To help in my New Year’s resolution of eating and learning about more cheese, I decided to implement a Friday night happy hour in my home. The idea is to get a break from the normally harried weeknight dinners that usually consist of my husband and me spending more time feeding the little ones than ourselves. Then once they’re both fed, there is the frenzy of bedtime which is a flurry of activity – clean-up, brushing teeth, bathtime, stories – to get to that glorious lights-out time when we can finally hover over the stove and shove cold leftovers into our mouths before we pass out by 9PM. It’s not glamorous, but that’s life with very young children.
The new Friday night home happy hour is a full shake up of the schedule. My husband comes home from work and takes over with the kids while I assemble a cheese plate with food and drink pairings. We set up hors d’oeuvres tables in the living room and eat, drink, and talk. The toddler gets to participate too with his own little cheese plate for his dinner. Then after the kids’ bedtime, we enjoy a nice, leisurely dinner to ourselves.
Tonight’s Friday night happy hour cheese plate featured La Sauvagine, an award winning Canadian cheese out of Québec. La Sauvagine is a soft, washed-rind triple crème that’s mellow, buttery flavor makes it a great addition to any cheese plate. The inside texture is soft and creamy, while the outer rind adds a slight touch of woodsiness. This subtle rustic quality paired it well with the herb-coated salami and rosemary raisin crackers. These crackers were the Lesley Stowe brand, but if you’re in the States, Trader Joe’s makes similar crackers that are a bit smaller. Fresh or dried fruit would also be a welcome addition to a cheese plate with La Sauvagine. I chose an apple because I like the textural contrast of the crispness of the apple with the creaminess of the cheese. Fresh or dried figs would also pair nicely with the cheese.
The drink pairings were suggestions from the cheesemaker’s website. The folks at Alexis de Portneuf suggest an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon as a wine pairing and India Pale Ale as a beer pairing. Now, in my pairings research, it seems that there is some divide on whether or not one should pair a full-bodied red with a younger, soft cheese. Those who say ‘nay’ argue that the wine overpowers the delicate flavors of the cheese and that wines higher in tannins can lessen the perception of creaminess of the cheese.
However, it seems that some exceptions can be made for washed-rind cheeses as their flavors have more umami complexity that can stand up to some bolder wines. It’s also important to note that not all cabs are created equal. Old World Cabernet Sauvignon is heavier and has stronger tannins, while New World cabs (like one from Australia) tend to be fruitier and lighter in their tannins. Overall, I felt the Australian Cabernet Sauvignon worked nicely with not only the cheese, but also with the other accompaniments on the plate. The IPA as a pair selection worked well too because it’s both earthy and fruity – flavors that lend well to most cheese plates.