Cheese and Antipasti Pairings

January 6, 2009

Antipasti or Antipasto means “before the meal” and is generally the first course of the formal Italian dinner. The Lady’s good friend, Carol, comes from a traditional Italian Family where holiday meals always include Antipasti and a course of pasta. She also serves Italian Wedding Soup, which has nothing to do with weddings. The name comes from the concept of “marrying” flavors…who knew??? According to The Lady, Carol is very particular about the size of the miniature meatballs that go into this wonderful soup.


Traditional antipasto includes olives, roasted garlic, mushrooms, grilled eggplant, marinated bell peppers, roasted tomato strips, artichoke hearts, charcuterie, pepperoncini, provolone and mozzarella cheeses. It is usually drizzled with olive oil as well. Unlike hors d’oeuvre, antipasto is served at the table and signifies the beginning of the meal.


Half of the Cheese Kiosk is the Antipasti Bar that in addition to many, many olives is also “home” to other Mediterranean delicacies. The Lady and her Co-Cheese Stewards like to come up with ways to sample the items by pairing them with the cheeses they sell. Divina, the primary distributor of the items in the Antipasti Bar has provided a couple of booklets with recipes and also suggestions for pairings. In addition, The Lady and her Co-Cheesemongers like to experiment and invent pairings of their own.


I rarely eat veggies and have little interest in olives, garlic and onions; but where there is cheese; you can find me sniffing around. The only things I like that grow in the ground usually have four legs or slither around. My name is Spaulding Gray and I am a carnivore by nature.


The first three pairings listed below are the most popular and generate terrific sales for both antipasti and cheese. The rest are in no particular order.


Goat Gouda and Green Halkidiki Olives with Sicilian Herbs. The Lady, as you already know, does not care for Goat Cheese but finds Cablanca Goat Gouda to be mild and not too goaty. It also pairs well with this green olive and the customers love this combination. When they pair these two items they sell lots of both items.


Gruyere and Balsamic Onions. This pairing consists of small onions that have been marinated in balsamic vinegar, which makes them amazingly sweet. When paired with the Gruyere, the result is a taste sensation akin to French Onion Soup.


Blue Cheese and Peppadews. Peppadews are a small red pepper from South Africa that is both sweet and spicy. They pair well with any blue cheese and The Lady samples these peppers with Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton and Kerry Gold Blue. There’s something about the “blue’ component that makes this pairing a winner every time.


Other popular pairings include:


Fresh Mozzarella balls with red roasted tomatoes; Almond-Stuffed Green Halkidiki Olives with Spanish Manchego; Kalamatas pair well with Feta; Blue Cheese-Stuffed Green Halkidiki Olives with Rembrandt Aged Gouda; Garlic-Stuffed Green Halkidiki Olives with Asiago; Red Pepper-Stuffed (Pimento) Green Halkidiki Olives and Fontina.


The “Purdy” Martini…


The Lady has a customer, Mr. Purdy, whom she adores. He fought in WWII and has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than sixty years. He loves the Antipasti Bar and accuses The Lady of addicting him to new tastes, including the Peppadews and the Balsamic Onions. Mr. Purdy adds a marinated garlic clove into his favorite drink, the gin martini. The Man tried it and suggests that you let the garlic further marinate in the gin (or vodka) and enjoy it last. The taste sensation is…well…sensational. And that is how you make The Purdy Martini…


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