Sundays at the Westside Market East Village usually range in extremes. Either it’s deathly slow or it’s crazy busy. This Sunday was a pleasure; the all-hands-on-deck busy moments alternated with consistently but not crazy busy ones. With such a solid flow of customers, the time went by quickly, and I had an audience to offer cheese and beer to for six solid hours.
The first beverage was the Naked Flock Original Cider. I figured that its idiosyncratic label would move it without much pushing, but I was wrong so I’m happy to give it a boost. It’s a cider fermented with champagne yeast in Hudson Valley. It’s drier than I remembered it without being punishingly, pucker your lips dry. I chose the Fromager D’Affinois as a pairing partner mostly to let the beverage lead. It’s also good team play to highlight one of the sale cheeses of the week first as I get to do what I want thereafter. The Naked Flock proved popular, as of course did the cheese. Fd’A is a super creamy brie with a sumptuous texture. However, I ran out of cheese before the bottle was done so I grabbed some Affineur Walo, a big aromatic alpine cheese—imagine an earthier Gruyere—to bridge the cider and the next beverage.
In general I’m a big believer that the nuttiness of alpine cheeses makes them excellent gateways into the world of artisanal cheese. I also think that they are versatile, and the AW proved it by pairing smartly with the cider, then by standing up to the hops of the second beverage, Maine Beer Company MO, a pale ale from the northeast’s premier microbrewer of such things. I chose it both as we just added the beer this week and to highlight that MBC’s signature brew, Lunch, is coming in a week or so. The MO has a nice bit of both citrus and tropical fruit which matched Walo’s nuttiness well.
I don’t like to stereotype since as a middle aged African American guy, I’ve spent far too much of my life explaining to people why I don’t drink Heineken, but there are tendencies that border on stereotypes that I follow. One of them is that women dig saisons. Yes, I have several women friends who are ardent IPA drinkers, and of course I like saisons too. I’d need far more work than Caitlyn Jenner to ever look feminine. Nevertheless the next pairing confirmed that well, tendency, about women and saisons.
I didn’t have a third pairing in mind, and the store was traffic-jams-in the-aisles busy. Fearing that I was about to be pulled into traffic control duty, I grabbed a bottle of Stillwater Cellar Door and a piece of Jasper Hill Moses Sleeper to be the next pairing. Moses Sleeper is a brie-like cheese from one of the leading cheese makers in the northeast. I figured the root vegetable qualities of the cheese would pair nicely with the light, zesty texture and the floral finish of the Cellar Door, which is brewed with white sage. Also, talking points are vital especially when the pace is very uptempo. Saison’s history as the beer of farmhand’s lunch and jasper Hill’s origin story make for a compelling second line of introduction to the product. The cheese went fast; my coworker had to stop what he was doing and cut more pieces of Moses Sleeper, but the beer went faster. Several women jonsed over the beer and when I showed them the Stillwater section of the beer aisle, four packs of Cellar Door and two other Stillwater brews, Debutante and Stateside Saison, began disappearing fast.
For the final pairing I chose the Cigar City Helles Lager, a good beer for a warm spring day, and paired it with Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert, a soft sheep cheese from upstate NY. The butteriness of the cheese was a good match for dry effervescent qualities of the beer. Unlike the Naked Flock, MO and Stillwater, I don’t think we sold any Helles Lager, but two couples used their introduction to it as an onramp to considering the options of the beer aisle, a victory I think.