Disclaimer: I’m not being paid to talk about these products, nor am I currently affiliated with the producers. I just really like them and want to talk about them!
Behold, a new project: pairing cheeses with popular characters! This time we’re pairing cheeses and accompaniments with some of the main characters from the Witcher franchise.
The series takes place in a pseudo-medieval world reminiscent of Central or Eastern Europe and focuses on a witcher named Geralt of Rivia. Witchers are humans with supernatural fighting abilities brought on by magical mutations; their main job is to travel and destroy magical creatures marauding both the countryside and urban settlements.
While many people may know Witcher as a Netflix or video game series, it actually started as popular short stories and novels written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and published in the early 1990s. There are also graphic novels, a movie, a Polish television series, tabletop and board games, and some card games.
What I’m saying is the Witcher series is both pretty popular and pretty adaptable. Why not add cheese to the growing list?
Geralt of Rivia: Coppinger
Geralt of Rivia, the titular witcher of the franchise, is less a man of words and more a man of bloody action. The witcher’s mutated body is a perfect killing machine against all kinds of magical and mundane nasties, from cocky human guards to dangerous vampires and wraiths. Such work requires long periods of travel between villages and cities looking for contract jobs to fight what average humans cannot.
Enter Coppinger, a semi-soft washed rind cheese from Sequatchie Cove Creamery in Tennessee. While rather stinky, salty, and firm on the outside, the inside is pliable (much like Geralt), with savory, meaty, buttery flavors. A line of ash in the middle adds a pleasant bitterness that complements the taste of the paste and symbolizes Geralt’s connection to the mage Yennefer. Coppinger would make a pretty good travel cheese, so it’s paired with other foodstuffs Geralt might eat on the road: cured foods like salami and pickled vegetables, along with a dab of pungent hot mustard reminiscent of Geralt’s sharp personality.
Dandelion/Jaskier: Alp Blossom
Dandelion, called Jaskier in the original Polish translations and the Netflix adaptation, is a flashy bard who often crosses paths with Geralt and sometimes travels alongside him. Charming, eloquent, with a passion for music and for women, Dandelion frequently finds himself in others’ crosshairs due to his propensity for drama.
Like Geralt, Dandelion is frequently on the move for one reason or another. A long-lasting, firm alpine cheese does just the trick for a traveling troubadour, especially one with a rind covered in dried herbs, onion, and flower petals.
Alp Blossom from the Senneri Huban dairy cooperative in Austria perfectly fits this description. The inside of the cheese has a nice funk with lots of umami and nutty notes, plus some sweetness; the floral, herby rind adds even more flavor! Like Dandelion, the cheese’s colorful outside belies a complex inside. There’s even flowers on the rind like in his English and Polish names—Jaskier generally translates to “buttercup.” Pair this cheese with some sugary and acidic wildflower honey for Dandelion’s honeyed words as a bard or some spicy honey for complementary heat and Dandelion’s, er, “zesty” encounters.
Yennefer of Vengerberg: Lake’s Edge
Within the Witcher franchise Yennefer of Vengerberg is a powerful, clever sorceress that Geralt first meets after fishing a trapped djinn (or genie) out of a lake and injuring his friend Dandelion. She heals Dandelion’s wounds and though she fails to trap the djinn, her and Geralt’s fates become forever intertwined as a result.
For Yennefer I picked a cheese called Lake’s Edge from Blue Ledge Farm in Vermont. It’s an ash-ripened goat’s milk cheese, where an unripened goat’s milk wheel is covered in food-grade charcoal to promote proper mold and rind development. The ash is reminiscent of Yennefer’s iconic black and white attire; a line of the stuff down the middle of the cheese represents her connection to Geralt, whose cheese has a similar appearance. The name Lake’s Edge connects Yennefer back to Geralt as well.
A wedge of Lake’s Edge is creamy, spreadable, and sharp, almost bitter next to the rind, while the inner part of the paste is firmer with a delicate goaty tang and mild bitterness from the ash line. As a goat’s milk cheese it benefits from bright and sweet pairings like fruit. Sliced Fuji apple counters Lake’s Edge’s tart flavors and serves as a throwback to Yennefer’s desire for apple juice when Geralt first encounters her.
What do you guys think? Would you like to see more character and cheese pairings for Witcher or some other video game or TV show? Let me know in a comment below and consider supporting my blog on Patreon! (If you want more cheese reviews, consider checking out my posts on Harbison, Thomasville Tomme, and Sophelise.)