Hosting a party and want to offer a cheese platter, but you don’t know where to start? Have a package of Camembert, but you’re not sure what beverage will go with it? The CheeseClock by Artisanal Brands is now available locally at seven Schnucks stores as a way to easily select and match a variety of cheeses with the appropriate wines and beer. The clock is a four-color guide moving from mild to strong, with four types of Artisanal Premium Cheeses provided for each category, along with suggested alcohol pairings. LN spoke with Artisanal Brands president and CEO Dan Dowe about the CheeseClock and the thinking behind wine/cheese pairings.
LN: HOW DID THE CHEESECLOCK COME ABOUT?
DD: Artisanal Cheeses were first sold to top chefs and hotels around the country, but we wanted to figure out how to take the brand into retail. When I bought the company in 2007, I was the new guy on the block and just wanted a way to understand cheese, so I sat in on a company class. The instructor explained it as starting from the six o’clock position on a plate and going clockwise from mild to strong, as anything that might burn your palate should be consumed last. That’s how a chef would present cheese in a restaurant—the cheese selection may change, but the one thing that doesn’t is mild to strong.
LN: WHAT DO YOU THINK ACCOUNTS FOR THE POPULARITY OF CHEESE AND WINE PAIRINGS?
DD: The popularity of wine and cheese is growing as our population changes. People in their 20s and 30s are better educated, travel more, read more, and may be doing things that their parents and grandparents never did. That, along with the influx of media and cable channels like the Food Network, has helped people become more familiar with food.
LN: HOW DO WINE AND CHEESE COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER?
DD: It goes back to the beginning of civilization, when people were picking grapes and storing the juice, and making cheese out of milk. Now most culinary types will tell you that wine is meant to be consumed with food, and its most natural food product has been cheese. A great glass of wine is a great glass of wine, but it really is meant to be an accompaniment to the type of food you’re eating, not to be consumed alone.
LN: HOW CAN A NOVICE BENEFIT FROM USING THE CHEESECLOCK?
DD: Packaging of the cheese options into four different colors—beige, yellow, orange and red—allows someone to instantly see what types they need to make a platter. A novice looks at the clock and decides she likes mild cheeses, so she picks a beige box of cheese, and then sees that white wine, Champagne or pilsner beers are the recommended pairings, so the CheeseClock has helped connect those.
LN: WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE CHEESECLOCK?
DD: With the 16 cheeses that we are offering now, mathematically, it would require 256 purchases before someone has the same four combinations again, but we will occasionally rotate out different types. As people become more hip to the CheeseClock, they won’t need it as much—they will just know intuitively what cheese or wine they need to pair and select the quality products. LN