In Which We Learn to Pair Wine With Local Cheese

Posted: October 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Classes, Marblehead, Shubie's Market Place | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Wine and cheese are two of life’s essentials, as far as we are concerned. Together, they make us very happy—but is pairing them as simple as all that? Well, yes and no, we learned last week at a terrific class taught by Bill Shube of Marblehead’s gourmet grocer Shubie’s.

The one-hour class was $25 and included six cheeses and four wines, plus a wealth of information. It was held in the store’s upstairs demonstration kitchen/classroom, which is bright and comfortable.

We began by tasting each of the wines, a petit mouton muscadet (Louis Metaireau, France, $13), a lambrusco (Vecchia Modena, Italy, $18), a cotes du rhone (Domaine Gris des Bauries, France, $14.99) and a cabernet sauvignon (Route Stock, California, $24). Bill talked about the qualities of each wine, the region it was from, and how one might think about pairings.

For example, the muscadet is from France’s northern region where they make a lot of goat cheese. Its crisp acidity makes it a great partner for food. Similarly, the bubbles in the lambrusco help clean your palate, making it a good partner, especially for cheeses you are unsure about pairing.

We then tasted each of the cheeses, which are all from New England. The Bonne Bouche from Vermont Butter & Cheese (goat, Vermont) paired brilliantly with the muscadet, with the cheese somehow making the wine taste fuller.

Tiny Hannahbells from Shy Brothers Farms (cow, Mass.) are barely aged and very tangy. A bit difficult to pair, they require either a full bodied red wine or a sweet wine. The Landaff from Jasper Hill Cellars (cow, NH) is similar to a Welsh cheddar and paired well with both the muscadet and the cotes du rhone.

Blythedale Farms Vermont Brie (cow, Vermont) was delicious and incredible creamy. It was also a bit hard to pair but went well with the lambrusco. The Olga from Seal Cove Farms, (cow and goat, Maine) was very nutty and a bit crumbly (would be great on a salad). Its great flavor would be overpowered by a strong wine and went nicely with the cotes du rhone. The last cheese was the wonderfully earthy Black Ledge Blue from Cato Corner (cow, Conn.), which needed the strong flavors of the cabernet for a good match.

What we enjoyed most about the class was its accessibility. Rather than a know-all teacher telling his pupils what to drink and eat, Bill helped us understand why some pairings work well and how we might determine some happy matches on our own, which we’re definitely looking forward to doing.

16 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-0149


Hands-On Chocolate Lessons at The Cocoa Belt

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Classes, Danvers, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Learning a new skill is always a pleasure, and if that skill involves chocolate, you’ve pretty much hit the jackpot. And hit it we did, last Friday afternoon at The Cocoa Belt in Danvers. We had set up a private chocolate class with owner Theresa Whitman for ourselves and three enthusiastic youngsters.

The class was held in a large workshop behind the retail store. It started with a brief presentation by Whitman on the origins of chocolate, allowing us to see the stages of chocolate making, including the raw pod, nibs, chocolate liquor, and pure cocoa butter. We also tasted a number of bars with various percentages, starting from 100% chocolate and moving down to dark, semi-sweet, and milk.

Then we each got a parchment-lined tray, cups of almonds and peanuts, and a bowl of warm, tempered milk chocolate from which we made clusters. Next we learned to hand-dip items like caramels, pretzels, and creams (it’s harder than it looks, but oh-so-satisfying). Our final work with milk chocolate was using small funnels and a tray of multi-colored sprinkles to make nonpareils of all sizes and shapes.

We set all our treats to dry in front of a fan and moved onto truffles. First we learned the ratio and technique for making ganache, then dug into ganache that was ready to be formed (the adult bowl was flavored with Chambord), learning to shape it into balls, lightly coat it with semi-sweet chocolate, and roll it in cocoa.

We had requested a lesson in tempering chocolate at home (no machinery involved), and Whitman graciously complied, explaining the science behind this sometimes-tricky process and giving us all manner of tips for success. We then packaged up all the chocolates we had created.

Throughout the class, Whitman was relaxed and patient, making the entire afternoon a joy. She told us how she learned to hand-dip chocolate from her great-aunt (of the well-known Nichols family), encouraged us to eat as much as we wanted as we went along, and happily answered all of our questions.

The 2.5 hour class cost $30 per person, a great value considering the knowledge we gained and the amount of high-end chocolate we each took home. Classes are for a minimum of four people, can be set up for any day but Sunday, and can cover topics such as making caramels and decorating finished chocolates.

The Cocoa Belt
58 Maple Street, Danvers
(978) 774-4332