Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day Fifty - Three: Pulino's - An Artisanal Pizza Place Long Anticipated

I seem to be on a dining out kick whether it is with friends, family, or business clients. I guarantee tomorrow, we will get back to cheese education and recipes but for today, I must tell you about the restaurant I ventured to for lunch -- Pulino's. The new Keith McNally joint on Bowery with San Francisco star chef, Nate Appleman, known for its artisanal pizza pies. It's been months overdue in opening, so of course there was much hype when it did open only just a few weeks ago.

Walking into the space on the corner of Houston and Bowery, you feel like you are walking into an amalgamation of McNally's tried and true hotspots -- Balthazar, Pastis, and Spitzer's Corner. The open kitchen gives the space a much more welcome and relaxed feel than say Balthazar. And luckily enough for us at lunch today, the place was already packed with the requisite McNally crowd -- a mixture of model types, business men, Europeans, and downtown hipsters.

Before we get to the food, one thing needs to be brought up -- there were way too many servers, busboys, waiters, and waitresses for the space, so many that it almost made you feel uncomfortable as a diner. The worst part of the overpopulation of waitstaff was the fact that the majority of them did not seem as though they were particularly experienced. As I remarked to my dining companion, it is interesting to see how McNally takes such care to design his restaurants down to every last detail, but when it comes to servers, it seems like they were somewhat of an after thought. As many of you can attest, a meal with poor service definitely impacts the meal, no matter how delicious the food is. Granted, it might be unfair for me to criticize this aspect of the restaurant too much because it has just opened and is still working out some of its kinks...

I'm sure you're thinking enough already, get down to talking about the food. You might be a little disappointed with me ladies and gents, as my dining companion was not eating carbs, I didn't feel right ordering one of their pizzas for my lonesome at 1 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, so I will have to go back to give you my opinion of their pizzas. Here is what we did have:

Roasted Olives: Green and black olives roasted with almonds, macadamia nuts, raisins, and moscato. This was a simple, unique, yet utterly delicious preparation of olives. Rarely do you get served warm, even hot olives at a restaurant, unless they are an ingredient in a dish. This preparation allowed the olives to sing! A definite dish I will be adopting on my own.

Red Cabbage and Roasted Sunchoke (otherwise known as a Jerusalem artichoke) Salad: Shredded red cabbage was combined here with grated pecorino cheese, roasted sunchokes, quartered oranges and honey, hold the pancetta. This was a bright, flavorful salad full of oomph. The creamy saltiness of the cheese coupled with the sweetness of the honey complemented the bitterness of the cabbage to create an ideal flavor profile. Again, something you would not necessarily think to pair together but imminently successful!

Burrata with Roasted Leeks and Beets and Herbs: In case you aren't familiar with burrata, let me fill you in. If you ask me, it is the ultimate delicacy when it comes to fresh cheeses. It is created by basically taking a strip of cow's milk curd that is very new and molding it into the shape of a coin purse and then stuffing it fresh sweet cream and stracciatella or threads of young mozzarella like cheese and the seal your coin purse. It's now ready to eat. Burrata means buttered in Italian and sure enough this cheese holds up to that, creamy, unctuous, buttery, fresh, and out of this world, a true treat! Paired with the roasted leeks and beets, a lip-smacking dish.

Ricotta Bruschette : Not the typical bruschette that you imagine getting in an Italian restaurant, toasted or grilled bread topped with vegetables, meats, or cheeses, this was grilled bread placed next to a cast iron skillet full of hot ricotta with orange, herbs, honey, and yummy goodness. A simple yet delish dish that is hard to go wrong with. Something that you do tend to find on many different Italian menus around town and always yum!

One last comment, what I did really like was the fact that you saw the chef, Nate Appleman in the kitchen cooking and leading his sous chefs. Always nice when you actually see a star chef cooking and not just attaching his name to a restaurant and not doing the cooking -- a definite plus!

Overall the food was delish, unique twists on tried and true Italian favorites, definitely a lovingly created menu. I would definitely go back for the food, but I think the service definitely needs to step it up a bit! A fun, lively restaurant and most certainly up to Keith McNally standards.

Check it out ladies and gents and let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day Fifty - Two: Celebrations done differently

It's that time of year again, time for big family gatherings around the holiday table. No no, it's not the Christmas / Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or the New Year, it's the Spring "superbowl" of holidays -- Easter and Passover.

This year, my celebration of Passover was different than many years previous, I did not attend a proper Seder but I like to think I assumed the role of Eliyahu in two different seders separated by the Atlantic Ocean -- one in Lenox, Massachusetts and one in Juan les Pins, France. Instead, I managed to see both sides of my family over the course of the day, coming together over two very different meals -- one at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side and one at a Vietnamese restaurant in Chelsea. I like to think of holidays as a time to bring family far and wide together over food and drink and I certainly succeeded at that goal. I tend to think that the best times of bringing family together are when there's the least pomp and circumstance, just quality time ensemble.

So which meal do we think I'll be discussing in my blog about CHEESE....hmmm, tough right?? Italian or Vietnamese? Of course Italian.

Today's luncheon was at one of my grandmother's tried and true restos -- Petaluma, a simple, no frills, Upper East Side Italian joint that's been around forever and always produces reliable Italian favorites. For lunch, I had their special salad -- sauteed and shreeded artichokes over a bed of mache topped with shaved parmesan with a basil vinaigrette. A delish savory mixture of greens, vegetables, cheese, herbs and deliciousness. The reason this salad stood out is because of the fact that instead of serving the artichokes whole and breaded and fried or steamed or sauteed and quartered, these babies were shredded, definitely not the usual artichoke preparation, a delish different way to serve artichokes. Following that, I had a side of sauteed brocooli di rabe - a perfect and nutritious lunch, plenty of greens, just the way I like it!

However the food was not the star at this lunch, it was the opportunity to bring four generations of my family together to catch up and chat and enjoy each other's company -- the best thing about holidays. Happy Passover ladies and gents! 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day Fifty - One : A New Tradition, Marriage Mondays

Happy Monday ladies and gents! A certain special someone came up with an excellent idea for us on Mondays moving forward -- Marriage Mondays! I'm sure you're wondering, well what does that mean? Don't worry it doesn't have anything to do with dresses you will only wear once or tiers of sweet concoctions. What it does mean is the following:

Every Monday I will take one item and pair it with three cheeses or one cheese that will be paired with three ingredients, one of which will be a match made in heaven, one possible match and one destined for divorce. Over the course of our Marriage Mondays or MM's, you will learn more about how and why certain ingredients work together. If you have any requests for an MM ingredient, please do not hesitate to email me.

Today's MM ingredient is mozzarella because I was just at an event with a sumptuous mozzarella dish and I thought why not use it for today's first MM. We are just going to use a fresh mozzarella rather than say a burrata or a boccolini. In case you wanted a little lesson on mozzarella first, here are its most well known characteristics:
1. Generic term of a family of Italian cheeses that employ spinning and cutting techniques.
2. It is typically very white depending on seasonally somewhat.
3. It is served either the day it is made or within days of being made because of its high moisture content.
4. Traditionally solely made from water buffalo's milk, nowadays you also see it being made from cow's milk.
5. In case you were curious about the etymology of mozzarella it comes from the Italian verb mozza or mozzare meaning to cut.

Now that we got that out of the way, lets get on to our MM pairings:

1. Match made in heaven OR in our case here the obvious route : Tomatoes, whether it is heirlooms, cherries, sundrieds, or plums, you name it, tomatoes pair excellently with some basil, olive oil and a sliver of mozzarella. A ubiquitous pairing found as a salad, as a pizza or pasta topping, or even as a crostini. The melt in your mouth qualities of the mozzarella are accentuated by the tomatoes' juiciness and topped off excellently with the basil and olive oil. Sweetness and savoriness all rolled into one. Both are very luscious but in very different ways. This pairing works because the flavors balance each other in their differences while at the same time complementing one another, just like a good marriage.
2. Possible match (we've previously mentioned this, but I think it is worth it to bring it up here) : Mangos and Chili Oil with Mozzarella. Taking the creamy, sumptuousness of the cheese in mind, most people tend to pair it with a savory vegetable, something that will stand up against the melt in your mouth quality that one tends to associate with this cheese. Rarely do you find this cheese that has sweet undertones with a creamy core, paired with fruit, it just doesn't tend to hold up! But when combining cold mozzarella with a sweet stone fruit and a spicy oil, what you get is a pairing that one would not necessarily think of but that works. It works because the consistency of the mangoes plays off of the consistency of the mozzarella and the sweetness of the fruit and the cheese is combated with the spiciness of the chili oil. This isn't just one flavor complementing another but multiple flavors working together to form a somewhat coherent and unique new taste.
3. Match destined for divorce : Mozzarella and milk chocolate grilled cheese. This pairing is destined for divorce because creaminess paired  with creaminess does not accentuate any of each ingredient's flavors, instead what you get is a gooey, creamy, buttery mess. This is what happens when you take two ingredients that have the some of the same base flavors, without a sufficient amount of difference. You need to take two ingredients that are distinct but share commonalities, not two ingredients that are very similar but share a few differences.

What are your thoughts? What would you choose? I hope you enjoyed our first round of Marriage Mondays.
Stay dry ladies and gents!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day Fifty: Golden Moments

As it is the fiftieth day of writing to you all, I thought we should celebrate! It's our golden anniversary and for that celebration I decided to give you all a golden pairing to brighten your spirits on such a dreary and cold day and bring you luck for the week.

While meandering through the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday, I came upon a new chevre from Lynnhaven Goat Cheeses from Pine Bush, NY. They make fantastic local and fresh chevres that are rubbed in everything from rosemary to southwest chipotle to cinnamon and dried cranberries to chives and more. Each delicious and unique with that fantastic fresh goat cheese tang! I had never noticed however that they made a chevre with orange, honey and toasted walnuts before. An excellent flavor dance on your tongue and our golden cheese of choice for today!

Pairing with this cheese is the Juve y Camps 2005 Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava that you can find for $15.99 at Union Square Wines. This sparkler is bright, minerally, slighty fruit but yet crisp and all around great match for our sweet yet tangy and fresh chevre.

A nice, simple yet celebratory pairing for our fiftieth day together and a great way to brighten up your grey Sunday. Enjoy the rest of your weekend ladies and gents!

Day Forty - Nine : A Rendez-vous with Dirt

Ahhh the weekend is here! I am thrilled! Never a long enough amount of time to relax and unwind, but plenty of time to squeeze in all the fun things I wanted to do and it seems in squeezing those in, I got a little behind in writing to you all, so I apologize. I do always feel like a part of me is missing when I don't write to you on a daily basis, but do not worry, I'm writing to you now.

I thought today I'd fill you in on an outstanding restaurant I went to last night as a post marathon celebration with my boyfriend. I'd been wanting to try this restaurant since it opened, knowing that this was the sort of place I could relate to and really enjoy. Dirt Candy, a tiny, ten table, vegetarian restaurant tucked away on Ninth Street between Avenue A and 1st is truly a hidden East Village gem, definitely worth the trip. Dirt Candy is meant to signify: "Vegetables, of course. When you eat a vegetable you’re eating little more than dirt that’s been transformed by plenty of sunshine and rain into something that’s full of flavor: Dirt Candy. It’s also the name of my restaurant, which opened in October, 2008." - Amanda Cohen, head chef.

I'm sure you're thinking vegetarian?!? It's going to be overly self conscious and try too hard as many strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurants tend to be...well this was not. It was clean, inventive, unique, delish, and good for you...with only eight items on the menu, you knew that there was a lot of love put into each and every dish.
Between my boyfriend and myself, we had half of the menu, ha! Each tasty bite of each dish was completely unusual and full of flavors, a must try.

Your next thought is probably isn't this a blog about cheese, why is she going on about a vegetarian restaurant, do not worry my friends, it is because my main course had ricotta cheese in it and that cheese was the perfect savory, creamy, and zesty companion to the rest of the dish. But lets go over what we had to start:

I had the mushroom appetizer which was composed of: portobello mousse, sauteed shittakes, truffled toast, and pear & fennel compote which was an ode to the mushroom in each and every bite. Every element of the dish highlighted the delicate flavors of mushrooms in a different manner but when all combined, you achieved utter deliciousness. My boyfriend had the radish appetizer which was composed of: four mini kimchi doughnuts, a grilled watermelon radish salad with cilantro and wild arugula - a nice mixture of freshness and crispness with the salad and its heavier counterpart, the kimchi doughnuts. Overall, a perfect pairing.

For our main courses, I had the eggplant which was composed of: black olive fettuccine, eggplant jam, pickled eggplants, basil broth, and ricotta. A delish dish infused with the herbal qualities of the basil broth, the earthy savoryness of the black olive fettuccine and the eggplants all topped with a dollop of ricotta adding the extra oomph to the dish taking to another level. See guys, cheese can transform any dish!

And my boyfriend had the parsnip which was composed of: parsnip gnocchi, a creamy root vegetable slaw, and carrot crumbs. A creamy, gooey, dish that although featuring parsnips did not scream root vegetables!

All in all, a delish meal where vegetables were the superstar, but cheese took the dishes to the next level. I definitely recommend venturing to the East Village to try this gem of restaurant. Happy Eating ladies and gents!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Day Forty - Eight : GGC GCF

I don't know about you all, but it sure has been the sort of day and week, that definitely merits a nice glass of wine or even a cocktail. Although I do not plan to go out to the local pub for a few rounds of drinks, I imagined I was to gain inspiration for today's GCF.

Confession, in case you couldn't gather from my musings over the past days and weeks, I am not a big fan of fried foods and when you get hungry at your local pub, that tends to be what is available. My go-to snack in those situations is chips with salsa and guacamole, good for sharing. How can you go wrong there? As long as the chips aren't overly fried and greasy, it's a pretty safe, healthy-ish bet and it will give you something to absorb the alcohol that you are imbibing.

