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THE PERFECT PAIR

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THE PERFECT PAIR by Allyson Marrs


Throughout history, there have been dozens of famous pairs: Adam and Eve during the beginning of time, Antony and Cleopatra in 36 B.C., Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the 15th century, John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1960s and, of course, in the 21st century, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.

While some of these couplings were as natural as nature itself, others caused an uproar (and a band's downfall, according to some fans) with their seemingly different characteristics. But, as Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat once said, opposites attract.

So, while some may continue to argue that pairing wine and cheese together is unusual and an affront to gastronomy, others will take note of their many variations, relishing in the ever-changing and bold flavors. Below are the chefs' recommendations, paired with a famous couple matching the characteristics.

Romeo and Juliet
Arguably Shakespeare's most-famous story, these young lovers were meant to be kept apart for their differences, but found a heartbreaking synergy when together. This pairing is destined to be.

Blue cheeses have a distinguished smell and taste. There's no denying their flavor—it stands out among all the other cheeses, which really says something. Chateau Ste. Michelle's Chef Janet Hedstrom recognizes that they can be difficult to pair because of the variations among them.

She recommends the Oregon Blue Cheese from Rogue River Creamery with its balance of saltiness and strong flavors, which pairs well with many of Chateau Ste. Michelle's red wines, especially the 2008 Meritage blend in the Artist Series. The wine's texture soothes the cheese's bold flavors. "Of course, a Late Harvest Riesling is a classic match with the salty and big flavors of a Stilton cheese," she said.

William and Kate
The royal duo wed in 2011 with a guestbook of television viewers reaching more than 22 million in the United States alone. This pairing is classic, and it took time to get it right.

"What could be a more classical combination than wine and cheese?" asked Bellevue Club Executive Chef Paul Marks. His favorite pairing is Mountain Gorgonzola with a bottle of Cesari Mara Vino di Ripasso from Italy. The cheese is Lombardy, and the longer it ages, the stronger the taste.

The cheese is prepared with alternating layers of hot and cold curd, which forces the layers to pull apart, leaving pockets for mold to grow. It takes an average of three to five months to age, which can leave the taste mild and creamy or lead to stronger flavors.

The full-bodied red wine has notes of plums and cherries with a scent of figs and honey. It's not overpowering, and it offers a long finish. "Keep in mind that the purpose of the wine is to give harmony to the taste of the cheese and to prolong the pleasure of its taste," said Paul.

Bonnie and Clyde
These American criminals caught the public's attention during the 1930s with a slew of robberies, a few murders and their love for each other. This pairing is rich.

"Pairings should really bring each other's flavors out," said Januik Winery's Chef Megan Hartz. "The cheese should bring the wine's subtle flavors out and vice versa."

Megan plays with the palate by combining rich flavors. She recommends Humboldt Fog cheese with Januik's 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The cheese has a rich, ashy rind, containing the strongest flavors. It's creamy with a runny shell and a fresh goat cheese core. The Sauvignon is a lighter, but rich red. Its dry, full body lingers on the palate.

Danny and Sandy
She was a pristine, sweet girl who fell for a greaser with a spicy edge and rockin' vocal cords. This pairing may seem unusual, but it works.

"I'm a big fan of trial and error," said Trinity Mack, Resident Chef at Covington Cellars. "Sometimes, it sounds like it's going to be a good idea, but there could be one ingredient that offsets it. That's why it's important to pair it beforehand and taste it."

One of her favorite pairings includes a bit of spice with the nice. She takes the Cellars' 2009 Viognier and matches it with a goat cheese. But, to make the goat cheese a bit softer, she mixes in some cream cheese. For some added fun, she rolls it into a truffle, some Cajun-spiced candied peanuts and tops it with a lime-leaf gastrique drizzle.

It's an interesting pairing—the Viognier containing notes of pineapple and grapefruit with a ripe pear and honey finish—but it follows Trinity's rule. "Never pair an item that's sweeter than the wine," she said. "One shouldn't outshine the other, but they should blend together smoothly."

Regis and Kelly
Since Kelly's introduction to the show in 2001, ratings have soared—although Regis has since left. This pairing is a little nutty and a whole lot of fun.

When it comes to creating a pair, most chefs agree that rules don't exist. "I don't have any hard-and-fast rules, as I have been proven wrong too many times," said Chateau Ste. Michelle's Executive Chef Janet Hedstrom. "If I have a wine in mind, I try to figure out which characteristics need to be accented or diminished and see if I can find a cheese that helps to do that."

For a bit of fun with your pairing, she recommends Barely Buzzed from the Beehive Cheese Company. This cheese has a coffee and lavender rind with a nutty flavor and smooth texture. Butterscotch and caramel notes are prevalent throughout, and the cheese has won first place in the American Cheese Society Annual Competition for four years.

Janet pairs it with Chateau Ste. Michelle's 2007 Ethos Syrah. "It has big, full fruit and spice flavors and is able to stand up to the big flavors in this cheese," she said.

No matter the recommendations, chefs and winemakers agree that finding a pairing is about adventure and education. There may not be a right or wrong answer, but taste buds will pop with flavor when the bottle and curd meet deliciously in the middle.

The servers in Polaris Grill are always willing to help you find your match. Experience the perfect pair during the half-price wine nights on both Tuesdays and Saturdays for an even sweeter deal.


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