Eyyy so your last homework assignment is posted. Sad stuff, I know. I also posted solutions to the homework you handed in yesterday. Also don’t forget I posted the Fundamental Theorem of Linear Algebra the other day. That is the real dope good stuff.
I am thinking about having extra office hours Friday from 12-2 and/or Tuesday 11-1 or 3-5 (in addition to my Wednesday 11-1 hours). Let me know which of those you’d attend/prefer.
So last week you didn’t get much of an email. I know you were sad. Maybe I was coasting a little after that quality Ninja Turtles/Rennaissance artists discussion. Maybe I was nervous I couldn’t come with anything to live up to the comparison of the butts of a Donatello statue and a pop idol. But that’s no way to live. As Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / or what’s a heaven for?” (That’s from “Andrea del Sarto” — incidentally, I want to write an essay comparing Robert Browning and the Notorious B.I.G., but that’s not for tonight. Hopefully I get around to it before our course is done.)
I actually have a couple of emails in the workshop right now, but I need to get to bed in order to be rested and ready for the USMNT’s big showdown tomorrow with Die Mannschaft. So you’ll get those in due time. For now I leave you with many, many words about cheese. I’ll get back to the high-low intellectual stuff next time.
For a good, thorough cheese plate, you generally want balance and harmony. I often like to have one cheese of each type of milk (goat, sheep, cow) but that’s really not necessary. Going with one milk only can be boring, but if the cheeses are unique enough from one to the other than it can work. I find cow’s milk to be the most versatile for this kind of plate. When I’m thinking about putting together a cheese plate, though, I usually start with texture and firmness. Cheeses often get more intense in flavor with increasing firmness, so I usually want something from at least three of the following categories: soft, semi-soft, semi-firm, hard. Blue cheese is its own category.
I’ll give you a quick overview, a few sample plates, then a big ol rundown.
– Always, always, always take your cheese out of the refrigerator an hour or so before you plan to eat it. It depends on the type, but the ideal temperature of cheese is usually around 60 – 65˚ F. If it’s colder than that you miss out on a lot of the subtlety, and the texture is generally not ideal.
– Start your cheese plate with a milder, softer cheese and work your way up in intensity. If you have a blue, you usually want to end with it.
– Pair cheeses with wines from the same part of the world. You might be familiar with the concept of terroir, which basically means food and drink take on characteristics from where they’re produced. So délice de Bourgogne, say, will generally taste pretty good with a Burgundian wine.
– At a cheese shop, always taste cheese before you buy it, because why the hell not?
– Ignore any “rule” that you want. If you like to drink stout with a triple-creme brie, go for it. If you like to eat your Tarentaise before getting to the Kunik, that’s your prerogative. This goes for anything in the culinary world.
SAMPLE PLATES: (with names!)
La Tur (mixed, USA)
Major Farms Vermont Shepherd (sheep, USA)
Consider Bardwell Farms Rupert (cow, USA)
Bayley Hazen Blue (cow, USA)
De la France a la fin du monde:
Crottin de Chavignol (goat, France)
Pont l’Éveque (cow, France)
Ossau-Iraty (sheep, France)
Mimolette Extra Vieille (cow, France)
Roquefort (cow, France)
Bovine Intervention a.k.a. Cows All Over The World:
Saint Félicien (cow, France)
Fontina Val d’Aosta (cow, Italy)
Mahon Curado (cow, Spain)
Stilton (cow, England)
Sketches of Spain:
Monte Enebro (goat, Spain)
Semi-firm Manchego (sheep, Spain) (with membrillo, claro)
Roncal (sheep, Spain)
Valdeón (mixed, Spain)
BIG OL RUNDOWN
– Very soft, fresh
You can go with something light like a fresh goat cheese (e.g. something simple like Capri, or even just one of the goat cheeses they sell at the supermarket — Vermont Butter and Creamery is the best, though Ile de France and Montchevre are good, too; I don’t like President very much) or fresh ricotta. These are usually best on baguettes; you can have them with berries or good jam, maybe walnuts if you like. Apart from a cheese board, these are often very good for breakfast.
I’d suggest a dry white wine or sparkling wine with these.
A triple-creme like délice de Bourgogne or Brillat-Savarin is always a crowd-pleaser. Even people who don’t care much for cheese will like them. Bust out some fromager d’affinois in the club and everybody gets up. St. Andre is in this vein and you can find it at the supermarket.
There are also good goat cheeses of this ilk, like Chèvre d’Argental, Lake’s Edge, and the American classic Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove. Cypress Grove also makes a version of Humboldt Fog that has truffle in it; it’s called Truffle Tremor and it’s really good. Kind of expensive ($35/lb) at Murray’s, but I’ve seen it elsewhere (specifically, Union Market in Brooklyn) for like $22/lb I think. Cowgirl Creamery in California makes some great, rich cheeses (e.g. Mt. Tam), too. Buncha babes working at their store in San Fran, too. I was like “Um can I holler please? Y’all are babes!” and they were like “Just buy your cheese and leave” and I was like “Heh heh okay” and left.