I thought for today's GCF, I would play off of my love for chips, salsa, and guacamole when I'm out having a drink and do a very simple but totally delish, GGC GCF, otherwise known as a guacamole grilled cheese. This is a dish that I think would probably be very successful on that local pub menu, intermingled with your requisite wings, quesadillas, burgers and the such, but the difference here is that this sandwich is pretty good for you!

So lets get going guys!

First step here is to start with the guacamole, I find that everyone has their own way of making guacamole, so go ahead and make your go-to recipe. In case you don't have one, here is mine:

I large avocado, depitted and chopped up
1/2 red onion chopped finely
1/2 shallot chopped finely
1/2 garlic clove chopped finely
A few sprigs of cilantro
Lime Juice
I like to use a green cactus hot sauce I have from a recent trip to Austin, TX to add some punch, but you can use anything you want or nothing at all, depends on whether you like spiceyness or not.
Sea salt

Blend together till the mixture is chunky, not too liquidy and now you have your guacamole. I like to make this sandwich on nice crusty slices of a loaf of Grandaisy's Pullman bread, it will hold up to the guacamole beautifully. So slather on a decent amount of the guacamole onto one side of the Pullman, no butter or anything underneath, top with a few sprigs of cilantro. Then next up comes the cheese, for this sandwich I like to use an easy melting Alpine style cheese. For our purposes here, I would not necessarily go with some nutty like a Comte but more with something like an Appenzeller, a young raw cow's milk cheese from Switzerland perfect for all of your melting purposes. Top your guacamole with some nice pieces of Appenzeller then I like to add a few leaves of basil as well and heat.

You're now ready to eat your GGC GCF! Mexico meets America meets Switzerland all rolled into one sandwich. Enjoy with your favorite beverage and have a great night ladies and gents!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day Forty - Seven : A Mighty Pick Me Up

Coffee anyone?

I know I certainly needed my fair share of caffeine to keep going through today. No, no, I did not have a late night out on the town. It was most definitely a mixture of my body being worn out from last week's marathon along with just simply not getting enough sleep, I needed my caffeine fix today.

I used to be the type who drank quite a few cups of coffee and caffeinated sodas during the day. Nowadays, I try to limit myself to one cup of coffee and as many cups of green tea as I want, much better for the body and for the nerves.

So I got to thinking this afternoon about coffee and cheese.

My mind first wandered of course to Beehive Cheese Company's Barely Buzzed, as previously discussed, a cheddar style cheese that is rubbed with Colorado Legacy's "Beehive Blend" and French Superior Lavender. What you get on your mouth is a distinctly exotic mix of flavors with the creaminess of the cheese packing a nutty, butterscotchy, and caramelly finish -- an unusual but successful union! Great with chocolates, coffees, dark stout-y beers, sweet wines, and more.

For all of our pairing discussions and pairing classes though, how many discussions do we have about pairing coffee and cheese? Not many that's for sure! So I thought today, I'd give you two different pairing ideas for coffee and cheese:

1. An aged Gouda such as: 2 Sisters Notorious Aged Gouda (aged for 1 year) or even an Aged Goat Gouda (toffee colored upon first glance, butterscotchy and caramel-y on the tongue with flavors of burnt sugar, crumbly to the touch -- unique and delish) or probably the best option 2 year aged Boerenkaas (uncooked, pressed raw cow's milk, soaked in brine with an extra four months of rind brushing to bring the cheese to its full maturation at 2 years). The reason aged Goudas work so well with coffee is because the bitterness of the coffee is downplayed by the caramel-y, buttery, nutty, creaminess of the cheese.

2. A fresh chevre such as: Coach Farms fresh chevre, Cypress Grove's fresh chevre, and even Cowgirl creamery has a great fresh chevre. This is an easy cheese to find, there are plenty of variations at your local supermarket or if you want a more delicate and developed chevre, your local cheese purveyour. There are some great fresh chevres at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays. The creamy, freshness of the bright and light cheese will cut through the bitterness of a cup of coffee and bring a smile to your face.

There are plenty of other pairings you could try with coffee and cheese, but I think that these two groups of cheeses will be most successful with your morning cup of Joe or if you were like me today, maybe even your late afternoon cup of Joe.

Check back tomorrow for this week's GCF!

Day Forty - Six: Midweek Crostini Imagined

When Wednesday draws to a close, I always seem to breathe this sign of relief -- a sense that the beginning of the week has passed us by and we have the end of the week and weekend to look forward to. This Wednesday was the one day all week that it has been sunny, giving me an optimistic feeling for the end of the week and the weekend.

Now that we have gotten over the week's hump, I thought I would play off of the menu of the local Italian wine bar I am going to tonight for a glass of wine with my friend. This local hangout has a great selection of Italian wines, crostini, cheeses, meats, and Italian focused small plates, the sort of place that you can't go wrong with what you order and somewhat standard for a wine bar but done really well. I decided to "add" three crostini to their menu, that you can easily make at home, delish little bites of yummy goodness.

Here is their current crostini selection:

Salame, Gorgonzola And Honey
White Anchovy and Tomato   
Shrimp, Artichokes, White Wine And Lemon     
Proscuitto, Imported Buffalo Mozzarella And Lemon     
Bacala (Codfish) with white beans and calamata puree.    
Burrata, Oven Roasted Tomato And Basil

A nice mix of cheeses, meats, veggies, and more!

So lets work on the other three seasonal crostini we'll hypothetically add, we will keep them simple just like the ones currently on the menu.

A few quick rules:
1. All crostini will contain one Italian cheese.
2. All will be on crusty baguettes.
3. No more than four different ingredients, you want these to be one mouthful, not to drop everywhere.

1. Lets start with yesterday's cheese, Asiago! Here we will use an Asiago Pressato, a young pasteurized cow' milk cheese with flavors of butter and yogurt, melty in your mouth. Lets top that with roasted red peppers and carrots and some rosemary. To roast the peppers and carrots, chop up into small squares and place in an oven safe pan with olive oil, garlic, shallots, and herbs and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. The carrots and roasted red peppers will be infused with the oil and the herbs and garlic and will work very nicely with the creamy, velvety cheese.
2. Caciocavallo  is the focus of crostini number two. In case you aren't familar, caciocavallo is either made from sheep or cow's milk and is a tear drop shaped cheese with a similar sort of taste to provolone but more delicate. Pulled and stretched like a mozarrella, this cheese gets its name from its aging process where a pair of 5-pound cheeses are tied together with a rope and thrown of a beam to age hanging. Cacio meaning cheese and cavallo meaning horse, the aging process seems fitting for this delish Italian cheese. This simple crostini with a caciocavallo base will be topped with sauteed or fried chickpeas with some oregano and red onions. Once you've got your legumes, for protein, and your cheese on there, the next step is to add some greenery and in this case, go with a few leaves of parsley. Enjoy the savory mixture in your mouth!
3. Lastly, we will go with a twenty-four month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano as the star of crostini number three. The cheese will be topped with two grilled asparagus spears and a few sauteed fava beans, a really spring celebration here.

