These whimsical morsels are Perpetual Goatstoppers: seedless red grapes wrapped with chèvre (soft goat cheese), studded with candied ginger, and encrusted with ... Post Cereal Burstin' Berry Poppin' Pebbles (!), a breakfast version of Pop Rocks, a CO2-infused fruit-flavored candy that 'pops' in your mouth.
They were created by Perry Soulos —cheesemonger at Arrowine, a wine, beer, and cheese shop in Arlington, Virginia— as a "perfect bite" for his first place finish at the 1st West Coast Cheesemonger Invitational Championship, held in San Francisco, California, in January 2014.
In one of eight rounds of the competition, contestants had sixty minutes in which to put together a dish, from one pre-determined cheese. Soulos' was goat cheese; he named his confection, 'Goatstoppers,' in a nod to the fictional Everlasting Gobstoppers of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: candies that change colors and flavors, and can never be finished.
Several months after the competition, Soulos recreated his goat-cheese 'truffles' at an 'after-hours' beer-and-cheese tasting at his Arlington, Virginia, shop. And, one could taste why he had won. As crazy as Perpetual Goatstoppers might have sounded, they weren't. Soulos had successfully mashed-up the tang of goat cheese with contrasting textures (soft cheese, popping candy), shots of gingered sweet and spice, and a frisson shot of grape juice.
As the evening began, folk tasted three 'unadorned' sheep's milk cheeses and six beers: a Belgian sour gueuze, an English oak-aged barleywine, a German hefe-weizen, a Trappist tripel, a Trappist-brewed brettanomyces beer, and a Spanish 'craft' beer.
I mentioned the affinity of cheese for beer. How serving a California Cabernet Sauvignon with a cheese is like pouring jam on the cheese. How, at the very least, beer is a wash with cheese; it doesn't fight it. How, at its best, beer shares with cheese the flavors of kitchen, field, and 'funky' fermentation.
It was Soulos, however, who had the best line of the evening. "With cheese, wine is an a**hole. Beer is a friend."
The 'stunner' of the evening was the 'craft' beer from Spain, La Socarrada —a Valencian ale brewed and infused with rosemary and rosemary honey. Tried with the goat-cheesed Goatstoppers, flavors of sweet and savory popped in the mouth as if one had bitten into a pod of cardamom.
And, you too can make Perpetual Goatstoppers at home. Soulos has graciously shared his recipe. Serve the beers. Amaze your friends!
- 8 oz Chèvre Goat Cheese
- 2 oz candied ginger, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 cups Burstin' Berry Poppin' Pebbles (or Pop Rocks)
- 1 bunch red seedless grapes
- Wash and de-stem red grapes.
- In large zip-lock bag, combine 2 oz. of crushed candied ginger and the cereal. Lightly crush into small pieces.
- Pinch off a small amount of chevre, and slightly flatten out to make a small indentation for the grape.
- Place grape in center of goat cheese, and work the cheese completely around the grape, to create a small cheese ball. Repeat.
- Roll cheese balls in ginger and cereal mixture until evenly coated.
- There'll be more on the tasting in another post to come. In the meatime, see a few photos from the evening: here.
- Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia— I sell La Socarrada.
- Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject.
- Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.