For our August birthday presents to each other, Erica and I purchased tickets to Formaggio Kitchen‘s “Queso Royale VIII.” We are both huge fans of the store, and we’ve been to a few of their events in the past including “Queso Royale VII” and “New York vs. Vermont: Beer & Cheese” (where we were introduced to Backacre Sour Golden Ale for the first time; we’ve subsequently had good luck finding it at Montpelier’s Three Penny Taproom).
The format of “Queso Royale” is a Monger vs. Monger throwdown (5-6 courses) where the beverage (usually wine, but sometimes cider or beer) and the type of cheese (cow, goat, etc.) for each round is pre-selected. Each monger composes a dish centered around a cheese of that type, and then audience votes for their favorite (judges are allow to use whatever criteria they like). The monger that wins the most rounds is named the champion. The particular draw of this event was Monger Tyler Tripp’s selection of Formaggio Founder Ihsan Gurdal as his opponent, as you’d be hard pressed to find to greater “cheese minds” for a head-to-head battle.
Visiting Tyler at Formaggio in the weeks leading up to the event, I was impressed with his confidence. Ihsan has an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s finest cheese, wine, crackers, jams, fruits, sausages… you get the point, and Tyler’s supposition that Ihsan would present a very traditional set of courses proved to be true. Now: #cheeseporn:
Quick note: Ihsan’s stories really made the night. He has such a deep personal connection with ALL of his friendors (friend-vendors), you really can travel through space and time just listening to him. To you, Ihsan, a very personal thanks for all you’ve done in promoting great food culture locally and throughout the country/world!
Wine: 2013 Terrebrune Bandol. A very refreshing Rosé.
Cheese type: Sheep
Note: I think I forgot to get a picture of Tyler’s flatbreads. They were really fun: Dates and Brebis du Haut Bearn with a black cherry and Piment d’esplette (the peppers mentioned in the caption above) dipping sauce. But in this round, Ihsan’s less ‘tinkered’ approach allowed the flavors to play more harmoniously. Still, I believe Tyler ended up winning the round.
Tyler’s “Swiss” Onion Soup (pictured above) was another fun play on a classic, and I especially liked the crisped “Petit Lutin” cheese both as a cracker and cooked on the puff pastry.
If I remember correctly, Erica really dug the wine this round: 2010 Cave Saint Cyr Chenas, a Beaujolais with rich cherry notes.
Round 3 also featured a traditional serving of absinthe (diluted a little heavier than normal, but delicious nonetheless)!
I honestly can’t remember who I voted for in this round. Both plates were really well composed. Can’t remember who won, either (blame the absinthe).
This was a “wild card” round for drinks. Both picked a sparkling red: Vajra N.S. Della Neve Rosé for Ihsan and 2013 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco for Tyler. Snark alert: I was surprised at how many fancy people at this event didn’t know sparking red wine existed…
Being already stuffed at this point, I should have just asked for the dessert round to go. Two amazing final courses. And though we didn’t know it at the time, Tyler and Ihsan were tied 2-2 at this point. I’ll post both of the descriptions below, without telling you which belonged to whom, and you let me know who you think won. Ill post the answer in white font below:
AND THE WINNER IS… TYLER (Stilton) ! (HIGHLIGHT TO REVEAL)
Congratulations to both Tyler and Ihsan on a hard-fought battle. What a tremendous evening filled with amazing food.
Bonus: it was nice to see the Formaggio crew kicking back some Cambridge Brewing Company “Remain in Light” Hoppy Pilsner as they were prepping the courses. Big thanks as well to FK’s Keira and Rory for their help throughout the evening.
Double Bonus: Who else would love to see a Craft Beer Cellar/FK throwdown?