Super Bowl snacks – now there’s something you can get your teeth into.
You spend a few hours with drooling, 300-pound behemoths knocking heads, fighting for every inch of turf – well, it can get pretty nasty around the buffet table. Remember Michael Irvin’s nasty spinal compression a few months back? That was an afternoon tea party compared to the violence that was wrought at Super Bowl XXIX when the Buffalo wings ran out.
It goes without saying that beer is the main course.
And to accompany the suds?
Cheese. Stinky cheese.
I know what you’re thinking. Joe Sixpack is suffering a Troy Aikman-quality concussion. Cheese? That’s for chablis-sippers at Old City art galleries.
Well, I’ve got one question for you doubters: What do you think they put on Doritos?
OK, it is true, football does demand something considerably more visceral than le fromage – red-hot chili, maybe, or raw meat and boiled entrails.
Believe me, there’s room for all that stuff at your Super Bowl party this weekend. All I’m saying is that, for pure fill-the-mouth flavor, it’s hard to beat a glass of ale and a plate of cheese.
As for the latter, the smellier the better.
“A nice, full English ale and a piece of Gouda were made for each other,” said Jack Morgan, a partner at Reading Terminal Market’s Downtown Cheese.
“Not red-wax gouda, that stuff you find at the supermarket. There is absolutely nothing there but texture. You want something aged, maybe unpasteurized. That’s the taste.”
Don’t get us wrong – we’re not cheese snobs here.
El cheapo shredded mozzarella is perfectly fine for a gooey pizza. And a wad of neon-yellow Cheez Whiz is, by my experience, the only way to serve a cheesesteak-wid.
But you’re doing yourself a favor if you shell out a couple bucks more for the top-of-the-line varieties that are popping up in specialty shops and trendy whole-food grocery stores like Fresh Fields and Clemens.
The same goes for the suds. Budweiser is the Velveeta of beer, sports fans; for the Super Bowl, why not splurge a little with a case of craftbrew, or even a big Belgian bottle?
Speaking of Belgium, that’s where this marriage of beer and cheese began. In between poundings by various vanquishers, the tiny nation – especially its Trappist monasteries – managed to produce an astoundingly tasty variety of beers and cheeses. There are something like 300 of each.
Unlike Belgium’s ales, unfortunately, most of its cheeses haven’t made it to America.
One of the rare ones is Chimay, from Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Scourmont. This cow’s milk cheese is available in many specialty cheese shops; it has the same label as the abbey’s phenomenal ale.
Open a wedge and you’ll get a nose blast that is reminiscent of a well-aged pair of sweat socks inside Mike Mamula’s locker. That’s what you get when you wash the rind with beer for about two months.
Remember, though, cautions Morgan, “Washed rind cheeses never taste as strong as they smell, and if they do, you’re buying at the wrong shop.”
It’s only natural to pair Chimay cheese with its cousin, the dry, hoppy Chimay Cinq Cents.
Other pairings aren’t so obvious. Generally, look for hearty, dark or amber beers and robust, stinky cheese. For your Super Bowl party, here are a few suggestions from Joe Sixpack and Jack Morgan:
Oka and Hacker Pschorr Dunkel Weisse. It’s a raw-milk monastery cheese from Canada that can stand up to the malty flavor of this German brew.
Tilsiter Gourmant and Victory Prima Pils. A semi-firm German table cheese, it’s like Havarti, but less fatty. The Downingtown light, hoppy Pilsner won’t wipe out the cheese’s flavor.
Pont-l’Eveque and Yards Saison. From Normandy, this is a real stinker, from its daily washings with brine. It might remind you of Camembert, only fuller – enough to stand up to this Belgian-style ale from Manayunk.
Boerenkaas Gouda and Weyerbacher Imperial Stout. Aged three to four years, this Netherlands farmhouse cheese is filled with crystallized fats that crunch to the bite. Wash them down with a rich, dark brew from Easton.
Good beer’s easy to find these days; great cheese isn’t. Here are the best places to find the stinky stuff.
- Downtown Cheese, Reading Terminal, 12th and Arch streets.
- DiBruno Brothers House of Cheese, 930 S. 9th St. and 109 S. 18th St.
- Claudio, King of Cheese, 926 S. 9th St.
- The Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, 8509 Germantown Ave.
- Ardmore Cheese, Ardmore Farmers Market, Suburban Square.
- Carlino’s Specialty Foods, 2614 E. County Line Road, Ardmore.
- Eat the rind or not? It’s your choice, just like with fruit. Some rinds are as delicate as grape skins; others are as tough as banana peels.
- Experiment with a small selection of beers and cheeses. Try two or three of each till you find the perfect pair.
- Avoid blue cheeses, like Roquefort. Beer makes them taste bitter.
- Serve your cheese on crusty bread.
- Wrap unused cheese in wax paper. Plastic wrap dries out the cheese.