Artisanal Cheese: Learning To Pair Your Cheese
Artisanal is a cheese empire. Recognize it. There’s a bistro, a 2-star Michelin restaurant, an online store, classes, and one of the only affinage centers in the United States (affinage is the process of nurturing and aging cheese received from farm producers). You probably think I’m here to review Artisanal Bistro or perhaps Picholine, but no, by happy chance, I was invited by my dear friend Alex to attend one of Artisanal Cheese’s regional wine & cheese pairings classes, held at their facility on 10th avenue.
Artisanal hosts weekly classes that range in content from Pairing Cheese & Wine As A Professional to Sexy Cheeses & Sumptuous Wines to regional focai such as The Great Iberian Peninsula and American Artisanal Cheese & Wine. Held in a civilized and contemporary space on 10th Avenue in Chelsea, complete with an instruction kitchen, long desk tables, and a reception room, the classes include a 30min champagne reception with treats (fondue!), a 90min class led by a trained professional, a tasting of 6-8 cheeses and 4 wines, and as much vino as you can stomach! Alex and I had the luck (well, my luck and her genius) of attending the French Wine & Cheese regional class. It was nothing short of spectacular.
The class was run by Candela Pol, an endearing instructor who set a fun and engaging tone right from the get-go. She struck the balance between truly teaching how to pair wine with cheese and maintaining a light camradery with the class; not in the least bit snobby, she managed to be accessible to the diverse crowd of around 30 participants. While her background seems more solidly-established in craft beers, she very clearly walked through the characteristics of the three classic French wines provided, a Muscadet, a Viognier, and a Beaujolais. While the wines were each wonderful in their own way, I won’t pretend to be a wine connoisseur and review them for their quality.
After savoring each wine individually and learning how to properly taste a wine, the class moved on to tasting each of the cheeses individually to get a feel for their unique flavors, textures, and aromas. We had 6 cheeses, each representative of a step on Artisanal Cheese’s trademark Cheese Circle. Pictured below, the circle shows, progressing from mild to strong cheese, what beers and wines would pair best with different levels of cheese. For our class, everything from raw milk cheese to blue cheese to a triple creme was provided for our savoring.
Once the group had a handle on how each wine and each cheese tasted individually, Candela walked us through an exercise of how to evaluate whether a particular wine and a particular cheese work together. We tried every permutation of the wines and the cheeses together, learning how to dab the roof of our mouthes with cheese before sipping wine, and then rated from -2 to +2 how symbiotic the combinations were. My personal favorites included the rich and tangy raw milk cheese with the Viognier, the luxurious triple creme with the Beaujolais, and the delicate goat cheese with the Muscadet.
Artisanal Cheese coins itself your culinary spa, and while you’re not getting massage with ricotta cheese or taking a milk bath, this moniker is right on point. In the world of wine & cheese instruction, Artisanal pampers and coddles. The facility is neat, clean, and modern; the staff attentive; the wine unlimited; and the cheese easily some of the best you’ll find on the Eastern Seaboard. When it comes to professionalism, class, and quality, Artisanal Cheese is king.
Word of warning: wine is unlimited. Take this as you will, and don’t wear stilettos you’re likely to topple over in.
Perfect For: mother/daughter excursions, date night with a foodie, those just looking to learn, oenophiles, something just a little different, ladies night, a classy pregame class