Chocolate & Cheese: A Pairing to Please All Your Senses

By Rainer Burrow

“I don’t like to be gratuitous with chocolate.  I like for it to be meaningful.”  Chef Sarah Langan explained her philosophy on cooking with chocolate to a full tent as she and her assistants gracefully whipped up a 3 course cooking demo on a beautiful Vermont summer day.  The theme for the tasting: chocolate and cheese; what 2 things are easier to love?

Chef Langan is the chef and educator at South End Kitchen in Burlington, Vermont.  South End Kitchen is a café located in Burlington Vermont owned by Lake Champlain Chocolates, a chocolate producer that has been in operation on Lake Champlain since 1983.  Lake Champlaign Chocolates is a top- quality producer, and a true gem in the state of Vermont.  The company uses local Vermont products to make their chocolates, doesn’t add preservatives or additives, are committed to sourcing non-GMO ingredients, and are champions of fair trade.  These factors combine to make high-quality chocolates, which are featured in various ways at South End Kitchen.

For the first course, Chef Langan chose to do a very simple chocolate and cheese pairing using Lake Champlain’s Blue Bandana 70% Guatemala Chocolate and Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche.  Both products are beautiful and intricate on their own, married very well on the palate to completely enhance the flavor experience.  The chocolate was chalky, fruity, and initially sweet with a solid acidity.  The Cheese Was acidic and moldy, mild with a great funk presence.  Eating them together brought me back to Ratatouille swirling colors around his head as he is pairing scraps on the yard of his farm.  Together the acidity and mold went down, the fruit notes really shined through, and both products mellowed out a little bit.  It was an excellent pairing and an excellent start to the demo.

As Chef Langan segued into the second course, she introduced a reflection on how we as humans react to the five tastes (sweet sour salty bitter and umami).  She stated “When you can have all 5 tastes in one dish, you will satisfy yourself.  When your palate is missing one, you will crave more.”  It was with this philosophy in mind that she created her second course, a rustic tart consisting of arugula, pancetta crisps, Vermont Creamery’s Cremont, Fig & honey spread, lemon vinaigrette, and a chocolate emulsion all over a tart dough.  With sweet from the fig and honey, salty from the Cremont and pancetta, bitter form the arugula and chocolate, acidity from Cremont and the vinaigrette, and umami from the pancetta, it was perfectly complete.  I felt distinctly happy and satiated after consuming it.

Finally, for the third course (and dessert), Chef Langan severed a Chocolate Chevre Cheesecake.  It was a beautiful conclusion to the cooking demo: woodsy, tangy, fatty, soft, great in acidity, and rich in chocolate.  Of the three courses, this was definitely my favorite, but I have a sweet tooth and I love chocolate.

I left the tasting feeling educated, satiated, and happy to be alive.  There’s nothing better than great cheese and expert culinary execution.  If the food at South End Kitchen is anything like the tasting, it’s definitely worth a visit.

http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/

http://southendkitchenvt.com/

http://www.vermontcreamery.com/

 

 

 

 

We’ll Drink To That: Beer & Cheese Pairing Basics

Caitlin and Kevin have insatiable appetites for delicious cheese/beverage combinations and they are out to try them all. Today they share some basic tips for pairing beer and cheese, just in time for your St. Paddy’s Day festivities.

BEER ME

Beer and cheese. The perfect pairing? Potentially. Better than wine and cheese? Undeniably, and we aren’t just saying so because St. Patrick’s Day is on the horizon. A wise man once told us that cheese and beer are the same: both are made from grass processed by animals for our (delicious) consumption, and both are ancient methods of preservation. If you’re unconvinced, try this mental exercise: Think of your favorite cheese, and the creamy rich texture that coats your mouth. Then imagine a glass of crisp, lightly effervescent,  golden-brown lager. There, now you get it.

BEST BETS: TIPS FOR CHOOSING BEER AND CHEESE 

When pairing cheese and beer, it’s important to stay away from super hoppy beers. You may love that eye-watering Double IPA, but it’ll overwhelm any cheese you want to munch with it. Stay closer to the malty side of the fence: Stouts, bocks, ambers and pilsners. Stouts and porters are particularly cooperative, as their roasty-toasty character works well with many cheeses.

On the cheese side, go for cheese that will stand up to your beer. Delicate cheeses are easily overwhelmed, so you wouldn’t pair these with anything too intense. Texture-forward cheeses, such as Fromager d’Affinois or a triple crème can get lost against even the mildest of beers. Instead, think alpine-style, washed-rinds, and thistle rennet options – in other words, stuff with serious flavor.

WHAT WE LOVED

Alpine cheese, such as Comte or Gruyere (cave-aged for sure), pairs well with a rich Stout. The roasted character of the stout, which can frequently have notes of chocolate or coffee, marries perfectly with the sweet, caramelly, cooked milk of an alpine cheese. This weekend we tried a few new beer and cheese combos. Our favorite pairing was Spring Brook Tarentaise with Two Brothers North-Wind Imperial Stout, the fruity American alpine mixed delightfully with the clean notes of the Stout. And for a truly seasonal treat, you can’t do much better than our new, limited edition Cavemaster Reserve Across the Pond. It’s washed in stout, so beer is its natural companion – get it while it lasts!

The best thing about beer is that it’s a wonderfully forgiving accompaniment, so DO try this at home. As long as you take care to match flavor intensity odds are you’ll have a delicious duo. Throw some cured meats, olives, nuts or dried fruit alongside, and dinner is served.

Caitlin Griffith is a cheesemonger at our Bleecker Street store, and in a few months she’ll boast a MA in Food Studies from NYU. Things she enjoys in excess: wine, radishes, list-making, garlic, and salt water.

Kevin Brooks is head monger at Bleecker Street and also shares his merchandising expertise in Murray’s Kroger outposts. His iPod is full of metal, and his brain is full of thoughts on beer, burritos, and Settlers of Catan.