Party Pairings

Got guests coming over? A couple of professional epicures share tips on matching wine, cheese and meat

Any Las Vegan who calls himself a foodie owes a debt of gratitude to Bob Howald and Kristen Sande. The couple operate the only true gourmet food shop around, Valley Cheese and Wine, which they opened in 2006 in a quiet strip mall at 1770 Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson (341-8191).

They have struggled through a down economy—“I keep crossing my fingers, hoping the recession is over,” Howald says—but aren’t ready to throw in the towel, thanks to a loyal following.

I’m one of them. As you may have read in my weekly Diner’s Notebook, I often stop by for items such as imported mortadella, Italian pesto in jars, hand-rolled Italian, and Spanish chocolate. The couple have a terrific inventory of cheeses and boutique wine, too, and they conduct wine classes regularly..

Those qualities, and the fact that they make party trays, led me to conclude that Vegas Seven should share some food and wine pairing ideas for Labor Day weekend, which kicks off the home-entertainment season. Howald and Sande were happy to help, as they always are when it comes to sharing foodie knowledge. Here are three very different offerings:

Pairing One

This is basically a savory cheese and wine pairing, great as a prelude to a dinner party.

The cheeses: Organic Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery, a soft, buttery triple cream ($33 per pound). Bucheron, a French goat cheese (also $33). Pecorino Toscano, a salty, nutty sheep’s milk cheese ($30).

The wine: Quincy Sauvignon Blanc ’08 ($25).

On the side: Potter’s Washington Island Flaxseed Crackers ($6).

The explanation: Howald likes the idea that you get all three milks used primarily in cheese-making (cow, goat and sheep) for contrast. He chose this wine because “the acidity cuts nicely through the richness of the cheeses, and is bright, crisp and grassy.” Serve the wine chilled.

Pairing Two

This pairing is heartier, since it is meat, and therefore suits an afternoon snack at a social gathering.

The meats: Pâté de campagne from Fabrique Delices, a bold, earthy pork-based country pâté ($23 per pound). Bresoala, Italian air-dried beef, flavored with juniper berries and other botanicals ($40). Parma, soft, silky Italian ham that melts in the mouth ($33).

The wine: Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ’06 ($20).

The bread: Your favorite crusty French baguette, cut into thin slices.

The explanation: The couple often pair pâtés with cold cuts for their guests and at wine tastings. The fat in the pâté softens the big tannins in the wine, and the saltiness of the beef and ham adds dimension.

Pairing Three

Think of this as dessert. It will dazzle your guests after a meal.

The tray: Gorgonzola picante drizzled with American Farms honey from Iowa ($25 per pound), a nice combination of the sweet and the salty. Marcona almonds ($21 per pound) for richness and nuttiness. Michel Cluizel Noir aux Ecorces d’Orange ($6)—chocolate with orange peel.

The wine: Chateau Puy-Servain ’04 Semillion ($33, for a 375-milliliter bottle).

The explanation: This classic dessert Sauternes is made by the same people who do the mega-expensive Chateau d’Yquem. It’s rich, full and viscous, redolent of candied apricots. Here you have a riot of different flavors and textures. You may never serve your guests chocolate cake again.

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