Cocktails & Curds: The Winners!May 10, 2012
On Monday May, 7 St. James Cheese company sponsored Cocktails & Curds: A competition combining the timeless art of making cocktails with the ancient art of making cheese. The final, which were open to the public, took place at La Thai Restaurant in Uptown New Orleans.
After a preliminary round with 14 competitors, six finalists emerged:
Richard Dunnington from Loa, Rhiannon Enlil from Cure, Jennifer Rogers from Lilette, Brad Smith from Maurepas Foods, Laura Clifton Byrne from Green Goddess and Haleah Hoshino from A Mano.
On the night of the finals all the finalists brought their A game with some truly exceptional cocktail pairings that demonstrated not only skill at developing cocktails, but and understanding of the challenge of perfectly pairing them with the unusual complexities of artisan cheese.
Judges included cheesemakers Mateo Keller from Jasper Hill Farms in VT and Tasia Malakasis from Belle Chevre in AL, cheese experts James Rudder from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London and Sarah Zaborowski from Columbia Cheese in New York. Local judges were writer Julia Reed, internet impresario Blake Haney, Patois chef Aaron Burgau, restaurateur Diana Chauvin, Cure and Belloq owner Neal Bodenheimer and St. James Cheese owner Richard Sutton.
The public also acted as judges, casting their votes for their two favorite pairings after trying all six combinations. It was a very close contest.
The grand prize winner of $1000 was Jennifer Rogers from Lilette Restaurant with her Montresor Cocktail. Jennifer was pairing with Harbison cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Harbison is a bark-wrapped bloomy-rind cheese with woodsy, sweet, herbal, and bright flavors and a smooth and runny texture.
3/4 oz Belle de Brillet
3/4 oz Lustau Amontillado
1 oz Mont Marcal Cava
Black Lava Salt rim
The second place went to Brad Smith from Maurepas Foods. He paired his cocktail with Der Sharfe Maxx, a hard Swiss cheese with a tangy, meaty flavor and smooth texture.
1 3/4 oz. Bombay Gin
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica
1/2 oz. NOLA Hopitoulas Syrup
1/4 oz. Shitake mushroom Brine
1 dash Fee Celery Bitters
In third place was Haleah Hoshino from A Mano restaurant with her Hanne’s Cup cocktail. Haleah was pairing her cocktails with Mycella cheese, a creamy, slightly sweet Danish blue cheese.
After Hanne Neilson who created Danish blue cheese
Smoked cacao bitters
Bittermen’s Swedish Herb bitters
You can read about the origins of the competition in this interview with Richard by Todd Price of Nola.com:
St. James Cheese Co. challenges bartenders to pair ‘curds and cocktails’
Published: Monday, April 02, 2012, 8:07 AM
By Todd A. Price
Last fall, Richard Sutton of St. James Cheese Company put together a class on pairing cheese and cocktails. But he was dubious that the two could work together. The alcohol, he thought, would overwhelm the subtleties of the cheeses. The bartenders who participated were not much more confident than Sutton.
“They were making complex things,” Sutton said. “People were forced to find a way to tone down the heat of the strong alcohol. But everyone learned that it could work.”
Now Sutton wants to further explore the possibilities of “curds and cocktails.” His shop is challenging local bartenders to think more about the combination, and whoever creates the best pairing of cheese with an original cocktail will win $1,000.
For Sutton, cheese and cocktails now seems like a natural pairing, at least in New Orleans. “We’re not in wine country,” he said. “We’re not in beer country. But what we’ve got here in spades are cocktails.”
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