By: Barrie Lynn
Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario is a former advertising executive who always loved food, wine and entertaining. I have been a dedicated member of Slow Food* for years and took a client to a fund-raiser to benefit Slow Food. It was an artisanal cheese tasting event and I literally flipped out! The flavors, the cheesemakers who take total pride in what they produce and the diversity of cheeses inspired me to invent The Cheese Impresario, from pure passion for artisanal cheeses. Much of my life is now dedicated to introducing these amazing cheeses to a wider audience along with the beverages and accoutrements that pair with them so beautifully. I’ve included a link to The Cheese Impresario Web-site so you can see what I’ve been up to following my passion for artisanal cheese.
Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario writes the “Cheese Matters” monthly column in The Beverly Hills Times, and has been featured in USA TODAY, VARIETY, The Hollywood Reporter, Daily Candy, the popular food blog EatingLA and Ben Adair’s “Pacific Drift” on KPCC 83.9 FM in Los Angeles and E! Entertainment. The inclusion of her personally hosted Artisanal Cheese & Wine Tasting Adventures in the Oscars and Emmy Gift Baskets as well as the Golden Globe Awards Celebrity Retreat has attracted celebrities who include Mira Sorvino, Oscar winners Three 6 Mafia and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin. Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario produces and stages cheese events at unique venues and wine festivals throughout the country. The Cheese Impresario also makes appearances on behalf of “all things cheesy.”
The founding father of the Slow Food Movement, Carlo Petrini, was dismayed when the first McDonald’s came into Italy in 1986. He realized the industrialization of food was standardizing taste and leading to the annihilation of thousands of food varieties and flavors. Concerned that the world was quickly reaching a point of no return, he wanted to reach out to consumers and demonstrate to them that they have choices over fast food and supermarket homogenization. He rallied his friends and began to speak out at every available opportunity and soon the movement was born and Slow Food was created. Today the organization is active in 50 countries and has a worldwide membership of over 80,000.
How to Throw an Artisanal Cheese Tasting Party
The latest of my obsessions are cheeses made by the artisan cheesemakers of Wisconsin. I was fortunate to visit several of these family creameries and was inspired by their passion, dedication to quality and world-class flavors. I am not the only one who is in love with these cheeses…Wisconsin’s cheesemakers are winning the majority of the awards at The American Cheese Society Competition.
Throwing an Artisanal Cheese Tasting Party is a fun and easy way to become a hero to your friends and family. I suggest keeping it simple and allow the cheeses to create the atmosphere for convivial conversation and fabulous flavors.
Lately, The Cheese Impresario been sticking to three cheeses (four if you can’t resist adding another cheese) if the cheese tasting is before a meal or after a meal. Artisanal cheeses are so flavorful people become satisfied with much less quantity. Then, I buff out the presentation with various breads, condiments, fresh and dried fruits. If you try to include too many cheeses and then condiments…your guests will have just too many choices and confusion steps in.
If the cheese tasting is going on for some hours and no dinner will be served I include five cheeses. With any more than five cheeses I’ve found people’s palates become confused and they don’t really know what they are tasting. This concept is valid up to very large parties of 100 + people. Too much is just too much.
Serving 4-6 ounces of cheese per person will be plenty. Stick to the quality over quantity philosophy.
When thinking about what cheeses to serve at a party I always begin with “What’s the strategy of the party?” What do I want to convey? Sexy…do all double cream and triple cream cheeses. Outdoors on a hot evening…no gooey cheeses (once on a steamy evening I served a gooey cheese and it ended up dripping on my shoe) serve harder cheeses like Parmesans, Gruyère, Gouda and Cheddar.
What wine are you serving? With a Chianti you could stick with cheeses from this region like all the different Pecorino Toscano’s. They come in plain, aged, young, with peppercorns, with truffles, with almonds, pistachios, with saffron and on and on. Or, do all American Artisanal cheeses like Montchevre’s Fresh Goat Cheeses, SarVecchio Parmesan or Saga’s Blue Brie. Just these three cheeses would make a dynamite cheese tasting.
Here are a several suggestions for your cheese tasting party.
