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Imported Cheese


    spring cheese blogSpring is a wonderful time to explore seasonal varieties of artisan cheeses which aren't typically available year round, or hit the peak of perfection when paired with the flavors of the season. Nothing beats a classic grilled cheese or dunking a fresh baguette into a velvety bloomy rind, but here are a few of the ways we're branching out our cheese repertoire this Spring.









    pff chevre and pear tree
    Melting a few slices of Gruyere into an omelet is sure to enhance the most important meal of the day, but citrusy, fluffy cheese like sheep milk Brebis or fresh chèvre are wonderful breakfast staples. Topped with fresh fruit, honey, preserves, or olive oil these cheeses are lower in fat while imparting the important protein, vitamins, calcium and minerals you need to start your day.



    etude 500x500

    One of the best parts of Spring dining is the bounty of fresh, green vegetables. Sweet peas, asparagus, artichokes and ramps are all amazing when paired with the naturally grassy and lactic cheeses coming into season. A bright salad of shaved asparagus or celery drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper pairs perfectly with a grating of Etude from Andante Dairy. Try it over chilled Spring pea and ricotta ravioli for a bright yet filling pasta salad for warmer months.


    Covered in Herbs

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    A large part of why artisan cheese is so delicious is that the farmers (who are oftentimes, also the cheesemakers) who care for the animals providing the milk truly care about their herd and the land they are raised on. Their lush surroundings, vibrant scenery and healthy diet imparts a signature herbal, grassy and earthy flavor into a lot of the fresh Spring cheeses you will find in our case this time of year. For that reason, cheese aged in a covering of herbs or whipped with fresh ones is such a harmonious combination. Most people are familiar with goat cheese coated in herbs like Dutch Girl Creamery's Chèvre Frais, but a unique offering like Pecorino Camomilla - coated in chamomile tea is a delightful addition to a Spring cheese plate.


    Start 'Kidding' Around

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    Spring is known to the cheesemaking community as 'kidding season' - the time when baby goats are born and there is an abundance of fresh goat milk. You'll find that most goat cheese aren't aged for very long, due to their tendency to become a bit gamey after extensive aging. However you will find that a little bit of aging goes a long way with Julianna from Capriole Farms, aged for just 3-6 weeks in a light coating of herbs. For a mellow washed rind with a complex palate, try Baetje Farms' extremely seasonal Fleur de la Vallee - it's toasty, buttered bread paste is the perfect complement to crisp, refreshing lagers.


    Paired with Wine

    It's no surprise that pairing cheese with wine is one of our all time favorite ways to enjoy cheese. If you've been inside of one of our stores, you may have noticed that we arrange our wine wall to reflect to reflect the cheese in our case. That means that every bottle we source is a an ideal pairing for artisan cheese, and furthermore we keep them arranged from to light to heavy to make pairing them with subtle to more more complex cheeses much easier. Here's a small sampling of the wine pairings we're playing with this Spring:



    Spritzy and fresh with notes of yellow apple and green pear with the slightest and most fascinating whisper of bubbles on the finish, this wine is Chicago summer in every sip. The ideal pairing for most wines in our cheese case but its magical with the Wabash Cannonball.


    fiction rose can 500x500

    A bold and beautiful Rose that's mostly Grenache that's perfect for outdoor drinking all summer long. Strawberry and cherry fruits followed by a touch of spice make this an ideal match with Prairie Fruits Farms' Chèvre Frais.


    A sunny interpretation of Pinot Gris with just the slightest touch of sweet on the finish. We've also enjoyed how easy it makes our life at the bar. This wine is EXTREMELY versatile in food pairing and quite refreshing on its own but we really really like it with Zingerman's Manchester.

  • NEW Selections from Neal's Yard Dairy

    For over 35 years, Neal's Yard Dairy has been working directly with farmers and producers of traditional, artisan cheeses in the UK to hand-select, age and distribute the many traditional and fantastic cheeses of the British Isles.  By visiting farms and cheesemakers often and providing them with valuable feedback from their market and wholesale customers (like Pastoral!), Neal's Yard has crafted a unique relationship where each product is far more than the sum of its parts.

