I’m not a foodie like Analize. Apparently some people are supertasters, and I always thought Analize was one, but I think I may be wrong. Supertasters taste foods with greater intensity, according to research, and (shock! horror!) tend to avoid alcohol or salty, fatty foods. That pretty much disqualifies Analize, because she is a food adventurer who will go where no other person will willingly go, as far as food is concerned. And life, come to think of it. I think she simply has such a vast knowledge of food and tastes and the talent to make taste associations that many of us lack. Perhaps she is both. I am definitely not a supertaster. I gravitate towards the heavier, structured tannic wines, such as cabernet sauvignon and syrah, which supertasters will avoid like the plaque, because of the strongly astringent taste of these reds. One can do a supertaster test which involves staining your tongue with wine (actually, it’s blue dye, but wine will do) then counting the pink papillae taste buds on your tongue. Taste buds don’t stain as much, so will be the pink ones. Supertasters will have more than 30 pink papillae visible. Analize – you need to do the test! We need to know if you are over 30!
And so, because I’m not a supertaster, I’m on a mission now to create the perfect Devil Wears Prada Jarlsberg Toasted Cheese Sandwich (DWPJTCS). I had a long discussion with Analize about this at a braai once, in front of a friend who tried so hard to engage in the conversation. Eventually she just said “you two are completely nuts!”, before moving off to join a raucous rugby debate instead. She has no idea! She should have been there the day we debated for ages about the best wine to pair with a nutpuff.
I find it very disconcerting though that nobody remembers that scene in The Devil Wears Prada, when Nate makes Andrea a Jarlsberg cheese toasty, and she doesn’t want it, which flags the beginning of the end for them. It’s a sad moment that nobody notices, but for some reason I did. Maybe because for me, how I experience love is very bound up in food. If someone cooks a meal for me with care and love, it means everything to me. If someone experiments with food recipes and shares the meal with me, I interpret that as trust. If someone takes me to an unusual vege restaurant (like Raw and Roxy) and takes photos of my happy reaction to the crazy original tastes, I experience that as tribe-love. I think because I have such trust issues, I will push my metaphorical plate away at the first hint of “something being rotten in Denmark”.
So, in the mix of the rejection I saw in that Devil Wears Prada scene, the word “Jarlsberg” became imprinted in my memory, and triggered some weird healing necessity in me, which has manifested in my quest for the best DWPJTCS. It was not a total surprise then, years later, to find myself in a gallery in the MOMA museum in New York, standing next to Stanley Tucci, who plays Nigel in the movie. We were both staring engrossed at a Kandinsky. He didn’t recognise me from that time I watched him in the movie, and I didn’t want to embarrass him by saying “Hi, it’s me”, so I just quietly enjoyed the synchronicity of the DWPJTCS moment.
Jarlsberg is not a Danish cheese, which means Shakespeare’s warning of rottenness does not apply, however it does originate from the Scandinavian country of Norway. It’s semi-hard (but mostly soft) with a nuttiness and big gaping holes. It melts easily and its initial sweetness grows into a basket of complex flavours, which some people may not enjoy after a few bites. My very distant ancestors originate from Norway. I wonder if maybe I’m a Jarlsberg cheese trapped in a human body?
Jarlsberg cheese is not readily available in South Africa, so it was a long journey of searching before I finally had a chance to create the best DWPJTCS. The woman at the cheese factory was a bit worried when I started dancing and whooping in front of the imported cheese fridge, the day I stumbled upon my “worth gold” cheese… such happiness. There’s no way a supertaster would ever be that happy over cheese.
My first attempt was a flop. White sweet dough bread. Epic fail. I had this idea that Jarlsberg is a salty cheese and easy to pair up with a simple bread, but it’s so much more layered in flavour than that. It needs a particular type of bread, with a unique complexity…. a bread with holes of its own to allow the melted cheese the freedom to flow wherever it must. Analize had suggested a ciabatta. I chose an olive ciabatta. It turned out to be the perfect match. I sprinkled Hot English Mustard onto the cheese and added a half a twist of coarse salt. The real secret though is to spread a ton of salty butter on the outside of the bread, so that when the melted cheese oozes out between the holes in the olive ciabatta, it mixes with the butter, to form golden brown, crispy pockets of popping flavours to the toasty. Nate would have known this.
According to the wise foodies, because Jarlsberg is a semi-hard, medium aged cheese, it should pair nicely with a medium-bodied, slightly fruity wine – a chardonnay or merlot perhaps. I decided to try pairing my DWPJTCS with a wine that I recently discovered and love – The Old Man’s Blend from Groote Post. It’s a red blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Shiraz, 3% Cabernet Franc and is aged in 300 litre 3rd fill French oak barrels for 12 months. This wine is a little gem in my opinion. Restaurants will offer it as their cheaper option red blend, ahead of what I consider to be not so great wines. I was out and about over the weekend, with a friend from Jozi, who insisted on paying and asked me to choose the wine. Normally, if someone else is paying, I’d choose the cheaper wine and be not exactly happy with the choice, but when I saw The Old Man’s Blend on the menu, I was all smiles… big grins actually.
As it turned out though, The Old Man’s Blend wasn’t the best wine to pair with my DWPJTCS. Obviously the flavours contributed by the salty butter and olive ciabatta, along with the mustard, added more complexity to the toasty, and somehow the fruitiness of the wine became enhanced, which did not compliment the DWPJTCS. I’ll try to pair it next time with a subtle Waterkloof syrah or maybe a Paul Cluver pinot noir. Perhaps it would go spectacularly well with the Morgenster 2005 merlot, which has a hint of spiciness. And so the journey continues…
I can’t say that my current DWPJTCS is the best and final version, but it did fill me with happiness to savour the taste combinations, so I assume I’m on the right track. Let me know if you create your own DWPJTCS, how it turned out and what wine you paired it with. First challenge though… finding that Jarlsberg! Second challenge… convincing Anne Hathaway to share it with me.
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