Learning About Artisan Cheese (In An Unpretentious Way)

by Borderstan.com September 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,996 1 Comment


A wine and cheese pairing at The Cheese Course. (Rachel Nania)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

Carolyn Stromberg knows cheese. And unlike most artisan cheeses, Stromberg has deep District roots.

The George Washington University alum cultivated her passion for sheep, cow and goat-derived dairy through experiences in well-known restaurants and cheese shops in (and around DC), plus a trip or two through Europe.

Now, the cheese guru and owner of Righteous Cheese (which opened this September at Union Market) is offering the public an opportunity to learn about the art of cheese through her intimate (and snob-free) monthly Cheese Course Classes at Seasonal Pantry and Righteous Cheese.

Recently, I purchased a ticket and joined Stromberg at a rustic community table with 10 local residents to pick her brain and learn more about, well, cheese.

The class I attended at Seasonal Pantry (where Stromberg runs the shop’s cheese program) explored six cheeses and three wines, all from Northern Italy.

Like myself, the other participants did not have culinary degrees. They were not fromagers or sommeliers, nor did they have any intention to be. They were just regular people enjoying an evening of wine and cheese, possibly hoping to pick-up a few tips useful for hosting future dinner or cocktail parties.

Throughout the two-hour class, Stromberg went through each pairing, carefully explaining the cheese’s history, how the cheese was made, how long it aged, when it is best to eat the cheese and what you should eat with the cheese. In between bites, participants asked questions and commented on how each pairing tasted.

Stromberg did an amazing job at thoughtfully responding to each person’s question/comment, and was able to answer everything without so much as a blink.

Pointers from Class

In case you are wondering, here are a few pointers I picked-up from the class:

  • Prosecco is your best wine pick for a tasting. If you are looking to serve a selection of cheeses the next time you host, a Prosecco (or sparkling wine) is the best pairing for most. This is because the bubbles in the wine act like a palate cleanser, while the subtle, sweet flavor of Prosecco contrasts nicely with the saltiness of cheese.
  • Always serve from mild to strong.  Start with a nice, mild cheese and work your way to the stronger picks (like a blue cheese). Those over-powering blues are hard for your palate to forget if you devour them first.
  • What grows together, goes together. Just like our produce, cheeses are also seasonal, since the grass the animal grazes on differs, depending on the time of year. Because cheese often reflects seasonality, stick to pairing cheeses with flavors, meats, vegetables and/or condiments from the same season.
  • Finally, a use for dessert wines. If you are like me and shudder at the thought of drinking a dessert wine, don’t be so quick to judge the sugary bottles. Dessert wines pair beautifully with salty cheeses. Like Paula Abdul said, opposites attract.

So if you are interested in learning more about cheese, in an intimate, unpretentious and completely un-judged way, look no further than Stromberg’s Cheese Course Classes.

October’s dates are not yet set, but keep checking back on the website for upcoming class dates and times.

Can’t wait until the next class? Stromberg’s new space at Union Market, Righteous Cheese, has a 10-seat bar that offers wine and cheese (and beer and cheese) flight pairings.

Union Market is currently open Friday (11 am until 8 pm) Saturday (8 am until 8 pm) and Sunday (8 am until 8 pm). In November, the Market will expand its operating hours and open six days a week.

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