Clockwise, from the pecans: Bierdeckel, Gorgonzola DOP, Ami du Chambertin, Rippleton, Stinking Bishop and Cabricharme cheeses
Before Thanksgiving, my friend Stephanie invited us to attend a wine, beer and cheese tasting hosted by the National Geographic Society. A night out without the kids to booze it up and inhale cheese? Yup, that’ll do.
Top, from left: Joshua Nesson(the wine expert), Steve Jenkins (master cheesemonger) and Garrett Oliver (beer dude)
The event is hosted by master cheesemonger Steve Jenkins, one of the “most respected cheesemongers in the country.” If people described me like that, I’d screen print the phrase on about 50 t-shirts in rainbow colors and just wear a different one each day. Jenkins runs the cheese department at Fairway Market and from our evening of watching him wax poetic (pun intended) about the qualities of the various cheeses we tried, it’s obvious that his knowledge is borne from extreme passion for the stuff. I mean, we all might love a good cheese here and there, but this man – he breathes cheese. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
A shot of my tastes and notes, along with prosciutto and carbs at each table
Jenkins picked six cheeses for the crowd of 100+ to taste. Most were European cheeses – Stinking Bishop from Gloucestershire, England; Cabricharme from Adrennes, Belgium; Bierdeckl from Aargau, Switzerland; Gorgonzola DOP from Italy and Ami du Chambertin from Burgundy, France. Each cheese was paired with a wine selected by Joshua Wesson, a big-time sommelier, and a beer selected by Garrett Oliver, the mastermind behind Brooklyn Brewery. Audience members (i.e., cheese fangirls like me) voted after each tasting on which libation paired better with the cheese.
Overall, the cheeses were real stinkers (sorry, I just can’t resist the pun) in that they all had that pungent aroma of truly great aged cheeses. I’m a huge fan of stinky aged cheeses, and it didn’t really matter to me which beer or wine “won” or “lost” that night. Actually, judging from the increasingly rowdy (read: drunk) crowd, they didn’t much care about win-loss records, either. What I do like about events like these are “discovering” foods I didn’t previously know existed. For example, Bluejacket Brewing Company, a DC brewery that just opened last year, makes a cloudy sour beer called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (now that’s a mouthful to order). The beer is floral, light and has a great pucker that’s become one of the hubby and my recent favorite new genre of beer. Our absolute favorite sour beer is, as I’ve mentioned before, Westbrook Brewing Company’s Gose, a take on the original German Gose.
The Bluejacket WWTAWWTAL was paired with Cabricharme, a semi-soft goat cheese reminiscent of fresh asiago in terms of taste and texture except that it’s, for lack of a better word, oozier. The rind of the Cabricharme is washed in beer, which makes it a no-brainer for a beer pairing, and the soft, porous center is a great mix of pungency and earthiness. The tartness of the WWTAWWTAL really complemented the creamy sharpness of the Cabricharme. I could see myself sitting down with a plate of sliced Cabricharme and a cold, crisp WWTAWWTAL at the end of a long day the way an overworked, weary mom might draw herself a Calgon bath in the evening. Oh wait — I’m one of those, too. Well, I guess my dream scenario at the end of a long day would go like this, in this specific order: fizzy bath salts, followed by a low volume repeat loop of Taylor Swift’s 1989 humming on my iPad in the background, six slices of room-temp Cabricharme and a nice cold brewski from Bluejacket consumed tubside while the hubby vacuums downstairs. I mean, not that I’ve given any thought to this or anything.
Carbs and cured meat accompanied the tastings
That’s not to say that Wesson’s choice of wine for the Cabricharme wasn’t a winner, either. He paired the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier, a very reasonably priced $13.99 sparkling white wine with the Cabricharme. Maybe I just loved Cabricharme that much, but I tasted juicy grapefruit in the Pine Ridge, which was a great accent to draw out the saltiness of the washed rind in the Cabricharme. I highlight this particular pairing because it was my clear favorite of the evening, so much so that I’ve been scouring my local Whole Foods and other gourmet shops in the area for other varieties of Cabricharme to taste and planning our visit to Bluejacket in the near future.
Of course, the only purpose of these scavenging trips is just for that epic bath I have planned.