Formaggio Kitchen's Queso Royale IX
Queso Royale is an epic battle to determine who is better at pairing different cheese-based dishes with delicious beverages, under a set of constraints agreed upon by the contestants. And the best part is that anyone who buys a ticket can be a judge! Queso Royale IX pitted the undefeated Tyler Tripp from Formaggio Kitchen against the newcomer, Lee Movic of Craft Beer Cellar.
Round one was all about goat's milk cheese and pairing the food with the white wine, Bizkaiko Txakolina Gorronadona from Spain. Tyler started with one of my favorite dishes, Monterey chèvre, strawberry, balsamic pizza with a chèvre and piment d'Esplette strawberry sauce. Lee responded with an excellent potato omelet sandwich with Jamón Serrano and Garrotxa, as well as Provençal potato chips. This was a tough choice, but Tyler's pizza won for me.
Round two focused on utilizing cow's milk cheese and the *very* excellent Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale, made right in Boston. Trillium is actually the only Boston brewery I haven't been to yet, but after tasting this beer, I'm definitely going to make the trip. Lee went first this round, serving macaroni and Shelburne Farms two year aged cheddar cheese sauce with Formaggio Kitchen's homemade bacon and shallots. The bacon made the entire room smell so delicious! Tyler brought out a more traditional cheese plate for this round, serving Rupert with herb de Provence brittle with fleur de sel, duck pastrami, and apricot confiture. Another difficult decision, but Tyler eeked out another win with me.
Sheep's milk cheeses were the focus of round three, as well as pairing the food to Domaine Jean David Beau Nez from France. Tyler went first with farro penne pasta with Calcagno, pistachio and pine nut remoulade, cockles, and Agrumato Limón. Lee responded with the amazing Vermont Shepherd Verano and a slaw of apple, cabbage, parsley, lemon, and apple cider vinaigrette. This was another favorite of the evening; it was a wonderful mix of flavors, and the slaw balanced out the cheese perfectly, so of course, Lee had my vote this round.
Washed rind cheeses dominated the fourth round, as well as smokiness, embodied through the choice of beer, Original Schlenkerla Smoked Marzen from Germany. Lee went first; inspired by a typical German 'Ploughman's Plate', he served Jasper Hill Oma, Formaggio Kitchen's bratwurst, spicy mustard, cornichons, and a soft pretzel piece. Tyler responded by smoking the Tomme de Verbier, a Reblochon style cheese, before serving it on a piece of bread with mostarda fruit misti, cornichons, and three and a half year aged Magalista ham. Both plates were excellent, but the combination of the smoked cheese, ham, and mostarda won this round for me.
Round five was the wild card round, allowing each contestant to pick a beverage to pair with a blue cheese dish. Tyler went first, with Rogue River Blue, panforte, and chestnut confiture, served with Saussignac, a sweet dessert wine. The chestnut confiture is something I definitely have to have again. Lee responded in the most amazing way, with a blue cheese marshmallow using Linkjaen Blue cheese, Aynouse 65% cacao, and walnuts. He served this with June Taylor fig preserve and Two Roads Beer's The Road Less Traveled Series' Philsamic. Lee definitely won this round for me, and he went on to win the entire competition! Congrats to both Lee and Tyler, and I can't wait for the next Queso Royale! :)