Friday, April 9, 2010

MORE Cheese and Wine!!!

It's been nearly a year since our last Cheese Tasting and we collectively agreed that that was too long, so in an attempt to rectify this snafu, we promptly scheduled another one, at which time Carrie eagerly offered to host.

Carrie did NOT disappoint as she chose interesting, diverse, and delectable cheeses. But before the actual tasting festivities began, she spoiled us with a stunning appetizer designed, we believe, to initiate the drooling process.......mission accomplished.

Normally, when we enjoy a new entree' at one of our parties we tease you with a delicious photograph, like the one above, and then we make you wait a few days for the actual recipe, but today this appetizer is so easy and truly divine that we are going to share it with you right now!

You're Welcome!

Pecorino Heaven

Pecorino Heaven is what I have named this little number because that's precisely what it is. In order to get to heaven you need to score yourself some Pecorino Tuscano cheese from Tuscany, Italy. (We recommend you travel there - for obvious reasons - to buy this cheese, but if that is not possible, Whole Foods does carry it.) You are going to slice it into nice thick slices and place it in a baking dish. You will place it in a 450 degree oven for 6 minutes - just to soften it up a touch - and then remove from oven.

You will then proceed to lovingly drop walnuts over the now relaxed Pecorino and follow that up with a healthy drizzling of honey. You will serve immediately and wait for applause...don't will come!

Once we were all happy and prepped for fun, Carrie started bringing out the cheeses one by one for our tasting enjoyment and expert reviews. The first cheese up was Quadrella di Bufala - also an Italian cheese - made from Buffalo milk with a rich and slightly sweet and tangy flavor. This cheese made us think of Brie, due to it's deliciously creamy paste-like texture.

Carrie had set the table with pears, grapes, crackers, nuts, and dried cranberries and we chose the cranberries as the perfect partner for the Quadrello di Bufala. Anne, a wonderful and new friend to our party placed this cheese in her top three favorites of the day. Sadly, as much as we enjoyed this sister-of-brie cheese it did not rank as high for the rest of us, mostly because the other cheeses were just that good!

Cheese number two was Neal's Yard Isle of Mull Cheddar from Scotland. This cheese was interesting because at first, second, and third bite none of us would have guessed this cheese a cheddar - we would have guessed a Parmesan. I think we all enjoyed it and were happy to have met this Scottish gem, but again it didn't knock our socks off like some of the others.

Which brings us to Cheese number three, Bavaria Blu. As it's name suggests, it is a Blue cheese from Upper Bavaria. This cheese was very good. It was super creamy with the perfect blue cheese flavor. We decided that it tasted best when paired with nuts and crackers. This cheese scored a medal due to it's surprise factor....we were pleasantly surprised by how creamy and good a Blue cheese could be!

How do you feel about 'smoked' cheese........because we're moving on from Blue cheese to Smoked cheese with a Carr Valley Cheddar Applewood? The smoked quality set this cheese apart from it's cheddar brothers in a big and bold way. I thought this cheddar, hand-rubbed in paprika, tasted fabulous with crackers, but Carrie registered her vote for the walnuts. Jen just liked it... period.....which is why she awarded it a silver medal. We all agreed that Jen's medal winner would be a perfect addition to any salad.....

Next up: Kerrygold Stout Cheddar. Kerrygold, the Irish cheese crafters that produce Blarney and Dubliner are known for mixing cheese with stout and/or whiskey.....sounds like something the Irish would do, doesn't it? This cheese, once in contact with one's tongue, can be felt up and down the a good way. This cheese was savory and spreadable and earned top honors among some of the tasters due to it's impressive and unique flavor.

And then the Sartori Bellavitano Raspberry was brought to the table and life was forever changed for each and every one of us, except Anne. I think the Bavaria Blu changed the course of Anne's life, but for the rest of us, this Bellavitano cheese was magic - it was love at first bite!

This premium cheese had a unique Parmesan flavor and a creamy Cheddar texture that was made electric by being soaked in New Glarus Raspberry Tart Ale, which brought out the fruity notes of the cheese. It was as if we had walked through the pearly gates of heaven once more. For many of the taste-testers, Mr. Sartori ran away with the gold. Teri personally crowned the Sartori Bellavitano with the medal because she was so impressed with the uniqueness and delight of this contender - it surprised her and made her smile - she likes that! :)

Patty, who had just attended a party with lots of cheeses, brought a Triple Cream Brie as a bonus cheese for us to try. This brie was super-duper creamy and almost tasted like butter. It wasn't so impressive when partnered with the fruits and nuts, but it was magic when spread on a cracker, so I imagine if spread on a hearty English muffin, it just might taste like bliss on bread.

Remember the Pecorino Heaven from the beginning? Well, none of us girls were ready to end this party, so we asked, "What about the Pecorino Tuscano? Is there any of that cheese left? We really should taste that without the adornment of walnuts and honey!"

Carrie had indeed saved some of the Pecorino for tasting which rallied an applause from the table, "More Cheese!" Of course, it was sublime and made everyone happy, but I'll be honest, as good as it was, I really loved it when softened.

Oh, did I mention the wine?

Carrie had three lovely bottles on the counter primed for consumption, but then the force, we affectionately refer to as Teri, came roaring in with not only Easter treats for all of us, she also brought wine. Not just any wine, but wine in a box! Teri knows her wine and she assured us that this wine would surprise us. This little box housed the equivalent of four bottles of wine for the low, low price of $15.00 conveniently found at World Market. Every time one of us would get up to pour our first glass and take our first sip, we could not help but exclaim, "That is good wine!"

There was one more more surprise, but that will have to wait for another day. But as always, we present you with a photo of the deliciousness. Carrie had asked me to whip up some ice cream using a Danish Fontina Cheese, and I happily agreed to take on the task.

As always, it's not just your basic vanilla ice cream....there's a twist - a pungent and yummy twist - that we will share with you soon....stay tuned!

Carrie did a phenomenal job with this tasting and we had so much fun - as always! We were very happy to have Carrie's friend and fellow food lover, Anne join our party and hope she had fun as well. Our next party is CHOCOLATE and it's coming up soon - can't wait!

After chocolate, the Food Tastings we are gearing up for are:
1. Pestos
2. Exotic and Unique Fruits
3. Onions
4. (?)

Now go get yourself some cheese and wine and indulge as you wait for the chocolate!


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