With December comes January. The holidays are over. Maybe there were some fancy dinners. And now it really is winter. Time for the January Blues? Yes! Blue Cheese.
You don't have to do a lot of cooking. In fact you don't have to do any cooking for a great meal; what we like to call our picnic dinner. Howies/Alexanders has a very nice selection of exactly the sort of things we love with our picnics. But for this post we'd like to put a little focus on what we always include: grapes and blue cheese.
In particular, Howie's stocks some particularly outstanding red seedless grapes. Their flavor is the perfect match for blue cheese and we are particularly enthralled with those grapes and Point Reyes Original Blue. It is a raw cows milk cheese aged for 3 1/2 months. The mouth feel is very creamy and the taste is just the thing for lovers of blue mold flavor. Pop a grape in your mouth and add a bit of this blue and close your eyes to savor the exquisite flavor combination.
After that, what goes on your plate? Here's our favorite list of must haves:
Additional Cheeses. We like, at least, one soft, one hard and, of course, one blue.
Sweet Cherry Peppers or Pepperoncini
Sliced Ham and/or Smoked Fish
Mustard, Grainy is really nice
Sourdough Bread (Try the Raymond's from Howies if you aren't happening to be baking your own.)
Wine Suggestion: We particularly like a zinfandel with our picnic. Sometimes we also look for a low residual sugar (something like 1 1/2%) zin. Not really a dessert wine, but the bit of sugar is a nice foil to the plate of goodies. Sometimes such a wine may be designated "Late Picked".
This is home 'cooking'. Actually, more like home 'plating'. We just toss the ingredients on the plate and go for it.
Two Blues. Along with the Point Reyes Original Blue, we tried the Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue (the less veined cheese on the left):
The Oregon Blue is a cheese of a different color. Oops, no. It IS blue cheese, but different from the Point Reyes. While setting up our plate we goofed and used a knife that had some peanut butter on it and found that it was a really nice match with the Oregon Blue. The cheese is a bit more crumbly than the Pt. Reyes and less intensely blue with notes of hay, honey and sweetness. It pairs nicely with peanut butter! Or walnuts, or craisins or just plain salted peanuts. Bringing out the salt and sweetness in both, it would be quite nice with a Sauternes or other sweet white dessert wine as part of a dessert cheese plate and blueberries.