Food pairing: Leffe Ruby & a fine selection of cheeses

P1160233_klApart from being able to cook and experiment in my kitchen, one of the other great things about being a foodblogger, is receiving interesting invitations to visit local food companies, workshops by other foodies and last but not least food tastings! I was recently invited to join Belgian Beer and Food on a special beer& cheese tasting event for their Women & Beer issue of their magazine that will go on sale in March. We were invited to join Belgian cheese master Michel Van Tricht in his cheese ageing facility in Berchem, Antwerp, where he presented us with a selection of 4 cheeses to go along with our drinks. Their choice of beer for the night: Leffe Ruby.

Beer & cheese

Although people usually combine cheese with wine, beer also lends itself to be paired with cheeses and meats. This does require some tasting, comparing and creativity but luckily for me, Belgian cheese master Michel Van Tricht had already selected 4 cheeses that go well with Leffe Ruby. Michel Van Tricht is a very well known figure in the Belgian cheese world and his store in Berchem near Antwerp has even been crowned Best European Specialty Cheese Provider, according to the Wall Street Journal. Van Tricht has been a strong supporter of beer-cheese combinations and claims they go well together and explains it as follows in an interview with BeerTourism.com: “Cheese, because of its creamy fatty character, covers your taste buds in a thin layer. To free up those taste buds, you need a tangy and bitter drink. Beer is ideal as it has a bitter taste and because it is consumed in mouthfuls. This allows the chemicals in the beer and cheese to react together, giving a unique taste on the palate. Cheese is complementary to beer, which comes in a range of flavors including tangy, sweet and bitter but not salty. Thus, beer and cheese make for a fascinating combination.”

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Leffe Ruby

Leffe Ruby is a red, refreshing beer born of the unique combination of the typical flavors of the abbey beer and the delicate notes of red forest fruits like strawberry, raspberry and redcurrant combined with rosewood. “Only experienced hands were capable of mimicking the age-old gestures that offer Leffe Ruby the red colour and flavors typical of an abbey beer. Its natural freshness and the subtle traces of spices, red fruit and rosewood truly taste of passion. When poured into the Leffe chalice, this beer will reveal all the ways in which it will charm you.” – Leffe

I must admit I was a bit worried about trying out Leffe Ruby cause i’m not exactly a beer-lover, but unlike regular beers, Leffe Ruby is very fruity and sweet and I actually liked it a lot. However, it’s not the kind of beer you drink all night long in a bar as it’s better suited as an aperitif. Its very special flavor allows for quite a lot of great food pairings and is therefor better suited to start off an evening of fine dining and drinking than a night of binge drinking in a pub (oh and it also only has 5%. Last but not least, Leffe Ruby is best served at 5°C in a beer chalice, which will allow all the flavors to come through.

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Selection of cheeses by Michel Van Tricht

Van Tricht selected the following 4 cheeses to go along with Leffe Ruby (from left to right):

Blankaart

This is a variety of the ‘Keiemse Witten’ that has been produced in a square shape at the request of Van Tricht so the aging could be done differently. This organic cheese is produced from organic raw cow’s milk by cheese makers’t ‘Dischhof’ in West-Flanders.All ‘Dischhof’ cheeses have a covering of sea salt, which has a more balanced composition than refined kitchen salt. During maturation the Blankaart develops a deep, rich taste and a full-bodied aroma and turns into a very mild cheese with the chalky structure of a Chaource from French Burgundy.

This soft cheese with a white mouldy rind has a fresh, slightly sour flavor. It is produced with fresh cow’s milk, a quarter creamed off to keep the fat content down. It’s good to know that you can eat the crust, as you can with other white rind cheeses. In fact, the crust enhances the flavor, provided the cheese has been matured with care. (Thanks to Belgian Beer Tourism for the information)

Neteling

Neteling is a farm-produced small goat’s cheese made with raw milk from the Kempen region. This cheese was developed by Michel Van Tricht together with Veerle Minsaer and Paul D’Haene of Polle goat farm in Lichtaart. To create Neteling the cheese maker took his inspiration from the French Valençay. The pyramid-shaped goat’s cheese is sprinkled with salted charcoal ashes, which after maturation give a beautiful grey and blue flora on the crust. The Neteling is a tasty and accessible goat’s cheese. The Neteling was crowned not only the best goat’s cheese but also the best international entry by the Italian Chamber of Commerce. (Thanks to Belgian Beer Tourism for the information)

Wavreumont (my favorite)

This organic cow’s milk cheese is produced at Fromagerie des Ardennes by Mark Rosen, who started making cheese in 1996.  Mark uses milk from three local dairies who collect their milk from Montbeliard, Normande and Pie Noire breeds of cow.  The name Wavreumont comes from a nearby monastery that inspired this monastic style cheese. Wavreumont is a beautifully aromatic washed-rind cheese with an intense tangy and buttery flavor that lingers. I personally liked this one the best as it had a more subtle flavor than the Rossini or the Neteling.

Rossini Erborinato

Rossini Erborinato is a blue-veined cheese from the Lombardy region of Italy and is made from whole pasteurized cow’s milk. Rossini has a different taste than you would expect from blue-veined cheeses and has a fruity, sweet, punch it packs on top of a classic salty bite. It gets this flavor from being cured with the must from the passito grapes from Pantelleria wine, during the cheese’s 3 month aging process. Van Tricht highly recommends this cheese to go along with Leffe Ruby, but since it has a very strong flavor, it might not be to everyone’s liking.

Serving tips

If you decide to serve all 4 cheeses with this beer, Van Tricht suggests serving them in this exact order as well. Serve this with some nut or raising bread and finely sliced dry-cured ham as a finishing touch.

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