Modern Drama: Cocktails and Cheese are the New Trend

By Fabiana Santana

cheese plate & cocktail partyForget the wine. Cocktails are the new best friend of the cheese family this season. Daniel Utano, Cheese Manager and Fromage at Bar Artisanal is here to help you figure out just what curd goes with your cocktail.

It’s possible your friends have already had every wine and cheese pairing you can throw at them and they need something new. Daniel was thinking the same thing when he developed the cocktail and cheese pairing menu at NYC’s Tribeca hotspot Bar Artisanal. Owned by celebrity chef Terrance Brennan, Bar Artisanal celebrates cheese in a whole new way: the prime seats are in front of his Bar du Fromage et Charcuterie (that’s a fancy way to say the cheese bar) where hunks of artisanal cheeses are on display with notes as to their origin and taste on hand. Daniel acts as the “bar tender”, cutting, preparing and selecting cheese plates, eager to give a description and history on every kind on offer.

Daniel chooses the cheeses specifically for the “Modern Drama” cocktail and cheese-pairing menu, with spirits like aged scotch, gin and the versatile vodka in mind.

“It’s like the chicken and egg scenario. Here, the cocktail definitely came first but a few were created specifically with cheeses I wanted to showcase in mind.”

He says that while a wine and cheese pairing will always be a success, switching out a cocktail for your cabernet will really enhance the experience. “ This is for the cheese lovers who want to go to the next level. And, of course, it’s fun.”

Grab your girlfriends, escape to New York City and sit yourself down at Bar Artisanal for a sampling, or few. But if you can’t get the single ladies together for a city-escape, try these fail-safe combos and host a cheese and cocktail party at home:

GIN

Bar Artisanal takes full advantage of the seasons with their Twig and Berry cocktail made with Bombay Sapphire gin, muddled blackberries, champagne and a few springs of fresh thyme. With it, or with any other gin-based drink, try a few tangy goat cheeses. The citrusy tang of the cheese will cut through the bitter taste that gin can carry and pairing a fresh fruit in the cocktail helps to enhance the flavor of the cheese as well. If you are using herbs in the cocktail, feel free to snip a few extra leaves off and roll the cheese around in them to really bring the pairing to life. Popular supermarket brands and artisanal brands like Belle Cherve also offer herb infused goat cheeses ready to cut and serve.

TEQUILA/RUMS

Tequila and rum based drinks tend to have fruit bases. Think strawberry margaritas or mango mojitos. For these pairings, choose cheeses that are soft and light so that they create a nice flavor combination with the fruit. Think of fruit pies with whipped cream – that is the way you want to pair these drinks.

Bar Artisanal pairs a Strawberry Sunrise (made with Milagro Tequila, Strawberry, Orange Juice, and fresh lime) with a luscious French cheese called Pierre Robert.

It is a triple-crème cheese from the Seine E Marne region of France with a snow-white rind. It is amazingly rich (triple cream will do that to you) so you feel satisfied quickly when eating this. It pairs wonderfully with tart fresh fruits – like limes that are used so often in tequila and rum infused cocktails. Spread it on crusty bread or crackers and you can even top it with a bit of the fruit that is in your drink if you are feeling fancy. A great alternative if you can’t find Pierre Robert is Explorateaur Mini – another French cows milk – or even Laughing Cow’s soft cheese triangles.

VODKA

Update the standard brunch time bloody Mary by using blended vodka, like a five pepper flavored vodka and add a few leaves of fresh basil for a real burst of summer flavor. Since the base of a bloody Mary is tomato juice, pair your cheese the way you would any tomato-based dish, like pasta with sauce. Parmigiano-Reggiano, made from raw cow’s milk, is the perfect partner for this drink. The cheese is nutty but still buttery and the slight saltiness of it offsets the spice of the pepper nicely. And this would be the perfect cocktail to pull out the mozzarella for. Tomato, basil, and mozzarella are a classic combination.

SCOTCH/ WHISKEY

Carrie Bradshaw and her crew drank Manhattans as a symbol of their love of life in the Big Apple. You can think up your own reason for drinking this king of cocktails made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, ice, and bitters but one of them should be that it makes a great cocktail to experiment with. Choose cheeses that are a bit more pungent and ripe since their flavors may enhance the smokiness of the drink.

If scotch is your spirit of choice for this round, nothing beats aged Gouda. If it is old enough, the Gouda will be buttery, rich and salty enough to do two things: compliment salty scotches and also cut through the sweetness of sweeter scotches. This is the milk and cookies combo of the cocktail/cheese world so this pairing is sure to be a hit.

Daniel Utano’s Hosting Tips for your Cheese & Cocktail Party

1. Think seasonally. Both the cocktails and cheese pairings change with the season at Bar Artisanal, and that is a cue you should take also. Go with what feels right for the weather. If it’s warm outside, then light fresh cocktails that include seasonal fruits and herbs – like mojitos and margaritas – are the right things to mix. If a bit brisk, try warming cocktails that include heavier spirits like scotch or gin. Vodka is perfect for year round use and since it is so versatile, your mixers are all that must be considered.

2. Got milk? John says to make sure you have at least one cheese from all the milks (cow, sheep and goat) in your pairing. That way you will be able to experience the differences in each easily.

3. Consider textures. You won’t know if you prefer soft to hard cheese unless you are willing to experiment with them. Generally, cocktails will pair with one or the other, soft or hard cheese, with the mozzarella/Parmesan scenario being an exception since tomato was the base of the cocktail.

4. And finally, choose your cocktails first. Decide what you are going to mix up based on the season and then choose your cheeses. Ask the cheese monger at your supermarket or specialty shop which cheeses are best for the season and take it from there!

Another great pairing from Artisanal:

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse and Walnut Vinaigrette Recipe

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse and Walnut Vinaigrette Recipe

Serves 4

One of the most enduring pairings to grace a salad plate is the classic bistro duo of creamy, fresh goat cheese and cooled, roasted beets. Like Bogart and Bacall, beets and goat cheese have chemistry; they belong together. The sweet beets perfectly complement the tang of the cheese. A particularly remarkable thing about this combination is that it’s complete — beets and goat cheese are all you need for a salad — yet it invites embellishment. Here, the flavors are enhanced with chopped, toasted walnuts, the clean crunch of Belgian endive, peppery arugula, and walnut vinaigrette.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs beets, skin on, scrubbed
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 c (4 oz) fresh goat cheese, room temp. Artisanal recommend the Petite Mothias or Catskill
  • 1 teaspoon walnut oil
  • Black pepper in a mill
  • 3/4 lb Belgian endive, split and cut crosswise into ¾ -inch pieces
  • 2 oz arugula, tough stems discarded, well washed
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Bundle and wrap the beets in aluminum foil, rubbing each first in olive oil. Bake on a sheetpan until a knife pierces easily into the center, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Set aside to cool, then peel and cut into a 3/4 inch dice.
  2. Toast the walnuts in a sauté pan over medium heat, shaking constantly, until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Put the goat cheese and walnut oil in a bowl and stir vigorously until the cheese is whipped a mousse-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Combine the vinegar and shallots in a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in the oil. Add the salt and pepper and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  5. Combine the beets, endive, arugula, and walnuts in a bowl and drizzle with walnut vinaigrette.
  6. Divide the salad evenly among 4 plates. Top with a tablespoon of goat cheese before serving.

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