Sculpin calling my name, but I’d already done an IPA, so I opted for Debutante which we just added to replace a Stillwater Of Love and Regret (a saison brewed with lavender and chamomile). Debutante is a Biere de Garde brewed with honeysuckle hyssop and heather. To balance its sweet floral notes, I chose Jasper Hill Conundrum, a creamy cow’s milk cheese that has been washed in Eden Ice Cider as it ripens giving it a very subtle funk. I served it on what we call a Russian Focaccia, a thick pumpernickel bread with chopped onions. The pairing blew up big. Several pieces of cheese and probably eight bottles of beer hit the door.

Tomorrow I hope to break out a bottle of Slyboro Hidden Star. It’ll be fun to see where that leads.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie | Leave a comment

Cheese and Beer Pairings May 13 and 15

May 13

Haystack Mountain Snowdrop with Westbrook White Thai (Belgian Wheat brewed with ginger and lemongrass)
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar with Gaverhopke Bitter Sweet Symphony (Belgian Pale Ale)

May 15

Friday’s cheese and beer pairing was Beaufort (big smooth, very nutty French Alpine cheese) and Pretty Things Meadowlark (India Pale Ale with distinctive grapefruit overtones). The beer aisle was swamped during the sampling time (6-8) so I only did one pairing and spent a lot of time chatting with customers and offering advice. Nevertheless, we sold a lot of both.
I get into a rut sometimes of automatically pairing IPAs with Aged Goudas. The butterscotch overtones of that cheese usually offsets the hoppy bitterness of the beer, but one, I wanted to try something a little different, and two I felt the nuttiness of the Beaufort and the creamy mouthfeel would play as sweet and offset the zesty qualities of the IPA. I think it worked out well.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie | Leave a comment

Cheese and Beer Pairings May 11

37 years ago and a couple of months before I packed my bags and moved to New York City, my Godmother took me to lunch to have what she called a “savvy session.” Over lunch we talked and told stories. Then just before we parted she looked me sternly in the eye and said “you must remember these two concepts: always have a poker face handy and maintain very thick skin.”
It was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and it serves me well, even, perhaps especially working with the Gotham public in matters of artisanal cheese and craft beer. It may be harder than you think to give away free samples of great cheese and beer to New Yorkers, which part of what I do for at Westside Market East Village. More than half brush me off as a nuisance, someone interfering with their train of thought as they shop. Still others show no listening comprehension so that even though I’m announcing “our cheese and beer board features the Marcel Petite Comte and Founder’s Breakfast Stout,” about one in ten grab a piece a cheese and plunge it into a sample cup of beer as if it were a condiment (one memorable fellow did that then upon *discovering* it was cheese and beer, took it out of his mouth announced he didn’t consume either and put the half eaten piece of cheese back on my board).
Anyway, last night someone topped that loser. I was circulating with a complicated pairing, an especially ripe piece of Chevrot matched with Westbrook White Thai, a Belgian wheat beer, brewed with ginger and lemongrass. The Chevrot was a bit stronger than what I’d usually choose to sample to our public, but it was given to me by my boss, so I went with it. Many people loved the cheese (we sold three pieces during the 20 minutes of circulating) and others loved the pairing in general (we also sold two six packs of the beer). But as I was heading back to the cheese counter to reload, a woman saw the board and shouted “what’s that you’ve got there, it looks like urine samples!”
Every verbal response I could conceive in the milliseconds that followed led down a dark alley, so I just glared at her. “Oh it’s not” she exclaimed with mock surprise. I calmly explained the products and she responded, “you just don’t understand my sense of humor;” and with that, she turned down a nearby aisle and disappeared. Yeah, thick skin and a poker face, yeah indeed.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie | Leave a comment

92Y Winter/Spring 2015

20101214-Serious-Cheese-Vermont-Shepherd2March 12th:  The All American

There’s more to American whiskey than bourbon and more to American cheese than Pleasant Ridge Reserve.  Come explore the range!

http://www.92y.org/Event/The-All-American

April 9th: Bruisin’ for a Cruisin':  Big California Cabs and other potent wines and the cheeses that love them.
Come try some big hearty reds and explore the cheeses that can stand up to them!
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment