The first serving of raclette cheese comes melted over fingerling potatoes, with a sprinkling of chopped chives. The pairing, to put things plainly, is delicious.
This creamy, buttery and tangy cheese was the star of “Raclette & Riesling,” a food and wine pairing event held at Jedediah Hawkins Inn restaurant in Jamesport last Saturday. The two-hour event featured wine from Jamesport Vineyards and offerings from The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck.
For those unfamiliar with this style of fromage, it’s a semi-firm cow’s cheese intended to be melted and served atop foods like bread, meats and potatoes. “Raclette” is a French word meaning ‘to scrape,’ according to Village Cheese Shop owner Michael Affatato.
“This is what Europeans do in winter,” said Affatato, a Long Island native who owned the Bordeaux vineyard Chateau La Gatte for several years. “They go for raclette at night with some wine. It’s done all along the borders of France and Switzerland and is a ritual that goes back centuries.”
On this particular evening, the first serving of raclette was a French version of the cheese. It was pasteurized, but Affatato described it as retaining a barnyard taste.
“When it’s not heated, it’s fairly mild,” he told the crowd. “But when it’s heated, it picks up a lot more aromatics and more of what we call farmyard flavors — more of a wild taste.”
Affatato, along with Jamesport Vineyards president Ron Goerler, guided participants through the evening in Jedediah Hawkins’ speakeasy bar. There, on the restaurant’s lower level, the décor is overtly masculine, with stone walls, brown leather chairs and wooden tables.
On this night, the bar was set for dinner. Wherever a place setting could fit there was one; even the coffee table and bar were set with dishes. Although the event was planned to accommodate about 25 guests, it looked like it may be expecting more.
People began to arrive, seating themselves at intimate tables for two or joining a larger group.
Affatato jokingly dispelled any fears that there wouldn’t be enough cheese, assuring us that he brought plenty for all.
The first riesling served with the raclette-topped potatoes was Jamesport Vineyard’s Dry Reisling. The wine was slightly sweet, crisp and refreshing. Described as having a perfect balance of acidity and fruit, it boasted aromas of apricot, pear and apple.
“Riesling was one of the first wines that we planted,” Goerler explained to the crowd. “We felt it was a natural because of the beautiful acidity that it has in this wine.”