2012 Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival Photos

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Linda Falkenstein:

Pairings, as I overheard at the fourth annual Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival, at Monona Terrace on Saturday, are hot. Certainly the concept is everywhere — and it seems the more unexpected the pairings, the better.

Pairings are about more than this wine goes well with this dish. Pairing events are more focused on slowing down the tasting experience. It’s not about eating per se. It’s about using the paired food and drink to bring out the subtle flavors within each.

I was impressed with a cheese and sake pairing session at 2010’s Wisconsin Original fest that revamped my impression of sake — high-end, artisanal sakes taste more like wine than mass-market sakes — and those featured at the tasting went well with the chosen cheeses. On the other hand, I have not had a sip of sake since that session two years ago. Old habits die hard.

At this year’s fest, Barrie Lynn, “the cheese impresario,” presented pairings of Wisconsin cheeses with Tennessee whiskeys.

Pairings, Lynn confirms, are “a Slow Food strategy.” And although when she leads a pairing session she’ll give plenty of hints for bringing out the flavors, her bottom line is to “rock out and have fun.”