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The Perfect Pairing: Michael And Liz Symon Share The Recipe For Romance

Survey Shows Foodies' Ideal Valentine's Day Involves a Romantic Meal at Home

BASKING RIDGE, N.J., Feb. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Skip the cliche chocolates and reboot your Valentine's Day with a romantic evening in, featuring wine and cheese. More than 60 percent of America's foodies say wine and cheese make a great pairing for a romantic meal, according to research1 conducted by Castello® cheese, maker of creatively crafted imported cheeses available at grocery and fine food stores nationwide.


More than half (51 percent) of Americans describe themselves as foodies – defined in the survey as someone who is a gourmet and enjoys having new food and experiences. The survey reveals a key insight for Valentine's Day 2014: Foodies want their partner to say, "I love you" in a unique way – much more than they want an expensive gift. Foodies are far more interested in a romantic evening at home (54 percent) than they are in a night out on the town.

The Perfect Excuse to Stay In
"[My wife] Lizzie and I are true foodies – so you might expect that our perfect evening involves a fancy restaurant or a luxurious gourmet getaway," says Chef Michael Symon, co-host of "The Chew," author of numerous best-selling cookbooks and owner of several restaurants. "The reality, as the survey shows, is our ideal Valentine's Day is a night at home. We can talk, cook a delicious meal and enjoy each other's company. It's the best way to show each other that we truly understand what makes us happy."

Additional survey results show more than half (56 percent) of foodies expect to prepare or share a meal with their partner on Valentine's Day. Meanwhile, only 43 percent of foodies plan to give a personal gift, and fewer than one-quarter (24 percent) of foodies plan to give their partner the traditional box of chocolates.

A Memorable, Intimate Valentine's Night is Well Within Reach, With Wine and Cheese
Symon says that a sampling of specialty cheeses, matched to your partner's favorite wine, can kick your romantic evening off right – or even serve as a main course for your special evening in. His wife, Liz Symon, is a sommelier and knows a thing or two about perfect pairings.

"Wine and cheese provide versatility to let your creativity unfold," says Liz Symon. She recommends: "Lead with a salad topped with crumbles of Castello® Danish Blue cheese for a bold accent to the flavors, and pair it with Pinot Blanc. Any main dish made with a creamy Havarti, Havarti with dill or Havarti with garlic, is best balanced with herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc. Cap off the night with Castello® Alps Hirten with Champagne or sparkling wine."  

Experience Delivered vs. Dollars Spent
The Symons' idea of "staying in" for Valentine's Day is best measured in the experience it delivers, rather than the dollars spent. "Use the money you'll save by not going out, to dress the dining table with special flowers, surrounded by your best dishes, flatware and napkins," continues Liz Symon. "Lit candles, spaced around your table and room, set a warm, elegant tone. Show your partner how well you know them by creating a music playlist of their favorite romantic songs."

Find more inspiration and learn more about Castello® cheese at

Castello®: Creatively Crafted Cheese
Since 1893, Castello® has brought a balance of innovation and tradition to the art of cheese making. Castello® cheeses cover a wide range of traditional regional recipes and our own unique crafted cheeses, always made with natural ingredients and great attention to detail. We've never been content to just make the standard cheeses, but instead have tried to be creative by using ingredients and techniques from all over the world, giving each cheese a unique flavor and texture. Each cheese is made at a single dairy, which specializes in the production of that particular cheese. Learn more about our creatively crafted cheeses at, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter (@CastelloUSA).

1Survey results were obtained through online interviews among a representative sample of 1,014 adults 18 years of age or older. Interviews took place January 16-19, 2014. The survey was conducted by The Futures Company on behalf of Castello® cheese.


Recipe courtesy of Michael Symon
Servings: 4


  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 boneless lamb loin cut into four 2-ounce medallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter
  • 4 ounces arugula
  • 3 ounces Castello® Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 clove unpeeled garlic
  • 1 ounce red wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Remove lamb from fridge and let come to room temperature.
  2. Season lamb liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add olive oil once pan is hot.
  5. Place lamb in pan and let caramelize for 3 minutes without moving.
  6. Flip lamb and add butter, rosemary and garlic to pan and reduce liquid by about one-third.
  7. Check seasoning and remove garlic and rosemary.
  8. Remove pan from heat and add arugula, Castello® Blue Cheese Crumbles and grapes, swirling pan to warm ingredients.

Place lamb on plates and top with blue cheese mixture and sauce to serve.

As recommended by Liz Symon, sommelier and wife of Chef Michael Symon

The 2011 Chateau Belle-Vue Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend provides a youthful yet slightly earthy rich red wine to complement the lamb, while its young fruit and floral aromatics accentuate the fresh arugula and shaved fennel components. ($25) retail.

Another option is the 2008 Il Fauno di Arcanum Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend from Toscana, Italy. This wine is an incredible value for the complexities it brings to the palette. It has that classic Tuscan rich earth component that works so well with rich meats like lamb. ($20) retail.


Recipe courtesy of Michael Symon
Servings: 4


  • 3 oranges
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 small or 1 large fennel bulb, core removed, shaved
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fennel fronds
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup loosely packed watercress
  • 3/4 cup Castello® Alps Hirten Cheese, diced small


  1. Grate the zest of one of the oranges and reserve. Segment all three oranges and reserve with their juice.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the garlic, shallot, salt, lemon zest and the orange zest and juice (reserve segments for now), and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the shaved fennel, fennel fronds and dill and toss them in the juices with a pinch of salt. 
  4. Add the orange segments, a few grinds of black pepper, the coriander, extra-virgin olive oil and watercress.
  5. Toss gently and divide the salad among four plates.
  6. Spoon the additional dressing from the bottom of the bowl over each portion and top with the Castello® Alps Hirten Cheese.

Matt Hodson
Carmichael Lynch Spong
(612) 375-8534
[email protected]

SOURCE Castello

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