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The Pairing: Miticana De Oveja + Caramelized Pear Butter

The Cheese: Miticana De Oveja (Sheep, Spain)

This sheep’s milk cheese is a little less known, but is similar to Bucheron, from France. It is a bloomy rind cheese with a bit of a chalky center. Because this is a fresh sheep’s milk cheese, it’s a fatty and spreadable. It’s a bit tangy, and a little “sheepy”, as Christina likes to say. (She hates sheep’s milk cheeses.) It reminds me of citrus and a little butter. It’s aged for a mere 21 days, and is a great example of a soft-ripened cheese. Friendly for most palettes. 

The Accompaniment: Caramelized Pear Butter. As the season is getting colder, I crave cooked fruits. It’s no longer really summer, and regardless of my attempt to wear tank tops, it is obviously fall. The recipe below is for jam. I cut this recipe in 1/4 and made just enough to serve. Feel free to make this into jam, though! Imagine this jam on a flatbread with blue cheese and arugula. Delicious…

You Will Need:

  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 7 pounds ripe Bartlett pears
  • 3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt


1. Combine apple juice and 4 tablespoons lemon juice in heavy large deep pot. Peel, core, and cut pears, 1 at a time, into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces; mix pears into juice mixture in pot as soon as pears are cut, to prevent browning.

2. Cook over medium heat until pears release enough juice for mixture to boil, stirring frequently, about 16 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes (mixture will splatter). Remove pot from heat.

3. Press pear mixture through fine plate of food mill into large bowl. Return pear puree to same pot. (I just kind of mushed mine up — I like my accompaniments a little chunky.)

4. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until pear butter thickens and is reduced to 8 cups, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent scorching, about 1 hour

5. Ladle pear butter into 8 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth.

6. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

Why this Pairing Works: The cheese is smooth and a tiny bit tart. This sweet tart accompaniment really balances out the chalkiness, and the slightly chunky texture of the pears works with the smooth texture of the cheese.

Wine Reco: Fruity, high acid white wine, like an Albariño or a Pinot Grigio, to balance the acid in the cheese. Yum!




The PairingOak Smoked Gubbeen + Spicy Mustard

The Cheese: Oak Smoked Gubbeen (Cow, County Cork Ireland)

The name Gubbeen is derived from the Gaelic “gobin” meaning the “small mouthful.” The “small mouthful” refers to the bay in West Cork where the farm is located. Tom Ferguson and his wife Giana, who grew up making goat’s cheeses in Spain and France, currently make this cheese. The cheese uses vegetable rennet, so its texture is unique. The rind is inedible, but the paste of the cheese is semi-hard and has a smooth mouthfeel. (As if you didn’t know – remove the wrapper before you eat or serve it.) It tastes smoky and a bit tart — think cheddar + bacon.

The Accompaniment: Spicy Mustard

Because the cheese was smoky, I decided to make a spicy mustard. I’ve never made mustard before, but I haven’t made a lot of things before, and it always works out. I used Alton Brown’s recipe for the Best Mustard Ever as a starting point.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup dry mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup sweet pickle juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mustard seeds (I used a combination of brown and yellow)
  • My tweak: pinch of cayenne pepper and ground chipotle pepper to add a smoky and spicy taste.

1. In a small, microwave-proof bowl whisk together the dry mustard, brown sugar, salt, turmeric, paprika, cayenne and chipotle and garlic powder.

2. In a separate container, combine the pickle juice, water and cider vinegar and have standing by. Place the mustard seed into a spice grinder and grind for a minimum of 1 minute, stopping to pulse occasionally. Note: I only did this for half of the seeds. I wanted a more chunky texture so I left some seeds whole.

3. Once ground, immediately add the mustard to the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the liquid mixture. Whisk to combine. Place the bowl into the microwave and heat on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and puree with a stick blender for 1 minute. Pour into a glass jar or container and allow to cool uncovered. Once cool, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Note: You will need to heat this more than 1 minute to reduce it. It’s quite watery. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment until you get the consistency you desire.

Why this Pairing Works: The cheese is smoked over oak chips before aging, so its rich smoky flavor is perfect to pair with something savory. This mustard is spicy and a little tangy. The chipotle powder (smoked, dried jalapenos) added smokiness to the flavor, which enhanced the smoky flavor of the cheese. Remember those hot dogs with those little pieces of cheese in them? I used to love them. This reminds me of them in a more sophisticated way. Call me crazy…

Wine Reco: Oaky Chardonnay or Lager



I just moved to a new neighborhood, and I have to admit, I have been pretty depressed. Working from home isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and I needed to meet people. So I joined the social committee. My first initiative? Cheese, of course. I convinced my neighbors that we should do a cheese and wine tasting. To be honest, it wasn’t that hard to convince them, considering we’re all heavy drinkers in the ‘hood. My husband wanted to do a cognac tasting, because all he drinks is Hennessy. While I admired the thought, all I could imagine was the older people in my community slurring words and falling asleep in public places like my husband does. Not a good look.  Instead, we decided to do wine and cheese.

