Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there really is such a thing as a "Beer & Cheese Tasting"!

Do you feel it? 

I feel it! 

It might be because my three-year-old son Fisher just discovered Santa Claus, and doesn't talk about anything else all day from the moment he wakes-up (especially after recently sitting on his preschool's float for the Stratford Santa Claus Parade, above). But... I'm pretty sure the holiday season is officially upon us!

And with it, a whole series of great tastings on offer by Savour Stratford. 

By the way, I hope everyone heard the 2010 Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival recently won the Ontario Culinary Tourism Association's award for this year's Top Culinary Tourism Experience! We're Number One! Congrats to my friend (and unofficial mentor) Danielle Brodhagen, the Festival's founder, and everyone else who worked so hard to make this celebration of our local cuisine the premiere foodie event in the province (in your face Applebutter Festival!). If you missed SSPCCF, or just want to relive some of the event's award-winning-food-festival-awesomeness, check out my September postings from Day One and Day Two.

Savour Stratford continues to provide unparalleled opportunities for unique and informative tastings sessions over the holidays. I attended a great one this past weekend...

Now, I don't know about you, but two of my favourite words are "Beer" and "Cheese". How happy was I, then, when I came across them side-by-side on the Savour Stratford Holiday Tasting schedule. Could it be true?

"Yes, Virginia, there really is such a thing as a 'Beer & Cheese Tasting'!"

Liz Payne of the Milky Whey Fine Cheese Shop knows everything there is to know about all-things-cheese. The Big Cheeses of the industry are working on establishing an official title for an expert in cheese  appreciation - probably "Maitre D'Fromage". Whatever they decide to call it, Liz will undoubtedly be one.

Her challenge: to pair three Creemore Springs brews with three complementary cheeses.

I sat alongside two-dozen-or-so fellow appreciators of cheese and beer in the back room of the Milky Whey, in which sits a giant harvest table that was perfect for the Saturady afternoon event. The first pairing saw us sampling a Creemore Springs Pilsner accompanied by a generous wedge of asiago from Wisconsin. Whenever I've used asiago, it's been for cooking, e.g. grated over/into something Italian. I couldn't recall ever just hunkering-down on a big ol' piece of this strong and intense cheese, but it really held its own aside the mellow-yet-flavourful beer. Good call Liz - the beer made me appreciate the cheese, and the  cheese made me appreciate the  beer!

A Dutch Gouda followed, paired with Creemore Springs' flagship Lager (one of my own perennial favourites). The sharp, nutty cheese again stood up to the mid-hoppy beer flavour in a most agreeable way. I didn't think my beer of choice could get any better... until I learned the perfect kind of cheese to eat with it!

We in Stratford are spoiled by the presence of one of our province's premiere artisan cheese houses - Ruth Klahsen's Monforte Dairy.

Liz paid homage our local Fromagerie specializing in sheep and goat's milk by pairing Monforte's  signature pecorino, the aged cheese known as "Toscano", with the superlative Ur Bock from Creemore Springs (if I recall "Ur" means "the best"). No namby-pamby soft cheeses at this tasting: Liz assured us that creamy, stinky cheese like brie and camembert would not work with bitter beers. No one was arguing with her choice of Monforte's sharp, straight-ahead cheese as a great match to the highly-flavoured bock.

If I had to identify one highlight from the event, however, it would be the Cheddar and Beer Fondue that Liz created before our eyes and then invited us to partake in. She melted a pile of  bold yet creamy Quebec cheddar into a pot-full of Creemore Pilsner and dijon mustand for bread dipping. So good, I think it's going to have to become a Stacey Christmas tradition.

The next event in the Savour Stratford holiday series is on this Saturday (December 4, 2010), with Foster's Inn hosting a Wine and Chocolate tasting with Chateau des Charmes VQA wines paired with prefect sweet selections from Rheo Thompson Candies. I'll see you all at Foster's two Saturdays later (December 18, 2010), where we can enjoy tasting some Scotch and Chocolate togetherl!

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