    While you'll always find a few selections from Neal's Yard in our cheese case - like the raw milk Stichelton or sharp and grassy, Montgomery's Cheddar - we've brought in a few more of our favorites to showcase this Spring. Ask your cheesemonger about their favorite pairings and sample a few of these stellar cheeses from Great Britain and Ireland.


    ardrahan1This sticky and pungent washed rind is much milder than its smell suggests. Made by the Burns family in County Cork, Ireland, the mild and damp climate is ideal for aging scrumptious wheels of smooth and luscious washed rinds with savory, smoky flavors and a tangy, ocean spray finish.








    CooleaCheesemaker Dicky Willems is a second generation cheesemaker, whose Dutch family moved to Coolea, Ireland to change up the pace from the restaurant world in Amsterdam. Cheesemaking was but a hobby for the Willems that grew into a farmstead cheesemaking operation and eventually into their current ability to make enough cheese for a small international following. The cheese is complex, with flavors that are rich and sweet--hints of hazelnuts, butterscotch and honey shine through.






    Isle of Mull Cheddar

    isle of mullThis monstrous clothbound cheddar hails from small, lush and mountainous island just west of Scotland. This cheddar is incredibly moist, with a soft texture and wild, fruity farm flavors. The yeasty flavors of the cheese are attributable to the spent grain from a local distillery which the cows feed on during winter months when Island resources are slim.

  • Announcing Two Great February Classes!

    We're pleased to introduce our Winter Classes Program in February with TWO great offerings!

    Pastoral hosts classes at our locations in Lakeview on Tuesdays and in the Loop on Saturdays. They run for approximately 90 minutes and range in price. Pupils are extended a 15% discount that can be used within one week of attendance.

    Bubbles, Cheese and Chocolate

    triple class

    As we draw nearer to Valentine's day, we invite you to join us for an evening of decadence and delight!

    Whether you're bringing your sweetheart for a romantic night out for two or going stag, treat yourself to an experience that's sure to impress! Sparkling wine, delicious cheeses and sensuous chocolates form one of the sexiest threesomes ever conceived, and we're here to share that titillating experience with you!

    The Time: Saturday, February 9, 2013, 7PM
    The Place: 53 E. Lake Street
    The Price: $50
    The Link to Enroll: Bubbles, Cheese & Chocolate Class


    Battle of the Cheesemakers: America vs. Europe


    If you love your French Bries, English Cheddars, Spanish Manchegos and Italian Blues, just wait til we put them head to head with some of their American Artisanal counterparts. The United States may be a couple centuries behind in tradition, but no one can deny the power of the good ol' American Spirit. Domestic cheesemakers have been working hard since the Artisan Cheese movement began in the 1980's.

    Will the United States come out on top, or will the European Masters dominate? You'll get to decide for yourself during this great evening of friendly rivalry. (Trash talk optional).

    The Time: Saturday, February 23, 2013, 7PM
    The Place: 53 E. Lake Street
    The Price: $45
    The Link to Enroll: Battle of the Cheesemakers: American vs. Europe

  • Pairing of the Week: Montgomery's Farmhouse Cheddar and Koval Lion's Pride Dark Oak Whiskey

    Appropriately it's an American and a Brit for this week's pairing, as the American delegation continues to excel at the London Games.

    Koval Pairing 009

    The Cheese

    Montgomery's Farmhouse Cheddar

    Producer: Jamie Montgomery and Steve Bridges
    Region: Somerset, England (southwest)
    Milk: Unpasteurized Cow
    Rennet: Animal

    Did you know that in 2004 Jamie Montgomery, George Keen (of Keen's) and Richard Calver (of Westcombe's) came together to set out for Slow Food what traditional Cheddar should be? They came up with the following guidelines:

    • -the cheese is only made in Somerset
    • -it is made using raw milk from the farmer's own herd
    • -they only use traditional pint starters, which are grown in a churn of milk before being added to the vat
    • -they use only traditional animal rennet
    • -the cheeses are made in a cylindrical form and bound in cloth
    • -the cheeses are aged for a minimum of one year

    Did you also know that the blue that shows up occasionally in the paste of Monty's is completely normal? It occurs if a cheese has been knocked slightly; the curd then separates, air enters and mould grows. These cheeses are turned every week to ensure they mature properly (in some cases for up to eighteen months). They can weigh up to 65 pounds so, even with the most careful handling, you have to expect a bit of wear and tear. Also, as the cheese matures, loses moisture and contracts, cracks can appear in the rind under the cloth. These cracks let air into the paste causing mold growth. Sometimes this mold is greyish-brown and doesn't taste good, other times it is blue and, when it is within bounds, adds a pleasant piquancy to the cheese.

