Do This!: A Taste of What to Expect @ Artisanal Premium Cheese Classes

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I love cheese, I love wine, and I know that generally I love them together. But what I don’t know well is how to choose the right wine to complement and enhance the flavors of a cheese, so that when tasted together the result is widened eyes and a taste-bud induced “mmmmm.” But tips of what to look for to successfully pair cheese and wines, as well as an introduction to the history of cheese making and varietals, can easily be learned during one of the many unique culinary courses held at The Artisanal Cheese Center.

Last night I attended Jessica Wurwarg’s Perfect Pairings class, expecting at the very least to come away having enjoyed some fromage and vino, but the evening was so much more than that. Upon arrival “students” {aka cheese lovers} are welcomed in a reception area with a glass of cava, a selection of cheeses and Artisanal’s famous fondue {we were off to a good start already}. We all mingled a bit, introduced ourselves and tried not to eat too much cheese {is there even such a thing?!} before the actual class began.

Once in the classroom, we all took our places around the “U-shaped” table setting, each presented with our plates of cheese, glasses of wine/beer and papers providing name, origin and bio detail about each cheese, wine and beer we would be sampling together. We also received a a score sheet {sort of like a bingo card with cheeses listed down the side and wines/beers across the top} to score how we liked each cheese when paired with the spectrum of sparkling, white, red and dessert wines and the beer.  I felt armed with all the information I needed in case a wine-induced memory lapse left me unable to recall all the important details Jessica was about to share.

Perfect Pairing Set-Up

As she kicked off the class, Jessica introduced us to the CheeseClock, an essential guide to presenting and tasting cheese starting at 6 o’clock on the plate at the mildest selection and moving clockwise in order to end with a more pungent, strong cheese. She also suggested that when we take a sip of each wine, we hold it in on the tongue and “chew” it for a few seconds so all the taste buds get a chance to take in the flavors of the wine. Cheese and wine tasting technique: check. Now on to learning how to create the perfect marriage. There are four important concepts to note for a successful pairing, and like wine tasting, there are four approaches to understanding the differences in each cheese.

4 Basic Concepts for Successful Pairings:

  1. Region — cheese comes from milk, which comes from what the cow/sheep/goat eats, which reflects the earth where the food {and grapes} come from, so try pairing wines and cheeses from the same region.
  2. Complementary — find similar notes of acidity, nuttiness, earthiness in a wine and cheese
  3. Contrast — try pairing salty with sweet {think peanut butter & jelly — a match made in heaven}
  4. Sparkling w/ High Fat — the light bubbles can cut a high fat/creamy cheese and really open up the flavors

4 Things to Take-in When Tasting A Cheese:

  1. Look — rind, color
  2. Touch — soft (younger), hard (more aged)
  3. Smell — as in wine tasting, see what flavors you sense before taking a bite
  4. Taste — try tasting the inside of the cheese separately from the rind to get everything the cheese has to offer. Cheese ages from the outside in, so sometimes you can get an array of strong to simple flavors out of a single cut of cheese.

One of the most important take-aways from the class is that we all have different taste buds and taste can be highly subjective, so what one person enjoys most might not be the case for the person sitting next to you. This quickly proved out as we dug in and started trying each cheese with each of the wines and sharing feedback as a group as to which were our favorite combinations — completely mixed results! In general, the feedback tended to follow the 4 basic concept guidelines, but we quickly learned that perfect pairing is not a science and like any dining experience, it is up to you to choose flavors that inspire your palate.

I left inspired to explore these new learnings and also interested in seeing how different people react to different combinations. The class was a great way to spend 2 hours on an otherwise uneventful weekday evening and I came away with great information and an introduction to new cheeses I have never tasted before {let me tell you, we had some amazing selections!} I feel ready to try this out with a group of friends and see what kind of discussion ensues.

It’s not too late to sign up for other classes at The Artisanal Cheese Center. For a limited time enter promotional code SEAT upon checkout and you can grab two seats for $99 total {original retail value of $75 per person}. You can’t buy this much cheese and wine for under $50 per person, so this is not only an incredible deal, but also a great evening for a date or night out with a good friend!

If you liked this, you might also like to read these posts:
Do This!: Summer Cheese Extravaganza!
8.ate@eight #2: Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!
Why Buy the Cow, When You Can Get the Milkshake for Free?
recipe goodness :: spinach, strawberry & halloumi salad to knock your socks off
Lamb Takedown @ The Bell House – Ewe Will Love This!

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8 Comments

Filed under Do This!

8 responses to “Do This!: A Taste of What to Expect @ Artisanal Premium Cheese Classes

  1. Sarah

    This class looks amazing! I am already looking up the schedule for future sessions…I can taste the wine and cheese already…yummmm

  2. Emily

    Although I live in Chicago I’ve been to Artisanal and absolutely loved it! I travel to NYC fairly frequently and will definitely keep this on my list of future activities! Another great share, keep them coming!

  3. Brian

    Great idea for a fun night on the town. I’m definitely going to check it out one of these days. I’ve eaten there before, but had no idea they did these classes too. Thanks for the update…

  4. Nora

    Is there such a thing as a masters degree in cheese? I’ll do homework! What a special evening… yum and yum.

  5. Melissa

    The primer I got at your last 8.ate@eight has me hungry for more!!! I will definitely be signing up for some classes! Mouth is watering already!!

  6. Lauren

    I didn’t realize that Artisanal offered cheese classes. Good to know! I hope that I can attend one the next time I’m in NYC. In the meantime, I’ll be using the pairing tips you suggest.

  7. Ken

    I would love to have a class on cheese and wine. Next time in NY we need to set one up along with some great food at 8ateateight!

  8. Reagan

    I heard Jessica speak at a recent 8ateateight dinner — so interesting! I learned a lot of things I did not know before. Looking forward to checking out the Artisanal classes in the near future.

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