How to Fake a Sophisticated Palate: A Guide to Eating CheeseSeptember 14, 2018
- Steph DyWords
Imagine getting invited to a sosy dinner party. You come in a dressy outfit, attempt a British accent, and make demure giggly sounds between sips of Dom Perignon. You’ve got them all fooled, until the host brings out the cheese platter.
Not knowing which smelly lump of cheese to eat (and with what), you panic. You reach for a piece of Gouda and a slice of bread, conscious of the snobby-looking people snickering at the next cocktail table. This is exactly why you’ve avoided the cheese station in every swanky buffet you’ve eaten at.
Before you starve to death waiting out the cheese course, take a look at this cheat sheet about some of the most popular artisanal cheeses (and what food/wine to pair with them).
Soft cheeses are fresh, and they are best consumed right after they are processed. To preserve them for up to two weeks, you must seal them tightly in their original containers, and keep them stored in your fridge. Soft cheeses taste creamy, are mildly salty, and in my personal opinion, great as potato chip dips! Wash it down with a refreshing glass of white wine, as its fruity and crisp aroma is a great foil for the richness of soft cheeses.
Feta is probably the only cheese that Greece is known for. Made from goat’s milk, it is so soft and crumbly that you need to soak it in saltwater brine to preserve it. Just like the other soft cheeses, Feta is quite salty, and is usually enjoyed as a topping for savory pastries and salads. And speaking of salads, why don’t you use Feta instead of Parmesan the next time you whip up our version of Cyma’s Roka Salata?
Best served melted or at room temperature, soft-ripened cheeses are some of the most foul-smelling. Keep them fresh by wrapping them in wax paper before storing them in a plastic container. Soft-ripened cheeses taste very heavy and milky, so make sure to have a glass of sparkling wine (or red wine) with you. The fizz from the sparkling wine (or the deep flavors of the red wine) can help remove the cheesy aftertaste from your palate.
Brie de Meaux
Brie de Meaux or Brie, along with its cousin Camembert, is a French cheese made from cow’s milk. As it ages, it becomes creamier and develops a sharper flavor. Slicing through its mold should reveal a soft cheese with a thick, oozing center. It’s a perfect match for fresh or dried fruit, hard bread, or crackers.
Also from France, Munster is not to be confused with the American Muenster cheese (the kind used in grilled cheese sandwiches). Munster, made from cow’s milk, has a more pronounced taste. It is usually eaten as is, but a drizzle of honey also goes well with its pungent flavor.
Semi-soft cheeses are best described as very tasty. These cheeses are great on their own, as toppings, or even in fondues. Semi-soft cheeses are a little oilier than the other cheeses, so make sure you wrap them securely to avoid spoilage. As it is very savory, pairing these with a glass of crisp white wine is a sure homerun!
Aged up to two years, Manchego Curado is a Spanish cheese derived from sheep’s milk. It’s a bit firm for a semi-soft cheese, but it’s got a buttery texture and a slightly nutty taste. This is one of my favorite cheeses, because I find that it pairs well with a lot of food items like honey, truffle oil, bread, fresh fruit, and nuts – especially almonds!
Now who doesn’t know what Mozzarella is? This Italian cheese is famous for being a crucial pizza ingredient, but it’s also widely enjoyed as a deep-fried appetizer, string cheese snack, and baked dish topping (basically, it’s one of the main reasons why we’re fat).
Also made from cow’s milk, Mozzarella can also be enjoyed as is, but there are a lot more ways to get fat with it. Apart from sprinkling it on your pizza, you can try pairing it with deli meats, or layering it with tomatoes and basil to make your own Caprese salad.
Hard cheeses have a sweet and nutty tang. However, they’re also incredibly grainy, and this makes it very difficult to eat them on their own. Since they crumble easily, hard cheeses are wrapped in tight plastic before being stored in the fridge. Down a glass of sparkling or white wine along with it, and be surprised by how either wine can enhance its flavors.
Coming from the land of unlimited spaghetti, Pargmigiano-Reggiano is a hard and powdery cheese that’s ideal for – you guessed it – spaghetti (or any other pasta dish for that matter)! It’s another product of cow’s milk, and apart from being grated onto your pasta dinner, Parmigiano-Reggiano can be eaten by itself, or with some spiced nuts and robust deli meats as a contrast to its light, subtle flavor.
Semi-hard cheeses have very distinct flavors, making them a favorite of many. Although I personally suggest consuming semi-hard cheeses on their own, they are also impeccable alongside flavorful pairings like spiced nuts and chocolates. To store, place them in a container that allows for a little moisture to pass through (this keeps molds from forming). Semi-hard cheeses are great beer matches, but if you want something more sophisticated, you can’t go wrong some sparkling wine.
My personal favorite, Gouda, is a Dutch cheese made from cow’s milk. Because it’s fairly easy to produce, it’s usually included in most cheese plates. It has a firm, slightly gummy texture, and a sweet-salty taste.
I like munching on cashew nuts wrapped in Gouda slices, but you can also partner this cheese with fresh or dried fruits.
Despite having our own kesong puti, we Filipinos are the biggest fans of Cheddar cheese (Eden, OK! Cheese, and Ques-O are brands that come to mind). Originally from England, Cheddar cheese is also made from cow’s milk, and is matured for at least 15 months. This process increases its flavor from mild to extremely sharp. I guess this explains why most Filipinos grew up having it with hot pandesal at breakfast. But apart from the usual bread and crackers, why don’t you try it with olives, fruits, and nuts as well?
And that’s it! Easy enough, wasn’t it? Try these basic cheese pairings yourself, so you won’t have to worry about feeling so clueless at the next dinner party you’re invited to. If you like, you can also try building on the suggestions above to see which combinations you would enjoy most. And if anyone scoffs at your cheese selection, shut them up by asking if they’re an actual turophile (that means “cheese master”, by the way).
[Image source: Murray’s Cheese]