"When I get to heaven first thing I'll do, Pull out my horn and call old Blue..."
“Cull, clear your calendar, we’re tasting experimental mystery cheese this weekend.” Cullen generally goes along with whatever food adventure I bounce into. The weekend before he stood happily by as I bought and fried pigs’ ears for dinner. Before that, it was the place that served all types of tongue. He grins with pride as I scarf down stinky fermented natto-it looks like alien spawn and might taste pretty similar, but I’m satisfied that’s a good thing, and he’s not going to argue. Just so long as I can figure out how to pair everything I consume with craft beer. I’ll try anything but eyeball, pig nose and Brussels’ sprouts. Fortunately, none of those have a corresponding brew match, so we’re good.
Obviously, we were going to have the take this silver wrapped package of joy somewhere beery. The box had seemed so forlorn, sitting quietly and waiting for me to come home from another day of wrestling with other people’s children. I introduced it to the dogs, who were rather happy to make its acquaintance, but it still seemed bereft. The lonely cheese screamed for companionship. I was happy to comply.
We took our mystery cheese to our local hip brewery. Friends of ours started eagle Rock. To tell the truth, it’s hard to find space, so we schlepped to the tasting room early, curdy goodness and possible accompanying nibbles in hand. We grabbed a tasting set of what homebrewer and nationally certified beer judge Cullen decided might match, sat down, and entered part of cheese history.
Silver mantle removed, our cheese proved to be bleu-my personal favorite. Sweet nutty aromas wafted upwards, with a slightly fresh-hay-in the-morning-barnyard. I had left the cheese out for an hour or two, and the grey blue-veined wonder was slightly “glowing”, like I do on a hot day. . It was like opening a treasure chest filled with long hidden wonders. One look and we both could tell-this baby had age. First tastes revealed a smooth sweet, slightly salty, nicely nutty curd with a pleasant funky fruit tang. There were definite crystals of goodness in there! As we tasted our way slowly through the middle to the rind, the cheese mellowed, the nuttiness came forward, and the texture became butterier. The rind itself had a nice mushroomy bloom. As a whole, it was a revelation in bleu-mellow enough for beginners, but complex enough to be savored by a connoisseur.
Ciabatta intensified the cheese. Fresh figs from our Flanders fig tree, Ned, mellowed the pungency yet lengthened the pleasant aftertaste. Our best pairing was balancing the cheese atop a Fig Newton. You heard me, Fig Newton. It was like the best frosting ever on a fig cake. Cookie and cheese formed the perfect sweet-salty-fat trifecta-a hat trick of flavor!
Our beer pairings were Solidarity (dark mild), Manifesto (wit beer), Revolution (Extra Pale Ale) and Populist (India Pale Ale). Solidarity went very well. Dark beers ALWAYS match well with bleus-sweet maltiness and nutty pungency goes hand in hand. Wit beer has a coriandery spiciness. It was a poor pairing-the beer and cheese clashed and fought all the way down. In comparison, the Revolution Extra Pale Ale worked well, the toasty-grainy notes in the beer, similar to fine crackers and bread served up well in the front of the mouth, and the hoppy finish to the beer swept the sweetness in the cheese on the back end. Surprising to me but not to Cullen, the IPA matched very well. The intense hoppiness worked with the bleu the way arugula might in a very good salad. In fact, the cheese made it easy for me to drink IPA, which I normally loathe.
As for a name, I’d call it “Old Blue Eyes”. Sinatra was smooth, slightly pungent-although I imagine he’s much more so now, and definitely more than a bit nutty.