We’re right around the corner from Halloween, which means it’s officially chocolate season. As we tend to do at Murray’s, our mind goes to our favorite chocolate and cheese pairings! That’s right — cheese and chocolate make a great match, and pairing the two is a uniquely American idea, let us explain:
One of the many ways Americans’ cheese habits are different from our counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean is how we pair cheeses. In France, it’s unusual for cheese to be served with anything other than bread and red wine. In the United Kingdom cheese is most often eaten with just bread, beer, and maybe a pickle or a chutney. In Italy, cheese is most often served with salumi and olives as antipasti at the start of the meal, and/or with fruit at the end.
But here in the good old US of A, we like to guild the lily and pair our cheeses with specific accompaniments that produce taste sensations greater than the sum of their parts. As cheese lovers, we know that honey or maple syrup can tame the spicy bite of blue cheese, toasted nuts can enhance the nutty qualities in an aged sheep milk cheese, and fruity jams or rich caramel can make grassy goat cheeses sing. But what if we told you that there was one accompaniment capable of embodying all of these characteristics? Chocolate is the cheese accompaniment that’s been missing from your cheese platter.
But before you decide to use the Halloween candy you bought for the kids on your next cheese platter, it’s important to understand the flavors of different styles of chocolate and where to start; begin with the chocolate, or with the cheese?
To help clarify things, we spoke with Diana Valenzuela, the pastry chef of Loring Place, who is not only in charge of the dessert menu, but also oversees the selection of Loring Place’s entirely domestic cheese plate. When choosing cheeses for Loring Place’s menu, Chef Diana said “Chef Dan [Kluger] and I are looking for cheeses that kind of wake you up, make you sit up a little bit; there are so many delicious cheeses out there, we’re looking for the ones that make us notice them”, so a good place to start is with cheeses that you already know you enjoy.
Believe it or not, blue cheese is a great place to start if you’re looking to try a chocolate pairing. “I can’t get Bayley Hazen [from Jasper Hill Farm] out of my mind with this question [of chocolate and cheese];” Chef Diana said. “Its texture, its slightly sweet [flavor], is it screaming to be paired with chocolate?” We certainly think so! With Bayley Hazen Blue’s buttery texture and salted caramel notes, it’s a great match with a deep and dark chocolate bar like Raaka Bourbon Cask Bar.
Triple Crème cheeses are also a great match with chocolate because of their creamy sweet flavor and mouthfeel. We especially love St. Stephen with a fruit filled chocolate like Zotter Chocolates Never-Ending Strawberry bar. An equally delicious, and slightly more unusual pairing would be to replace the St. Stephen with Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Hudson Flower, and let the sweet fruit filling of the chocolate bar balance out the herbal hoppy rind of the cheese while the rich paste and creamy chocolate blend.
As for milk chocolate, Chef Diana suggests pairing it with an aged cheddar, and we could not agree more! Some salty, earthy, Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Stockinghall Cheddar is just the thing to balance the sweet, smooth flavors of milk chocolate. We especially like the Pralus Chocolatier Milk Chocolate Infernal Bar, that’s got a hazelnut center cloaked in French milk chocolate, so you know its gotta be good.
As with all food, the best way to find out what you like is to keep on trying combinations until you hit on what works for your palate. In fact, when asked for the best advice she could give to somebody trying cheese and chocolate together for the first time, Chef Diana answered “keep trying things together! It’s the only way to know!” Now that you have some basics, let your taste buds be your guides as you explore this exciting pairing. Oh, and happy Halloween.
Want more chocolate and cheese pairing ideas? Right this way!
Editor’s Note: This post was guest-written by Chiara D’Amore-Klaiman, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional and member of our Wholesale team!