Antonelli’s Showdown

December 16, 2012

Deb: Those of your who follow our blog know that we are big fans of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. After you read this entry, you will want to drive straight to the store without stopping (except don’t go on Monday – we found out the hard way…they are closed).

So, here we go…

Marc and I were driving home this past week from a shopping trip (yes, we are officially done with our Christmas list – YEAH!), when I received an email from Antonelli’s. They were advertising a cheese pairing showdown – three cheeses, three beers, three wines. Immediately we decided that our currently planned dinner party with friends this weekend would be the perfect venue to take Antonelli’s up on their challenge.

We drove right to the shop and asked for the three designated cheeses. Then we checked out the recommended beer pairings – all were unique and new to us, so we purchased them along with the cheese at the shop. The three wines presented some different options. First, we already had a red at home that was of the same varietal as the suggested pairing. The Rose Champagne Brut was a little out of our price range, and we also contemplated substituting the white. Therefore, the three wines we served for the showdown are not the EXACT recommendations of the Antonelli’s staff, but are all close in region, grape and/or style.

Are you ready?

Since I am not a beer drinker, I am going to turn over the tasting notes to Marc. He can share some of the remarks from our guests as well. I will announce my favorite tastes of the night at the end.

Showdown #1Showdown #1
CHEESE: Cowgirl creamery Mt. Tam – North Californian Creamery

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BEER: Malus Opus – a hard cider made in Dripping Springs

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WINE: Contadi Castaldi Brut Rose from Italy (substitute for the recommended Rose Champagne Brut)

Before we even began tasting the cheese/wine/beer assignments, we poured the Brut Rose for a toast. First sip of the night must be a clink of the glass with a friend. I kind of equate it with passing the peace at church– for one moment you look each other in the eye and wish each other well. We did discover that this brut rose was crisp, and refreshing, no bite and no aftertaste as some lesser bubbles might have. Truth be told, I have wanted to try a hard cider for a while, and here was my chance.

Everyone loved this cider– and we loved it more when we realized it made right here! This hard cider was quite similar to the brut rose but with a more fruit crispness than mineral crisp. So, to pair this with this quite creamy, buttery soft cheese was well done. The flavors of the cheese and drink mingled in the mouth well- yes, even danced. Not overwhelming, but very intriguing. Among our group, it was a toss up as to which paired better- I think we were impressed with the flavor of the hard cider- we weren’t expecting to be so moved. Result: TIE

Showdown #2Showdown #2
CHEESE: Vermont Creamery Coupole (goat cheese)

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BEER: Tank Number Seven – Kansas City, Missouri

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WINE: Reverdy Sancerre 2011 (substitute for the Cour-Cheverny)

New beer, new wine for the table. In the pre-discussion, we were trying to predict which of these would do well with the anticipated wire-ry goat cheese flavor. This Coupole did not deliver the wire-y, but a wonderful mixture of creamy and quench. The Tank Number Seven was a great palette pleaser. Crisp, almost Belgian style brew with a wheat-beer overtone. The Sancerre was dangerous. Very tasty, very smooth, very enjoyable- hard to stop.

Although we LOVED this white wine, I think the group liked the Tank Number Seven better with the Coupole. The bolder beer flavor seemed to bring out more color in the cheese flavor. Result: BEER

Showdown #3Showdown #3
CHEESE: Ascutney Mountain – Cobb Hill

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BEER: Oaked Aged Yeti Imperial Stout

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WINE: Narke Nero d’Avola from Sicily (substitute for the Tami Nero d’Avola)

Here again, some great drinks! The d’Avola wine is new to us (introduced at the House Wine tasting) and a wonderful red with good, balanced flavor with a solid structure that is a delight. And the beer…one word…stout. I really like this, but it is not for wusses. It’s strong and thick. My beer friends said it was a great stout, much better than Guinness. Truth be told again, not everyone at the table was a stout fan, so this kind of skewed the tasting challenge.

As one of our guest immediately said to the cheese and the stout, “I now pronounce you ‘man’ and ‘wife.’” This hard cheese had quite a big flavor, so the drink needed to be strong enough to handle it without disappearing or covering it up. Both accomplished the task, but to me (and the stout drinkers) the beer was that special “zing” of a pairing. That moment in the mouth that your mind says a collective “yes!” with the fist pump. Really good. Result: BEER

Deb: Now that Marc has shared, I will share a few words before he announces the winners. My favorite wine of the night – the Sancerre. Remember, I am just in the baby stages of learning to like whites. This beautiful wine blew me away!

My top pairing – the Ascutney Mountain cheese and the d’Avola. Talk about a mouthful of flavor – bold and decadent!

Marc: … and now for the winners:

For Outstanding Performance in the Tasting by a beverage in Wine: Reverdy Sancerre 2011

For Outstanding Performance in the Tasting by a beverage in Beer: Tank Number Seven – Kansas City, Missouri

For Outstanding Performance in the Tasting by a Cheese: Ascutney Mountain – Cobb Hill

And finally, to answer the question: “Which goes better with cheese? Wine or Beer?” The answer is: both. Now, mathematically speaking, in our event, the BEER slightly edged out the wine. But to be fair to the vino, all of the wines paired well with the assigned cheeses. Also, in the case of the stout, not everyone is a fan of that type of beer. So their decision may not be based on the pairing per se, but the “I don’t care for stout so it’s hard to get into the pairing,” frame of mind.

An the Academy Award for Beer/Wine/Cheese Paring Showdown goes to:

Cheesemonger Victoria (our wine selector) and Cheesemonger Courtney (our beer selector) from Antonelli’s!!! Three great cheeses! And each of these mongers gave three GREAT beverages to pair. NONE was lacking in class, taste, and enjoyment. This showdown was enjoyed by everyone at our table. We had a great time sharing, talking, and experiencing/discovering good cheese, good wine/beer, and, most importantly, good company.

Thanks Victoria, Courtney, and Antonelli’s!

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