Last week Stef and I had the good fortune to be invited to a dinner sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Marketing Board at Milwaukee’s Bacchus restaurant with fellow Milwaukee foodie bloggers from Taste of Life, Burp Blog and Eating Milwaukee. With personal greetings from Executive Chef Adam Siegel and of course, an amazing cheese plate, the dinner had us feeling like Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio were going to walk through the door at any minute.
Afterward, it had me desperately wanting to throw my own cheese pairing party. Since “cheese plate” is practically synonymous with Sunday dinner at my in-laws I knew I had a group that would appreciate such a “party”. With a little help from Mark, the friendly and knowledgeable owner of the West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe, and a few samples shared by the WMMB, the pairings were a total success.
Planning a Cheese Pairing Party
A pairing party is a fun way to entertain and can be done pretty last minute. While my sources and nearly all my cheeses were from Wisconsin, a pairing party can be done no matter where you live. Serve the pairings as an appetizer or dessert course and plan for people to “just taste” both the drinks and the cheeses. We bought small hunks of several cheese types, a few bomber bottles of beer and two wines – a Zinfandel and a Chardonnay – that could be paired with multiple of the cheeses to keep costs reasonable. However, if you’ve got a bigger budget, feel free to get experimental!
Since you want the cheese to shine, splurge a little on special artisan cheeses (it’s worth it!). Mix in some tasty extras like local honey, stone ground mustard, nuts or dried fruit. Label each of the cheeses to denote the type and recommended pairings to make it easy for guests to enjoy the best combos.
Here are the cheeses I included on my tasting platter, however they are just the tip of the cheese iceberg:
We tried: Henning’s Heritage Peppercorn Cheddar (fabulous), a medium Wisconsin cheddar
Pair with wine: A hearty red like a Zinfandel, Cabernet or Syrah/Shiraz
Pair with beer: A hoppy Pale Ale, a carmel-y Porter, like Samuel Smith Taddy Porter or nutty Brown Ale, like Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Aged Table Cheeses
We tried: Saxon Homestead Green Fields
Pair with: A full-bodied Chardonnay
Pair with: A spritzy Belgian, like Duvel (a personal fave) or a traditional pilsner like Victory Prima Pils
We tried: Bellavitano Raspberry
Pair with wine: Champagne, a dry Riesling or a light red like a Pinot Noir or Chianti
Pair with beer: A Belgian saison or a fruity Belgian lambic
We tried: Buttermilk Blue…but the Roelli Dunbarton Blue I had at Bacchus was amazing too
Pair with wine: A peppery Syrah/Shiraz or a zesty Zinfandel
Pair with beer: A potent, complex Porter or Stout, like Stone Russian Imperial Stout
We tried: Belletoile Brie – the only non-Wisconsin cheese in the bunch
Pair with wine: A fruity Chardonnay, a dry Champagne or a fruity Beaujolais
Pair with beer: A light lager or spritzy Belgian, such as Duvel
Surprisingly enough, the ironic but overwhelming crowd favorite was Widmer’s Aged Brick Spread, a creamy, complex spread that’s leaps and bounds above your everyday cheese tub. Both the wine and beer pairings here were super tasty. I have a feeling this is going to be a part of many a holiday spread in the future!
Pair with wine: An oaky Chardonnay or a smooth Pinot Noir
Pair with beer: A complex, barrel-aged brown, such as Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
Disclaimer: WMMB sponsored the Bacchus dinner and provided only a few of the cheese samples for this party. HAP was not otherwise compensated to review the WMMB or any of the cheeses, stores or beverages mentioned here. The opinions and recommendations here are our own. We just really like cheese and hope that you like it too.