While at ACS this summer, I ran into Jane Yuan, entrepreneur extraordinaire and founder of Simple & Crisp. I’ve talked about this company before, since I find their dehydrated fruit crisps a refreshing alternative to crackers and bread. We got talking, and decided to collaborate on a few articles focused on pairings and Jane’s founding story.
I called up my tasting partner/composer friend Winton, cued some moody lighting, and we got to pairing! First, we tasted the crisps, which are dehydrated fruit slices, alone. The apple and pears are completely unsweetened, while the oranges have a touch of added sugar. Winton and I found the apple to be fairly mild, only hinting tartness and acidity, especially toward the peel. The pear crisp was also mild, with a bit of a honeyed finish toward the back of the tongue. The orange crisp, on the other hand, was a whole other beast. It packed a huge citrus flavor with hardly any sweetness. Instead, it built on a dry mandarin orange flavor to finish with some strong bitterness at the end.
Keeping in mind that fall is just around the corner, here were our favorite pairings!
Apple Crisp, Vella Mezzo Secco, Pumpkin Butter: Mezzo Secco, from the Vella Cheese Company in Sonoma, California, is a variation on Dry Jack, but only “half dry,” hence its name. It’s aged 3-4 months, then coated in black pepper for a little bit of spice at the rind. It’s got a semi- creamy mouthfeel with a little bite. Flavorwise, there’s moderate saltiness with notes of butter, hay, and some toasted almonds. Because I was too lazy to head to the store, I made my own pumpkin butter using this recipe, and infused it with a bit of extra cinnamon, cloves, a little cardamom, and some ginger. Feel free to go out and purchase some, though! All together, the ensemble made for a tasty fall treat. The salt in the cheese balanced the apple’s tartness perfectly, and even coaxed out the apple’s natural sweetness. The pumpkin butter offered the right amount of spice and sweetness, as well as a smooth texture to allow all three elements to blend harmoniously.
Pear Crisp, Beecher’s Flagship Reserve, Mitica Fig Jam. Beecher’s Flagship Reserve hails from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle, Washington (just a few blocks from Simple & Crisp!). It’s got a full earth and cellar flavor with some nice acidity and strong saltiness. The Reserve’s texture is dense and hefty as well, which makes it a great cheese to hunker down over a fire with. When paired with the pear, though, the Reserve’s texture and flavor brought out the pear’s honeyed sweetness in surprising force. Both Winton and I loved the earth/cellar and honey flavor combination. On top of that, we added some Spanish Mitica fig jam to bring another dimension to the mix. Everything blended beautifully. However, if all you’ve got are just the cheese and pear crisp, that might be enough.
Orange Crisp, Mt. Tam, Noci Bella Walnut Terrazzo. Given the strength of the orange’s flavor and bitterness, we knew a cheese with a creamy texture would be a great pair. Mt. Tam, that buttery, creamy triple-crème cheese made by Cowgirl Creamery in California, was the obvious first choice. The fat in the Mt. Tam allows the cheese to coat the tongue, balancing out the crisp’s assertive citrus qualities. The Terrazzo, which I had chopped into small morsels, added some polish to the pairing. The bar, made in the San Francisco bay area, is made of walnuts, honey, maple syrup, and a bit of sea salt. With the sweetness, earthiness, and crunch of the Terrazzo, the cream and butter of the Mt. Tam, and the bright citrus orange, we had a complex, tasty pairing. If you can’t find the Terrazzo bar (you can order it online at Dean & DeLuca), a sprinkling of walnuts and raw wildflower honey with a pinch of sea salt could work in a pinch.
You can purchase Simple & Crisp’s products through their online shop. Supporting them is supporting food entrepreneurship at its tastiest! Try your own pairings as well, and let me know about them. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter just about all the time!
Thanks, Simple & Crisp, for working with me on this! And be ready for next month’s pairings in honor of National Dessert Day (October 14)!