I hope you enjoy these three crostini ideas. I do strongly recommend trying some of their pairings as well, simple, delish, you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day Forty - Five : A Quick Fix

I have a confession to make ladies and gents -- I'm exhausted and want to be getting in bed but before getting in bed, I wanted to give you a recipe for a quick, springy, vegetal and salad fix -- easy and rapidly in your mouth and consequently your belly. I can pretty much guarantee that this is going to be my shortest writings to you, it's only Tuesday and I already feel like it has beem an exceptionally long week -- not a good feeling going into the next three days of the week that's for sure.

Enough of my venting, lets get on to my salad:

I like to use the red and green lettuce blend from say Uncle Vinny's, available for $2.99 at Fairway. Then I like to use about an eighth of a fennel bulb, a quarter of a Gala apple or an apple with a similar flavor  profile, and a nice handful of snow peas -- all chopped thin and small. Combine the lettuce with your choppings. Then top with nicely grated bel gioioso Shredded Asiago cheese and homemade croutons of whole grain bread. I realized when including my shredded Asiago that this was our first experience with Asiago in my writings, granted I know it is not your first experience with Asiago. Being it is our first experience, I thought I'd give you a few key factoids:
1. It's made from raw cow's milk and is DOP protected. Originally the cheese was only called Asiago if it was produced in the alpine area town of Asiago in the Veneto region of Italy. Then it was allowed to produced also in the Trento provence, another Alpine region in Italy. And now, Asiago, unfortunately is produced worldwide following the age old techniques that gained the cheese DOP protection.
2. It is a very versatile cheese. As a young cheese, it is an excellent addition to a sandwich turning it into a grilled cheese once heated. On the other hand, with age, it almost develops the nutty, salty, and butteryness of a good Parmesan -- how we are experiencing it in today's salad. Give it ago on sandwiches, salads, pastas, bagels, you name it, these cheese can adapt itself to its food surroundings!

Toss all the ingredients together and top with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette consisting of Maille mustard, olive oil, chopped shallots, and balsamic. Combine. Enjoy with a nice light glass of white wine or even last night's Channing Daughters Rosati di Merlot.

Night all. Check back tomorrow for a longer post.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day Forty-Four : Imaginary Long Island Pairings

Tonight I assisted in a very interesting wine class at Astor Center -- Exploring Cool Climate Winegrowing Regions: Long Island. I thought to continue in our tradition, I would imagine the cheese pairings to go with the wines we tasted. I was most excited to explore some of the North Fork wines that I had only tried on occasion, as opposed to the South Fork, the major two vineyards of which I had visited. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't like these wines, I was just curious to learn more about some of Long Island's other shining stars. Tonight's class was taught by Channing Daughters' wine maker, James Christopher Tracy and featured a large percentage of their wines along with quite a few others, both North and South Fork wines. Yes, you guessed it, I had been to Channing Daughters vineyard, so I was familiar with some of their  wines, but nonetheless, excited to try them again!

Before we get into our pairings, lets quickly go over a few facts about East End or Long Island Wineries:
1. The first winery was established in Long Island in 1973.
2. There are currently 51wine producers on Long Island.
3. It is one of the most diverse and versatile wine areas in terms of types of wine produced and the people who make it.
4. It is a cool, moderate climate.
5. In case you were curious, over 1.2 million visitors help support and fund Long Island's wine business.

Tonight, we had double the number of wines we normally have at Astor -- twelve, instead of six. It allowed you to really try a variety of the wines that Long Island is known for.

And now on to the wines from tonight's class:

1.  Lenz, Blanc de Noirs, 2003, North Fork (100 % Pinot Noir grapes) - This sparkling was crisp, dry, minerally, pcukery,  pearish and even melony. I would pair it with an aged ash rind Loire Valley Goat  cheese like Valencay, easily recognizable due to its pyramid shape. The minerally, fresh and fruity flavors of the sparkling with play of the chalky, goaty flavors of the cheese and create a symphony in your mouth.
2. Channing Daughters, Sauvignon Blanc, Mudd Vineyard, 2009, North Fork - This is one of the lightest colored sauvignon's I had even seen with almost tropical flavors on the nose, but upon taste, it was full of apples, grass, meloney, and peachy -- a definite easy drinking white. I would pair this with a Goat Green Peppercorn Cone cheese. A bloomy rind cylindrical cheese that has a creamy yet inherently goaty interior. Soft, gooey, peppery, and delish -- this cheese is a proper mouthful.
3. Channing Daughters, Mosaico 2007, The Hamptons, New York (32% Pinot Grigio, 29% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Muscat, 7% Tocai, and 6% Gewuritz) - This wine has the buttery aromas of a chardonnay with the citrusy, floral aromas of a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio, definitely a blend of flavors and tastes. The cool thing about this wine is that it is truly a Vin de Terroir, all of the grapes utilized to create the wine are sourced from the same region. I think this would go really nicely with the Goat Tomme I purchased from Cowgirl Creamery on Friday because the cheese is dynamic yet simple and smooth and would allow the wine to shine while accentuating it as well.
4. Wolffer Estate, Perle Chardonnay, 2007, Long Island, NY -- My least favorite wine of the night, a Long Island Chard that all the scents and tastes, to me at least of why I dislike California Chards. Butter, oak, caramel and more. I got stuck on what cheese to pair this with so I decided to pair it with a nice creamy French butter. Hey, butter for butter right?
5. Channing Daughters, Envelope, 2007, Long Island NY (84% Chardonnay, 11% Gewuritz, 5% Malvasia Bianca) -- This is an ages old skin fermented white wine, created in the same style that white wines were created before the time of refrigeration. I found it to be a dry yet buttery wine with hints of honey and spiced apples. I thought I would pair this with a Pecorino Tartufello, a creamy sheep's milk Truffle cheese. The elegence of the truffle will enhance the elegance of this age old wine making technique.
6. Channing Daughters, Rosato di Merlot, 2009, North Fork, NY -- My favorite wine of the tasting and one I had before; this was a light rose with fanciful and springy flavors with an almost fresh berry side to it as well. I would pair this with a nice Mozarella, heirloom tomato, watermelon, and basil salad. Perfect for a summer picnic at the beach or on a rainy March Monday giving you the opportunity to look forward to said picnic. A true winner!
7. Channing Daughers, Blaufrankisch, 2008, The Hamptons, NY -- My favorite red of the bunch that we tried. This was a fruity yet light and earthy red that belongs paired with a supple grassy cheese such as the Portugese star, Nisa. This cheese walks the line between semi-soft and semi-firm with a vegetal and bright sheep-y flavor. The dynamic grassy and earthy flavoring of the cheese will complement the fruity yet also earth flavoring of the wine.
8. Lenz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vines, North Fork, NY -- A classic Long Island Cab done really well with floral and cassis undertones; clearly made with love. I would pair this with an Alpine Style Cheese like Beaufort, the  king of this genre of cheeses. However you can always go with a Gruyere or something of the sort.
9. Raphael, Merlot, 2002, North Fork, NY -- This Merlot was an excellent example of old world meshing and melding with new world. For that I recommend, Uplands Cheese Company Pleasant Ridge Reserve also an excellent example of old meeting new. This American artisanal cheese is molded on Beaufort actually, but if you ask me this baby is a whole new cheese -- bursting with flavors of intense fruit, olives , herbs and a tangy finish.
10. Grapes of Roth, Merlot 2003, Long Island, NY -- A much lighter, daintier merlot with browner hues than the previous wine we tried. Not really my cup of tea, but when paired with a buttermilk blue, the fruity, dark red berry flavors of the wine will be accentuated.
11. Paumanok, Assemblage, 2005, North Fork, NY -- Spicer, bigger bodied red that needs a cream monster to go with it such as a Brebisrousse D'Argental. This baby is a washed rind pasteurized sheep's milk cheese, somewhat like the French cousin of Taleggio. When tasting this cheese, you get on your tongue an oozy, creamy, washed rind goodness definitely capable of standing up to the big guy red we've paired it with.
12. Paumanok, Late Harvest Riesling, 2008, North Fork, NY -- An extremely sweet dessert wine exemplifying how the East End does sweet wines well. This guy should be paired with an intense cheese such as Mimolette. Bright orange in color, aged by microscopic little cheese mites that provide the cheese with a promotion of air flow and the development of flavoring. Don't worry, by the time you eat this cheese after eighteen to twenty four months of aging the mites are  long gone and you are left with a neon orange, pastey, sweet and caramelly cheese; a great  companion to our sweet  wines.

