Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, circa 2003. Banana and mayonnaise sandwiches. Burnt orange and avocado green colour schemes. And cheekless chaps…made of corduroy.
This world has borne witness to some cringe-worthy combinations over the years—although it’s possible I invented that last example. (Coming soon to a runway near you?)
But sometimes, unexpected hook-ups are surprisingly satisfying. No, I’m not referring to that no-regrets Tinder night with Mr. Wrong that felt oh so (swipe) right. I’m talking about—brace yourself—brandy and cheese.
Sure, you’ve probably sipped wine with a rough and ready chunk of cheddar or nibbled pecorino with port. Historically, however, brandy does not fraternize with fromage.
But at a recent Thameside event, hosted by spirits experts Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, St-Rémy’s master blender, Cécile Roudaut, proved she isn’t afraid to rock the boat while basting tastebuds.
Roudaut invited guests to sample two St-Rémy limousin oak-aged brandies—the light and fruity VSOP and the spicy, raisiny rich XO—alongside six cheeses provided by Rodolphe Le Meunier, a Frenchman who has twice earned the title of “Best International Cheese Maker.” (And blessed are the cheesemakers, as every Monty Python fan knows).
To winnow Le Meunier’s vast selection of rapacious possibilities down to just three perfect pairings per brandy, he and Roudaut rounded up two bottles of St-Rémy…and 300 cheeses. As Joel Harrison quipped, “That sounds like my ideal weekend.”
Now it’s your turn to impress friends with these daring culinary dalliances.
Pair St-Rémy VSOP with:
Marbled by blue veins and characterized by a strong, brutish flavour, Stilton might seem an odd companion for a fresh, sweet sipper like VSOP.
But somehow the almost overwhelming richness of this cheese finds an amiable companion in VSOP’s silky smoothness.
The creamy softness of a young Camembert—which would be a great name for the hero of a bodice-ripping romance novel, BTW—effortlessly complements VSOP’s well-rounded mouth feel.
VSOP’s delicate perfume, with just a hint of vanilla, mirrors Gruyere’s subtle floral aroma—not that you would necessarily want to dab it, or anything else that comes out of a cow, behind your ears.
Pair St-Rémy XO with:
With a name like a past-her-prime Parisian prostitute, Old Mimolette is indeed brittle, meaty, and slightly acidic. But, y’know, in a good way, which pairs well with the dried fruit flavours (picture apricots, figs and dates) of XO.
Bleu de Laqueuille
In addition to being the hardest cheese to spell, you might imagine that this super-salty blue cheese (cured in salt water for extra saltiness!) could be the hardest to marry off. But XO provides just the right amount of spicy sweetness to tame this deliciously briny beast.
Wood Smoked Goat Cheese
Note: That would be the cheese, and not the actual goat, that is wood-smoked.
A whiff of this cheese evokes the primal image of a just extinguished camp fire—a perfect match (ahem) for XO’s woody vanilla finish and spicy heat. It was, by far, my favourite combination of the evening.
Now, don’t be afraid to go forth and experiment on your own—although you might heed Harrison’s final words of advice. “Cheese is like a partner. They should be robust enough without being overpowering.”
So, have fun. But as the Welsh might say, just remember to choose Caerphilly.
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