In the world of food pairings, some things just go together – like peanut butter and jelly. When combined, each element brings something to the other that was not there before. Couples know this well as they first figure out how to hold hands and walk â?? it only works one way. That or how to introduce their combined first names as a couple. Which name goes first? For Valentineâ??s Day, sparkling wine and Double and Triple Cream cheeses are an exemplary pairing that does just that.

Consider the sparkling wine first. Generally tart (though sweet options exist as well), effervescent, yeasty, and if you hold sparkling wine in your mouth, can feel almost like having a small soft pillow in there. Try it â?? it will make more sense than I can explain. Other than water, Champagne could be my desert island beverage as the one wine that can go with any meal. Champagne is satisfying like a soda paired with a burger and fries. The effervescent nature of the bubbles help to cleanse the palate and the sugar re- invigorates the palate for the next bite. A key learning though â?? donâ??t have Champagne and Jalapeños together. Trust me on that, the research has been done.

So as Champagne cleanses the palate, cheese coats it. Double and triple cream cheeses lay down delicious on the palate, like a foot (or two) of snow covering everything. These cheeses are made with the addition of cream a second or third time before coagulation. They are rich and higher moisture cheeses. Rich, like pouring honey on hot pancakes, these cheeses are ones to claim as your own. Sharing is overrated when it comes to these beauties. Consider, from Normandy, a young stunner, Brilliat â??Saverin. It is made with hot cream thatâ??s added to cow’s milk and aged for about three weeks (USA only gets a Pasteurized version). Sold in small wheels, it is bloomy and white on the exterior and rich and elastic on the interior. Eat the rind with the interior (pate) of the cheese. St. Andre (a triple cream) is a firmer French example, with the taste of sour cream and butter.

Combine Champagne and double and triple cream cheeses and call it crazy, but I am reminded of a movie â?? â??The Karate Kidâ?: specifically the scene â??Wax on and wax offâ?, where the act of waxing a car teaches something greater. Apply this idea to the pairing – a set of actions where one action covers the palate and the next exposes it. In both, something better is achieved.

Taste the cheese first to coat your palate with creamy deliciousness. Savor it for a moment and let the cheese fill the spaces between your taste buds and coat your mouth. Then take another taste of cheese. The second bite does not have the same impact. It canâ??t. You palate is overloaded with cheese. To re-introduce that first taste sensation, introduce bubbles. Bubbles that break down the cheese and clean the palate and let you taste the cheese again.

Itâ??s a pairing that contrasts the two individual sensations for something harmonious, like when two people meant to be together find each other. Happy Valentines Day.

Tiny Bubbles

The first bubbles in a wine bottle were accidents. Accidents where active yeasts in fermenting wine bottles exploded and sent shards of clay (or glass) flying at dangerous velocity. As better understanding of fermentation developed so, too, did techniques for getting bubbles (intentionally) in the bottle.

France pioneered the process of fermenting in the bottle with â??Methode Champenoiseâ?. An actively managed fermentation process that, over time, yields sparkling wine made in the actual bottle that you purchase. Other developments moved away from the one bottle at a time method with larger fermenting tanks and pressured filling of bottles. The Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco are two classic examples that are less costly and, albeit different than Champagne, quite good.

Jeffery Mitchell is the owner of the Culpeper Cheese Company. He is also a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at jeffery@culpepercheese.com or 540-827-4757

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