Monday, April 30, 2012

Cocktails & Curds

Pairing cheese with wine may be the traditional match made in heaven, but our friends at St. James Cheese Company are on a mission to prove that cocktails are equally adept at complementing your favorite formage, and they have enlisted a few of the city's best bartenders to help out. Cocktails & Curds  is a competition combining the timeless art of making cocktails with the ancient art of making cheese.

The competition challenges bartenders to create an original cocktail and pair their drink with a cheese. The preliminary round for Cocktails & Curds was held on April 23rd, and I was fortunate enough to act as one of several judges. The contestants were divided into two separate heats, with the top 3 from each heat advancing to the finals. My cadre of judges included Anne Tuennerman (a/k/a "Mrs. Cocktail), local food and beverage writer (and St. James alumna) Gwendolyn Knapp, Chef Donald Link, and yours truly. Our crew tasted our way through 7 cocktail and cheese pairings inside the shop, while a different group of judges sipped and scored the creations of the other competitors in the courtyard.

In the end, 6 finalists were chosen. Pictured to the left are Richard Dunnington from Loa and Rhiannon Enlil from Cure, 2 of the 3 finalists chosen from my judging round, along with Jennifer Rogers from Lillette. All three of the cocktails were well executed, balanced in flavor, and expertly paired with their chosen cheeses. Both Richard and Jennifer chose blue cheeses for pairings, while Rhinannon chose Tome de Bordeaux, one of my all time favorite cheeses, to pair with "The Salt Bridge." I would have more thoughts about the pairings, but immediately after the finalists were chosen, cheesemonger Casey Foote confiscated my tasting notes as if we had just completed the first tasting of the newest DRC vintage.
The judges hard at work. Look at the intensity in Chef Link's face.
The final round of Cocktails & Curds will be held on Monday May 7th at La Thai Restaurant at 7:00pm, and St. James invites you to be a judge. Tickets are $25 and include entertainment by the Stooges Brass Band and participation in the cheese and cocktail judging competition. Additional food and beverage will also be available for purchase. Special guest judges in the finals include cheesemakers Mateo Keller from Jasper Hill Farms in VT, Tasia Malakasis from Belle Chevre in AL, James Rudder from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, in addition to cheese expert and importer Sarah Zaborowski from Columbia Cheese, and Blackened Out's own Rene A. Louapre, IV, Esq.

If you have ever attended cheese school at St. James, you know how informative and fun their events can be. And if the preliminary rounds are any indication, Cocktails & Curds will continue that tradition. If anything, it will be worth $25 just to hang out with Rene for a few hours (or so he says).

Cocktails & Curds
Sponsored by St. James Cheese Company
Monday May 7th at 7:00pm
La Thai Restaurant
4938 Prytania
Tickets: $25

All photos by The Folk Singer.

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