I'm excited to introduce a new series called Noshing with Friends, whichbrings together craft food and simple pairings in the company of good friends.
The inspiration for this event was this post as well as two pairings I remember having while living in (and later returning to Spain): manchego and membrillo, also known as quince paste (a quintessential Spanish dessert) and mel i mató (a Catalán dessert traditionally made with rosemary honey and fresh unsalted cheese from Montserrat). This crostini bar post on TheKitchn also inspired and provided some good ideas.
These articles on Food and Wine, Martha Stewart, Snooth, Metro.us, Serious Eats and The Cheese Shop of Centerbrook were good sources for different elements to include in the menu and various ideas for pairings. I also printed out some of the articles for guests to read during the party.
I wanted to serve a couple of cheeses that I knew and loved-- manchego and Humboldt Fog--and some cheeses that were new to me. In the end, we had a diverse collection of wonderful cheeses provided by the new Provisions Market in Old Town Orange: Lamb Chopper, Fiscalini Cheddar, Kunik, Humboldt Fog, manchego and Whole Milk Jersey Ricotta by Bellwether Farms.
Provisions also gave us some of their handcrafted jams: apricot ginger, strawberry chili and blackberry pinot noir, all of which were flavorful and bright accoutrements to the cheeses.
Ames Farm sent over some lovely raw single source honey: basswood, buckwheat, sweet clover, buckthorn and savory spring.
Honey Pacifica provided a great sampling of their fantastic local raw honey: mango (a honey flavored with mango extract), creamy wildflower, sage, avocado, orange blossom and wildflower. Guest favorites were Ames Farm's basswood and Honey Pacifica's mango. I think what surprised us most was the basswood honey--it had fruity notes to it--almost like lychee, someone remarked at the party. Overall, I was very impressed with the high quality and diversity of all the honey. Each honey had a distinct personality and flavor profile. It was interesting to try Ames Farm's buckwheat honey and Honey Pacifica's avocado honey--they were both full-bodied and rich, almost like molasses. Honey Pacifica's sage was nice and delicate as well as Ames Farm's sweet clover, and they paired nicely with the more mild, delicate or fresh cheeses. The saltier, aged or sharp cheeses seemed to go well with the more full-flavored honeys. However, it doesn't seem like you can go wrong with honey and cheese--according to cheese expert Laurie Werlin, "... almost any kind of honey is delicious with a salty cheese." The pairing of salty and sweet is a basic, fundamental combination that just works well. I definitely recommend trying a sampler of raw honey--you'll get just enough of each and will be able to compare and appreciate the nuances of each.
We also had fruit on hand to go with our different cheeses and honeys: apples, pears, cherries, figs and Frog Hollow Farm's beautiful peaches. Everyone adored the peaches, saying that they tasted like no other peaches from around here. To me, they were the ultimate "peachy" peaches and every bite evoked the sweetness and warmth of summer. We also had membrillo (quince paste) to go with the manchego. It sweetness and tartness complemented almost all of the cheeses.
Some pairings that were liked:
Jonagold apples with Humboldt Fog
Manchego and apricot ginger preseves
Fiscalini and basswood honey
Humboldt Fog and buckwheat honey
Humboldt Fog and mango honey
Kunik and basswood honey
Kunik and orange blossom honey
Manchego and mango honey
Fig, ricotta and mango honey
cherries and sweet clover honey
Many thanks to all the different artisan businesses that provided their amazing products for our event:
Bambu makes natural handcrafted products for the home. Their ideas are inspired by the materials they work with, and crafted in a way that supports sustainable business practices.
Provisions Market is a newly opened market, deli and bruery in Old Town Orange that fills a need for a neighborhood spot offering a curated selection of craft beer, cheeses, sandwiches and artisan goods and a great place to share a meal with friends. They also feature Sidecar doughnuts, bread by OC Baking Company and soon, coffee by Portola. All the best things in one place. Provisions Market is making and jarring its own jams and preserves on site and will have a rotating line of pickles, jams, jellies, and sauces. Production is just getting going, so look to find these on the shelves in the coming weeks.
Frog Hollow is a farm in the Bay area city of Brentwood that is known for its legendary and organic stone fruit. During one of my many weekends spent at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, I had one of their fruit tartlets at their bakery and loved it. You can order their stone fruit, preserves and other assorted artisan goods on their website.
Ames Farm Limited is a virtual farm with 5 orchards and 18 bee locations spread out over a large area of central and southern Minnesota. They produce high quality, raw single source honey, bee pollen and 20 varieties of apples.
Honey Pacifica is a local raw honey producer located in Long Beach. "In order to preserve the delicate flavors of the raw honey," they make each flavor themselves. You can watch their video "The Beekeeper's Life" and read more details about their honey process on their website.
What is great about this kind of gathering is that if you invite people that don't know each other, the food and pairings are a great starting point for conversation and help people to connect with one another. But then again, that's what food has done historically: connected us and brought us together. Looking forward to the next gathering in our Noshing with Friends series.