It’s no secret among my friends that I’m in love with the Bruery Provisions in Orange. I check her Facebook daily, I look at her Twitter. I stop in sometimes for a quick flight and wedge of La Tur cheese. BP totally gets me. I wish I could quit you, BP!
I signed up for the “Throwing a Party with Charcuterie and Cheese” class with my wife and some friends. Why would I want to throw a party with cheese and charcuterie you ask? What the hell is charcuterie anyway? Spell check has no clue! Charcuterie is meat that has been prepared by salting, aging, smoking, etc. Think bacon, pâté, sausage, jerky, etc. It’s what our forefathers did before refrigeration to make their meat last longer and make them delicious.
Upon arrival, the plates were already prepped with five cheese, meat, nut and dried fruit pairings. I was happy to see a provided notebook describing everything in great detail, and a pen to take notes. BP doesn’t mess around! The class was moderated by Cheesemonger and Culinary Manager Kendra Birdwell, which seriously puts the “cute” in charcuterie. Single people should be asking this gal out! Seriously…she reminded me of a mix of Amy Adams and Zooey Deschanel, but with cheese breath. That might be a deal breaker for some of you love birds.
The class began and Kendra broke out into an introduction to tasting. “Sniff, look, taste, swirl, sniff, taste, swish, eat, taste, repeat!” For some reason all this stinky cheese and cured meat got me a little frisky. Matters got worse as my wife was rubbing my leg under the tasting room table! I was totally freaking out! I even had a daydream in slow-mo where my wife pulls the barrette out of her hair and waves it from side to side, revealing her gorgeous flowing hair. As her hair flies across my nose, I inhale deeply and quickly snap back to reality when all I smell is Goat Cheese and Truffle Mousse (cue the fog horn).
First Pairing: Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Bruery Salt of the Earth Beer, Humbolt Fog Goat Cheese and Fabrique Delices Truffle Mousse. I was excited as I’ve never had this beer as it’s not available really anywhere aside from here. The beer is cloudy with minimal head, aroma consisting of some coriander and some funk. It had some earthy and grassy notes on the quaff with a chalky-wheaty mouthfeel. I’m not a big goat cheese fan, and my wife isn’t a big funky beer fan. We were both shocked that we liked what we usually don’t care for! The beer paired exceptionally well with the cheese, heightening the flavors. The pâté also has earthy notes of mushroom and truffles. The entire package when consumed simultaneously was a perfect match, each one heightening the flavors of the other. The cheese flavor quickly ramps up and the pâté smooths it out. The beer brings it to a higher level, then cleanses for the next bite so it doesn’t cloy. In the photo above, the cheese and pâté are on the left with the dried apricot resting on top. The pâté looks like a small piece of pumpernickel bread, but it’s Mousse, with the consistency of a creamy hummus.
Second Pairing: Silence of the Lambs. Pictured on the lower left corner. Bruery Snicklefritz! with P’tit Basque Sheeps milk cheese and Molinary – Finnochiona Pork fennel salami. Beer was clear bronze, notes of coriander, ginger and maple on the nose, taste was typical Belgian strong with notes of toffee, spice, and dark fruits. The strong fennel in the salami brought me back to 1978 Pizza Hut Pepperoni. It was a total Ratatouille moment where the food critic goes back to his childhood on one taste of the dish. The cheese was too subtle to stand up to the big flavors in the beer, but was a nice contrast. “toughened your nipples didn’t it?” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter. By they way, I’m naming the pairings, they weren’t named.
Third Pairing: Cheesing My F’ing Brains Out!: Pictured on the top left corner. Bruery Batch 300, Cypress Grove – Midnight Moon cheese and Molinari Hot Salami. It’s always nice to taste some Citra hops as they usually have a tropical-citrusy aroma, but in this case all I got was a slight cat pee scent. Sometimes that hop can give ‘off’ aromas at less than ideal temperatures or ages, or perhaps the remnants of my cold threw off my nose. I was glad to see I was the only one getting that aroma. The cheese really worked well bringing the heat down from the salami and it also had those little dried calcium lactate crystals that I love so much. God I love those things…and they’re good for you too! Also paired was a simple olive oil cracker which helped cleanse the pallet.
Fourth Pairing: Autumnal Flavorgasm. Pictured on the upper right. Out of the five pairings, this was all of our favorite. The Bruery Autumn Maple, Beemster – XO Gouda, Prosciutto De Parma and candied walnuts. Alone, each of these were good, but altogether worked like the cast of Friends in my mouth (without Ross of course). Beer poured a hazy auburn with hints of allspice and nutmeg on the nose. Taste is a boozy clove yam-fest. Interesting fall beverage, although it’s got nothing on my Maple Wheat! Gouda is one of my favorite styles of cheese and this was like nothing I’ve ever had. The prosciutto was aged 18 months, was floppy, fatty, salty, delicious. I made a little mini-burrito with the meat as the tortilla, two wedges of cheese and the candied walnut. Flavorgasm with the beer! So no one told you life was gonna be this way *clap*clap*clap*clap* Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s DOA! It’s like you’re always stuck in Richard Gere….Sorry for getting that song stuck in your head.
Fifth Pairing: the Big Pickle. I say that because we were all feeling a bit pickled at this point! Pictured on the bottom right (above). Beer is Bruery 3rd anniversary Cuir (pronounced queer?), Bleu De Causses cheese and Bresaola beef charcuterie. Beer had big time dark fruits on the nose and appeared a deep murky plum juice. Taste was booze, figs, raisins, molasses. I don’t remember much of this, luckily I took notes! Don’t laugh at my ‘taste of cheese’ comment! The drawing depicts how the flavors ramp up on my tongue, the vertical line is when I take a sip. I know it’s weird! Don’t be a hater!The class as a whole was extremely informative and Kendra was great at answering questions. She walked around to talk to people to get their opinions on everything. The booklet was thorough at explaining every detail. The Bruery is such a gem to have in Orange County and I couldn’t recommend taking a class there more. I was surprised at the older crowd; maybe the younger crowd thought it was too pricey? $35 was well worth it for the supplies alone.
The thing I really learned from the class is how to break down a cheese and meat selection at the store. I’ve always found it daunting to drop some serious cash on something that might not pair well. With my knowledge of beer, I’ll start with that and work my way to a cheese and meat that might work with it. Or, I can easily go with one of the pairings above. It really made it seem easy. Thanks Bruery Provisions!
Classes are usually on Wednesdays. Contact the Bruery Provisions, or check her twitter and the facebooks.
Belgian Cheese and Beer
with Kendra, The Bruery Cheesemonger @ The Bruery Provisions, $30
Wednesday, September 21st 2011