Say cheese!

I had a cheese plate last week while attending a private luncheon at Seasons. It was the first-course appetizer, rather than the dessert. Like most of you, I eat lunch on the run and certainly do not attend noon-hour parties, but this was an exception.

With my cheese, and given a choice, I’ll gravitate toward a red wine over a white, regardless of the menu. So it was with a glass of red that I sampled a Manchego, sheep milk’s nutty flavored favorite. Red wines, because of their tannins, pair well with firm and some sharp cheeses. I call these hard cheeses. Red wines and creamy brie typically do not mix, but I did not change wines as I moved on.

This same merlot would not be considered a great choice for the crumbly blue, yet one of my favorite snacks is a cabernet with Cambozola Black Label. It’s thick and creamy, almost like a sweet, blue brie. Again, conventional wine and cheese pairings might not match the two.

I think you have to pair what you like to drink with what you like to eat and call it good; however, it really does make sense to sample cheese platters from mildest to strongest, because once you get a full-bodied cheese on your tongue, whatever follows tastes like what you just had.

That sounds like a good reason to start with a light chardonnay and move toward a pinot grigio before ever looking at a red wine.

Here are some of my favorite cheese choices. You might get sticker shock, but know your money will be well spent:

Dutch Parrano: Agouda with a big caramelly flavor, although not sweet. Great with apple slices.

Fromager d’Affinois: A favorite, available locally at Guido’s Favorite Foods, 1201 Main Ave. This one is buttery and creamy. Spread it on a baguette, and you will transport yourself to cheese heaven. Similar, and occasionally available at Sam’s Club, is Delice de Bourgogne, among the French category of triple crèmes. This cheese is enriched with extra cream and is equally decadent.

Locatelli Romano: Try grating this semi-hard sharp sheep cheese instead of Parmesan on your next bowl of pasta and you’ll find the equivalent of Regianno Parmesan but nuttier, and more fragrant.

Best domestic blues: My favorites are Iowa’s maytag, available locally and from Costco, plus Salemville Smokehouse, a Wisconsin Amish community favorite. This one is smoked over apple wood and is a unique blue – a good value cheese available at most grocery stores.

Linnea Farm’s Goat Cheese: This is from local goats grazing at Linnea Farm on C.R. 250 and is available at the Durango’s Farmers Market. It’s a great-tasting, smooth, mild favorite. I’ve never met a goat cheese I did not like, and this one ranks high.

Buono Appetito!

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