Monday, August 9, 2010

A Celebration of Cheese and Wine

I am dedicating this week to wine and cheese in honor of the just-released books by our sister publisher (Timber Press): The Guide to West Coast Cheese: More than 300 Cheeses Handcrafted in California, Oregon, and Washington and Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest. We, Storey Publishing, are located about 3,000 miles away from Timber on the East Coast. And though we don't have any books chronicling the cheeses in our region, we do have books on making cheeses, and our Dishing Up series features many local cheeses from the states of Vermont, Maine, and Maryland, along with great recipes that use them. We also publish several books on wine and wine making. So cheese is right up our alley, as is its best pairing partner, wine.

To celebrate cheese and wine week, I decided to explore some local cheeses in our area and tell you about them.

A wall hanging at Brix Wine Bar

I planned a night at Brix, a European-style wine bar and bistro in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They trend toward using local ingredients but not solely — they use foods from other U.S. regions and imported foods as well. I was hoping for the best (meaning more local cheese than not) when I planned the night out.

My husband, Ryan; my coworker, Alee; and Alee's boyfriend, Bill, accompanied me to this “working” dinner to sample local wine and cheese.

Our entire experience at Brix was wonderful. We started with a cheese and charcuterie plate with a bottle of Coturri Zinfandel (2003) from Glen Ellen, California — not so local, I know, but it went well with the variety of tastes on our plate. The plate included very thinly sliced cured meat, duck mousse, salami, truffle honey, spicy mustard, fig jelly, sliced baguette, and three cheeses.

The cheese and charcuterie plate at Brix

Two of the cheeses were from overseas and one was from the eastern United States. We had Valdeon, a Spanish blue cheese; Dutch Gouda; and, the most interesting of them all, a cheese called Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm in Warrensburg, New York. We had all thought it was a very soft brie cheese — it spread like butter but had the appearance of Brie. When I inquired about the cheese, our server told us that the cheese was made from a combination of cow and goat milk. It was delicious!

The cheese in the back right is the Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm.

Our meals were fabulous as well. Alee and Ryan had flounder wrapped around a basil-pesto, summer squash ratatouille, drizzled with cream sauce and served over a dark brown wild rice. I had Lamb & Parmesan Quiche served with mixed baby greens tossed in vinaigrette. And Bill had the Croque Madame — a French ham and cheese sandwich topped with fried egg. Bill's entrรฉe was also served with the mixed greens and vinaigrette. We complemented our dinners with Puerto Infinito Malbec from Argentina.

We passed on dessert when asked by our server. But despite our good intentions, we were given a sampling of desserts and dessert wines by a friend and colleague of my husband: Lavender Crรจme Brรปlรฉe, vanilla Crรจme Brรปlรฉe, and a dark Chocolate Mousse. The desserts were served with dessert wines: two glasses of a dark lavender-colored dessert wine (hints of chocolate and espresso with a sweet honey-vanilla after-note), and two glasses of a blush-colored dessert wine (sweet and complex with a fruit after-note — I thought I was tasting pear; Alee thought plum, yet turned out to be dried apricot). Specifically, the dark wine (which was very similar to a port) was Vinedo de los Vientos ‘Alcyone’ dessert wine and the blush-colored dessert wine was Donnafugata Ben Ryรฉ Passito di Pantelleria (2006).

The dark portlike wine is Vinedo de los Vientos ‘Alcyone’ and the blush-colored
dessert wine is Donnafugata Ben Ryรฉ Passito di Pantelleria (2006).

The food, the wine, and the experience were amazing. It was a celebration of cheese and wine — just not local cheese and wine.

Although we were unable to sample a variety of local fare that evening, the East Coast does produce many local cheese and wines. I love all the local cheeses I have tried, and I intend on sampling more. I recommend taking a road trip through New England, stopping at farm stands, local grocers, and country stores along the way and trying their cheeses. The fall is coming up, and it’s a great time of year for seeing the Northeast. Maybe some day Storey or Timber can chronicle the cheeses of the East Coast?!

Grafton Cheddar Cheese (recipes in Dishing Up Vermont use this cheese)
and Cabot Chipotle Cheddar. I made a mini cheese and charcuterie plate at
home using these two cheeses and a Vermont Apple Wine Summer Sausage
from North Country Smokehouse in Claremont, New Hampshire.

Timber Press and Workman Publishing are also celebrating wine and cheese this week on their blogs, so check them out here: Workman's Blog and Timber's Blog. And stay tuned to Storey's Blog all week long. We have Jeff Cox, author of From Vines to Wines on Wednesday; Gene Spaziani, author of The Home Winemaker's Companion on Thursday; and Sue Weaver giving us the history of goat cheese on Friday.

Come celebrate cheese and wine with Storey!

— Kristy L. Rustay, Marketing Manager

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