Queso, Queijo and Cheese
May 14, 2009
Cheese aficionados, rejoice! This Saturday and Sunday, May 16-17, is the fifth annual Seattle Cheese Festival in the Pike Place Market. While Pike Street explodes with more than 200 cheeses from local and international producers, seminars and demonstrations, down here on Western Avenue, The Spanish Table is throwing a sensational celebration of Iberian quesos and queijos. Our resident Cheese Monger, Jorge, has scored big this year with an extraordinary line up of authentic, hand produced cow, sheep and goat milk cheeses from Spain and Portugal. Stop in, take a break from the crowds and taste our outstanding selection!
Queijo de Nisa is a raw ewe’s milk cheese. Made from the milk of Merino sheep, Nisa has a semi-soft paste with small eyes and a yellowish color. The flavor is robust when you first taste it, but then opens up into alluring hints of banana, apricots and citrusy brightness. Queijo de Nisa is versatile and complements both red and white wines.
Sao Jorge – Pound Cut From the volcanic island of the same name in Portugal’s Azores archipelago, the island is littered with giant craters and also home to naturally lush, green pastures. Still made in the traditional farmhouse way, this cheddary cheese is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and aged for over 120 days. Its hard, natural rind gives way to a lighter colored interior with tiny, irregular holes. Sao Jorge is incredibly versatile, lending its piquant, slightly peppery undertones well to sauces. Equally delicious served cubed into a salad or eaten with a crusty baguette, it pairs perfectly with Portuguese Linguica.
Cabra Pimentão is a semi-hard pasteurized goat cheese from the Transmontana region of Portugal. Each wheel is rubbed with olive oil and smoked paprika. Cabra Pimentão starts out with a slightly granular feeling on the palate and then smoothes out with a lingering smoky finish.
Malvarosa Is a farmhouse sheep cheese produced in Valencia. It is handmade and wrapped in cheese cloth. The flavors are delicate, smooth, and buttery with hints of butterscotch in the finish. This beautiful cheese is truly a labor of love: the cheese maker saved this rare species of sheep from extinction, making this an exceptional find. I recommend having on it’s own with a chilled white wine.
Cabra al Pimentón Vibrant orange, this raw goat’s milk curado has paprika permeated throughout the cheese. The surprising texture has a delicate creaminess with an even balance of acidity and salt. Hints of smoke come through on the finish with notes of rustic aromatic earth and straw.
Zamorano is our new staff favorite. This artisan production of the classic Spanish cheese is produced in Castilla Leon, in the Zamora province and this year’s batch is phenomenal! Made with milk from the Churra Ewe, it is rich, complex, full-bodied, slightly piquant, moist and tangy.
Tetilla is our second R rated cheese besides Naked Goat. This soft cheese is hand formed into an alluring shape. Springy, fresh and creamy cow’s milk cheese from Galicia, it is the pride of its’ region. This years batch is particularly soft, fresh, gooey and überlicous! A Customer favorite.
Goat Tronchon Wonderfully herbaceous, it is sweet, grassy, slightly piquant and full-flavored with a lingering tangy finish.
Raw Milk Rosemary Manchego Raw sheep milk aged 15 months with rosemary on the rind. This cheese has a strong herbal edge with a pleasant piquant bit to follow. Think herb infused Pecorino Romano. If you are a hard core rosemary fanatic try our other raw sheep’s milk cheese with infused with rosemary in the cheese.
Artequeso 1 Year Raw Milk Manchego The Grand Daddy of Manchegos! Okay. Everyone knows about Manchego so why mention it? Because Artequeso is other worldly and one of the best cheeses in the case. Dry, slightly powdery, and textured with nutty, parmesan-like complexities, it hits you in the jowls like a big bold spicy wine with a complex lingering finish. This is what Manchego used to be 100 years ago. Be sure to taste it when you come in. Queso Leonora is an exceptional goat cheese from a small producer in Leon. This brick shaped, natural mold rind cheese envelops a compact white interior. Dry textured and full-bodied with herbaceous and lemon flavors, it has the perfect balance of acidity. Soft-ripened and spreadable, tangy and distinctive, this unique goat cheese leaves a lasting impression.
Petit Odre is from the village of Vilasar del Dalt near Barcelona. Made from sheep’s milk, it resembles a plump mini Brie. The interior is creamy at the edges, becoming firmer at the center. Odre has a full, rich, and buttery flavor with herbal notes and a sweet finish. Think slightly chalky sheep camembert! Odre is from the same cheese maker as Nevat. – Jorge
Pate de Campagne with Black Pepper A traditional recipe with origins in the French countryside, this county-style pate is thick, coarsely-textured treasure seasoned with piquant black pepper. The uneven, super spreadable paste is created using seasoning and fats, added to bring out the flavor in meats.
Rabbit Sausage with Prunes Made with rabbit and pork flavored with prunes and brandy, this phenomenal sausage is best grilled. Mildly spiced, serve it with fresh garden greens for a light meal.