I love these cheeses on a great baguette, but they’re often even better on a complex, nutty raisin bread.
Champagne is really good with these, dry whites still work. Truffle Tremor can handle a light red like a Pinot Noir or Gamay (e.g. Beaujolais)
– Bloomy rind
This is where famous cheeses like brie and camembert lie. There are American exemplars, too, like Moses Sleeper by Jasper Hills farm. I generally find these to be solid, but not among my favorites.
These categories are a little more imprecise. There are many semi-soft cheeses that are relatively mild (e.g. emmental, Port Salut) but I don’t eat them too frequently because I like a stronger cheese, so I can’t speak to much about those.
Washed-rind cheeses are like bloomy rind cheeses and could be put in the “soft” category, but because their flavor is often very strong I put them here. Taleggio is a classic from Italy that smells strong but is not as intense as some others. Époisses is so pungent that legend has it that carrying it on the Paris Métro is illegal (I honestly don’t know whether this is true — probably not). Vacherin Mont d’Or is another French stinker. If you pull that out in mixed company you might get hosed down like Paul Rudd in Anchorman. These types of cheese are often so soft and runny when they reach room temperature (which is the temperature all your cheese should be when you eat it, unless you live in a hot yoga studio or an ice hotel) that they are eaten kind of like fondue — just dip in a crusty piece of bread. I also like Pont l’Éveque from this category.
These can be good with a full-bodied red, but might actually be best with beer. An pale ale or IPA would work well, I think.
This can encompass many, many cheeses, including a lot of my favorites. My favorites under this description would have to be the Swiss Alpine cheeses like Mont Vully, Wildspitz, Scharfe Maxx, and Appenzeller. I believe these are all made with all or almost all cow’s milk (Wildspitz is 5% goat, though); they are often funky and oniony, but at the same time very rich with a luxurious mouthfeel. Rumor has it Rick Ross eats a half a pound of Scharfe Maxx a day.
Have them with a nut brown ale or a dry red wine. Syrah works; Malbec, too.
There some great sheep’s milk cheeses of this kind, e.g. Ossau-Iraty and Pyrenées Brébis from the mountains of France, and of course Manchego from La Mancha in Spain.
I suggest drinking a red wine that comes from the same region as the cheese you’re eating. I also suggest a feeling of superiority mixed with empathy for all those who have no interest in eating such delicious cheese.
A lot of the cheeses in this category are just more-aged versions of the semi-hard cheeses (e.g. Manchego, Appenzeller). In general, I only eat Gouda, Comté, and Mimolette when they’re very old — at least two years of aging. At that point they get the tyrosine crystals that give them an appealing crunch, and they become some of my very favorite cheeses.
There are great cheddars to be had, too — Cabot Clothbound is an American one that you can find at most good cheese shops (including C’est Cheese).
There’re also the cheeses that are generally considered to be for grating, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano; they can be quite good on their own, though. Pecorino Ginepro is good from this category.
You want to be drinking a strong red wine with these. With the Italian ones you also want to be shouting and gesticulating wildly.
I am not much of an expert on blue cheeses. Cabrales was too strong for me when I had it, but that was four years ago when I was a relative neophyte. It’s supposed to be classic with some Asturian cider. Valdeón is a less intense Spanish blue that I enjoy a lot. Stilton and Roquefort are probably the two most famous blues, and justly so. Legend has it King Louis XIV loved Roquefort so much he built a bounce castle out of it. That’s probably apocryphal, though.
The best thing to drink with blue cheeses is usually a dessert wine like Sauternes (especially with Roquefort; it can be pricy, though) or port (I love port wine). The sweetness of the wine and the pungency of the blue cheese create a beautiful balance. Champagne works well, too, and I’ve heard saisons go with some blues, though I’ve never tried.
As you can tell from most of my suggested pairings, I am more of a wine guy myself, though I think beer can go very well with cheese as well, and in fact I think I should start getting more into the beer and cheese game.
Besides the cheese and the beverage, it’s nice to have accoutrements with your cheese board. I usually have a few walnuts or pecans in the mix, and some fruit. Some people like Oscar Mayer bologna with their cheese plates but I’d say avoid that unless you’re weird as hell. Dried cranberries are excellent for cleansing your palate in between cheeses. Lately I’ve taken to having pineapple with my cheese (not in the same bite), especially with the more intense cheeses like Wildspitz. It’s a good contrast.
I realize that was a lot of information, and probably not too many of you will actually read up to this. The fact is, if you go to a good cheese shop you can try all the cheeses and figure out what you like. Of course, you can’t try them all, but that’s why you go back to the shop when you finish what you’ve bought. After all, cheese is a lifetime journey of discovery.