The September 2019 edition of Gourmet Sélection hosted a workshop devoted to the pairing of cheeses with various accompaniments. Hugues, the presenter of these gourmet combos, proved that wine is not the only thing you can serve alongside a cheese platter.
This tasting forum was the brainchild of the French Grocery Federation (fédération des Epiciers de France). The pairing propositions were aimed at both gourmets wishing to add some novelty to their own table and fine food professionals interested in offering their loyal customers a new taste experience.
Rocamadour and extra virgin walnut oil
For the first tasting experience, Hugues suggested a rocamadour, a creamy goat’s cheese which is soft but with an unmistakeable goaty taste on the palate. Served alongside this sliver of cheese was an extra virgin walnut oil, the term ‘extra virgin’ referring to its cold pressing method which delivers better taste qualities.
This oil is produced by the Saumur-based family company La Tourangelle which has been in business for more than 100 years. The rocamadour-walnut pairing gives a fresh touch to this paste-like cheese, and the greenness of the oil makes the cheese melt in the mouth.
La Tourangelle also sells other oils: hazelnut, almond, pistachio and other dried fruit and nuts. The oil company additionally markets a basil-infused oil which would go equally well with the rocamadour thanks to its fresh taste. La Tourangelle has in the past received the Judges Special Award in the Gourmet Selection Best Of competition for its white truffle oil.
Fruity comté fruité and mango nectar
Here, Maison Millat offered its fruit nectar for visitors to sample: in this case, mango nectar twinned with a fruity comté. This cheese which is fatty on the palate and smooth despite it being a hard cheese, is qualified as fruity, because it offers a concentration of yellow fruit such as pineapple, mango and nectarine. The taste pairing suggested by Hugues this time is like a tone-on-tone. He invited the audience to place a piece of cheese in their mouths and then drink some nectar to go with it.
Maison Millat has been established in Valence in the Drôme department of France for 20 years. it markets a range of 38 flavours of juice and nectars and three squashes: ginger, passion fruit and lychee. With 40% fruit content, the nectars are more concentrated than juices: the fruit is pressed to obtain a puree instead of a juice as is the case with oranges.
In addition to mangoes, bananas or apricots can thus be transformed into nectars. Water or sugar is then added to balance the product. During the tasting session, Hugues and Maison Millat also recommended pairings such as fourme d’Ambert with pear nectar or a semi-mature goat’s cheese (Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, Celles-sur-Cher, Chabichou du Poitou etc.) with strawberry nectar.
24-month aged comté and rosemary honey
Hugues chose honey for a simple reason: it naturally sweetens salty cheeses. Maroilles can therefore be accompanied by honey. As for a 24-month aged comté, it can delight gourmet taste buds when served with truffle-laced honey.
This rosemary honey comes from the firm Hédène, founded in 2013. Hédène works only with French honeys that are both traceable and single-flower, which is when bees only gather pollen from one type of flower and the honey is harvested before the hive moves on to other flowers.
Maison Hédène collects around fifteen certified appellation honeys which are not pasteurised. For this rosemary honey paired with 24-month aged comté, the single-flower production is from the Languedoc region. As it is taken from the rosemary flowers and not the branches, it is mild and reveals green notes.
With its gourmet products, Maison Hédène aims to broaden the appeal of honey beyond simply breakfast time toast. The company offers new ways of enjoying honey through incisive taste alliances.
Ripe gouda and chocolate
This gouda is quite old. To go with it, Hugues invited the participants to sample a piece of 73% plain chocolate from Venezuela. The gouda which is matured between 32 and 48 months yields a roasted taste in the mouth. As such, it could go very well with coffee. But in this workshop, what is recommended is a small piece of chocolate – less than a chunk – and to chew the cheese with the melted chocolate in the mouth at the same time. The sophisticated freshness of the cocoa balances out the Dutch cheese.
The chocolate is the work of Patrick Chapon, a cocoa roaster based in the Paris region and with a retail presence stretching as far as Japan. Since 1985, this expert enthusiast sources his chocolate from all over the world.
More on cheese pairings
During the various tasting stages of thus workshop, Hugues reminded attendees that cheese should be eaten with its rind and any fungus it may have, as these contribute to its flavour identity.
When serving cheese with a wine, the two should come from the same geographical area in the interests of regional consistency. This means that a camembert should not be served alongside a Bordeaux but instead with cider, while a PDO chavignol with its blue notes is the perfect companion for a glass of sancerre.
Should you decide to surprise your guests and not to open a bottle of wine with your cheese platter, you could try serving coffee with it: but not too strong. Another idea is to serve a black tea alongside a tomme de Savoie, a saint-nectaire, or a fine-rind semi-mature cantal.