Chocolate & Cheese: The Perfect Pair for V-Day

Valentine’s Day is soon (read: two weeks!), so now’s as good a time as any to start thinking about your V-Day plans. Maybe you’ve got romantic plans out, or maybe you’re having a sweet night in, but we know there should be one thing involved: chocolate. Being cheesy experts ourselves, we think cheese goes with everything, and chocolate is no exception. While you might not think these sweet and savory delights go together, we’re here to prove you wrong. 

Roomano & Raaka Bourbon Cask Bar

Something about this decadent, aged Gouda just begs for something sweet. Its notes of caramel and sweet-salty butterscotch usually are paired with a nice glass of scotch and whiskey, but if you’re looking to add a little sweetness, the Raaka Bourbon Cask bar is the way to go. The dark virgin chocolate is enhanced with the flavors of aged bourbon, with bright notes of spicy rye, vanilla, and caramel. Since we know like goes with like, these two were just meant to be.

Persille de Rambouillet & Murray’s Munchies Milk Chocolate Grahams

Blue cheeses and chocolate always go together – they’re like a couple of high school sweethearts! But Persille de Rambouillet is like the head cheerleader – popular, smooth, and sweet. The Alpine goats milk that goes into this blue creates clean lactic notes, with hints of white pepper and sweet cream. It’s that sweet cream and gentle piquancy that makes the chocolatey crunch of Murray’s milk chocolate covered graham crackers all the more delightful. (Hint: you might even want to spread the cheese directly onto the chocolate chunks. It’ll blow your mind!)

Pleasant Ridge Reserve & Pralus Dark Chocolate Infernal Bar

Summer pasture fed cow’s milk, with hints of floral, fruity flavors, Pleasant Ridge Reserve has those bites of sweetness we love. Like the Alpine cheeses it is inspired by, it goes great with a dark chocolate. We love it with the dark chocolate Infernal bar from Pralus Chocolatier, where the chocolate is fruity and deep and filled with toasty hazelnuts. We’re talking a match made in heaven, if we’re being honest – and it sure is heavenly.

Up in Smoke & Mast Brothers Chocolate Stumptown Coffee Bar

Sultry smokiness paired with roasty coffee – honestly, what can be better? With a ball of fresh goat’s milk cheese wrapped in maple leaves and then smoked, there’s a deep, campfire-y richness and clean minerality that reminds us of smelling cooking bacon in the morning, but sweet. Add your cup of coffee or make it a mocha with the chocolate bar from Mast blended with freshly roasted coffee beans, and this is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Our taste buds have heart eyes.

Drafting Our Favorite Drafts

Folks have only been brewing beer and noshing on cheese for oh, several thousand years or so, and we’re not about to argue with millennia of delicious history. Sometimes flavors just work together, and bready, refreshing beer has always been delicious with cheese – after all, there are as many different beers in the world as there are cheeses. We’ve asked some of favorite beer-loving cheesemongers just what cheeses and beers are a match made in heaven.

But what makes a perfect pairing? Actually, there’s some simple rules when it comes to figuring out what pairs with what. We at Murray’s follow three simple rules:

  1. Same pairs with same! Meaning that if it shares similar flavors, it pairs well together. You have a nutty cheese? It’s going to pair well with a nutty, toasty beer!
  2. Opposites attract! If you have something savory and creamy, why not put it with something bold and sweet? Sometimes flavors that are on the opposite side of the spectrum make the best combos.
  3. If it grows together, it goes together! This is the classic understanding of ‘terroir’, or taste of place. If two items are grown in similar areas, they’ll often share complementary flavors.

With these pairing types in mind, let’s check out some of our favorite beers with Murray’s best cheeses!

St. StephenReissdorf Kolsch

There’s something just right about a bright, creamy cheese and a light, dry beer. Take, for instance, the local buttery batch of St. Stephen. Delicate, buttery, with a hint of sun-dried wheat and sweet cream under a pillowy rind, it is a versatile cheese that works best with something bubbly. Normally, you’d be reaching to pop a bottle of Prosecco to go along with it, but we suggest instead Reissdorf Kolsch. This Kolsch is light (lighter even than a pilsner), with a minty, hoppy aroma that gives way to flavors of vanilla and gentle cedar notes. It’s a unique mix, but just as delicious as any wine and cheese pairing.

