After years of making substantial donations to the United Way, this year I dropped my donation to the least I could give and still add to my department's participation count. The gods of irony noticed and saw to it that I won a participation prize. A wine tasting. Because the gods of irony know: I hate wine.
I have friends who love wine, and since it was a wine tasting "at your home," it became a pot-luck dinner. All I had to provide was risotto and cheese and this free wine tasting.
Gary. as usual, got antsy the day of. Usually he makes up VITAL projects that MUST be done otherwise the party will be a FAILURE ELLEN WHAT ARE YOU THINKING. Vacuum the basement! Swap out all the light bulbs! He did buy ninety dollars of those fancy LED UFO light bulbs the night before (these bulbs will outlive us), so I thought he was done helping.
I sent him to the store for the obligatory wine-tasting cheese and crackers. "Yellow cheese and white cheese. You decide."
He returned with three types of crackers and nine blocks of cheese. Each block was chopped in half and distributed over two trays. Then he took the wrappers, snipped out the cheese names and nationalities, and used that to plant little toothpick flags in the cheese. It was the United Nations of Cheese.
Eric from the wine company shepherded us through the wine-tasting, and when he realized we had cornered the cheese market, suggested a complementary cheese for each of the dozen wines we tried. He'd suggest, "This wine goes well with a hearty Irish Cheddar," then pause for Gary to exclaim happily, "I have an Irish Cheddar!"
Sadly, when he suggested a Spanish Manchego for a Spanish wine, Gary had bought another nationality, thinking it was Manchego. His next cheese suggestion was then, "I don't suppose you have any Italian cheese." Our pride was stung, so we brought out the tub of Parmesan. Luckily we had Parmesan chips, not just the grated, but we would have had people lick their fingers and stick it in the tub if needed.
Later he said, "This dessert wine pairs nicely with ice cream." I volunteered that we did have ice cream, but no one was interested. What connects ice cream, cheese, and chocolate? Fat. Evidently the secret to killing off the "bite" of the wine (or as I call it, "that nasty wine taste") is to combine it with fat: cheese fat, chocolate fat.
Friend #2 says "Wine enhances the taste of food," I say "Food masks the taste of wine." That said, there was a wine that tasted pretty good on its own and woooooderful paired with chocolate. We bought two bottles.
Of course that prompted Gary to buy a wine vacuum and rubber corks today, and I know he's looking at wine chillers. I can only hope we'll have some inflation so that the price of cheese, LED bulbs, and rubber corks go up so I can tell myself we've made a good investment in cheese futures.