29th Birthday Party!
by Laura Goodbody (guest blogger)
Earlier this week was my [first] 29th birthday. To celebrate, I wanted to have a small party at our home in Boston with friends who live in the area, both old and new. I was lucky enough to have 12 lovely guests arrive at the apartment last Saturday night to start my final 20-something year off right.
When I considered what kind of party I wanted, I thought about incorporating something I love to eat. That was easy: Cheese. As a diabetic, there aren’t many foods I can eat without considering their carb counts and then treating with insulin. However, cheese is one of those foods that is almost all protein and therefore does little in the way of affecting my blood sugar. The fact that I’ve been a cheese-ophile for years, even before getting diabetes, is icing on the cake (whey on the curds?). Additionally, I was inspired by a friend’s birthday party in the winter where a little contest was held to identify wines; I decided it would be fun to have a wine and cheese pairing party (wine being one of my other favorite food interests).
I knew I could provide a spread of delicious, special, different cheeses, paired with a wine chosen to bring out the flavors of the cheese. But how could I work a game or similar activity into the party? I wanted there to be something for guests to chat and interact about and to have fun with. Two weeks pre-party I came up with this: I’d have two wines accompany each cheese; one would be the recommended or “correct” pairing, and the other not. Guests would get a little ballot and, after tasting both wines with each cheese, guess which was meant to complement the delectable dairy.
The week before the party, I consulted a very helpful and enthusiastic man at the cheese counter of my local Whole Foods Market. He jotted down five ideas for cheeses, the flavors progressing from mild to strong. He recommended 1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese per person and said five varieties is a customary number when making a cheese plate. The day before the party I returned to the cheese counter (aka my happy place) and got to purchasing. These are the cheeses I left with, in the order in which they were served:
- La Tur. A dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk from the Piedmont region of Italy. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full, with a lingering lactic tang.
- Bonne Bouche. Hailing from Vermont, this cheese is aged for 4 weeks. Made with pasteurized goat’s milk, the curd is carefully hand-ladled into molds, lightly sprinkled with ash, and aged just long enough to develop a wrinkly rind.
- Ossau-Iraty. This is a harder cheese made of sheep’s milk in the Aquitaine region of France. Hand-selected for crumble and crunch at 10-12 months, this raw sheep cheese has a distinct flakiness and deep, lingering, caramelized flavor.
- Clothbound Cheddar. A delicate balance of sharpness, slight nuttiness, and a caramelized sweetness, this cheese comes from Vermont. Produced from the pasteurized milk from a single herd of Holstein cows, this cheese has a firm, slightly crunchy paste that’s never waxy.
- Colston Bassett Stilton. This is a cow’s milk from Nottinghamshire, England. What makes this variety unique is the use of traditional animal rennet, not to be found from any other Stilon maker. Each bite is exceptionally buttery in texture with a clean, mineral tang.
Now that I had the cheeses, it was time to move on to the wines. I am a white wine drinker so I wanted to pair these mostly with whites or sparkling wines so I could enjoy everything to the fullest. I searched online for recommended pairings and matched them to what my cheese man friend at Whole Foods had suggested. The morning of the party, my husband and I went to the liquor store and enlisted the help of Handsome Scott*, the wine guy. We ended up buying six wines: one for each cheese, then a specific two for the Stilton. Here is what we got, in no particular order:
- NapaValley Merlot, Angels Landing 2010
- Cotes de Provence Rose, Domaine Houchart 2011
- New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Ninety + 2009
- Gancia Prosecco Brut
- Graham’s ReservePort, Six Grapes
- AlexanderValley Cabernet Sauvignon, Baus Family Vineyards 2009
We also purchased a bottle of Ninety + sparkling rose as the prize for the winner of the pairing contest (who happened to be my wine-and-cheese-savvy cousin, Kate). We bought two bottles of each variety which proved to be exactly the right amount for the 14 of us.
Can you guess which wine is meant to be paired with which cheese? Answers at the bottom!
Next, at home, we created cards that described each cheese and each wine. I pasted these descriptions onto index cards (for the wine) and little table tents (for the cheese). We set up a table on our roof deck, overlooking the gorgeous city of Boston and the Charles River, complete with cheese, wine, a few different kinds of crackers, grapes, and almonds. The result was a lovely, elegant spread that invited everyone to eat, drink, and be cheesy.
Though this party wasn’t quite as inexpensive and low-maintenance as I originally anticipated, it was a really fun way to celebrate my birthday. Everyone loved the competitive aspect, which naturally encouraged conversation among guests. I loved eating tons of cheese and drinking wine for my birthday. This is a great way to enjoy a summer evening and do something a little out of the ordinary. Bon appétit!Answers to wine & cheese pairing contest:
- La Tur : Prosecco
- Bonne Bouche : Sauvignon Blanc
- Ossau-Iraty : Rose
- Clothbound Cheddar : Merlot
- Stilton : Port
*Not his real name. Most people probably just call him Scott.
copyright © Laura Goodbody