Monday, August 15, 2011

How I rang in Artisan Cheese Month with Great Beer and 4 Sensational Appys

Apparently, wine and cheese are over. Don’t get me wrong—I still enjoy the fruity contrast of good vino with a savory hors d'oeuvre, but in these dog days of summer when I wandered into the cool of my local grocery store to pick up some odds and ends, a community cooking event had me toasting the merits of cheese and beer instead. What I learned that day made me rush home and try my favorite pilsner with something wonderfully (cheesy) I learned to make recently: Mini Welsh Rarebit with Roasted Pepper Chutney. The sharp white cheddar in the dish tamed the heat for a perfect marriage of spice and sweet—and washing it down with the scrubbing bubbles of a good beer made my cleansed palette appreciate it all the more.

Lately Whole Foods is the “Big Cheese” in Community Cooking!

Wanting to know more about pairing beers and nibbles, my attention got snagged Saturday when a large crowd gathered around the Whole Foods cafeteria; I noticed they were holding wine glasses full of something much more amber and carbonated than your average Cabernet Sauvignon. I got in for a closer look, saw a Fromager named Becca who worked as a cheese buyer for the store, and added my hands to the applause she was getting for sips, later revealed as India Pale Ale. At first glance it looked like a political event. The blue and white sign that identified the elegant scene said “Artisanal Cheese Month”—and under it two chefs dressed in buttoned down white bustled around a long table, one pouring beer and the other floating by with assorted cheeses.

Beer is the De Facto Complement for Cheese. Here are 3 More Appys that Pair Well with It!

The aforementioned subtitle makes sense when you consider that beer and cheese come from the same place. English farmers have known it all along, making the Ploughman’s Lunch extremely popular in the day, when the season was just right to enjoy beer made during winter months on the farm with cheeses cultivated that summer from the same barley. Beer and artisan cheeses, on anybody’s plate, feature many of the same floral and citrusy undertones that farmers have savored for centuries. While wine and cheese parings are all about contrast, beer and cheese pairings are about harmony. So…taking my cues from the traditional Ploughman’s Lunch of ham, some really good cheese and, naturally, beer I began experimenting with locally made cheese and microbrews created just as lovingly; I used white sharp cheddar to make my English Crabbies, Bacon Cheddar Bites and Cheddar Scones.

Attention Female Foodies: Beer Not Just a Man’s Drink

These pleasing appetizers underscore the fact that the grains used to produce beer are often the same fed to milk-animals for the cheese, and so I began to more fully appreciate the robustness and crispness of beer—how good it can be! It was extra gratifying—as a female foodie—to blast through that gender barrier that women can’t love a good beer the same way a man can. Beer isn’t just a man’s drink anymore—it’s for anyone who savors earthy, yeasty, musty, fruity, rich, toasty and floral flavors. I can assure you these foodies will be equally delighted in the way beer jibes with cheeses of the world.

For excellent beer and cheese pairing tips, click on this artisanal cheese site, and don’t miss out on events that are popping up in high-end grocery stores these days, many of them free to the public. Next week, I’m learning how to shop on a budget at Whole Foods, using what I learn to tackle my own more expensive recipes. Should be interesting! Tune in at the first of September to find out how it went!

Until then, Bottoms up. Enjoy what’s left of August, “Artisan Cheese Month”!

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