By Terry Sweeney
In my book, eating a scrumptious wedge of fabulous French triple-creme cheese with a warm crunchy crusty baguette is a religious experience. On the other hand, three or four blocks of rubbery ice-cold supermarket cheese on a bare board with some cheap crackers…now that’s pure hell. Please don’t think I’m a heartless cheese snob. I’m aware of how much cheese prices have inexplicably gone up over the last three years. Are the cows charging more for their milk? Did the sheep wise up and decide they were getting flocked over? Did the old goats decide to start stashing some away for their retirement? I guess the real truth is cheese makers everywhere realized that there was an ever growing consumer market out there. Statistics show that American cheese consumption is at an all time high. And well, let’s face it, since neither you nor I have any intention of taking on the job of making our own cheese; we’re at their mercy. Just between us, I wish I’d known making cheese was a career option back when I graduated college. I would have loved to seen the look on people’s faces when they asked about my future choice of profession. Doctor?… Lawyer?…. No, (melodramatic pause) Cheese Monger. (Yep, that’s what they call ‘em.)
Still without having to sell a kidney; one can entertain quite beautifully and simply by following these Happy Wino cheese tips:
Pick one fantastic cheese you love if you are on a budget (and who isn’t?). It’s like that little black dress that is so right for so many occasions. And spend your money on a decent size wedge of it. Depending on the number of guests you are having. My go- to hard cheeses are…Parmigiano -Reggiano, for its flakey, fragrant and savory flavor that lingers on the palate. Manchego–a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese with a pleasing bite and a slight underlying sweetness and last but not least… Aged Gouda which is grainy, tangy, with just a hint of butterscotch on the finish.
With the Parmigiano serve a ramekin of italian olives, and some sliced rolled up proscuitto. (roll it around some juicy slices of cantaloupe for the wow factor). Pop open a bottle of Brut Champagne to go with it and I can be at your house in five minutes. Okay, okay. You can get away with a California Merlot (and I’d still come.)
For the Manchego…I’d go with some black Spanish olives, chorizo (Spanish dried sausage) and marconi almonds. Serve it up with a nicely chilled Albarino (an inexpensive but delish Spanish wine) or even a bubbly Cava.
For the Aged Gouda, I’d serve up some green grapes, sliced salami, and maybe some flatbread crackers and dijon mustard. Open a Cab, a Petite Syrah, or( Surprise! )even a sweet Muscat to keep your friends interested. After all, we don’t want a ‘cheese bored’. We wanna keep it fresh and new.
For God sake please take that cheese out of your refrigerator at least 3 hours before your party!!!! Okay, at least half an hour. I was being dramatic (but three hours is what the experts say).
Also, using a fig leaf under the cheese on the plate, adding flowers or a sprig of rosemary is a simple yet elegant gesture . Your guests will appreciate that you put such thought into your presentation.
Camembert and Brie lead the pack as my semi-soft favorites. I love to pair them with a White Burgundy, a German Riesling or once again with my good buddy Brut Champagne. Smear them on petit french toasted squares that you can find in various specialty stores and serve them with some dried apricots. Then lock the door and shut the windows. You may not want anyone to see you that out of control or hear the embarrassing primitive animal noises that inadvertently will burst forth.
Now we come to the Triple Cremes. Especially my Big Cheese Crush who leaves me weak at the knees… Explorateur. I act so crazy around Explorateur; I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten a restraining order against me. For this baby, break out the Veuve Clicqout or my favorite… Pol Roger. Definitely a warm baguette must be there to catch every creamy morsel as it collapses onto the bread in a dead faint. Or maybe that’s me who faints; and the cheese is just sitting there on the plate completely baffled. I’m not sure. I do love a small bundle of tiny red champagne grapes or maybe even some sliced pears to decorate the plate. Nothing else. Except maybe one other person to maybe share this Cheese of the Gods. But no more than one. Although it is a ‘triple creme’, three’s a crowd when Explorateur has graced you with its presence. And it would be just awful; if someone dropped in unexpectedly and started chowing down. Imagine yelling “You! Out!” At the top of your lungs and the next day having to call the poor person and apologize (sorry mother…but it was a triple creme).
These are just a few of the cheeses available to you but there are hundreds more varieties. So what are you waiting for? Leave the dark dreary CNN world we mortals must trudge through and step up to the heavenly world of cheese that’s floating out there; waiting to save you from the humdrum of life.
Come to Cheesus! Cheers.