Dried Peruvian Aji Panka Chilie Pods Reconstitute these chilies and add to soups,sauces, and other dishes. Or take the tops off and grind them into chili powder as part of your own spice blend. Aji Pancas are a great way to add mild, fruity chile flavor to any dish. fruity chile flavor to your Mexican dishes.
WINE AND CHEESE PAIRINGS
Queijo de Nisa’s robust and fruity notes are a great match with the 2005 Conde de Vimioso, Ribatejano ($9.99). Vimioso is fruity, rich and youthful with flavors of raspberry and currants and a lingering finish. Pair Sao Jorge with the hearty 2005 Vega Escal Priorat ($19.99). Vega Escal is powerfully concentrated with “ripe cherry and blackberry, and smoky minerals. Graceful and edge-free.” 90 points Stephen Tanzer
Serve Cabra Pimentão with oaky 2007 Clos de los Siete, Mendoza ($18.99) “There may be no finer red wine value in Argentina than this superb blend of 48% Malbec, 28% Merlot, 12% Syrah, and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon…. This lengthy effort over-delivers and then some.” 91 points Jay Miller
Malvarosa’s delicate flavors are spectacular served with 2007 Avinyo Vi D’Agulla (Penedes) $14.99. The ‘wine with a prickle’ is a light bodied white wine with a refreshing slightly frizzante character.
Pour the 1999 Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva Rioja ($22.99) with smoky and piquant Cabra al Pimenton. Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva is a classical Rioja, with notes of oak, cigar box, cedar, plum and cherry flavors. Moderate tannins are balanced with acidity and pair wonderfully with this cheese.
Zamorano cheese is stellar matched with a wine from it’s own region such as the 2006 M.O. de Olivara, Toro ($12.99). Concentrated, bold and spicy, this Tinto de Toro is produced from 40-100 year old vines. M.O. is meaty, explosive and earthy with notes of mineral and black fruit flavors.
Mild Tetilla is outstanding when paired with a delicate white wine such as the 2007 Can Vendrell Chardonnay Xarel-lo, Penedes ($13.99). Unoaked and crisp, Can Vendrell has a floral nose with notes of stone fruit and dry pear. The dry, refreshing finish has nuances of almond and mineral which are fantastic with Tetilla’s gooey deliciousness.
Full flavored Goat Tronchon needs a full bodied red such as the 2007 Luzon from Jumilla ($9.99). A blend of Monastrell and Syrah, it “delivers huge plum and spice notes, with tobacco, herbs and smoked meat working their way into the game. Remains powerfully fruity and spicy in the mouth… Overdelivers by a lot!” 90 points Wine Enthusiast, #1 Best Buy for 2008
Serve earthy 2003 Las Gravas, Jumilla ($23.99) with Rosemary Manchego. Las Gravas “offers lovely floral, crème de cassis, smoke, charcoal and earthy characteristics in its rich, full-bodied, powerful personality…” 90 points Robert Parker
A natural match to Artequeso Manchego is the structured and well-knit 2005 Pinuaga Tempranillo. “Medium to full bodied, firmly structured, reticent with outstanding potential.” 90 points Robert Parker This is one of my favorite Tempranillos!
Pair lean and steely white 2007 Vina Reboreda, Ribeira ($11.99) with herbaceous and tangy Queso Leonora. Vina Reboreda’s aromas of dried flowers with bright flavors of Granny Smith apple, citrus and watermelon are balanced by vibrant acidity and minerals which cleanse the palate between each bite of Queso Leonora.
An elegant cava such as the Vins El Cep 2003 Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive Reserva, Penedes ($12.99) is a wonderful accompaniment to creamy Petit Odre. Last week, the charming winemaker of Vins El Cep was in Seattle for the Jorge Ordonez portfolio tasting. A combination of six families who have been winemakers and growers in Penedes since the 15th Century, Vins El Cep cavas are made exclusively from estate grown fruit. 2003 Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive has been aged 36 months on the lees and made in the traditional champagne method. With fruity stone fruit and citrus notes, it has an excellent sweet-acidic balance and a lengthy mineral finish which compliments the buttery and chalky flavors of Petit Odre.
The Spain Association of the Pacific Northwest is celebrating Fiesta de San Isidro on May 24 at 1:00 p.m. at the Aqua Club in Kenmore. Non members are welcome. For more information, visit
Spanish Winemaker dinner at Olivar Restaurant, May 28th. Casa Ventura Imports present winemaker Javier Fernandez Sanzaq from Bodegas Los Aljibes for a Spanish Wine Dinner May 28th. $70.00 per person. For more details and reservations, contact Olivar (206) 322- 0409 or visit http://www.olivarrestaurant.com.
Cape Verdean chanteuse Maria de Barros and her band will be here one night only for a CD release party on May 28th at the Triple Door. Maria will be performing songs form her highly anticipated album Morabeza, a blend of mornas, coladeras and funana – the mesmerizing genres from Cape Verde. Tickets are available from the Triple Door box office and online: http://www.tripledoor.com. Maria says bring your dancing shoes!
We hope to see you soon and in the meantime, light the barbeque and cook a paella this weekend!
Sharon Baden and Steve Winston
Owners, Spanish Table