Archives for November 2014

Guest post: The Bourbon Boom & Artisanal Cheese Waves Hit San Diego

Check out my first guest post, by Barrie Lynn, The Cheese Impresario. You never know what can come of a chance meeting – read on to find out!

I wanted to report in on The San Diego Spirits Festival where each day I presented my All-Wisconsin/All-Sartori Artisanal Cheese and Fine Bourbon Pairing Adventure Seminars.   The festival was huge and held on a roofed pier which went out into the bay with seagulls flying and waves splashing.   I believe over 6,000 people joined in the fun this weekend.   The 7th Annual San Diego Spirits Festival is now the largest Cocktail & Culinary Spirits Festival in Southern California.   Most of the guests at the festival were there to learn and improve their knowledge about spirits, along with pairing culinary products and cooking.   No one in any of my seminars had ever tried pairing cheese with spirits and now they will.   I made each person my Cheese Scroll with information on each Sartori cheese, the cheesemaker and the Bourbon.   The Cheese Impresario- Teaching Sartori Cheese & Bourbon

Part of the pleasure of The San Diego Spirit Festival is the people you meet.   I saw a group of interesting women checking out the different spirits and they had tee shirts on with a cool logo – The guide to craft spirits.  RAD!   I went over to them and we got talking about Jeanne Runkle’s passion for craft spirits and the people who take such pride in what they produce.   I felt like I was meeting a kindred spirit because I changed my life to follow my passion for artisanal cheese and the talented family cheesemakers.   I quit my advertising career and re-invented myself as Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario.   I launched with the Oscars and I am now a nationally known cheese expert, cheese educator, cheese writer and cheese entertainer.  Jeanne founded to educate people on the growing world of craft spirits.  It is my pleasure to know Jeanne and it will be my happiness to watch her as she grows and prospers.

I paired four different Reserve artisanal cheeses from fourth generation Wisconsin cheesmaking family, Sartori with two different flavor expressions of fine Bourbon.    The Bourbon I paired the cheeses with was Woodford Reserve.   This Kentucky masterpiece is made in two deep flavors; Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select and the very different in taste, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.   It was a blast to teach my students about how different each cheese is with a differently made fine Bourbon.  My seminar students were blown away by how exciting the flavors were and will bring this concept into their homes to share with their friends and family.  While I’m traveling around the country, I see that people are craving information on what cheese will be delicious paired with which beverage and it my honor to give them this information.Espresso BellaVitanoAs we become more interested in where our food and drink comes from and who made it, the opportunity to thrill your guests with something delicious and easy to present is…artisanal cheeses paired with a selection of Bourbons.  I’ll share one of the pairings from The San Diego Spirits Festival.   Sartori Reserve’s Espresso BellaVitano was created by Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, Mike Matucheski.   He invented a true American Original cow’s milk cheese that’s winning awards all over the planet.  BellaVitano is not a Cheddar and not a Parmesan but something in this range but very unique.  Sartori has developed many flavors of BellaVitano like Chai Tea, Raspberry, Merlot and the Espresso BellaVitano I used in my seminars that’s hand-rubbed with ground espresso beans.   What an exciting pairing this cheese was the Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Bourbon with its rich, cinnamon, coca, caramel and even chocolate notes with the richness of the Espresso BellaVitano was my students’ favorite pairing.    

San Diego’s Mayor also proclaimed Saturday San Diego Spirits Day; it was quite exciting seeing this happen. I can’t wait for next year’s San Diego Spirits Festival and am planning what I’ll be doing with pairing artisanal cheeses with fine spirits.

I have a series on the Internet, CHEESE RULES with host Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario where I showcased my award-winning grilled cheese sandwich made with Sartori’s Dolcina Gorgonzola and a layer of peanut brittle for that sweet/savory combination.   NFL and Super Bowl star, Shaun Phillips and I made this sandwich together and paired it with a Bourbon Manhattan Cocktail.  Fabulous!   Google my series and you’ll find it easily for additional ideas about entertaining with cheese.


Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario

The Cheese Impresario Spirits--- high res

One bad (pear) can spoil the bunch! Clear Creek Distillery

Clear Creek Distillery has been distilling since the mid-1980s, before anyone even thought about coining the term “craft distilling”. Steve McCarthy started making his from the fruit of his family orchards, after a trip to Europe gave him the idea. Brandies and eaux de vie were made as a way to use every bit of the fruit from an orchard, when large-scale refrigeration wasn’t really an option. Necessity being the parental figure it is, farmers realized they could make spirits from the rest of the crop before it spoiled.

People have pre-conceived notions of “brandy” (defined as an alcoholic spirit distilled from wine or fermented juice).  Eau de vie is technically clear fruit brandy, but no one in the US was familiar with the term, which gave McCarthy a chance to explain the process and skip over those notions of “brandy”. What followed has been more than twenty years of making eaux de vie from the local fruits, and selling to a small but growing market.

caitlin with stillI had the pleasure of talking with Caitlin Bartlemay, one of Clear Creek’s distillers. Working toward a degree in wine and fermentation, Caitlin realized she had a singular desire: to distill spirits. She worked toward that goal, and initially landed a gig at Integrity Spirits that involved, “peeling copious amounts of cucumbers”.  She continued to pursue an internship with Clear Creek, and eventually her perseverance paid off!

Caitlin is now a big part of  the distilling team at Clear Creek that makes a single malt that’s a match for some of the best stuff coming out of Scotland, an assortment of liqueurs and seven kinds of eau de vie. Half a million pounds of pears were used in 2013 just to make their pear eau de vie.  And not just any pear – it needs to be a Bartlett pear, otherwise you end up with a far less flavorful brandy. The pears are notably difficult to work with. They aren’t fully tree-ripened (with the final ripening carefully monitored in-house), and then they must be used within a fairly short amount of time.  Plus, just one bad pear in the container can make the whole batch taste off. While refrigeration helps to control the conditions, a half million pounds of pears is no joke! Caitlin and the rest of the distillery staff are up to their eyeballs in pears for a couple of months. prod pears eyes

One of the more unique things about Clear Creek pear eau de vie is the pear in the bottle. Not a slice of pear – but the entire fruit! The first time you see it, it makes you tilt your head in the way your dog does when you say something he’s pretty sure ends in, “treat”. Clear Creek works with a local orchard, where the bottles are lashed to branches, shortly after the pear forms.  Give it a little time and some luck that the bottle doesn’t fall off or the pear grows oddly, and voila! Pear in a bottle. It’s the same eau de vie as the bottles without the pear, but how cool does that look sitting on your table?

Clear Creek also uses an assortment of other local fruits and botanicals, like the Douglas Fir. Their Doug Fir eau de vie ended up as an ingredient in the basket on Food Network’s popular show, Chopped! Clear Creek’s spirits have also been used by the likes of Bobby Flay, and the chefs at the White House.

McCarthy's  for CaitlinMcCarthy’s Single Malt Whiskey, made in the Scottish style, leaves Caitlin with smokey-smelling clothes when they make it just once a year. Based on the 2013 bottle that I have, I’m glad that Caitlin is willing to be a bit..fragrant, shall we say…because the whiskey is fantastic! I’m typically a Bourbon and rye fan, with a limited tolerance for the smokey, peaty taste of Scotch. McCarthy’s is so good it earned one of the two spots I have for Scotch on my shelf. If you can find it – either at a local whiskey bar or in a shop- I’d highly recommend trying it!

Clear Creek offers tastings at the distillery, and you can buy bottles there, too. A few times a year, they do open the production area, when the staff will give samples from the still and tours throughout the day (there are no daily tours – they have a super small staff!). Check their website if a tour is what you’re after, they list the dates on the Tasting & Sales page. If you do stop by, tell them LikeYourLiquor sent you! Cheers!

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