“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese,” wrote G.K. Chesterton in Alarms and Discursions, in an entire chapter dedicated to the pressed curd foodstuff. He goes on talking about how poets never write about cheese at length, despite the word having “every quality which we require in exalted poetry:” it is a “short, strong word,” that “rhymes to ‘breeze’ and ‘seas’.”
It’s a pity that G.K. Chesterton, who died in 1936, will never be able to see the day cheese takes a step closer to being romanticized. In particular, its pairing with chocolate: the quintessential food item associated with love.
Joe Baird, cheese expert and consultant for dairy organizations in America, heralded this during his recent trip to Manila last week when the California Milk Advisory Board, which represents California’s more than 1,300 dairy farm families held a tasting event. California, after all, produces 2.4 billion pounds of cheese and over 250 varieties and styles.
Cheese and chocolate, he says, is a pairing that enjoys great attention in California, ever since the trend began about eight to 10 years ago. “Cheese has different levels of strength, same with chocolate,” he says. “Cheese is made of one ingredient or multiple ingredients. Same with chocolate, which is primarily composed of the cacao bean.”
Bars with high percentages of chocolate, he added, go great with blue cheeses because they balance each other out. The younger chocolates, meanwhile, go with the younger cheese. “It’s a great marriage for each other,” he notes. “It’s sweet and salty.”
And indeed, the pairing is heavenly. The experience begins when you snap a thin bar of chocolate. Depending on the amount and quality of cocoa butter, as well as how finely ground the chocolate particles are, the snap will will be either gentle or firm. Put it in your mouth and it begins to melt: smooth, creamy, and perhaps with a little nutty feel.
Then, the cheese. You might think the two would contrast each other—the former being associated with desserts, and the latter having a more pronounced salty taste. The cheese is relatively softer, chewier, and even gummier, which cuts through chocolate’s sweetness.
But once its highly complex taste—sweet, sharp, grassy, nutty, spicy, acidic, fruity, bitter—travels around the mouth, its creaminess melts with the creaminess of chocolate. Like two lovers who have gone around the world searching for their one true pairing, the formerly polar opposites embrace each other.
“Cheese is addictive. There’s nothing else like it,” Baird said. “You can have a bottle of wine, a winemaker will put a label on it, and then they will sell it with attention to the label,” he added. “But if you see a big wheel of cheese, even without a label, it’s already impressive.” The same logic, perhaps, can be applied to chocolate.
Perhaps we owe this discovery to millennials. With 90% of California dairy farms being family-owned, millennial descendants are slowly taking over the business.
“They grew up in a more artistic generation and they also grew up eating these specialty cheeses as food for entertainment,” Baird said. “Social media is a huge way of finding what’s popular. The millennial generation has started eating better than people in their 40’s. For those taking over the business, sky’s the limit. They’re creating new things and following what’s trending as well.”
But at the end of the day, no matter what the internet says, “it’s the way you taste the cheese, what you think it tastes like,” Baird says. Like love, finding solace in the pairing of cheese and chocolate may be a bit like finding a match in an unlikely place: there’s nothing else like it.
California dairy products, with the Real California Milk seal, are available in leading supermarkets such as S&R, Robinsons Supermarket and SM.