Enjoy the pairings ladies and gents and please experiment with Long Island wines, you are sure to discover something you love.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day Forty-Three : Finally caught up , looking backwards and forwards at once!

This morning, I woke up in suburban Maryland like a new woman; the marathon, an enormous test  of endurance was behind me and I was looking to the future, to new goals and challenges. That being said, it felt truly weird that I had nothing to train for or a goal to work towards -- I guess I understood why people find marathon running to be somewhat addicting. For me, it's nice to have something to work for and look forward to. I guess its time for me investigate what my next race will be. Now, now, lets not get ahead of ourselves, I am not planning on running tons and tons of marathons, just a few and probably a series of half marathons, a much more managable distance. But, before my marathon career is over, I have to do New York at least once!

In travelling back to New York this sunny spring afternoon, I got to thinking, what was it, I wanted to write about? Did I want to write about, as suggested to me, aging as endurance, what cheeses are the oldest? The answer to that is either a Parmigiano Reggiano that is aged seven years or some cheddars that can be aged for up to six years. Certain cheeses blossom with age, just like wine -- new, complex, and dynamic flavors appear and delight the tastebuds. No I decided, I wanted to write about the cheese that opened my eyes years ago and made me interested in learning more about cheese, just as the marathon opened my eyes in a very different way, a little over twenty four hours ago.

You must all be thinking this is going to be some superstar cheese, something rare and hard to find; well I am sorry to disappoint but it a simple small aged round of French goat's cheese, Crottin de Chavignol. This is a classic Loire Valley aged goat cheese at its best. This cheese is AOC protected and has been produced since about the 16th century, although the first time it was written about was in 1829. It is a small cylinder of goat cheese-y goodness, aged for about four weeks.

I'm sure now you're thinking that I have a wonderful story about my discovery of this cheese,  unfortunately I do not, but what I do have stored within me is the feeling that I felt from eating this cheese, it was life-changing. I discovered this cheese at Murray's Cheese on Bleecker Street, when I moved back from graduate school in London about five years ago. It was small and dainty looking, it looked like the proper sort of cheese to enjoy with a girlfriend while watching a chick flick and drinking Sancerre and still have room for dinner afterwards, no cheese coma here folks. But when I first tasted it, it was a mixture of being in seventh heaven and on cloud nine all at once. Here was a morsel of yummy goodness, people had been eating for close to four centuries, with delicate, grassy, goat-y, fresh, tangy, and chalky tastes. It just clicked for me, as that aha cheese moment. From then on, I have been cheese curious, constantly engaged in learning about different types of cheeses, and attempting to spread the cheese love to my friends and family. With three simple ingredients, you are able to create thousands of variations, a feat that amazes me almost as much as being able to run 26.2 miles yesterday.

To end this post, I thought I'd leave you all with a thought provoking question, did you have an aha moment  that awoke new interests in you? Have you conquered a life goal and checked it off your list  of things to do before you die? How did that make you feel?

All I know is that my love of running and cheese among many other things are the elements that make my world go round, I hope you too have your special things that make your world turn.

Enjoy your Sunday folks!

Day Forty - Two : Race Day

Ding, ding, ding! 4:25am, my alarm went off, signaling that it was time for me to get ready to make the trek over to RFK Stadium and the National Armory for the start of my first marathon. Was I excited? Definitely! Was I nervous? Most certainly yes! I had only ever done twenty two miles before, never 26.2 miles and I certainly had no idea how those last 4.2 miles were going to feel on my little legs.

Upon arrival at the Armory a little after 6am, I had a sufficient amount of time to use the bathroom and stretch before lining up in corals at the start. Before I knew it, I was in line, listening to the National Anthem being sung by a soldier in Iraq and then suddenly, I was off and running with thousands of other runners. I got to see the sunrise by the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial and Monuments, passed through DC's not so savory areas, Dupont Circle and the upwardly mobile areas, office buildings, colleges, you name it, we went through it. Got to check off each of DC's quadrants as well on what is considered the fastest looped course in the nation.

The race itself for me, was outstanding till mile 19, when suddenly my hip pain came out roaring, how was I going to finish another 7.2 miles? I somehow managed to make it through the steep hills at mile 23, mile 24, and mile 25, finishing the race without stopping once to walk. I was proud of myself! This was my first marathon and although I didn't reach my goal time, I certainly had a great first race. I'm looking forward to my next race and that time around, I will know how I feel at miles 23, 24, 25, and 26!

I'm sure  you all are wondering what did I eat after? Well ladies and gents, after one of the best showers and cups of coffee of my life, I sat down to a lovely brunch with my parents, my boyfriend, and other friends and family at the historic Tabard Inn in Downtown DC. A delish spot that I had visited on a few previous occasions and the one place in DC, that I knew I loved and that would deliver reliable, homemade, unique cuisine. For this exciting meal, I had a fresh and yummy frittata with fava beans, cauliflower and goat's  cheese with a mixed green salad -- the perfect blend of veggies and protein to fuel my body after those 26.2 miles! We did have some sparkling as well to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Looking back on it, twenty four hours later, I almost want to pinch myself and say did I really do that yesterday? Did it really happen and is it really over? Wow! I had conquered one of my life goals -- to run a marathon at least once and boy was it a thrill! It is a true test of your mental and physical stamina and really teaches you a lot about who you are as a human being.