    Monty's is so many things: earthy, fruity, sweet and caramel-y. Jamie Montgomery is fastidious in his attention to detail when it comes to his cows' feed. He aims to get the ratio of grass, hay, and starch just right so that there is a ideal balance of fat and protein to achieve such a complex flavor profile.

    The Booze

    Lion's Pride Dark Oat Whiskey

    Distiller: Koval
    Bottle: Lion's Pride 'Dark Oat'
    Origin: Ravenswood, Chicago
    Grain: Oat
    ABV: 40%

    Oh heck yeah, let's pop some of the brown stuff. Koval distills a long line of wonderful liqueurs, white whiskey, and vodka as well as their Lion's Pride label encompassing their aged whiskeys. Lion's pride
    offers two distinct styles for 5 separate grains. Rye, Oat, Wheat, Millet and Spelt cask aged in either light charred new oak barrels or heavily charred new oak barrels.

    We carry a rotating selection of Koval offerings. This week, let's take a look at the Dark Oat. The dense sugar in oat ultimately translates to caramel notes in the aged whiskey. Not a peppery or
    baking spice finish here (although we love that too!) Just a round and rich body that balances the heat from the 40% ABV. This broader style of whiskey is a perfect match for dense dry salty cheeses.

    The Pairing

    Guest Monger: Reigning Employee of the Month, Lindsay

    "I'm normally not a hard liquor kind of lady, but there's something so silky smooth and cinnamon-spicy about this whiskey that it really makes the sweet earthy hay and barnyard qualities of Montgomery's cheddar sing. The Lion's Pride cuts through some of the mustiness in the cheddar, while the Montgomery's cuts the overtness of the whiskey quite a bit. These guys are a perfect example of sweet and spicy learning to play well together."

    Happy Pairing!

  • Pairing of the Week: Mozzarella di Bufala and Villa Matilde Falanghina

    Here's to a pairing that signifies that summer is in full swing. As those amazing heirloom tomatoes call to you at the farmer's market, keep this pairing in mind. And for the love of all that is delicious, add some Prosciutto to this pairing. It will blow your mind...

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    The Cheese

    Name: Mozzarella di Bufala DOP
    Region: Campania, Italy
    Milk: Pasteurized Water Buffalo

    Fresh Mozzarella di Bufala has to be one of the best things in the world. This fresh (unripened) cheese is produced exclusively from the milk of water buffalo and comes specifically from the region of Campania in southern Italy (though the region of Lazio is included in the DOP). Mozzarella di Bufala is a pasta filata style of cheese, meaning that it is a stretched or pulled curd cheese. During the production process, coagulation is preceded by the addition to the milk of the previous day's whey (known as cizza). After acidification, calf rennet is added for coagulation. After coagulation, the curd is cut into pieces about the size of a walnut and after four hours the whey is drained off. At this point the cheesemaker will add boiling water to an equal amount of curd, let it melt and then stretch and form it by hand, though molds are often used at larger scale production facilities. Once molded into shape, the cheese is placed in cold water to firm up. At that point it is stored in brine (for flavor) until it is time to be sold. According to DOP law, mozzarella di bufala can only be sold in its own whey.

    Water buffalo have a long history in Italy, having arrived in the country sometime in the seventh century, according to most historians. They were initially used to work the marshy land around Naples, partially due to their strength as a plow animal but also because the design of their hooves prevented them from sinking too far into the muck. Cheese made from water buffalo milk can be traced to the 12th century, where it appeared at the monastery of San Lorenzo in Capua. The heyday of the water buffalo in Italy lasted from around 1800 to just before the start of World War II. The story goes that during the German retreat from Italy, they slaughtered such a significant number of buffalo that animals were imported from India to help re-populate the herds after the war. Thankfully herds have recovered many times over.

