Red, White and Blue

Blue cheese may not be for everyone, but still, it is the essential flavor of the fifth most popular salad dressing in the whole USA. Yes, it is sharp and salty, and blue is a color no one should eat. And, yes, the blue stuff really is mold, penicillium mold. I don’t care; I am mad about blue cheese, pretty much all of it, from familiar blues like Danish Blue, Italian Gorgonzola, French Roquefort, made with sheep’s milk, and English Stilton, German Cambazola or Saga Blue (both blue-veined brie style versions), Iowa’s Maytag Blue, little tubs of blue cheese crumbles - all of which you can find in most American grocery stores these days. And I love the more obscure blues like Spanish Valdeon or Cabrales, Irish Cashel, English Shropshire or Cheshire or Wensleydale Blues, three blue-veined cheddars, Bleu d’Auvergne or Fourme d’Ambert from France, land of over 1,000 cheeses.

I remember when I first fell in love with blue cheese. I was 10, in England at high tea, where are supposed to sit politely and where magical tea sandwiches are served on very thin slices of white bread (the closest I can find is Pepperidge Farm’s Very Thin Sliced White Bread) and spread with unsalted butter on one side, Stilton on the other and, sandwiched in between them, a layer of thinly sliced, crisp English cucumber. It was amazing, the perfect bite, and when we moved back to the states, I insisted on that for my brown bag school lunch. It earned me the derision of my classmates, but even that didn’t deter me. I still crave the classic English Cucumber Blue Cheese Sandwich. Try them! Perfect with tea, of course, or a glass of dry sparkling Cava.

One of the best of all blue cheeses is a delicious little number from California, available in our stores—Point Reyes Original Blue, an artisan cheese from the family owned Point Reyes Farmstead, made from raw cow’s milk and aged for six months. It is certified organic, vegetarian, and kosher. It’s creamy and tangy with a perfect balance of salt. Its rich, lovely blue flavors come from the quality of the milk produced on the farm’s pastures and their proximity to the ocean. Original Blue is wonderfully versatile, displayed with dried fruit and nuts on a cheese plate, crumbled into a salad with a pear vinaigrette, or flavoring a humble beef burger or rich grilled steak.

Blue Cheese Platter
Foodies like educational entertainment. Put together a wine and cheese party with 3 different platters focusing on different styles of cheese, and on each platter arrange 3 cheeses of one style. Along with an assortment of accompaniments, breads, and crackers. For example Platter 1: Ripening Cheeses. Platter 2 Hard Cheeses; Platter 3: Blue Cheeses: Stilton, Point Reyes Blue, and Roquefort or Gorgonzola: Add: ripe, but firm pear slices, honey, toasted, salted pecans, dried cherries and apricots, crackers. 
PAIR WITH: Several different wines. A medium dry Italian Prosecco like the most popular, LaMarca Prosecco, a clean, refreshing sparkling wine, will cut the richness and saltiness of blue cheeses. Or, a well-chilled, medium-bodied Moscato, like Salt of the Earth Flore de Moscato from southern California, or a medium dry Riesling like the beautiful Dr. Loosen “Dr, L” Riesling from Germany.

Two Blue Cheese Salads
Pairing wines with salad is typically not easy. You want the acidity in the wine to exceed that of the salad, otherwise, a vinegar-based salad dressing will completely overpower the salad. There are things you can do to the salad to make it pairable with wine—add nuts, dried or fresh fruit, or CHEESE!

Quick Pear and Blue Cheese Salad
1 package of your favorite prewashed mixed baby greens
1 Bottle of Earth & Vine Honey Pear Vinaigrette
1 C. diced ripe but firm cored pears, diced
You favorite blue cheese, crumbled

How to:
Put chilled salad greens in a bowl, dress with Earth & Vine Honey Pear Vinaigrette, toss with diced pears, walnuts and crumbled blue cheese.

PAIR WITH: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier, an off dry white blend from California, made from two so-called aromatic grapes. This crisp and refreshing blend has lovely apricot fruit and a hint of flowers. It is delightful.