Murray’s Camembert – Logsdon Seizoen Bretta

What if we could recreate the best tastes of a sweet breakfast, but with cheese and beer? Well, with the creamy, toasty, and buttery Murray’s Camembert, we’re part of the way there. This Frenchie’s earthy notes are balanced with a frosty glass of Logsdon’s Seizoen Bretta. Unfiltered and sealed with beeswax, the beer is refermented, producing a fruity and spicy beer with a soft malt character. It is dry and crisp, like champagne, which makes it the ideal partner to a creamy, gooey Camembert.

AnneliesSchneider Weiss Aventinus

If you’re looking for traditional beers, Aventinus is the way to go. The world’s oldest wheat dopplebock, it was created in 1907. It is full-bodied, like any dopplebock should be, with malty notes that linger between raisins, plums, and marzipan. Often paired with roast beef or chocolate desserts, it made sense to break out a chunk of Annelies. This Swiss sweetie is full of flavors of roasted hazelnuts and vibrant alpine grasses. Beneath those, undertones of butterscotch and cocoa are brought out with each swig of the Aventinus.

Pleasant Ridge ReserveOrval

An award-winning cheese from the homeland of American cheese, Wisconsin, Pleasant Ridge Reserve takes on the flavors of the Alpine classics that it is inspired by. Its younger wheels are reminiscent of beef broth and caramelized onions, while the more aged version tends to embody more floral, crushed pineapple notes. While this is a new cheese born of ancient traditions, we paired it with a beer that dates all the way back to 1628. A Belgian monastery was brewing this style of trappist beer since the 17th century, though it was revived for public consumption in 1931. Light and foamy, it has the distinct aroma of aged leather and spice, and tastes a bit fruity with a bitterness that accents the oniony, beefy flavors of the cheese.

ValdeonSagra Bohio

Blue cheeses are often considered overpowering – this Spanish blue is admittedly quite bold and spicy. Valdeon is made with a seasonal blend of goat and cow’s milk, then wrapped in a protective layer of sycamore or oak leaves. Hearty, it requires a strong, distinct beer to pair alongside it. This is where Sagra Bohio comes in – birthed by brew master partnered with an acclaimed Spanish chef. We’ve always encouraged pairing dark chocolate with our piquant blue cheeses, so pairing Valdeon with Sagra Bohio is a natural choice. The lightly smoked ale is full of bitter chocolate notes and espresso aromas.

So You Want to Be a Cheese Whiz…Without Eating Cheez Whiz

As Murray’s Bleecker Street store’s newest cheesemonger, I know that cheese can be a little intimidating—particularly when you’re staring at over 350 in our cheese case! The fact is, the new turophile (that’s cheese lover in laymen’s terms) may be racked with indecision and anxiety when trying to decipher the ins and outs of the wonderful world of fromage.

“With so many to taste, how will I know which one is for me?” this person might ask. And then there are inevitable questions like: Which milk types should I try? Will it taste like it smells? Should I eat the rind? FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE, WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN?!

That’s where I come in, my friends. Below I’ve listed a variety of 5 cheeses that the cheese neophyte can start with, learn from, AND enjoy. And those of you with a little more expertise should read on, since these cheeses are just plain good eatin’,

1. Westfield Capri*
What’s that? You say you don’t like fresh goat’s milk cheeses? Let me introduce you to the cheese that changes your mind—Westfield Capri from Massachusetts. This little block of goaty goodness is what cream cheese wishes it could be: spreadable and luscious, with a soft texture and mild tangy flavor that melts in your mouth. And—while it tastes great on its own, it pairs perfectly with bagels, fresh fruit, granola or even a brunch-time mimosa.

2. Casatica di Bufala
Alright, folks—it’s time to back away from that generic supermarket brie that’s been coddling you. If you want to get familiar with the richest animal’s milk there is, you have to eat a cheese courtesy of the illustrious water buffalo! This animal’s milk sports twice the fat of a cow’s, and Casatica di Bufala shows off its curves with its mild but buttery rich flavor. The thin, white mold on the outside gives this bloomy-rind cheese a tasty creamline that dissolves into a mildly sweet, silky center. The perfect cheese to pair with a baguette and a light sparkling white wine.