Day Forty - One : Cowgirl Creamery

Hello my dear friends, I apologize for the delay in writing to you but it surely has been a whirlwind of a weekend -- a trip down to DC, a dinner, a brunch, seeing old friends, and oh wait, yes of course, my first marathon. Don't worry, we will get to the marathon on the next post, but here I want to focus on one of my favorite cheese shops in the nation -- Cowgirl Creamery.

Cowgirl Creamery is based out of Point Reyes Station, CA, and has two retail shops nationwide -- one in San Francisco and one in Washington DC. So, where do you think my first stop was when off the bus in DC, you guessed it -- Cowgirl of course!

Walking into Cowgirl Creamery on F Street between 9th and 10th, you know you are entering a one of kind sort of place. Upon entering, you walk through a small coffee section off to your right and a case with prepared salads and sandwiches to your left, next up you come to their crackers and preserves, then their wines, and finally, their cheeses! Now I know I have written about Cowgirl Cheese's before but let me refresh your memory, they are known for their homemade bloomy rind cheeses, such as Mt. Tam; their freshies, such as their Fromage Blanc and Chevre Frais, but on top of their homemade masterpieces, they also have an excellent selection of local cheeses from small creameries up and down the East Coast. It is here, I first discovered the cheese I write about alot, Old Kentucky Tomme. One of my favorite parts about Cowgirl is the fact that you are able to discover and try a huge variety of artisanal, small production, American cheeses from creameries across the US -- it is a place that showcases how far American artisanal cheesemaking has come! On this trip to Cowgirl, I knew I needed to get
some of their St. Pat, their spring specific cheese, wrapped in stinging nettles and just the perfect blend of creaminess and vegetable-ness. But apart from that, I knew I wanted to experiment and I sure did. Here's a selection of the other goodies I got:

1. Tome des Recollets : The one non-American cheese I got, this was one of the most unique cheeses I have tried recently. A mixture of goat and cow milk from France, these cheese is lovingly cared for. After its aging period, it is first washed in Sauternes (a French dessert wine) and then rubbed with juniper berries, red tapered cayenne peppers, heady leaves of savory and white and black peppercorns. Quite the procedure, huh? Well trust me its worth it! What you get is a semi soft cheese with delicate  herbal hints, a slight piquant/spicey side from the peppercorns and the cayenne, which is brilliantly balanced out by the sauternes bath it received.
2. Twig Goat Tomme: Produced in West Cornwall, Vermont, this small cylinder of deliciousness has a natural rind protecting the raw goat milk goodness inside. This goat tomme is aged about eighty days. Upon completion of its eighty day aging process, you get a clean, sleek, tangy and outstanding semi-hard goat's milk tomme that packs in all of the elements of a great goat's cheese. This baby is delish with a nice Chenin Blanc. A true winner from Vermont.
3. Brabander : A new-ish cheese from Fallsdale Farm in Tyler Hill, PA, we quickly grabbed the last sliver of goodness available at Cowgirl's counter that day. A raw cow's milk dutch/belgian style cheese with an unusual bumpy/lumpy washed rind. This baby is aged for four to twelve months  depending on the batch. What you get in return is a somewhat salty, barnyardy, farmsteady crumbly cheese -- unique and delish! You can tell that the small quantities of this cheese were made with lots of love! I'd pair it with a fruit compote, like maybe a cranberry rasperry sort, or even cherry. The sweetness of the compote will accentuate the saltiness of the cheese.

That is all I purchased, I exercised great restraint! We also tried cheeses from small creameries in Maryland, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Poughkeepsie, New York -- plenty of options for my next visit!

I think a trip to Cowgirl shows you that America's small farms are certainly catching up to their European counterparts -- experimenting with age old styles and reinventing them and making them truly new and distinct. If you are ever in Washington DC  or San Francisco or Point Reyes Station, CA, I encourage you to visit Cowgirl -- it will open your eyes to the world of American artisanal cheeses.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day Forty - GCF come early

In approximately twenty eight hours, I will be running in my first marathon and my feelings at this stage are a mixture of nerves and excitement. Last night I had a dream that tracked my race mile per mile, granted much longer than the actual race, but this marathon thing seems to be surrounding me. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited and ready to conquer it!

As I am taking tomorrow off from the office to travel down to Washington DC where I will be running, I thought this week our GCF should come a day early, seeing as Thursday was my Friday this week. I also knew that tomorrow, I would want to tell you all about one of my favorite cheese stores in the world, Cowgirl Creamery, which has its only East Coast outpost in DC, so get excited!

For this evening's GCF I thought we would play off of the "pre-marathon pasta dinner shindig" and shake things up a bit -- taking a sauce that traditionally tops pasta and placing it on some of Grandaisy's green olive loaf with a cheese that is typically grated on top of pastas. In return, you will get the homey flavors that you know and love, just on a different canvas.

So ladies and gents, what do you think the sauce is? Caponata! A nice mix of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, pinenuts, capers, basil, and red wine vinegar. This is a sauce that can stand on its own which is why I think it will work very well for our Pasta Accouterments Done Differently GCF.
I like to roast the eggplant until it is lightly golden brown, not too dark, with olive oil, garlic, onions, and some aromatics for about twenty minutes at about 300 degrees, depending on your oven, of course. While the eggplant is roasting, I like to take about a dozen campari tomatoes and saute them with the same ingredients, olive oil, garlic, onions and aromatics. If you are feeling cheap or lazy, you don't have to go with fresh tomatoes, you can always use canned diced tomatoes, but I think that the fresh tomatoes pack a nicer punch. Once you feel that the eggplant is getting golden, toss it into the same pan with the tomatoes and then added some diced up drained capers and let all of this simmer for another fifteen to twenty minutes. Take it out and place it in a bowl and combine it with lots of fresh basil and some pinenuts.

Now for the cheese, you are going to need few nice slices of aged Parmigiano Reggiano to top your two slices of green olive bread with caponata. Then bake it all together and what you will get is a savory blend of quintessential Italian flavors guaranteed to satisfy and give you energy for a run tomorrow morning. If unlike me, you are not running a marathon on Saturday, I recommend having this sandwich with a nice medium bodied glass of red wine. I'd recommend the Cantina Zaccagnini's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, a smooth unique and delish red wine found at 67 Wine Shop on Columbus and funnily enough 68th street.

Have a good evening ladies and gents.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day Thirty-Nine : Simplicity is the ticket

This Wednesday feels so different from last Wednesday -- this week certainly has flown by, I don't actually know how it is Wednesday already! And to make matters more interesting, I am gearing up for my first marathon this Saturday in Washington DC -- I'd definitely say that I am a mixture of nerves and excitement, but that is probably a good way to be. 

