During the last few issues of Whisky Magazine, we’ve been exploring a no-muss-no-fuss, casual way to entertain by creating delectable food pairings and triads using just a few core ingredients: whisky, chocolate, and cheese.
Add whole grain bread to this trio to bridge the flavours and textures, then a send them out the door fruit plate, and you’ve served a satisfying culinary experience that encourages more mingling and conversation than any sit down dinner ever can.
Start with your favourite whiskies. Find yourself an upscale cheese monger. Search for a purveyor of artisan chocolate, such as the online cocoarunners.com. With just a few slices of the knife, you’ll leave your guests marvelling at your hosting skills.
Having spent more than 12 years reviewing and writing about chocolate, I can tell you there is no substitution for its depth of flavour and nutrients.
Last time (WM #153), I tackled a problem food writers seldom address, food allergies, even though quite prevalent. You may need to accommodate someone at your next gathering by providing a food substitution. Having spent more than 12 years reviewing and writing about chocolate, I can tell you there is no substitution for its depth of flavour and nutrients. The higher the percentage of cacao, the darker the chocolate that belongs in the main course. People who cannot eat chocolate have my deepest sympathy. Fortunately, we can find substitutions for some classes of cheese.
Cheese is often paired with whisky, yet for one reason or another, many people cannot partake.
Outright avoidance may be required of those with dairy allergies. But there’s another type of allergy most of us overlook. The danger lies with penicillium mold. Many who claim to be allergic to the antibiotic have no problem whatsoever ingesting the penicillium strains used in cheese.
But an unknown percentage of individuals allergic to the antibiotic also react, sometimes with life-threatening severity, to blue cheese inoculated with P. roqueforti or P. glaucum and/or to the soft cheeses, such as brie or aged goat -type logs, that contain P. camemberti or P. candidum.
Blue cheese is often touted as an ideal companion for peated whiskies, so thoughtfully providing an acceptable substitution would certainly mark you as an exemplary host. After an extensive search, I presented, in the last issue of WM, two northern Italian cheese alternatives, aged Fontina from Valle d’Aosta and Asiago d’Allevo. These authentic Fontinas and Asiagos standup to peated whiskies and complement them well.
This time, I’d like to propose a way to avoid frantic calls to emergency medical services on behalf of friends who may be allergic to the penicillium strains found in rich, buttery, double and triple cream bries and goat cheeses recognised by their white “bloomy” rinds.
These cheeses are compatible with young single malts and grain whiskies aged in bourbon casks, according to food and whisky pairing expert, Martine Nouet. I’d add that whiskies with notes of orchard fruit––fresh apple or pear–– may work well too. Keep in mind that cheese flavours may vary from relatively sharp to quite delicate, so not just any whiskies of the aforementioned categories will do. I’ve done a little work on your behalf to narrow your search. But before we consider specific whiskies and pairings, let’s consider what we might substitute in cases of allergies to those bloomy rind cheeses. It turns out, there is a source other than penicillium mold for bloomy rind.
Geotrichum candidum, or G. candidum, is a yeast that is often used in conjunction with the penicillium mold in soft cheeses; however, some use geotrichum alone. You may recognise the presence of geotrichum in cheeses with off-white rinds that resemble a brainy or cauliflower texture. The geotrichum tends to render cheese sweet and buttery. I hunted down some of the soft cheeses that use geotrichum exclusively and, as in my earlier articles, I’ve paired them with whisky and chocolate.
Two French cheeses featuring geotrichum are Saint Nuage by Herve Mons and Saint Angel by Fromagerie Guilloteau. Both cheeses are made from pasteurised cow milk and are triple creams. If Saint Nuage flavours are subtle, Saint Angel is like a blank canvas of butter. The mild flavours of the Saint Nuage can be easily overwhelmed, while, surprisingly, the Saint Angel can tolerate a gently sherry-finished whisky with light citrus or candied fruit rather than deeper dried fruit notes.
American craft cheese makers, such as Vermont Creamery and Cochran Farms are also working with geotrichum. All three of the American cheeses are also pasteurised.
Cremont, produced by Vermont Creamery, is a double cream made from a mix of cow and goat milks. It’s the closest geotrichum I’ve experienced thus far to a brie-type in terms of flavour, although it’s more delicate.
The texture is luxurious, from a whipped cream cheese cake rind to the butter and cream interior paste.
Bijou is one of Vermont Creamery’s aged goat cheeses. It has mushroom in the nose and butter, green vegetal and nut notes with mild acidity on the palate. The finish is nut and mushroom.
St. Johnsville by Cochran Farms more closely resembles a Bucheron-type goat cheese log.
Cochran Farms, located in New York’s Hudson Valley, uses geotrichum exclusively. St. Johnsville’s goaty quality won’t disappoint those who seek it. Let’s pair these cheeses with whiskies.
Saint Nuage by Herve Mons
Pair with Glenfiddich 12 year Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Westland American Single Malt, or Forty Creek Canadian Potstill. Chocolate? Of course! Add Akesson’s (UK) Bejofo Estate, Criollo, Madagascar 75%.
Saint Angel by Fromagerie Guilloteau
Try Glenlivet 12 year Single Malt Scotch Whisky or Macallan 12 year Double Cask. Chocolate match up: Grenada Chocolate Company (Grenada), Organic Dark Chocolate 71%
Cremont by Vermont Creamery
Pair with Balvenie 12 Years Old Doublewood. The cheese opens up more fruity notes in the whisky. Add dark chocolate. Try Pump Street (UK), Grenada Dark 70% or Charm School (USA) Belize, Dark 70%.
Bijou, aged goat cheese by Vermont Creamery
Pair with Balcones Texas Single Malt , Deerhammer American Single Malt , or Nikka Taketsuru (NAS) Japanese Pure Malt. Triangulate with a chocolate such as Fruition Chocolate (USA), Hispaniola Dark 68%
St. Johnsville, aged goat cheese, by Cochran Farms
Mid-Atlantic matchup: The St. Johnsville has range enough to work with two very different whiskies. Try Glenlivet 12 Years Old or Kings County (USA) Straight American Rye.
ChocolateDandelion (USA) Mantuano 70%
A Venezuelan cacao with a roast profile of coffee and almond notes.
Go bold and fruity with Fruition Chocolate, Hispaniola Dark 68% paired to the Glenlivet, and Fruition Chocolate Wild Bolivia 74% with the Kings County Rye.
Remember to remove soft cheeses from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving at room temperature.
Chocolate, on the other hand, is best not refrigerated at all but kept in a cool, dry place, which will mean it's in perfect condition when serving.
Try it with chocolate