Three Milk Party
Cheese one goat, one cow one sheep’s milk cheese
Choose Cheddar, a Gruyere and a Washed Rind or Blue cow’s milk cheese.
Wisconsin’s cheesemakers are winning the majority of the awards at the American Cheese Society Competitions…choose a selection from what they are making and you will also be a winner.
Soft, semi-hard and really hard
Mild to Strong
Begin with a mild cheese, move to a more robust and then finish with a big flavored cheese.
This would be fun as you can roll with wines all the way to a Port.
Wine Pairing: Benziger’s 2004 Tribute – Biodynamically Grown – This is a big red blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and a touch of Merlot.
All Stinky Evening
Go for it and drive your guests wild.
Wente Vineyards 2006 Riverbank Riesling
Condiments bring added fun and taste sensations to your party. Try Savannah Bee Company’s Tupelo Honey drizzled over your Blue Cheeses. Take California Olive Ranch’s Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil and drizzle it on your goat cheeses…Parmesans love olive oil too. These condiments also make a great bridge to the wine pairings. First try the cheese and the wine using The Cheese Highway™ methodology below. Then drizzle the honey or olive oil and taste the cheese with the wine…it will be different and you will experience flavors galore.
Dried fruit like California Figs, dried apples and cherries are beautiful on the plate, are healthy and create a terrific combination with the artisanal cheeses and your wines. La Brea Bakery makes a selection of artisan breads from French Baguettes to Olive Loaves. Using these suggestions you will have a success that is easy to put together, delicious for all and very easy to clean up after. Enjoy the plethora of cheese available and try a new one each week until you build your own cheese Repertoire…it’s a big world…explore it!
Entertaining Impresario Style
The Cheese Highway™
“It’s such a blast to see the look in people’s eyes when they actually taste a great pairing of an artisanal cheese with the perfect wine. It’s that ah-ha moment – the discovery of pleasure that thrills me.” ?- Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario
Cheese with wine is a magical combination but it can be challenging. We’ve probably all tasted a cheese with a wine that made the wine not taste so great. I want each cheese and wine pairing to sing. I want the wine to put the cheese on a pedestal and each wine to put the cheese on a pedestal. One of my goals is to help you map out your parties for deliciousness on all fronts. So as part of this goal I want you to try The Cheese Highway™.
The Cheese Highway™
In Europe the way people get the most out of pairing cheese and wine is to put the cheese in their mouth and chew. They then take a gulp of wine keeping their mouth full and chew it all up into…well I guess I’d call it a cheese and wine slush. Then they swallow. And get a great pairing.
Not so in our country. We are taught such ridged table manners that making a slush in your mouth and chewing would not have been cool with Mom and Dad. Okay…how could I get that taste sensation jolt that the cheese mixed in with the wine gives while keeping to our Emily Post politeness?
Enter The Cheese Highway™. This is the procedure you can teach your friends and thrill them with your knowledge and sense of pure delicious fun.
Okay…take a piece of cheese. Look at it and admire it just like you do with your wine. What color is it? What is the rind like? Is it soft and runny or hard? Now, take a little bit of your cheese and rub it between your fingers to get it warmed up. Now smell it. Think of what flavors come to mind. Is it mushrooms, fresh cream, nutty, earthy or sweet? Something will strike you.
Now do the same with your wine…just leave out the part of rubbing it between your fingers. Look at the color…stick your nose way in the glass and smell…then swirl the glass and smell again. Remember, 80% of taste is smell…so that Snozz is an important tool.
Here’s the best part. Take your piece of cheese and make The Cheese Highway™ on your tongue. It will really happen naturally when you chew the cheese…while you are chewing your cheese get your glass of wine ready to roll. Now…throw the wine down The Cheese Highway™ and taste how your cheese and wine come together in your mouth for a turbo-charged experience. This is the way cheese and wine is supposed to taste. You will get the maximum benefit out of this new tasting tool. ??The Cheese Impresario was on E! Entertainment News doing
The Cheese Highway™ with the television star Julie Benz from “Dexter.” She loved it and so will you and your family and friends when you teach them this fun and amazing way to get the most out of pairing beautiful cheeses with beautiful wines. Enjoy!