7 May 2019
As part of our award-winning Sales Gallery’s Spring Into Summer event series, 1000M recently hosted Erika Kubick, of Cheese Sex Death, to teach us about the art of cheese. In case you couldn’t join us for Cheese 101, Erika has some additional tips and knowledge that will help you lead your own amazing cheese tastings at home.
Choose Your Cheese
When putting together the perfect cheese plate, three to six options is a good place to start. Any less, there won’t be much variation, and too many, the distinct, individual flavors will blur. Erika’s favorite limerick to create the perfect board? Stick with “something old, something new, something stinky and something blue.” The point is: you want a variation of milk types, flavors, ages and textures.
Shopping for Your Cheese
As you’re on the hunt for the right cheese, note how the store takes care of their cheese through visual cues. “Cheese is alive and breathing,” Erika explains, so be wary of shops that have their products cut up into smaller pieces and wrapped in plastic. A tell-tale sign? Check out the rind, which is the most alive part of the cheese. Anything dried or cracked might signal cheese mishandling.
Cut-to-order stores are preferable, and Erika recommends All Together Now! In West Town or Eataly in River North. Once you find a favorite shop, make friends with your cheesemonger. They’ll have insider information on what’s new, pairing ideas and a wealth of cheese knowledge.
Experience Your Cheese
Once you have your cheese, what’s the proper way to taste it? “You always want to make sure your cheese is at room temperature,” Erika recommends, “refrigeration dulls the flavors and makes the texture brittle.” Make sure you use separate knives for each cheese so the flavors don’t mix, and sample cheese on its own first before adding accompaniments. Erika reiterates that cheese is a full sensory experience; look at it, smell it, feel it, taste it and discuss it. Talking about cheese is the best way to explore your own palette, and ensures fantastic conversation with friends or family.
Pair Your Cheese
When you’re ready to explore accompaniments, such as fruits, spreads and wine, Erika’s rule of thumb is to aim for contrast; cheese is naturally salty, so sweet will always work, such as honey or sweeter wines. You can also try complementary pairings, such as toasted nuts, which pair wonderfully with aged cheeses and will bring out their earthy, nutty flavors. When in doubt, sparkling wine will go with anything, but red wine is generally hard to pair correctly (this is where your cheesemonger is your best friend). “What grows together goes together,” Erika notes, so look for cheeses and wines that come from the same region.
If you can’t get enough cheese talk, Cheese Sex Death has frequent pop-up events throughout Chicago, and Erika is available for private parties. Get cheesy with your next bachelorette party, office event or birthday celebration, or follow along with Erika’s blog for regular cheese tips.