Classic Iceberg Wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing
1 head iceberg lettuce, cored, limp outer leaves removed, and cut into wedges
1 C light sour cream
½ C mayonnaise
3 TBS buttermilk
3 tsps. red wine vinegar
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp garlic salt
1 ½ tsps. freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. blue cheese crumbles (reserve a few chunks for garnish)
1 tsp minced chives

How to:
1. Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium bowl and stir well to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Place each wedge on a plate, drizzle with the blue cheese dressing, top with a sprinkling of chives and reserved blue cheese chunks, and a generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper and serve.
PAIR WITH: Famega Vinho Verde is from Portugal, a light, low alcohol, slightly spritzy white wine, one of our customer favorites. Or one of the many dry rosés on the market.

Steak with Blue Cheese/Shallot Butter
One of the best and simplest steak sauces is a composed butter. The idea is to blend the flavoring elements, herbs and/or spices, with the UNSALTED butter, roll the butter into a log on parchment paper, chill it, and put a generous slice on a hot charbroiled or pan seared steak (or chicken breast or pork chop, or grilled veggies.…) The logs freeze easily and take up very little room in the fridge. Store in ziplock bags.

These so-called “compound butters” are one of the best meal solutions I know. My favorites include pink peppercorn butter for corn on the cob, garlic & red wine butter for mushrooms, parsley or watercress & shallot or watercress & butter for steak, tarragon, chive, & lemon butter for fish, Honey & cinnamon butter for French toast. Here is a delicious version for us blue cheese addicts.

1 stick (8 TBS.) of unsalted butter
¼ C. Minced shallots
2 TBS finely chopped parsley
¼ C. Pont Reyes Original Blue Cheese or your favorite blue crumble
¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

How to
1. Let stick of butter soften in a mixing bowl.
2. Add other ingredients and blend thoroughly with a wooden spoon (you can also use a mixer).
3. Turn butter out onto a piece of parchment or wax paper and form into a log about 1 inch diameter and chill until hard.
4. Just before serving the steaks, top them with a ¼ - ½ “ slice of butter. Freeze the remaining log.

PAIR WITH: Our new Borne of Fire Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. In general, cheeses go best with white wines, but this is one dish that can take on a Cab without disappearing.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burger
My Mom used to make these for us for a special treat on the Fourth of July, with corn on the cob and Czech Potato Salad.

1 ½ lb. freshly ground 85% ground chuck seasoned with 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce or 2 tsps. M  Salt, worked gently through, then formed into 8-1/2 inch patties
4 oz. Pont Reyes or other blue cheese divided into 4 and shaped into little patties.
Burger buns 
Condiments: fresh tomato, dill pickle, and red onion slices, lettuce leaves, slices, mayonnaise.

How to:
1. Place the little cheese patties at the center of each of 4 meat patties. Close by putting  4 other patties on top and gently pinching the edges of each stuffed burger  together. Chill in the fridge for an hour to firm up.
2. Once coals are ready for grilling, grill burgers following burger rules! Do not press down on the burgers with spatula, turn only once. Toast cut buns briefly on the grill. Layer burger and condiments on the bun bottom, then close.

PAIR WITH: A Côtes-du Rhône red blend from southern France. Délas Frères Côtes-du Rhône Rouge was just awarded 90 Pts. and 94Pts. from the two best known wine magazines. It is a good choice to pair up with this rich, tangy  burger, as is a California Zinfandel, like fruity, Gnarly Head Zin.
For a contemporary twist, use Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Garlic and Onion Jam on the blue cheese burger as your condiment and pair it with a semi-sweet red wine, Begonia Sangria or Stella Rosa Red.

Roz Mayberry


About Roz: During her distinguished career, Roz has served a term as the Retail Representative on the MDA's Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council and Continues to serve on their Promotion & Education and Competition Committees. In addition, she has served as a judge in various national and international wine competitions.

Working with D&W's wine stewards and SpartanNash's vendor partners, Roz tirelessly explores the vast world of wine, discovering the finest wines for every budget and every taste. And she loves to discuss food and wine with customers and colleagues. As a lifelong foodie, there is nothing else she'd rather be doing.