Charlie and Michael Kalish, The Cheese Twins, are hunks of cheese; literally. It would be unfair to omit this fact from any description of them, a terrible disservice to our dedicated readers. They are a combined thirteen vertical feet of handsome cheese knowledge, with a laid back graciousness that makes their expertise approachable and conversational, not stuffy or initimadting. We were lucky enough to spend a fantastic afternoon with Charlie (favorite cheese: goat cheese) and Michael (Gruyere), sampling Meiomi wines and chatting about all things fromage and fun.
Cocktail Hour(s) is a family ritual for us, so an impressive cheese plate that pairs with booze is always something that we want in our bag of tricks. The holidays are approaching, which means lots of shopping and lots of entertaining, so we wanted to help take the stress out of a well paired, well prepared plate of cheese. Below, our tips, care of the Cheese Twins, for the perfect cheese plate to pair with Meiomi Chardonnay and Meiomi Pinot Noir.
*Note, in full disclosure, neither one of us really love Chardonnay, especially Ali, but the Meiomi Chardonnay is extremely smooth and drinkable, especially when enjoyed with the right cheese.
Pairing Tips: When pairing cheeses with Chardonnay, the Cheese Twins advise to “pair like with like.” Identifying the characteristics, and intensity of the wine- (creamy, with some acidity in this case and deep intensity), will help select the correct cheeses as the complement, or at least the correct flavor profiles. When pairing with a Pinot Noir, a jammy, fruit forward wine, you want to think more in terms of contrasts than likeness. With the Meomi Pinot, which features notes of cherry, blackberry and mocha, you want to look for a salty, aged cheese.
Our selections were the following:
With the Meiomi Chardonnay, Brillat Savarin triple creme, and Humboldt Fog.
With the Meiomi Chardonnay, a Camembert, and a 3 year aged Comté. (An aged parmigiano-reggiano is an easy option for this as well.)
Getting the provisions: Every supermarket has cheese, but NYC has fantastic cheese specialty shops, including Ideal Cheese Shop, Bedford Cheese Shop, and Murray’s Cheese. The Cheese Twin’s rule is to buy less cheese, but buy it more often. It is always wise to have emergenCHEESE in the fridge, but make sure to rotate your stock. They also suggest 1 oz of cheese per person, unless you are truly serving an abundance of cheese (over six varieties) in which case 1/2 a person is best. Don’t be afraid to ask for some guidance at the store; the mongers should be familiar with the general characteristics of each cheese, and should offer you a taste to make sure you are comfortable with your selection.
Storing cheese: Wrap the cheese in parchment paper, place in a plastic bag in the fridge, for 2-3 days, MAX of five days.
Serving :If you are buying cheese and serving it the same day, don’t even bother refrigerating it, cheese is best at room temperature. Be sure to take your cheese out at least 30 minutes before serving if possible.
There are many ways to serve your cheeses; if your crowd has an interest in food, the Twins suggest presenting each cheese in both its whole and cut form, identified by signs, so everyone can learn and recognize what they are eating. A cheese board is a good piece to invest in, but any large plate or wooden board will do. Some other serving tips:
Soft, gooey cheese, like the triple creme, can be served by simply slicing the top off, and using a butter knife to dip down into the goodness. ( We had a hard time locating a cheese wire, but easily accomplished this with a knife.)
Soft, round cheeses with a sturdier rind can be cut in triangles like a pizza, and placed with the rind side down, to make for easy grabbing. (Camembert is a good one for this serving suggestion.)
Dried meat (charcuterie) is always a natural accompaniment to cheese, adding an extra kick of salt that works well with creamier cheeses as well as cheeses with more salt. Nuts, jams, honey, dried fruit, figs, olives etc, are all options to enhance your cheese plate- play around with tastes, colors, textures and allow your guests to do the same.
Crusty baguette, toasted bread pieces, simple crackers or hearty raisin bread (especially for blue cheese) all work well as vehicles for transporting the cheese into your mouth; rice crackers are a good idea to have on hand for the gluten intolerant (we all know one).
The Cheese Twins unfortunately can not be at every party, but their expertise can; we hope everyone has at least one cheesy party this holiday season…
NYC cheese shops worth checking out: