Petite Dejuener, (pronounced DAY-zsion-AY) translates to “Little Breakfast” and refers to the first food eaten on the farm before sun up. The family would have a bit of fresh cheese, bread, cold meats and, typically, beer prior to going out to milk and feed the animals. This cheese is delicate in flavor, tasting more like the fresh milk it is made from than anything else. Its texture is between spreadable and crumbly, and it lends itself to both sweet and savory applications. The Marin-French Cheese Company in Petaluma, CA is the only producer of this proprietarily-named cheese, but many other makers produce fresh cheeses that would work well in this context. Even fromage blanc or hand-ladled ricotta could be used.
In Bavaria, wheat beers are referred to as “weisse” (meaning white) or “hefeweizen” (meaning wheat with yeast). Weissbier is brewed from a blend of both wheat and barley malts. The wheat provides a crisp acidity and more protein than barley, producing a fluffy head. As with many beers, though, the primary flavor producer in weissbier is the yeast. This specialized yeast is generally not filtered out, leaving a fine haze in the bottom of the bottle. Typical aromas include banana, citrus and clove. Restrained hopping results in a beer that is slightly sweet, with plenty of lightly toasted malt flavors coming through. Some of my favorites: From Germany – Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Spaten Fraziskaner Hefe-Weissebier and Schneider Weisse; From America – Sprecher Hefe-Weiss (WI), Thomas Kemper Hefe-Weizen (WA) and Widmer Bros. Hefe-Weiss (OR).
This easygoing pair can be accompanied by a wide array of condiments, and offers a good lesson in letting your imagination run wild. For example, I like to dust the cheese lightly with my favorite Jamaican jerk seasoning, and serve with tropical fruits such as fresh red bananas and papaya and dried mango and pineapple. Just to further confuse the issue, I often serve with Indian Pappadam, a crisp flatbread made from lentil flour and cracked black pepper.
Why It Works
This pairing reflects one of the oldest breakfast combinations (fresh cheese and wheat beer) in Europe. To a modern American, “breakfast beer and cheese pairing” just sounds weird. But let’s face it, the Europeans often have some pretty good ideas concerning food. By adding the New World spices and fruits we can update this farm classic and give it a new twist. This beer is replete with aromas of bananas and cloves, which are brought out by the jerk seasoning fruity accompaniments. The cheese, while mild by itself, is a good backdrop for the jerk flavors and offers a creamy texture to counter the crisp acidity in the Hefe-Weisse. With roots on the farm and a spicy-sweet appeal, this a great starter course for a harvest season barbecue.