Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fit for a rodent


Why, in all those nostalgic European travel posters, does the villager carrying a jug of wine hold a chunk of cheese in the other hand? Because after hundreds of years of unconditional trial and error, Europeans came to understand that cheese somehow made wine, especially cheap red wine, taste better. Like milk in strongly tannic tea, cheese tempers the harshness of the tannin in the wine.

(There's an entertaining tip here. As clever caters have always known, no one will notice the shortcomings of an inexpensive wine as long as enough cheese is served along side.)

- The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil (2001, Workman)


Wine and cheese have been on my mind because I have had reason to look over a great many cheese displays lately (don't ask, I get my nose into a lot of things, curious as a cat...). And frankly, mulling over cheese displays is a lot more rewarding than insipid Mommy-one-upmanship on the local playgrounds. So, I'm not self-conscious.

Cheese. And wine. Good or bad cheese and fabulous or box wine, what have you; in flipping through the Wine Bible I am now clear on why they go together, only in many cases I very much want them to stop going everywhere together. What a colossal unforgivable mess.

Not one person within my key stroke right now does not know what I mean: These aesthetically disastrous mounds of cubed cheeses on displays which are tasteless cost-club hunks butchered into bite-size pieces of ick with a side of grapes and strawberries. I was able to find hoards of these photos from nearly every caterer with a website. Stop them, this is not pleasing. I mean it, stop it right now.

I imagine this creation must be called "Cheese as Landfill" or "Brie Dunes with Ocean of Pepper Jack" ahhhh, the pure genius... Tell me, what one of us hasn't been there and got the old tie or bridesmaid gown in "periwinkle" to show for it, eh?

Had that absurdity appeared at my wedding I would have stood on a banquet chair, holding up my gown while shrieking and pointing until someone determined I was not wailing at a rodent but, moreover, a cheese display only suited for one.

Now then. Whether you or your cater is serving the cheese, the guests are best served when someone takes a genuine interest in finding very good cheeses and not hacking them up into nibbly bits the night before. Cutting the cheese prematurely and refrigerating it is the surest way for it to be flavorless.

There is a better way: Leave the cheese in large hunks, offer cheese knives and allow the guests to serve themselves; You have now avoided the unappealing cheese landfill display and those mealy hunks still taste like cheese. Which is, I assume, the point of all that cheese in the end.

Don't you feel more serene and happy looking at this shot below? Don't you feel some hope regarding the cheese offered? Doesn't it make you want to eat cheese at parties again?


Other useful hunks of information:

A complete list of agreeable pairings is available at Gourmet Sleuth, but generally, these rules of thumb will get you through the pre-party shopping painlessly:

Pair wine and cheese of the same region together.

Pair salty cheese with sweet wine: Stilton with Port.

Pair creamy cheeses with tannic red wines; creamy, soft-ripening cheese, such as red Bordeaux with triple cream brie-types.

Pair acid with acid: Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese.

Pair rich cheeses with champagne and sparkling wines.

11 comments:

Reggie Darling said...

I loved the cheese avalanche! Right up there with your mountain of dirty dishes shot for Easter. Great post Hostess, as always. Reggie

Amelia said...

Couldn't agree more - one of my best friends had to gather these same "cheese landfill" shots to show her caterer what NOT to do for her wedding. They ended up with an inspiring board resembling your after photo. Cheese disaster averted!

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Perfect advice.

Blue said...

Cheese trays, fruit trays, veggie trays, hors d'oeuvres tray - all of 'em naff - and I wish I could express how much I hate that word veggie! Oh dear, I feel a rant coming on .. must go.

LPC said...

Hahahahaha. I could not agree with you more. And a good cheese is like love...

Town and Country Mom said...

All those niblets of cheese are truly disgusting; not only does the avalanche look as though something awful happened, but I'm pretty sure that "cheese" is about 40 percent sawdust.

Mrs. G said...

Wine and Cheese. You dissected this conundrum perfectly...

JDB said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I love this post and am going to be purusing the rest of your blog today.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Nan said...

"Cheese as Landfill" is priceless! Thanks so much for the quick guide to pairing...it is perfect.

little augury said...

Hilarious- C. I would almost wish for that avalanche to see the shrieking bride- You have a way with these stories-hold on to them tightly, I sense a sitcom in future!)pgt

red ticking said...

lovely post...