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Cocktails and Curds competition

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  Wine, beer and even spirits have long had a fine companion in cheese. But cheese has a sultry new best friend, thanks to local bartenders, and the Cocktails and Curds Competition will determine who can mix the best drink to pair with an artisanal cheese.

  "It's fun and fascinating to go to a handful of bartenders, with all their tools, and say, 'Here's this cheese ... what flavors would you choose in a cocktail to compliment it?'," says St. James Cheese Co. owner/cheesemonger Richard Sutton. "Unlike wine or beer, these guys are engineering a beverage specifically to go with one unique thing, which is really cool."

  Following the closed preliminary first round, the finals are open to the public, and take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at Rosy's Jazz Hall (500 Valence St., 504-896-7679; www.rosysjazzhall.com)

What began as an informal class co-hosted by St. James and Cure's Neal Bodenheimer has, in its second year, become a high-spirited and high stakes competition. The panel of judges includes chefs Sue Zemanick, Justin Devillier and Aaron Burgau, Bodenheimer, Hogs for the Cause founders Rene Louapre and Becker Hall and others. The first place prize is $1,000. Cheese offerings come from farms spanning the country and globe, and the spirits are provided by Beam, Inc.

  Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door and can be purchased at www.stjamescheese.com. Tickets include competition tastings and other food.

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