By Hairee Lee
Pretty Things Beer & Ugly (But Tasty) Cheeses
For this trip to Central Bottle, we talked to Tiana DAmico to help us select the beers for our company BBQ dinner. Later at the check out counter, I ask Tiana when she started working at Central Bottle (a year ago) and how she got this job, that is, did she need to have a degree or certification to be a wine and beer consultant?
She says no. She's self taught, she explains with a totally un-ironic smile. She's just been doing it for over 20 years, by which I assume she means she's been enjoying wines and beers and fine foods as a discipline for a while. Or: she knows what she's talking about.
I'd been curious about Pretty Things beers for several weeks partly for their funky hand designed labels and partly for being a Somerville brewery. Dinner Series is always interested in local businesses. This one is founded by Dann and Martha Paquette: the husband brews the beers and the wife creates all the art work on the bottles and their brand spanking and totally funky website.
[Pretty Things] Jack D'Or was the winner to enjoy for pretty (haha) much any meal, any time.
Tiana suggested the Pretty Things Jack D'Or, a golden colored beer as the name would suggest, and St. Bardolph's Town. Central Bottle carries 4 of the 15 different kinds of Pretty Things. But Tiana felt that the rich flavors of a BBQ would be best matched with those two beers.
Fastforward to the dinner. I loved the Jack D'Or. It's exactly the sort of beer I like: hoppy, that is, bitter. The flavors were strong but not overpowering and the finish was clean but not too fast either. I liked the creaminess of the mouthfeel, it wasn't too acidic, and I found it totally refreshing next to my beef ribs and pulled pork, and able to stand on its own next to those bold meat flavors. Melissa wasn't the biggest fan and Nate thought it was good. Not great.
Nate, however, really enjoyed the St. Bardolph's Town. "This is my kind of beer," he said, meaning rich, heavy flavors with a heady aroma. We both tasted chocolate and coffee.
"Sort of like Two-Headed Beast [by High and Mighty Beer] ((We got a couple of bottles of this for Dinner 13: Salad Days to pair with the peanut butter tart and it was amazing.)) but not as obviously chocolatey."
Would he buy this or the Two-Headed Beast? The latter was Nate's choice.
I personally liked St. Bardolph's better for the BBQ. It had just enough chocolate and coffee notes to keep it interesting, but not so obviously chocolatey that it distracted me from the meat. And it didn't taste or feel as heavy as it looked. Given the choice between the 2 Pretty Things, however, I thought Jack D'Or was the winner to enjoy for pretty (haha) much any meal, any time.
Back to Central Bottle. I decide at the last minute to include a cheese platter largely because the Central Bottle does a great job of displaying their cheeses and it just looks so tasty!
Tiana spent a good amount of time with us paring down the large selection down to 6 cheeses for us to pick our 3 favorite. I gave her a budget and then she proceeded to offer tasting shavings of 2 cow, 2 sheep, and 2 goat cheeses. ((This process look the longest in our visit. But so worth the trouble. I was really impressed with Tiana's patience and standard of service. Having had years of experience with customer service from working at my mom's business in Canada, it's a testament to Maureen Rubino's management that her employees provide great service.))
In the end, our choices were all American and as follows:
- Twig Farm Square Cheese by Twig Farm. This is a raw goat milk cheese aged about 80 days. It's a semi-soft cheese and has this rind that looks like a rock. But you can squish the cheese and it has a bounce.
- Coomersdale by Bonnieview Farm in Vermont. This one also has this funky rind that makes it look like a smooth rock on the outside. It's a sheep's milk cheese, harder in texture than the Twig Farm one, like it's on it's way to being parmesan-like in texture. Tangy and buttery.
- Brigids Abbey by Cato Corner Farm. This was the softest of the lot and the mildest tasting. Made of raw cow's milk milked from 40 cows ((What is with the 40 cows? Jasper Hill Farm, the makers of Moses Sleeper that we enjoyed for Cocktail #5: Cheese Platter also has 40 Aryshire cows. The biblical connotation of that number is too glaring to ignore. The Flood in the book of Genesis, for instance, lasted 40 days and 40 nights. Moses went to the mountain to stay with God for 40 days. Twice. Goliath held the Isrealites hostage for 40 days before being sling shot slain by David. And then having his head cut off, besides. And, of course, Jesus' famous fasting for 40 days and 40 night in the wilderness. Maybe they're betting 40 will be a God pleasing number and He will protect their stock from disease and disasters. Whatever the reason for 40, those cows make good cheese milk.)) this cheese is mild and smooth and creamy.
Fast forward to the dinner. Everyone loved the Coomersdale. It was by far the crowd favorite; there was only the rind left by the end of the night. It's got lots of flavor and a pungency that doesn't alienate the most palettes by being too aggressive. I enjoyed it too, but my favorite was the Brigids Abbey. I'm a sucker for creamy, soft cheeses that I can spread or nearly spread on a cracker or a slice of bread.
Back to Central Bottle. While we were waiting for Tiana to pack up our cheeses for us, I wandered the store a bit. This place is like a crack den; you just want to stay and try everything. There were little bowls of olives and nuts and a bread plate of salmon something ready for the riesling tasting happening instore later and I could see myself easily getting addicted to the place. So you've been forewarned. But go anyways.