A few tips if you want to do this in your own neighborhood:

  1. We pre-made all of the plates with 1/2 ounce of each cheese. Any more than 8 cheeses is a bit much.
  2. I put together a checklist for people to keep track of what they liked and didn’t like — this makes it easy for people to remember what they liked, especially after 8 glasses of wine. I also put a note at the bottom letting them know the pricing and where we got each of the cheeses and wines. Here is a generic Wine and Cheese Tasting Form that you can use, too.
  3. We chose to be a little less formal — everyone was standing. This works well if you have one small plate for the cheeses, and places around the room to rest things.
  4. We took a little break in between wines, so people could mingle and talk, and be social. It worked well, getting people talking about the wines and cheeses.
  5. We used one wine glass, but provided a dump bucket and pitchers of water for people to wash out glasses. (Most people were licking the bottom of the glass, but this way you have an option if people don’t love what they got.) Be sure you encourage people to rinse their glasses between the white and red wine sections, and definitely before the dessert wine.
  6. My neighbors, who picked out the wine, bought pourers that automatically cut off after 1 ounce. This was essential to make sure no one over-poured, and everyone got a taste. We planned for 1 ounce per person per wine. After about 20 people, you need to bump up to a second bottle.
  7. You want to tell everyone to taste the wine first, then the cheese, and then them both together. They need to know what they like/don’t like about the pairing.
  8. Pairings are about your own tastes — just because you like something doesn’t mean other people will.
  9. Just a note on the pairings below — usually you taste from the lightest and freshest cheese to the most aged/pungent cheese. I skipped around so that the cheeses meshed with the wines. The wines were the star of this story. It’s a little non-traditional, but it worked well.

Here are our pairings, and some of my notes.


Riondo Prosecco (NV, Italy) with St. Andre (Cow, France, 4 weeks)

Why this works: Both the wine and the cheese are light in texture. Almost fluffy. The bubbles in the wine cut the fat in the cheese, cleaning your palette after the fat in the cheese coats your tongue.


Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) with Humboldt Fog (goat, California, 3 months)

Why this works: Acidic  wine + Acidic cheese = mellow flavor. The tartness in the cheese offsets the acidity in the Sauvignon Blanc.


Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay (2009, California) with Camembert (cow, France, 3 weeks)

Why this works: Chardonnay can be hard to pair because of its has oaky flavors. This is especially true of Chardonnays from California. Camembert is a strong cheese that can stand up to it. Chardonnay is aged in oak, and Camembert is aged in caves with straw. The earthiness in both mesh well together.


Woop Woop Shiraz (2010, Australia) with Parmigiano-Reggiano (cow, Italy, 24 months)

Why this works: Shiraz is known for being fruity and a little rustic. When I think of rustic cheeses, I think of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Shiraz has some of those spicy and peppery and fruit flavors which pair well with the saltiness of the cheese. The combination of a lighter red wine and the Parmigiano is a classic one in Italy. It just works.


Deloach Pinot Noir (2009, California) with Gruyere (cow, Switzerland, 16 months)

 Why this works: Pinot Noir is a great lighter wine that melds with a lot of flavors. Pinot Noir is very fruit forward, and works well with the nuttiness and sweetness of the cheese. The Gruyere has a smooth mouthfeel and a little creaminess, so it makes those tannins disappear.


Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel (2009, California) with Gouda (cow, Holland, 3 years)

Why this works: Zinfandel is a little dry, but has jammy blackberry and plummy fruit. When you combine the two, the sweetness of the gouda and the fruit in the Zinfandel reminds me of a berry tart. The gouda has a little crunch as well, so the texture reminds you of toffee.


Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2007, California) with Munster (cow, France, 8 weeks)

Why this works: Cabernet is a big red wine, and this is a big stinky cheese. Cabs have leather, woody flavors, and this cheese is very “barnyardy” and rustic. The smoothness of this cheese also helps to calm down the tannins.


Kafer Riesling Berenauslele (NV, Gemany) with Valdeón (cow, goat, Spain, 3 months)

Why this works: Dessert wines are sweet, and the flavor opposite of sweet is salty. Salt is used in the preparation of this cheese, and the balance of these two is great. Valdeon is not as spicy as other blues, and Riesling isn’t as heavy as most dessert wines. The pairing is delicious.