Instead of doing a green recipe in honor of St. Patty's Day, which I am not celebrating, partially because I'm not drinking in preparation for Saturday and partially because I am most certainly not Irish, I thought I would do a quick and delish crostini for all of you wanting to enjoy the nice weather and have an outdoor picnic and even a quick snack for those of you wanting to go out and celebrate the Irish!

Sometimes something simple is what you want, something delish, that does not require a lot of prep work but that will be satisfying and today's crostini is meant to do that. Our crostini starts out with a toasted baguette with a light brushing of grape seed oil, a vegetable oil that is pressed with a variety of vitis vinifera grapes, the by-products of winemaking, that give the oil a hint of grapeyness. On top of the grape seed oil, we put a few dried currants, then a few slices of young goat gouda, a lighter and creamier version of the more well known cow's milk Gouda, which would not go with our crostini, so make sure to get Goat Gouda! On top of the slices of goat gouda, place a few roasted almonds and then on top of that, a little bit of orange rind. Your crostini is ready to serve and guess what, you have managed to pack onto that one crostini, five different elements typically displayed separately on a cheese plate, however now they exist all in harmony on one piece of crusty, crunchy baguette. Most people wouldn't necessarily think to combine all of these ingredients on one piece of bread, but trust me it certainly works.

As a closing statement, should you be drinking your fair share of Guinness tonight, let me recommend a cheese that would work with that dark and thick beverage: Stilton! Stilton is one of the English's best inventions if you ask me. It dates back to 1720 when the cheese was first produced at the Bell Inn in Stilton and quickly caught on throughout England and worldwide. The cool and different thing about Stilton is that its veining comes from puncturing the cheese wheel up to300 times after one month of aging, allowing the blue to develop in the cheese with the introduction of oxygen. What you get is an earthy, punchy, unique blue that will definitely hold up with to your beverage of choice today on St. Patty's Day, Guinness!

Happy St. Patty's Day folks!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day Thirty - Eight: Seasonally Spring Part II

In the mood for ramps, fresh peas, asparagus, daffodils? Don't those just scream spring to you? They certainly do to me! Spring certainly brings people and produce out of their winter hibernation to enjoy the outdoors.

Thinking about what I was going to post today, I thought seeing as I was actually making my Spring green menu tonight for dinner for myself and a friend to celebrate Spring and St. Patty's Day tomorrow, I would do a follow up Spring post about three cheeses that are either specifically in season in Spring or to me signal that desire to romp around outdoors.

Each of our three cheeses today combines either herbs or some form of aromatics and creates a new language with the melding of those flavors and the innate either goat, cow, or sheep milk tastes. Here are today's three stars:

1. Purple Haze - Produced by Cypress Grove, the same California creamery that makes Humboldt Fog and Truffle Tremor, two cheeses we discussed earlier. The cheesemaker, as previously mentioned, was one of the women who made America fall in love with goat cheese and I am certainly glad that she was successful at this, because I love goat milk cheeses. In each and every one of her cheeses, you can taste and feel the love that went into its creation. Today's cheese is a fresh goat disk infused with fennel pollen and lavender. What makes this cheese great is that it still maintains the tang of a fresh goat cheese but the fennel pollen and lavender add a different dimension -- sweetness, herbyness, and in my mind, the flavors overall signal the beginning of Spring!
2. Fleur du Maquis - Travelling across the ocean to Corsica, we come upon the raw sheep's milk cheese, Fleur du Maquis. Maquis is the local Corsican name for the rough underbrush where thieves and robbers would hide. Being named after what you can only imagine is a rough and dense brush, this cheese is rubbed in rosemary, juniper berries, fennel seeds, and bird's eye chilis. The result is upon scent, a veritable herb garden of smells and tastes to go along with it; with a semi soft, almost creamy sheep's milk interior. Definitely a unique cheese and for anyone who likes herbs, this is a cheese for you.
3. St. Pat - Cowgirl Creamery's seasonal spring cheese, this cow's milk disk is wrapped in stinging nettle leaves and aged for three weeks. The result you ask? A soft and creamy cheese whose green coloring signals the beginning of Spring and leaves you with an almost artichokey taste in your mouth -- mellow, dynamic, and full of fresh flavors, a definite for Springtime.

I would pair these cheeses with a simple baguette from Balthazar so that you have a good base for the cheeses but also allow them to shine. These are unique cheeses that have a lot of flavor and you want that to be the focus of your Spring cheese selection. I would probably pair these with a nice Chenin Blanc, something light and springy!

Enjoy your evening ladies and gents.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day Thirty - Seven : What do you crave?

Watermelon? Indian food? Mac n Cheese? Ice cream sundaes? Pancakes? Do you ever get weird cravings for a very specific food? I know I do! I'm pretty sure most people do, it's definitely not a feeling limited to pregnant women...whether its a cuisine or a specific type of food, sometimes you really need to "scratch that itch" and satisfy your craving.

Did I want something decadent and outrageously over the top or something bad for you but soooo good or an old standby, something I just hadn't in a while? The first two options were immediately nixed as I am running a marathon in four days, I'm trying to be very conscious of what goes into my body this week...guess we're left with option number three.

Right around 3:30pm today while sitting at the office doing client outreach and development and sipping on a nice hot cup of green tea, I started really getting in the mood for edamame hummus with some carrots, some Spring Brook Tarentaise, and toasty multigrain bread...Edamame, in case you're not familiar, is the dressed up and Japanese name for boiled soy beans. See now, if I told you I was craving soy bean hummus, you might turn up your nose at me, not that you might not turn up your nose at me about edamame hummus, but I think the later sounds so much better.

Before we get going on what is in my edamame hummus and you're able to wipe the look off your face of "Wow, she is craving that, really? So not something I want..."; I thought I might tell you a little bit about the excellent health benefits of our superstar for today. A half a cup of edamame provides you with: a sizable amount of fiber, the same amount as four slices of whole wheat bread; exactly equal amounts of protein and carbs, a hard thing to find in a large percentage of foods, especially legumes; it packs a whopping ten percent of the daily value of vitamins A and C and has the same amount of iron as a small chicken breast. Isn't that a reason to try edamame? Well I certainly think so!

Now that I peaked your interest and ears, here's my recipe for Edamame hummus:

I know most people typically think of hummus with chickpeas, another delish legume, but this version replaces the chickpeas with edamame.
Here you go:

1 1/2 cups of boiled shelled edamame
1 garlic clove
Olive oil
1/3 cup of tahini
2 - 3oz of Herbed Goat Cheese Log (Most people do not use goat cheese in a hummus but I love the creaminess it adds to the dip, it adds that extra special oomph!)
Fresh Basil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Blend all together in your food processor. You will get a lovely green colored dip with a nice goat cheese finish and a fresh and light body. Serve with the accompaniments of your choice. You already know what I wanted mine with, carrots but also on top of a nice slice of toasted multigrain bread and with a couple slices of Spring Brook Tarentaise, the Vermont Raw Cow's Milk cheese that I referenced from my meal at Casellula. This cheese is such a delish, delicate, dressed up every day cheese that I only get myself on special occassions due to the fact that it is $24.99 a pound, but it just seems so right with my edamame hummus, carrots, and multigrain bread.

