The St. James Cheese Company hosts Friday Night Tastings on occasion, wherein New Orleans most beloved cheese shop stays open into the evening, dishing out free cheese samples and serving the usual menu alongside I can think of few better ways to open up a good night of NOLA drinking then here: with stinky cheese, delicious small plates, and some good company. A brief account follows.
We sidled up to the cheese counter to try the evening's free sample, Ubriaco al Vino Rosso from Treviso, near Venice. It's a cow's milk cheese dipped and washed in red wine pressings, giving it a distinctively fruity tinge.
The flavor is pleasantly strong and fills the mouth. A real winner. (The Italian cheese was selected in honor of St. James cofounder Richard and cheesemonger Casey, who were on their way to the Slow Food Cheese event in Bra).
A delightful cheese sampler, composed of what the cheese monger felt looked tasty today. Top left is Garrotxa, a Spanish (Catalonia) unpasteurized goat's milk cheese, with a delicate, nutty, and smooth flavor profile. Our friend in the middle is Shropshire, an unusual English blue cheese with a tangy flavor and a sharp, creamy personality. It is widely considered to be a cross between Stilton and Cheshire cheese, but I am really startlingly under-qualified to comment on that. This one hails from Neil's Yard Dairy Bottom right is Tarantaise cheese, an artisan product hailing from Thistle Hill Farm in North Pomfret, Vermont, with a sharp and distinctive flavor.
We very much enjoyed the sweet and spicy pepper jelly, the fresh figs, and the wheat crackers served with the cheeses. A fine cheese plate, and reasonably priced at eleven dollars.
This was the evening's small plate special: mashed fava beans with lemon, topped with burrata mozzarella. I found this delicious, but my friends weren't so keen on it. I think the combination of uber-green and fresh favas with fatty, rich burrata, good olive oil, and tangy lemon juice was inspired, myself.
A panzanella salad with parmagiano-reggiano, fresh figs, and walnuts, alongside little cubes of toasted garlic french bread, in a muscadine dressing. This was pretty delightful, though I suspect the inherent tastiness of fresh figs cast a positive spin on the entire affair. The muscadine dressing was actually a little too subtle - I know that most gourmet places live in eternal fear of overdressing their salad, but I would have liked to taste it!
They'll be doing these Friday Night Tastings on a regular basis, as well as some special dinners. Get thyself on their mailing list, or lo, suffer the consequences. Something like that.