#MakeItMagnifique: Tea and Cheese at the French Cheese Board in SoHo
By Natasha Nesic, Contributing Writer, April 26, 2017
Sometimes joy comes sliced between poached pears and baguette.
So it is at the French Cheese Board, a tender slice of SoHo at 41 Spring Street. Polyglot gourmand Charles Duque created this permanent pop-up to communicate the creamy wonder of French dairy to the world.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a tea and cheese pairing led by Charles himself, along with Ravi Kroesen of Royal Tea NY. We were joined by Nicole Martin, who runs the award-winning blog Tea For Me Please, and Sara Shacket of Tea Happiness.
Ravi and Charles took us through the pairings, detailing each tea and cheese’s histories in turn. To hear Charles speak about cheese was like listening to a composer describe Mozart—or in this case, Satie. (We must keep it French, after all.) Ravi’s passion was equally tangible, as he gave us the in-depth origins of the teas served in accompaniment, explaining the various flavor profiles of the fragrant leaves and how to bring out the best in their pairings.
First came Epoisses with Sencha, a Japanese green tea. The former was decadence: molten gold, heavenly on the tongue. “Irish butter,” one of the attendees remarked. No other tea could have stood up to it but the buttery, vegetal fullness of the Sencha. Average Sencha can have an astringent aftertaste, but Ravi’s was exceptional in that it left you feeling replete—not dry and dehydrated, as is the usual complaint with green tea.
Next up, Mimolette and Phoenix Oolong, a partially-oxidized Chinese tea. The smoky, feminine nature of the Phoenix complimented a cheese that came off as an equally feminine and robust—the voluptuous version of cheddar. Oolong tea is also traditionally served in China to facilitate digestion, which is a blessing if you find yourself sensitive to dairy and other high-fat comestibles.
Third was Brillat-Savarin and Golden Yunnan, a black tea. The fulsome power of the Savarin needed some artful tannins in order to balance it out, and the Yunnan was more than up to the task. Brillat-Savarin was named for the aristocrat who originated it—this ostentatious duo would be perfect for the cheese board at your next fine-dining event.
The final piece was aged Bûche de Chevre with Darjeeling 2nd Flush, from the Phuguri Estate. 2nd Flush Darjeelings are often richer than the delicate first harvest, which lent itself extremely well to a pungent cheese. Standard, un-aged chèvre’s creaminess usually over-fills the mouth, but this one had the gravitas of maturity. It isn’t often that a goat cheese can bring itself to taste like hazelnuts, which rendered it well matched by a Darjeeling that could skate the tongue with such floral finesse.
Special commendation goes to the caterers, Giorgio’s of Grammercy, whose amuses-buches played the profound richness of the cheeses against subtle fruit and charcuterie. Who could have known that a well-placed sliver of pear and prosciutto would meld so expertly with milk? (Grass-fed and humanely raised, by the way. The French don’t do sub-par.)
Many thanks to Laura Baddish of the Baddish Group for inviting me to this incomparable experience. An additional thanks to the young gentlemen who assisted pouring and serving for the event, William Petetin and Andrew Cougoulic. Their white-glove presence made for an evening of true hospitality, suffused with the comfort of rural France.
Cheers and santé!
All photos by Natasha Nesic/ZEALnyc.