Don’t Say Cheese
I cannot contain my disdain for the appetizer cheese course. Cheese is rich and, depending on the kind, funky. It satiates your appetite. It induces sleepiness, even. Why would anyone eat it at the beginning of the meal?
Cheese is best offered as a transition from the main course to dessert. The creaminess of what is essentially aged milk coats the palate for a slow goodbye to your steak or fish or what have you. It keeps the sweetness and sometimes the acidity of dessert from coming as too much of a shock.
Two chefs whom I trust to serve cheese at the right moment—and at the proper temperature—are Cakes and Ale’s Billy Allin, who tends to focus on a single cheese, and Bacchanalia’s Anne Quatrano, who carefully composes her cheese cart.
Most cheese “boards” in restaurants are mediocre, embellished by little puddles of balsamico, dabs of marmalade, and, in the worst scenario, bunches of elderly grapes, unripe strawberries, and slices of melon that add nothing. And the worst thing about them? They’re served first.
I’m Not Bitter About It
The first time someone cracked open a bottle of tonic water for me decades ago and poured it over ice, the word “quinquina” popped into my mind. I realized in a flash that I was already familiar with the pleasurably bitter medicinal tang of its main flavoring agent, quinine, an antimalarial drug extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree. It’s a common ingredient in many French aperitifs known collectively as quinquinas.
Aperitifs and digestifs, often interchangeable, are now a big part of the drinking scene in Atlanta. Cole Younger Just from Bellina Alimentari keeps the restaurant’s best quinquinas, including a deep golden Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aero d’Or, in a cooler. “They are wine-based, after all,” he says. Miles Macquarrie’s inventory at Kimball House is second to none. And Ticonderoga Club’s Greg Best is happy to pour—and explain—the drinks’ benefits. At once pharmaceutical and botanical, most incorporate other flavors such as bitter almonds, sour cherry, wild mint, or dried orange peel. Quinquin-ah!
This article originally appeared in our November 2017 issue.