On a slow night for sampling at Westside Market East Village, all of the action was on the cheese side. 90 minutes of sampling required only one beer, a 12.7 oz bottle, and even some of that was poured out when the beer sat on the tray for more than seven minutes. Yes, it was the Hof Ten Dormaal Blond. At this point we’re just trying to get rid of the stuff. It’s a great beer but it’s been in stock for months. I heard that there had been a fire at the brewery and it might not be around for a while so I bought two cases each of four varieties, far overestimating demand. Now, there’s a waiting list for its shelf space.
The first cheese to pair with it a variation of Picandou, a fresh French goat cheese. My coworker in the cheese department gave me a box of Carr’s garlic and herb crackers to use with it. Given that he sometimes gives me Ritz crackers, I figured I’d be a good sport and reward the solid choice by using it for a round. Then I decided to get creative, perhaps there’s a latent Cheesemonger Invitational contestant still inside of me (I was going to compete in 2012 but staff shortages forced me out). I decided that since the Hof Ten Dormaal has a slightly bitter finish, something substantially sweet might work. So I took a big chocolate Smores cookie and cut it into several portions topping each with a dollop of the Picandou. That worked, though only a few customers chose to try both the cookie cheese combo and the beer.
The second cheese was Queso de Murcia al Vino, a higher brow version of a Spanish cheese called Drunken Goat. It’s a firm goat cheese that is rinsed in red wine as it ripens. It has a nice balance, some herbal sweetness at the start and a plummy finish. It paired well with the beer.
When that board finished, there was a half hour left, easily enough time to do another board, but traffic was slowing, so I devoted the time to straightening up the beer aisle and researching a cider order.