Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
I am crazy about cheese,
And I guess I love you, too.
Today is Valentine’s Day. Or, as you prefer it, Galentine’s Day or whatever.
It’s kind of a last-minute holiday for many people. (Which is totally fine—it’s going to be OK, all right?)
Regardless of what or with whom you might be celebrating, February 14 is a day for love. And what better way to celebrate love, friendship, passion, etc., than with cheese. (Duh, right?)
I’m imagining a table set with candles, wine, and a big board covered in cheese. Or a single plate with a single, decadent pairing, specially designed to exhibit your appreciation for your companion.
Some of the pairings I have designed are a little bit savory, and others are pretty sweet. But all of them, I assure you, are more than good enough to eat—on Valentine’s Day, or really on any other day of the year.
Vacherousse is super-duper creamy and buttery, and that’s just the kind of cheese you need for this pairing. Any fluffy double- or triple-cream soft-ripened cheese will probably do, but Vacherousse has that special something-something that makes this pairing so good.
Let the cheese—and the same goes for all of these pairings—sit out for about an hour before preparing your pairing. Then, get some apple crisps (read: dehydrated or dried apple slices—hard enough to support cheese and chocolate, not the soft, squishy kind).
Smear a lil’ slab of cheese on each apple crisp, then drizzle the whole thing with a dark chocolate sea-salt caramel sauce (I like the one from Stonewall Kitchen; it’s sweet, but not too sweet).
In this case, envision the pâté like a sort of meat cracker. For all intents and purposes, the pâté IS your cracker now. (I sampled this out at work over the weekend, and half of the people who did drive-by samplings pedaled back in shock when they realized the cracker was MEAT.)
Whether you have Harbison or any other spruce-wrapped, ooey-gooey soft-ripened cheese with a fair amount of bitter in it, make sure you let the cheese sit out until it is at room temperature before serving.
Get a thin, but sturdy slice of pâté—bite-size. Spread cheese on the pâté. Drop a little spoonful of black raspberry jam on top of the cheese, and top it off with a baby squirt of hot honey.
You might not think that the combination of meat + slightly bitter and creamy cheese + fruit + spicy would be good, but it is, in fact, great.
Salt Spring Island Hot Chili Chèvre on a Water Cracker with Raspberry Jam
If you can get your hands on Salt Spring’s hot chili chèvre, do so. Otherwise, any fresh chèvre with chilies in or on it will do.
Get a basic water cracker or cracker crisp and spread the spicy chèvre on that cracker. Top it off with a dollop of sweet raspberry jam. The combination of sweet and spicy will excite all your taste buds, and the chèvre will mellow it all out.
Always a good solution, and totally a romantic gesture thanks to the choice of fruit preserve, ye olde Camembert just covered in amarena cherries—in their syrup—gets the job done. Serve with thin slices of baguette or with an unassuming cracker crisp.
Aged Mahón and Molé Salumi on Panzanella Crackers with Cherry Relish (or without)
If you want to take a break from all of those sensual soft cheeses, a nice hard cheese like Mahón is just what this doctor ordered.
Place thick shavings of the cheese on top of slices of a Molé Salami (like the one from Salumi in Seattle, if you can get it), on top of a good cracker. I like the La Panzanella crackers, and I imagine you could go with black pepper just as easily as with rosemary or plain.
Top the whole thing off with the smallest amount of cherry relish—or not, if you want to get away from the sweets, too—and enjoy. The chocolate and chile notes from the Molé salami, along with the divinity that is Mahón —your mouth will be overcome with joy.
Vintage Grand Ewe on an Orange Crisp with Candied Orange Peel
For another hard-cheese pairing, try an aged sheep’s milk gouda like Vintage Grand Ewe. It’s got that butterscotchy, caramely flavor combination, thanks to the aging, the smoothness of the milk, and let’s not forget about those delightful tyrosine crystals bringing the crunch.
Grand Ewe is great with orange, so try it shaved on an orange crisp (just like the apple crisps—dried and firm enough to handle), topped with a slice of candied orange peel with a little of the syrup.
Bleu d’Auvergne on Orange Ines Rosales Tortas with Fig Spread
Finally, no day devoted to love and friendship would be complete without a little bit of the blues.
Bleu d’Auvergne smears perfectly onto shards of Ines Rosales’ orange tortas after you let the cheese sit out for an hour or so. Top the cheese and torta cracker with fig spread, and enjoy the combination of zesty, earthy tartness from the blue along with the sweet sugar of the torta and the intermingling orange and fig flavors.
No matter what you eat, or with whom, make sure you share the love today. <3