Umami unexpected: Asiago rind with sake

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Barrie by Jackie.jpgGive credit to Barrie Lynn of Hollywood, a former ad exec, who now has an enthusiastic website,, and a string of related videos on cheese (pairing, storage, etc.). Cheese and wine? Too easy. Lynn leads tastings that match goat cheese with single-plantation rhum from Martinique, aged parmesan with 15-year-old single-malt scotch, Gorgonzola-style blue cheese with artisanal Mezcal.

What if, instead of red or white wine, you paired an asiago from an artisanal producer in Wisconsin with a high quality sake? Hmm? or Hmm!! Now try the rind, rubbed with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, garlic, ancho peppers and olive oil. The essence of the rub has infused the cheese but the landmine of flavor is still on the rind, and it explodes on the tongue.

For once, an epiphany. Yes, this is about cheese, but that burst of umami also explains why tomatoes and cheese are such natural buddies. (Even the sake, here, subtly helps bring the cheese and tomato together.) Think pizza marguerita (with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil), think spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce sprinkled with parmesan, think even of a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of tomato soup. They're halting attempts at creating that same satisfying mouthfeel.

The premium rhum works its wonders in other ways. Five years ago, the chefs at Elliott's demonstrated that rum is a natural with our iconic local fish ("Sacred Salmon, Demon Rum" was the title of a Cornichon post.) No wonder it also pairs beautifully with a cheese whose rind is rubbed with espresso. For its part, the Glenfiddich melts and melds with a domestic parmesan from Wisonsin's John Griffiths. Also from Wisconsin comes a Dolcina Gorgonzola made by Byron Schroeder, silky and smooth, the perfect match for an artisanal mezcal.

Wrap that blue cheese well, Lynn reminds her tasters. (Mold travels through a refrigerator.) Otherwise, cheese doesn't have to be encased in plastic wrap, shouldn't be. It's alive, and you're not trying to kill it. If you're not eating it all right away, wrap it loosely in wax paper and store it in the fridge's crisper. Oh, and unless the rind is wax or plastic, go ahead and eat it, too. With some cheeses, that's where the best flavors are hiding.

Photo of Barrie Lynn (at Dish It Up in Ballard) courtesy of Jackie Donnelly Baisa

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on May 26, 2011 10:00 AM.

Food, Glorious Food, Part Two was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter from an "Irishman" in Provence is the next entry in this blog.

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