We were busy yesterday -- as busy as one asthmatic and one post-flu semi-invalid can be -- but while we were running errands in Midland (the closest pocket of Kultur to Outer Podunk)we made a stop at Eastman Party Store, our favorite purveyor of special foods. Our mission: wine and cheese on the cheap.
The store has a formidible cheese case. I've mentioned this before, but one of our favorite things to do at this place is to buy the tag ends/odd packages of cheese lying in the case. It's a way to try cheeses we might not normally select on our own, on the cheap, in sizes that don't require a lot of emotional commitment. Fellow Traveler wound up with small packets of Montgomery's cheddar; Fourme d'Ambert, a venerable blue-veined cheese from France; an aged provolone of unknown provenance; and Locatelli Romano.
Meanwhile, in the wine aisle, I exercised my Dumb, Cheap Wine Buyer's skills and, after some strategic browsing in the Australian section, selected a bottle of 2005 Hope Shiraz...because it was cheap (under 10 bucks) and because I really liked the label; it looked cool. (Serious wine aficionados across the blogosphere are probably snapping their stemware in horror.)
This afternoon, after performing some scheduled tasks (installing Publisher on our computers to start tinkering with a church website, doing some PR for an upcoming concert at our church, trying to change the kitchen fluorescent lights and in doing so not only breaking the light cover but discovering that the issue wasn't with the bulbs but with the ballast), we had a leisurely wine-and-cheese trial, with succeeding chunks of the aforementioned cheeses, water and whole-wheat crackers, apples and raw almonds.
The wine was absolutely fabulous. Contrary to some wine snobs' dismissal of shiraz as a kind of cloying soda-pop vintage for the unsophisticated, the Hope shiraz had a big, complex flavor -- deep and berry-plummy and not all that sweet.
Our favorite cheese was the Fourme d'Ambert, which I read has a pedigree going back to Druid times. It's quite soft, with an assertive but not sharp, mushroomy flavor. We also enjoyed the Romano, which brought out both sweetness and pepper in the wine...although the cheddar was awfully good as well, especially with the apple. We didn't not like the aged provolone, and it was head and shoulders above supermarket provolone...but the wine didn't do anything for it, or vice versa.
I have to get completely back in the saddle again tomorrow -- work, other responsibilities, my diet and exercise agenda -- so after being sick, fatigued and generally miserable for most of the week, this was a nice little segue back into normal life, or what passes for that around here.