A salad here, a burger there and perhaps a meal out one night a week, keeping meals simple in the summer is key to getting the most out of this short season. But in keeping it simple, we run the risk of mundane and boring. Avoid this trap and the potential eye-rolling from household members – particularly those who seem to materialize only at meal time (and are never around when the dishwasher needs emptying). For the whole family, keep it simple, yes, but keep it tasty too.
At least one night a week, branch out and add an artisan cheese to the mix. Here are four summer cheeses, and their grape counterpart that are perfect for the summer patio. Go ahead, keep it interesting and fun… take dinner outdoors, enjoy the sunshine, maybe a little music, an artisan cheese and a perfectly-paired beverage.
Chaumes This is a very popular Munster-style cheese. It is semi-soft with subtle hints of fruit and nuts. The reason Chaumes is a fine choice for the patio is that not only does it make a great table cheese by cubing onto the plate or cheese tray, but it is also ideal for grilling as it melts easily and imparts a creamy, hazelnut flavor. Sophisticated for the adult palette, yet a favorite amongst kids, Chaumes can be incorporated into any number of satisfying munchies for the whole family. Add it to your next grilled chicken sandwich or make Chaumes Mini Pizzas, which are simple to make, fresh to eat and, yes, slightly addictive.
Chaumes Wine Pairing: If making the mini pizzas, pair with a lightly oaked Napa Chardonnay such as David Bruce, the buttery flavor of the pastry dough will meld beautifully with the slightly buttery notes of the wine. Alternatively, to pull out the nutty flavors of a chunked Chaumes, serve with a mellow dry to sweet white wine such as a Dr. L or 14 Hands Riesling or even a sparkling cider for Aunt Gerty and the kids.
Mahon Curado Unlike the young Mahon, this cheese is robust and salty. The barnyard qualities stand out and there is a lingering taste of salty bacon. Simplicity is best here and so delicious. This is a busy cooks best-kept secret for a fast weekday meal: merely chunk the cheese and drizzle with minced garlic and olive oil, serve with a slice of cured meat, a chunk of good bread, and an assortment of olives. Although the Spaniards might disagree, if you feel that isn’t meal-enough, serve with yesterday’s mixed grilled vegetables that have been sprinkled with a bit of sea salt.
Mahon Curado Wine Pairing: When eating au naturale pair Mahon Curado with an Arneis such as Vietti Roero Arneis 2010. Its fuller acidic taste is a nice match with the robust Mahon. For the adventurous that embellish with the olive oil and garlic, go all out and serve with a Fino sherry as it has a unique nuttiness and rounded character that would hold up well to the garlic and is so authentic that for just a moment you might even think you’re in the Mediterranean.
Capriole Assorted Rounds: A disc of fresh chevre that’s smooth, rich, and silky in the mouth, with a flavor that’s lemony, and fresh, with an underlying sweetness. The meal options here are endless! Add a slice to any salad and sprinkle with nuts and dried fruit is just the beginning. There are also infinite topping choices when spread onto a thick slice of toast that has been drizzled with olive oil and sea salt…. anything from tomato bruschetta, to roasted diced pumpkin and thyme, to apricot chili pepper jam will make a perfectly delicious meal. Remember, when the ingredients are fresh and the quality of cheese is excellent, there is no need to overdo.
Capriole Wine Pairing: The match made in heaven is a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, say Cottat Sancerre Vieilles Vignes 2009 or even a domestic like Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from Napa California. If choosing a New Zealand Sauv Blanc, stick with those from the southern part of the island as these will be crisper and more vibrant compared to their northerly counterpart which are renowned for their more intense tropical characteristics.
Mount Vikos Halloumi Combining the texture of mozzarella with the briny moisture of feta, Halloumi is easily one of the most versatile cheeses. Instead of melting when cooked, Halloumi browns beautifully, especially when grilled. Simply slice, bring to room-temperature and brush with olive oil. Grill until charred, approximately 2 minutes on each side. Once grilled, it can be eaten on a sandwich or salad, or as a side with cooked seasonal veggies and lemon vinaigrette. When plated with watermelon and mint, it is summer embodied. Alternatively, this lively 100% pure sheep’s milk cheese can be served fresh in a salad or sandwich. Click here for some of our favorite Halloumi recipes.
Halloumi Wine Pairing: A dry rose’ is ideal for this cheese. Try Amie Roquesant from Provence. Greek cheeses tend to have a salty profile and the perfect foil for salt is acid. A lively rose’ has just the right amount of acidity to compliment the salty component. Additionally, Halloumi dishes often incorporate other strong flavors, be it the fresh herbs or the vinaigrette, and a rose’ wine will not compete with these. Rather the entire experience will be like a quick trip to the Greek Isles. Now how’s that for a Tuesday night?!