    The Wine

    Producer: Villa Matilde
    Bottle: Rocca Dei Leoni Falanghina
    Region: Campania, Italy
    Grape: Falanghina

    Medium bodied with rolling texture on the plate, Villa Matilde Falanghina introduces itself with a ripe, height-of-summer bouquet full of melon, lemon zest and roses. On the palate the wine is medium bodied and fairly coating. this coating dissipates into tingly and refreshing acidity. Flavors of summer melon, sweet cherries, and juicy lemon transform into a dry, bright and long finish with notions of dried sage and graphite from the volcanic soils of Campania.

    Our "sleeper" screw-cap enclosed wine. Sleeper in that Falanghina doesn't have the same recognition as noble varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, but this bottle might just be the most versatile of our summer stelvin selection. Fuller in body, rich in fruit, fat cutting acidity and long finish make Villa Matilde and intriguing and refreshing glass on its own and a real kaleidoscope in terms of its ability to transform any cheese and charcuterie in its path.

    The Pairing

    Guest Monger: Marquetta

    Sitting there slaving away cutting Citterio for the stores, I peep the purchasing team  from the corner of my lil eye. Cristi and Mark look like they’re having fun tasting the wine and cheese pairing. I notice that Mark kept eyeballing my sliced Citterio which I was willing to protect at all cost. But lo and behold Cristi offered a trade. A slice of Citterio for a piece of cheese. Like a little mouse I take this offer. Around the edges of this Mozzarella di Bufala it has a nice meaty, sturdy texture but the center has a creamy, light and melts in your mouth texture. One thing that I find with most mozzarellas that I’ve tasted is that they tend to lack flavor. Not this one! It had a nice saltiness to it but it was soft and almost delicate.

    The wine? A crisp white when at first taste had a play of different flavors of lemon and maybe grapefruit. Tasting the wine and cheese together the wine sparkles with the cheese and highlights the creaminess of the cheese even more. In return the Mozzarella di Bufala gave the wine a more concentrated citrus taste that softens at the end of drinking it. Add the Citterio and like someone said it was summertime in my mouth. My mouth was overjoyed with the mixed flavors that landed and did a happy dance. I can imagine myself sitting on the patio with a glass of this wine, the cheese and Citterio together and feeling free.

    Happy Pairing!

  • Pairing of the Week: Sartori Raspberry Bellavitano and Chateau de Lavernette Rose

    Summer is in full effect and with festival season getting in to gear as well, here's a pairing that's fit for any warm weather occasion!

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    The Cheese

    Rapsberry Bellavitano

    Producer: Sartori
    Location: Plymouth, WI
    Milk: Pasteurized Cow
    Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)
    **allergen note: this cheese is not gluten free as it is washed in Raspberry Tart Ale from New Glarus**

    Sartori is a fourth generation family owned company, founded by Paolo Sartori in Plymouth, Wisconsin. He was from a tiny town called Valdastico in the northern Italian Alps. He settled in Wisconsin's dairy country and within a year cofounded S&R Cheese Corp. with partner Louis Rossini. Paolo's son Joe Sartori continued to expand the business, and in 1970 was the first American to export cheese into Italy and Japan. In 1999, Sartori introduced a new cheese of their own invention called Bella Vitano, Italian for "Beautiful Life."

    For the Raspberry Bellavitano, Sartori works with the famed (and Pastoral staff favorite) New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wisconsin. They provide the Raspberry Tart Ale in which the Bellavitano is soaked.

    The Wine

    beaujolais-villages rose

    Producer: Chateau De Lavernette
    Region: Beuajolais, France
    Grape: Gamay Noir
    Farming: Biodynamic/Organic

    When we discovered this wine together at the Imports 59 grand tasting at Paris Club a few months back, we had a similar dazzled look on our faces. We chatted with the wine maker about the renaissance of a sorely misunderstood wine producing region and were immediately compelled to make some fairly straight forward notes in our tasting guide: "BUY!".

    Fresh and juicy, but not flimsy. This rose has a creamy texture in the mid-palate broken up by flirty acidity. Expected flavors of strawberry are speckled with melon and floral characteristics. We just purchased the last 2 cases of our beloved spring rose (Elk Cove), perfect timing to fall for a new rose in the run-up to the height of summer.

