Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Cheese and Tea Party

My dear friend VG hosted a birthday tea for herself today, and we all pitched in, bringing cucumber sandwiches, scones, tea, and of course, I had to bring cheese! I had never thought about how to pair cheese with tea, but I knew it was totally possible. There are not as many guides for tea and cheese pairings as there are for wine and cheese. Its a bit more complicated than goat cheese with Chardonnay! That said, I did find this great site that offered a few suggestions (I also subscribed to the magazine! Stay tuned for future insights). Very helpful!

I was running late, and had to go to to Whole Paycheck to pick up the cheese babies for the day, and so was deprived of an encouraging chat with my cheese monger friends. I was looking for the Mt. Tam triple cream that I knew everyone would enjoy, but they didn't have it, darn it all! Thinking on the fly, I settled on a very diverse trio, figuring that people would probably find at least one that they enjoyed, and perhaps one that even melded well with the tea. Since almost everyone snacked on at least two, I think it was a success!

The first cheese was a Bucheron goat cheese, which has a nice delicate flavor, with a soft, almost bloomy rind. It comes from the farm in a log shape, so what you get from the store is a lovely circle of goaty goodness. It is slightly aged to mellow out the goat flavor a little, and the one I got had an incredible "cream line" which is the ring of softer, gooey-er, more translucent cheese right underneath the rind that has ripened more than the bright white, firmer center. Yum! And delicious with green tea, as it turns out.

The second was an amazing Epoisse - a traditional washed rind cheese from France that gets its weekly rind washings with brandy! How about that. This stinker comes in its own cute little balsa wood box, and has a great saltiness that tastes much more mild than it smells. Once you cut into this one, it oozes gracefully out onto the plate - just waiting to be scooped up onto a cracker and eaten with Earl Grey.

Finally, I grabbed a beautiful, caramel colored hunk of 5 year aged Gouda. Now, I recently learned that this cheese is not called goo-da, but how-da. Those crazy Dutch. This hard cheese would probably taste amazing grated up and used instead of Parmesan on a pasta with a butternut squash sauce. It even looks a little like Parmesan, because as it ages, it somehow grows crunchy crystals, probably through dehydration. It tastes a little like a butterscotch candy that got mixed with hazelnuts. My goodness, delicious! I could have eaten the whole chunk myself. But I did share, and it was incredible with an Autumnal black tea infused with orange.

We all had a great time at the party and stuffed ourselves with little sandwiches, scones, champagne, tea and cheese! We didn't hold our pinky's in the air, as we discussed the craziness one of the ladies experienced during her week at Burning Man (unpublishable on this respectable page!), outdoor corporate karaoke (the horror!) and watched Tessa the dog do tricks for (non-cheese) treats. What can I say? We're a post-modern crowd, but we sure know how to have a good time!

In addition, I had fun experimenting with how tea and cheese can go together. It was great to share these cheeses with such a smart and eclectic group of women, and I'm looking forward to continued research! It's a gooey job, but someones got to do it!

Sweet dreams all. I hope that the caffeine has all been absorbed by the cheese and I'll be able to rest up for another day of cheesy exploration!

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