Panela Cheese Dumplings with Cilantro-Jalapeno Pesto: 3 Pairings

Table Mates by | Jan 2016 | Issue #108
Photo by Kingmond Young Photography

At San Francisco’s Sessions at the Presidio, head chef Michael Bilger pairs a Mexican flavor profile with Italian technique by swapping gnocchi’s traditional ricotta for panela cheese, giving the dumpling a drier, tangier and saltier flavor. The dumplings are sautéed with summer corn to golden brown, while fresh cilantro, savory roasted jalapeño and toasted walnut combine in a complex pesto. A squeeze of lime and some micro cilantro brighten and balance the rich, bold flavors of the dish. Sessions beer evangelist Jordan Spaulding suggests three complementary beers.

Bluebird Bitter | 3.6% ABV
Coniston Brewing Company
The heavy Marris Otter malt presence in this English Bitter tempers the heat from the jalapeño cilantro pesto, transforming the dish into a textural quilt. Slightly toasted pepitas further play off the hints of nuttiness found in the bold English malt profile.

Autumnal | 7.2% ABV
Stillwater Artisanal Ales
This amber farmhouse ale contains a medley of earthy, fruity flavors that latch on to different branches of the dumplings. Roasty notes from the barley align with the seared side of the panela. The spritz of fresh lime over the dish is hardly noticeable alone, but alongside the beer’s mild fruit notes this hint of citrus becomes a refreshing change of pace in contrast to the rich cheese.

Citra Sour | 7% ABV
Almanac Beer Company
This pairing surprised us in the best way possible. The massive, bright acidity of this dry-hopped sour cut straight through the richness of the pesto and panela. Every bite felt new, with the Citra hops coming through in the fresh lime and micro cilantro. Finally, the beer’s crisp body was mirrored in the fresh sweet corn.