    The Pairing

    Guest Monger: Mark

    At first blush, the cheese appears to be a bit too "big" for rose of gamay noir; notes of hazelnut and brown butter with those lovely protein 'crunchies' interspersed throughout the cheese. However, once you put the 2 together they sing. The vibrant raspberry tones from the Raspberry Tart Ale play so well together with the red fruit that is so obvious in the wine. For me the experience is almost as if I were eating a fresh raspberry tart with just a little bit of whipped cream.

  • Tuesday Treat! Chiriboga Blue and Garlic Dip

    We hope you're enjoying your return to your various work places after the long weekend. If you're anything like us, the warm weather has you itching to go to the lake and to as many barbecues as you possibly can before the march of time leads us right back into the fall.

    Our own Lisa is renowned among her co-workers for her inventive and always-delicious recipes. This one is pretty simple and a sure-fire party-pleaser, even for professed blue cheese naysayers. Here are the details:

    2 cups sour cream
    1/4 cup mayo
    1/4 pound Chiriboga Blue (new to Pastoral!), crumbled
    2 tablespoons chopped green garlic or shallot
    salt and pepper to taste

    Combine all ingredients and allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator. Serve as a dip for wavy potato chips, carrots, radishes, and baby turnips.

    Have you tried this recipe or have a different cheese dip recipe you want to share? Tweet or Facebook the results and we'll share them with our fans!

  • Chicago Craft Beer Week Pairing: Racer 5 and Montgomery Farmhouse Cheddar

    Pastoral is having a blast with the myriad of events around the city for Chicago Craft Beer Week. We even revamped our beer selection for the occasion! We have brought in several new beers with the intention of further showcasing the broad spectrum of beer styles as they relate to pairing with our broad spectrum of cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie offerings.

    Pairing #7

    Racer 5 and Montgomery Farmhouse Cheddar

    Brewery: Bear Republic Brewery
    Style: IPA
    Region: Healdsburg, California
    ABV: 7.0%

    Well here we go, the most popular style of beer these days amongst “hop heads” leaves much to be desired for the cheese monger. The aggressive hop profiles and high alcohol of many IPA’s is delicious, but not too food friendly. Look for a firm, salty, and expressive cheese like Farmhouse cheddar to stand up to the big dry floral and citrus flavors of this remarkable IPA from Bear Republic.

  • Pairing of the Week: Chiriboga Blue and Tintero La Grangia

    Blue cheese served after dinner with a dessert wine is not news in itself, but this pairing we think is special in that it introduces a brand-new cheese to our case alongside a less-new but still pretty new wine that dances along the line between dessert wine and summer sipper. The pairing together is elegant and perfect for a warm summer night.


    Brachetto And POW 017The Cheese

    Chiriboga Blue

    Producer: Kaserei Obere Muhle
    Region: Bad Oberdorf, Germany
    Milk: Thermalized cow's milk
    Rennet: Animal

    The Obere Muhle dairy has its roots in the 15th century, when it was a prominent estate near the Ostrach River on the modern day Austrian border. For the first 500 years of its life it served as a sawmill, was converted into a guesthouse in 1987 and finally was turned into the dairy in 1994. Cheesemaker Arturo Chiriboga is committed to utilizing milk from the famed pastures of Alpe Engratsgund and Bad Oberdorf-Hinterstein, highlighting the unique grasslands of the area and preserving the productive landscape of the region.

    Chiriboga Blue is a relatively new cheese for Arturo. He is working with thermalized milk and hand-ladles, as opposed to pressing, the curd. (For those unfamiliar with the term, thermalized milk is milk that is heated to 145 degrees F for 30 minutes.) After one week of aging, the cheesemaker hand-pierces the wheels to activate the blue mold. The
    cheese is then allowed to mature for about two months.

    The flavor profile of this blue cheese is of buttermilk with a slight peppery piquancy, approachable for those who may not be huge fans of
    blue cheese while still interesting enough for the blue cheese connoisseur.