3. Podda Classico
Sometimes, you just want a great snacking cheese. A little nutty with a touch of caramel sweetness, firm but crumbly Podda Classico tastes great sliced up for a cheese plate or grated for a pasta topper. This cow/sheep hybrid from Sardinia has the sharpness of a cheddar and the sweetness of an aged gouda—so you know it’s gotta be good! The full flavor stands up to fruit and wine pairings but won’t overpower them—in short, this is a cheese the whole family will love.

4. Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Sure, the Europeans know how to make delicious cheese. But did you know there’s some incredibly tasty treats coming out of American dairies? This award-winner from Wisconsin plays like a subtler, smoother version of the alpine style Gruyere. Raw cow’s milk provides a foundation for a firm, fruity, grassy palate-pleaser. Goes great with lager or red wine. I like mine with apple slices.

5. Chiriboga Blue
Ah… infamous blue cheese. I see the fear as your eyes wander to the section of the case to the inhabitants dotted with blue mold. But what if I told you there was a blue that you—yes, YOU—might even like? Meet my friend, the Bavarian Chiriboga Blue. This charmer is the perfect gentleman—smooth, sweet, mellow and bright. And—bonus!—unlike some of his friends, he’s not stinky! Give him a chance and you may realize you’ve found your surprise soul mate.

Lauren McDowell is the newest monger on the counter at Murray’s Cheese. She’s tasting her way to expertise, one cheese at a time!

*Westfield Capri is not currently available online but is sold in our NYC stores.

Meet the Maker: A Visit from Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese

We could begin every blog with the same sentence, but here it feels especially appropriate: My job is awesome.  Really, awesome.   Not only am I able – nay, encouraged – to taste the best cheeses from across the US and the world on a daily basis, I get to share the results of that grueling work with people every day in our classroom.  And sometimes, when I’m really lucky, I get to hang out in a room with the best cheesemaker in the United States, and hear from the maker’s mouth how those cheeses get so darn good.

Last week, we were treated to a visit from Andy Hatch, Cheesemaker and Manager of Uplands Cheese.  Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands is the most decorated and celebrated American cheese, having won the American Cheese Society’s Best in Show award more times than any other cheese in the history of the competition.  And for good reason- Pleasant Ridge is a perfect cheese, redolent of toasted hazelnuts and fresh mango, transitioning from bright and fruity to deep and brothy through the season with grace.  After ten years of making and mastering Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Uplands added a second cheese, a custardy bacon bomb wrapped in spruce bark known as Rush Creek Reserve, a cheese often spoken of by our mongers with a series of sighs and googly eyed gazes.

As our staff sat with rapt attention, Andy lead us through the history of Uplands from the Ice Age glaciers that left the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with a distinctive rolling landscape perfect for smaller scale farming to Uplands’ founding in 2000 by two adjacent farming families, Mike and Carol Gingrich and Dan and Jeanne Patenaude.  We had lots of questions for Andy, from the beneficial microflora in the milk, cheese, and caves to the diet of the cows, but more than anything, our mongers wanted to know how, just exactly how, the cheese is always so. damn. good.  Andy fielded our rapid questions with aplomb, and explained what we had suspected about the cheese’s quality: great fields with great cows lead to great milk, great milk and great cheesemaking lead to great cheeses, and when great cheeses are given great care in the cave, they only get better.  It’s a simple equation, but when all of the variables are controlled for greatness, you can’t go wrong.

After our training, staff members lingered with questions: questions about the future of cheesemaking in Wisconsin, about the breeds of cows used at Uplands (crossbreeds of a variety of cows for better milk, naturally), and several expressions of undying love for two of our favorite cheeses.  We’re lucky folk at Murray’s, surrounded by the world’s best cheeses day in and day out, and we’re even luckier when we come face to face with the people who make those cheeses.

 

Sascha Anderson is the Director of Education at Murray’s Cheese and has never met a cheese fact she didn’t want to know.