The Pairing: Gorgonzola Picante + Date puree with sugared bacon and marcona almonds

The Cheese: Gorgonzola (Cow, Italy)

Gorgonzola Picante is a blue cheese, of course, and falls on the spicier side of the blue cheese range. It is a DOC protected cheese, made in Lombardy, Italy. Picante is the spicy sister of the Gorgonzola Dolce, and has a sharp, spicy tang and a smooth texture and a slight sweetness, like you’d expect from a blue cheese. This is Italy’s answer to Roquefort.

The Accompaniment: Date puree with sugared bacon and marcona almonds

Date Puree

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates (14 ounces)
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 (3- to 4-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  1. Bring all ingredients to a simmer, in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then reduce heat and simmer until dates are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard spices.
  2. Drain dates with a slotted spoon and discard skins.
  3. Transfer dates and juice into a food processor until a puree is formed.

Sugared Bacon

You will need:

  • Two slices of bacon (I used turkey bacon)
  • Brown sugar to sprinkle
  1. Sprinkle bacon with brown sugar
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Bake bacon until it is slightly brown and sugar is caramelized
  4. Chop into small pieces

To assemble:

1. Spread date puree on the cheese board. Prepare marcona almonds by chopping into small pieces.

2. Sprinkle with bacon pieces

3. Top with marcona almonds

Why This Pairing Works: So if you’ve been to a tapas place, you’ve likely had dates stuffed with blue cheese and an almond, and wrapped in bacon. Christina and I did these for a dinner party, and they were amazing. So I was thinking, why not deconstruct them and make the components into a spread? Same flavor profile, but enjoyed in a little different way. The sweetness of the date calms the spiciness of the blue cheese mold, as does the sugared bacon, which also gives it a savory flavor. The almonds give just the right amount of crunch.

Wine Reco: Cabernet Sauvignon or Muscato