    The Wine

    La Grangia

    Producer: Elvio Tintero
    Grapes: Favorita, Moscato, Chardonnay, Arneis
    Region: Piedmont
    Country: Italy
    Farming: Sustainable

    Dessert wines can be awfully polarizing. Some people love the sticky sweet Moscato's while others cringe at the thought of consuming a whole glass of syrupy wine. Elvio Tintero's "Grangia" is the perfect middle road and an exceptionally inviting to drink with cheese.

    La Grangia is a white medium bodied, fizzy blend of 4 grapes with loads of peach, apricot, yellow flowers, and lemon on the nose and palate imported by none other than Mr. Kermit Lynch. If you recall from earlier pairings Kermit Lynch is an iconic importer specializing in sustainable small production wines from Italy and France. This wine, however, is produced in a dry style with high acidity. The sweet wine drinker is satiated with the texture and easy fruit, while the wine drinker scared of cloying sweetness is quickly appeased by the zippy and refreshing finish. A great pair with the entire cheese case as this wine has body to stand up to salt and strong flavors, but also bubbles to clean the palate and acid to break down fat.

    Inevitable Questions:

    What's Favorita? Vermentino in Piedmont is called Favorita. It is generally used here as table wine or a blending grape for moscato and arneis wines.

    Is it Moscato? No. Moscato is a grape used to make sweet slightly bubbly wines in Piedmont, most notably in Asti.

    Is is sweet? No. It is very fruity and has a rich texture, but finishes bright, dry and lemony.

    Bonus Pairing!

    Mono-varietal Honeys from Mieli Thun

    These honeys, which come from bees that have been allowed to pollinate only one varietal of plant or flower, are harvested by nomadic beekeeper Andrea Paternoster. We highly recommend the Acacia with its sugared almond and vanilla tones. And, of course, the sunflower honey is particularly fun for the summer!

    Happy Pairing!

  • Pairing of the Week: Maxx 365 and Julian Cider

    This week's pairing may seem more harvest-inspired at first glance but once you get a taste of it, you'll realize how amazingly light and seasonally appropriate it is. Enjoy!

    The Cheese

    Maxx 365

    Producer: Kaserei Studer AG
    Region: Thurgau, Switzerland
    Milk: Raw Cow
    Rennet: Animal

    Kaserei Studer AG was founded as a dairy association in 1867 on Lake Bodensee in Thurgau, Switzerland. In its early years, the association focused on the production of Emmentaler. In 1992, third generation leaders Daniel and Thomas Studer began to produce Appenzeller at the dairy. After completing a new ripening cellar in 2003, Kaserei Studer expanded production to include innovative cheeses such as Maxx 365.

    Maxx 365 is made with whole milk with a touch of cream added, and is washed with an herbal brine as it ages. The nose on the cheese bursts with berries and cream with a slight undertone of fresh hay. On the palate, the creamy texture is balanced with just a hint of well it confirms the intensity of berry notes.

    The Cider

    Julian Hard Cider

    Just an hour or so west of the San Diego, this cider was poured at a lot restaurants and bars in SoCal. Finding it here in Chicago certainly made us happy. An atypical cider in its "cleanliness" and lack of overtly sweet flavor.

    Almost prosecco-esque with persistent but small bubbles, very fresh yellow and green apple skin flavors and no musky Normandy-style cider aspect present. Light, crisp, pleasant, and deceiving as this cider packs about 7% ABV.

    We're really happy to have this open in the stores this week as this bottle is a real workhorse in regard to cheese pairing as well as a constant surprise to cider nay-sayers.

    The Pairing

    Guest Monger: Yahn

    From its light color and tiny bubbles, you would expect this cider to be all crisp apple and bright acidity, and while it has these flavors, there are also richer notes of black cherry, blackberries and a grassiness that reminds me of dandelion greens. The cheese is exceptionally creamy and rich, with a light saltiness but also sweetness. The buttery texture and toasty flavor remind me of macadamia nuts and the soft middle of fresh bread.

    These are two very different pairings depending on the order with which you taste the ingredients. If you swish the cider around your mouth then eat the cheese, the two combine in a creamy/sweet wonderland of dessert flavors, like raspberry cheesecake, or a butter and jam tartine like the French have for breakfast. However, I found that if you coat your mouth with cheese, the cider washes it away almost immediately and seriously takes over with its flavors. I would like this pairing with Effie's oatcakes.

    Happy Pairing!

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