Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photo sourced from http://www.grampashoney.com/tag/cheese-pairings/
Honey, I Love You
Something sweet is coming this Valentine’s and it’s not wrapped in a heart-shaped box. Rather, its golden, slow-flowing and dripping of sweet sappiness—giving way to a moment of je ne sais quoi. Perhaps Winnie the Pooh describes it best: “Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
-- Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner
The Greek gods called it ambrosia, because it was the nectar to restore youth, heal the body of its ailments, and provide pure ecstasy upon its touch to the lips. With all this considered, I will court a new romance this Valentine’s with a new cheese class at Red, White & Bleu wine shop in Falls Church. I will pair a multitude of honeys with cheese and wine. Honey represents the new food fad sweeping the nation, but its beauty is recalled by Pooh bear. We will revel in the moment of anticipation right before actual indulgence—that fleeting second when your mouth salivates, your heart flutters, and your mind soars on surges of euphoria. This reaction reminds me a bit of love, but in reality, it’s simply HONEY—artisan and varietal—and true to your heart. If you’ve never had this “Winnie the Pooh” moment, I insist you must discover the magic between honey, wine, and cheese—truly a meal for the gods.
These days, honeys are just as sophisticated as wines; and like wines made from different grapes grown in varying climates and soils, honeys are uniquely distinct and express the facets of a bee’s life, mainly its diet. Two classifications exist in the honey world: varietal and artisan. To define it in lay terms, a varietal honey comes from a single source, like raspberry honey or clover honey, or sumac honey or tupelo honey. On the opposite spectrum, an artisan honey is a blend of honeys sourced from different plants depending on the year and climate at hand. In other words, artisan honeys are more a melding of Mother Nature’s discretion.
In Virginia alone, over 2,000 hobbyists and professionals alike keep bees. If you visit the Loudon Bee Association http://www.loudounbee.org/honey_varieties.html, you will see over 50 varietal honey sources listed. Each spoonful of honey displays its own taste based on the weather during the season, the moisture in the soil, pest pressure, and the craftsmanship of the beekeeper himself/herself. If you can’t make this Valentine’s event, I encourage you to experiment at home. Visit the local farmer’s market, buy a varietal or artisan honey, seek out different cheese styles, and drizzle some amber ambrosia on your cheese concoction, followed by a sip of wine….visions of Aphrodite may appear.
For your Valentine, may I suggest some delectable pairings? Slice a green apple into slivers, cut a wedge of aged parmesan cheese, and drizzle a tad of truffle honey over the two and sip a nice Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, or anything red from Tuscany, Italy—truly divine! Or purchase a blue cheese, hard, soft, gooey, you name-it, any blue will do, and top smatterings of a mild-flavored, lightly-colored honey, such as clover or lavender honey and pair with a sweet Riesling or white dessert wine from Sauternes, France or from or Virginia wineries. Don’t be afraid to add some red grapes with your blue cheese and honey bites and pair with a bold California Cabernet Sauvignon. I promise this odd combo will blow your mind!
This Valentine’s join us at Red, White & Blue wine shop Sunday, February 12th for an instructional tasting of honey, cheese, and wine. Phone for details, and remember to say this year “Honey, I Love You!”
Christianna Sargent
Certified Sommelier
Advanced Certificate--
Wine & Spirits Education Trust
Association of Italian Sommeliers
French Wine Scholar