Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Goat Cheese Trumps Southern Rock

"Technically, it's illegal."

But what's a little raw milk between cheese-lovers?

Tonight's Curds and Wines event at Sprout was all about creating the perfect Virginia cheese plate, enhanced by a selection of Barboursville wines.

The raw milk cheeses were from Bonnyclabber Cheese Company on Sullivan Pond, out on the middle peninsula. I think that means due east.

And the cheeses we were eating weren't really illegal; they were just younger than what can be sold in stores.

But since we were all consenting adults, we mutually agreed to eat young goat cheeses. That turned out to be an outstanding decision on all our parts.

I ended up at a table with an enjoyable couple who were practically experts on Bonnyclabber cheeses, having bought them many times at the South of the James Market.

There were two cheese boards, each with five cheeses, plus plum/garlic, peach and cranberry chutneys, apple butter and dried apple slices, on the table.

They took one and I took the other. Somehow the two of them managed to eat the same amount of cheese off their plate as I ate all by myself.

I wasn't sure whether to question their appetites or be mortified by my own.

We began with their mild bleu cheese, paired with Barboursville's Brut (the house bubbly at the Inn at Little Washington, don't you know) and, for the condiment, the plum/garlic chutney.

Having never had a goat bleu cheese, I was wowed by its delicacy of flavor while maintaining its flavorful bleuness.

When enjoyed with the Brut, it was sublime.

I thought it was an impressive pairing right off the bat, but it was our first, so it was too early to make comparisons.

Next up was the Moonshine, a plain goat cheese with a corn whiskey-soaked corn husk wrapping.

With it we had the Sauvignon Blanc, now made with a small amount of Viognier after the winemaker's visit to New Zealand to learn how to up his Sauvignon Blanc game.

The grassiness of the fragrant wine was beautiful with the unbelievably fresh-tasting cheese.

When a spread of apple butter was added, it gained a new dimension, but wasn't quite as overtly fresh tasting, although still delicious.

Called Song, the grapevine and charcoal-ash rind cheese was served with the Barboursville Viognier.

The edible ash (touted as good for the stomach) was so fine that it offered only taste, not texture.

I ate an enormous amount of this cheese, mostly for that rind.

My new friends are considering moving to Jackson Ward and asked me what I thought of the neighborhood.

Could they have asked a more devoted lover of  this place?

I raved, I gave specifics, I heartily endorsed.

The Sandy Bottom cheese was a big hit with everyone, as was the Cabernet Sauvignon it was served with, Murmurs of approval came from every table.

The cranberry chutney set off the peppery rind in a Thanksgiving dinner-sort of way, while the Cab was juicy and earthy,

We finished with Barboursville Malvaxia and the Rocky Mount, which had a rind of rosemary, chopped jalapenos and seeds (and when you got a seed, you knew it!) wrapped in white lightenin'-macerated corn husks.

I was noticing a pattern here when it came to husks, but no mention was made of tequila-soaked husks, so I didn't ask.

My new cheese friends said they love to use rounds of this cheese on pizza for spice and heat and I could easily see why.

The Malvaxia's sweetness was a great foil for the cheese's hot peppery goodness, not that it would have been the right wine for pizza.

But we weren't having pizza.

When all was said and done, the five courses of cheese and wine had provided a stellar meal and I was stuffed.

My tablemates were taking the rest of their cheese home and I offered them my trifling leftovers as well.

At least that way I could say I hadn't eaten the entire plate.

Verdict: my favorite pairing remained the very first one, although I found a lot to like about the other four, too.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for bubbles and bleu.

Music at the Camel followed and there was a good crowd for a Monday night.

Members of Marionette greeted me when I got there and then they were immediately off to open the show.

Sound can be problematic at the Camel sometimes, but tonight it was good.

With room to move onstage, guitarist Adam was more energetic than usual and hearing them play a new song was an unexpected pleasure.

As usual, I enjoyed watching first-timers get sucked in by their unique sound and stop talking to listen.

Lorem Ipsum was next, followed by headliners, J. Roddy Walston and the Business. This was the band most people had come to hear. And, by most people, I mean dozens of plaid flannel-shirted guys who knew every word to every song. Not that there's anything wrong with plaid, but testosterone was rampant and I was clearly in the minority.

Fortunately, I had a few musician and a DJ friends there, so I didn't feel completely out of place. They were my salvation when it came time to discuss what we were seeing in between songs.

The media has described JRW & TB as Jerry Lee Lewis fronting Lynyrd Skynrd and that's not far off.

They certainly look like Skynrd and their musical inspiration is clearly 70s Southern rock.

It's the addition of JRW's piano that saves it from being a straight-line derivation, but I don't think the plaid set cared (if they even were aware).

So I stood on the banquette and watched some ferocious piano-playing and song-screaming while the crowd waved their fists and shouted the words to "Don't Break the Needle" and a half dozen other songs.

By then my Southern rock fix had been satisfied for the next, oh, thirty years and I was free to go.

But I can't drink sweet tea, either, so what do I know?

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