Want some help putting together your own party? Need more notes or talking points on the cheeses or the wines? Contact me at:


~ Dana


The Pairing: 5-Year Aged Gouda + Apple Vanilla Bean Compote

The Cheese: 5-Year Aged Gouda (Cow, Holland)

I know, I know, when you hear “gouda”, you are thinking that slightly smoky cheese that is in the red waxy thing, right? Riiight….well, that’s not gouda. I mean, technically, here in the US, it is, but in the real cheese world, it isn’t. Gouda is a long-aged cheese that has butterscotch notes, and little crystalline crunchy bits that remind you of caramel. What are these bits? Crystallized pieces of protein. Amazing.

The Accompaniment: Apple Vanilla Bean Compote (adapted from Emmeril)

You will Need:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split in half
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados or brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cubed

* This recipe makes more than is needed for the cheese plate. Feel free to half this, or use the compote to serve over pancakes, with pork, etc.


1. In a large saucepan, combine the water, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, Calvados, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt and bring to a boil.

  • A note about vanilla beans: You must slice the bean, and scrape what’s in the inside. Don’t throw it away!! (see below) These little seeds will flavor the mixture. Add it to the pot.

2. Boil gently until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the apples and return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very tender and the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes

4. Remove from the heat and remove the vanilla bean pods.

5. Let cool to room temperature before serving. Mush with a fork to create a spreadable texture.

Why This Pairing Works: The notes in the gouda are butterscotch, butter, caramel and a bit of salt. So it’s a sweet cheese. And what to pair with a sweet cheese? Apples. Caramel and apples are a perfect combination, right? The vanilla in this accompaniment also brings a apple-pie/cobbler dimension to this pairing.

Wine Recos: Cabernet or Shiraz


So with champagne and cheese, what’s better than foods that contain more cheese? Nothing, in my book. (Although the contents of my book are sketchy at a minimum.) Christina and I decided to prepare two nibbles that went well with the spread. We settled on gougères and parmesan crisps.

Gougères are French (obviously) little puffy pieces of dough that have gruyère cheese baked into it. They’re like a very light biscuit. I should disclaim here — this is like a VERY light biscuit for all you southerners. As you know, I am from the South, and biscuits aren’t always so soft. But smothered with apple butter, all is well. The Flying Biscuit in Atlanta has the most amazing apple butter. Which has nothing to do with gougères, I admit.

Anyways, they melt in your mouth, and have a gentle enough flavor that they don’t compete with the wines or cheeses we selected. The flavor of the gruyère is nutty and sweet/salty, which makes the flavors perfect compliments.

Gougères (from Bon Appetit)

You will need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, chilled
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400°F.
  2. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Bring 1 cup water, butter, and salt to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking until butter melts.
  4. Add flour; stir rapidly with wooden spoon until flour absorbs liquid and forms ball, pulling away from sides of pan.
  5. Stir vigorously until film forms on bottom of pan and dough is no longer sticky, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat; cool dough 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs 1 at a time.
  8. Stir in cheese and pepper.
  9. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart.
  10. Using damp fingertip, press down any peaks of dough.
  11. Bake gougères until golden brown, about 30 minutes, reversing position of pans halfway through baking.
  12. Using small sharp knife, pry open 1 gougère to check for doneness (center should be slightly eggy and moist).
  13. Serve hot or warm. Can be made 3 hours ahead.
  14. Transfer to racks; cool. Rewarm in 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

 So while Parmesan crisps aren’t really for spreading cheese on (they are super crumbly), they’re great little salty bites that are amazing with a bit of dry champagne. And seriously, they are just melted cheese, which for me is a dream. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a salty cheese (Italians many times use this instead of salt) and it retains its flavor even as it melts and browns.

Parmesan Crisps (from Gourmet)

You will need:

  • 1 (3-oz) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Special equipment: a nonstick bakeware liner (or good old-fashioned aluminum foil)


  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick liner.
  2. Grate 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano using large holes of a box grater.
  3. Arrange 6 mounds (1 rounded tablespoon each) of cheese 3 inches apart on liner, then flatten each mound lightly with a metal spatula to form a 3-inch round.
  4. Bake until golden, 7 to 10 minutes, then transfer crisps with spatula to a rack to cool completely, about 5 minutes.
  5. Repeat procedure with remaining cheese to make more crisps.
All in all, the pairing of the champagne, cheeses and appetizers were light and amazing. The perfect start to a perfect night.
~ Dana

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