"Don't eat too much cheese," says the text message from my trainer as I was heading out the door. Last night I attended a Wine and Cheese tasting at Steve's Cheese, located in Square Deal Wines in NW Portland off of Thurman Street. Hosted by Steve Jones (Steve of Steve's Cheese) and Dougal Reeves (Square Deal Wines), the two-hour event was an exclusive evening put on for members of the Portland Culinary Alliance and their guests.
It sometimes shocks me when I head out to an event like this and get that feeling that I'd rather stay home. Maybe it's the "forced-fun" aspect of getting together with members of an organization you're involved in. But then I think, isn't that why people get involved in extracurricular activities like joining clubs that are of interest to them or related to the industry they're in? Anyway, I digress, not the point of the story.
As I pulled up exactly on time - 6:30 p.m. - I saw I was not the only one arriving without a minute to spare. From my rear-view mirror I saw Kathie scoot quickly into the wine shop. She's on the PCA board with me and I remember her from the last event. We sat next to each other and she was just a delight to chat with. Poor thing, though. I received an email from her the day after the last event. Her car was towed at our last gathering! A dinner that was just $35 ended up costing poor Kathie over $200. Yikes.
I hopped out, locked my car, and scooted myself into Square Deal Wines. It's not a huge wine shop, but the layout of it allows for it to not look small either. It's sort of warehousey, a very open space with crates of some of the most desired wines from around the world carefully situated in rows on the cement floor. There is a simple check-out counter to the left, and straight ahead at the left is Steve's Cheese counter. At the very back is a private room where I quietly snuck into to great my fellow PCA friends. I grabbed a seat toward the end at the back of the room, and was across the table and two people down from Kathie. "I parked in a legal spot this time," she mentioned and I responded with a look as to say, "Lesson learned, huh?"
Susan Hauser, well-respected Portland food and travel writer and PCA president, arrived a few minutes later and took her seat directly across from me. To my left was Heather Jones. A transplant from San Jose, CA, Heather is a freelance public relations and marketing professional for the restaurant industry. 'Oh goody, another competitor,' I'm thinking to myself. Well sort of. I guess I'm still deciding on exactly what I am (a writer, pr professional, marketing generalist for the food world?). I think I'm beginning to land on a name multiple people have given me in the recent past; Renaissance woman. I'll take it. Susan and I did quick introductions with Heather and we were off on our adventure.
Steve began with an introduction of the evening as we gazed down at the sheet of paper they provided to us. With the company's name on the top, the name of the event, and the date, the remainder of the sheet consisted of a list of wine, then cheese, wine, then cheese, in the order they would be presented to us. The writers in the group got out our pens; so typical.
And then, the wine guy spoke. There is something about a man with one of two accents: British (includes Scottish, Irish, and English) or Australian. Dougal Reeves opened his mouth to talk wine and to be honest, I have no idea what he said. Standing about 5'7" with curly black hair, he showered us with a deep, Australian accent that brought all the women in the room to a screeching silence. Dougal. Doouuuugal Reeeeeves. Of course he's got an accent. He spoke a little bit about the wine - a sparkling variety from the Loire Valley - then mentioned something about the trip back to France he was getting ready for in two days. I quickly looked down. Yep, wedding ring. Never fails the single girl. Moving on...
The remainder of the evening proved to be a perfect example of why someone joins a group in an industry that's of interest to them. What more does anyone need than to sip wine and devour a wide array of cheeses from our land in America and share their excitement about it with others who are just as excited? "Very stinky cheese," "This wine makes the flavor of the cheese really pop," "Does anyone smell chocolate in this cheese, or is it just me?" were only a few of the comments coming from the mouths of those who partook in the evening. We sampled wines from all over the world that were paired with cheeses grown from small farmers with a focus on hormone-free, certified organic cheese; of which Steve's is known for selling. It was a well-run event and Steve and team really know their stuff!
A few tips on cheese purchasing and storage from Steve:
1. Purchase your cheese in paper and avoid plastic wrap, which can impart a negative flavor on cheese.
2. Change the paper every three days.
3. It is ok to wrap the cheese in paper, and then tuck it into a plastic baggy or Tupperware container. This allows the cheese to breathe, but does not cause it to dry out.
4. Eat the cheese within three to five days if it’s a soft variety. Hard cheeses can last three to five weeks.
5. Parchment paper is a good option for storing as is wax paper.
6. Try to avoid the “cut and wrap” program – cheese that is already cut, wrapped tightly in plastic and placed on grocery store shelves for days. He also noted that Steve’s Cheese always cuts away the outer layer of a wedge of cheese each day if it’s been sitting in plastic prior to serving.
7. “Find a good cheese monger and come see us every three days,” Steve Jones.
Now go get some cheese!
(P.S. And no, the trainer has no clue how much cheese (and wine!) I actually enjoyed. I figure he's the lucky one. My penchant for wine, cheese, and anything culinary keeps him in business if you ask me!:)