Maybe this isn't what you crave, but it sure is what I am in the mood for. I think its a nice practice to at least once a week, indulge yourself in making or purchasing that one food you really want to eat and when you do, savor it and enjoy the moment you take that first bite.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day Thirty-Six : Tri-generational celebrational!

How many people do you know who have lived through two world wars, the feminist revolution, the New Deal, the dot com boom and the aughts? I know one extraordinary and inspirational woman who has lived through all of that and more -- my grandmother. This rainy Sunday morning, we came together to celebrate her 93rd birthday.

Weeks before our brunch, my grandmother had specified exactly what it was she wanted to eat -- popovers, cheese, salad, and eggs. Simple yet celebratory.

So we all gathered around the table to enjoy my mother's delish popovers followed by two types of frittatas, one topped with sauteed and then pureed spinach and goats cheese and then with strictly with egg whites and the same topping for my mother and I. I find that frittatas are much more celebratory than other egg dishes, why I can't tell you, but maybe it's because I rarely make them and therefore find them such a treat when either I make them or others do. Following our frittata and popovers, we moved on to a mixed green salad with roasted almonds and sprouts; cheese and two types of bread. We had a toasted baguette and a whole wheat walnut raisin bread from Fairway -- my favorite combo in a bread, whole wheat, dried fruit and nuts! Yum Yum!

When choosing cheese for today's celebration, I thought specifically about catering to my grandmother's tastes -- she likes somewhat aged but yet creamy goats cheeses. So I went for:
1. An aged cana de cabra -- The Spanish equivalent of Bucheron. A little more aged than its French cousin, making it significantly less creamy, this is aged goat cheese in one of its best forms. Great with the walnut raisin bread.
2. A Goat's Milk Brie -- Goat Milk Bries are much whiter than their cow cousins and significantly lighter. I knew that this cheese might not be loved by everyone at brunch, but I thought it fit in perfectly with my grandmother's tastes -- goaty, creamy, luscious, and all around delish. If you are a big Brie lover, try a goat's milk one at somepoint, it will open up your eyes -- its still a brie, just with a different makeup.
3. Buttermilk Blue -- I got this cheese in honor of my mother since I know that she loves it. A nice medium bodied blue cheese with just enough of that blue cheese piquantness and oomph but not too much to frighten the amateur cheese eater like a Valedon. This baby is dynamic and full of flavor, a nice cheese for a glass of port.

Following our cheese course, there was my mother's pear crisp/crumble with her goaty sauce, not cream nor ice cream nor a yogurt, her own special preparation. This was a recent creation of my mother's -- goat cheese and coconut milk, it was a perfect light yet creamy sauce to top the delicately sauteed pears with cinnamon and honey topped with oats, nuts, brown sugar and dried cranberries, a delish, clean, and healthy end to the meal.

All in all, the most important  thing was that my grandmother enjoyed herself and sure did seem like she had a lovely time. At 93, she is such an inspiration to each and every person she encounters so it is always a treat to make her smile and see her having a great time. Enjoy your Sunday night ladies and gents!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Day Thirty-Five : Last night's dinner

Do you have those places that you always walk by and tell yourself when you have more time, you will definitely go into them? Whether it's food purveyors, clothing shops, jewelry boutiques or wine stores, you name it, I am sure that you too have your list of "to-go" places. Sometimes it might take you months to get to them or sometimes you are able to make it on your day off, or on a lunch break...

On my list of such places was an Italian store called Raffetto's on West Houston between Sullivan and MacDougal. Old-world New York City at its best, this shop makes all of its pasta in house and fresh none the less, it almost feels as though you have stepped into a time warp when entering through their front door. After perusing through their many homemade dry pastas and their refrigerated raviolis, I ended up at the store's back counter where they have about a dozen different sorts of homemade pasta dough (from chestnut to buckwheat flour pastas, you name it, they probably have it)  that they will cut to any sort of shape for you. Being a huge tomato fan and not normally seeing tomato pastas, I decided to go with tomato pappardelle for my first foray into Raffetto's amazing pasta selection. I knew I would be back to try every other flavor of fresh and eventually dried pastas as well but for my first visit, I was going to exercise restraint and only buy one. I know aren't you impressed?!? I certainly was proud of myself.

Upon my purchase of this delicate pasta, I quickly changed my ideas for what I was going to make for dinner last night on a rainy Friday eve to feature my newly acquired pasta, I couldn't wait to try it! Here is what I decided on to top my pasta star:

I decided to make a mushroom, herbs, garlic, wine, and campari and sundried tomato sauce to be tossed with parmesan and a little bit of pepato cheese to add that nice peppery punch to the tomato pappardelle. I chopped up both types of tomatoes, the mushrooms, garlic and tossed them in a pan with the olive oil, herbs, and some cooking wine and let this cook over a low heat till everything had melded together. That was perfect timing because my pappardelle had just finished cooking so I tossed the veggies with the pasta and then topped it with some of the grated parmesan and freshly grated Pepato cheese over the top for that extra oomph.

Then I made a nice salad to complement the tomato centric main dish. It consisted of: arugula, chopped carrot, balsamic vinaigrette, and ricotta salata (Unlike it's name, this is not a ricotta sort of cheese, in Italian, ricotta means re-cooked, implying the cooking process to make this cheese. The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried before the cheese's aging process, giving this pure white Italian sheep's milk cheese a dense, somewhat spongy texture and a nice salty almost milky flavoring. Perfect in salads, it holds up against salad dressings and adds a nice little milky, salty, cheesy dimension to the greens) When eating them, I combined the salad with the tomato pappardelle which created the perfect ratio of greens, veggies, cheese, and carbs to fuel up for my run this morning, a week before my marathon!

Enjoy the rainy Saturday guys!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day Thirty-Four : A hint of something Asian for a Rainy Friday GCF

Today is certainly one of those days that would be better spent under covers watching old movies and cuddling with your special someone or your dog or cat. Rainy, grey, and cold not the best combination. But it is Friday making that combo a little easier to tolerate, right?

Who is ready for today's GCF? Me! Too bad it won't be accompanied with an adult beverage this week, not that you shouldn't have one to wind down after the week. But I am not drinking for these two weeks leading up to my marathon and let me tell you it has been a definitely different experience going out at night in New York without drinking, not bad, just very different. For example at dinner last night, I asked for a tea and I was informed that my options were water, beer, or wine...guess I will just stick to water then!

While thinking about what sort of GCF to do today, I thought, wow I haven't done that many recipes incorporating fruits and cheese together -- an excellent pairing combo! I needed to start doing more of those and I am sure I will as the weather starts getting nicer. The crispiness of certain fruits combined with the gooeyness of certain cheeses against the backdrop of delish bread, is a little taste of heaven. And here's today's simple and clean GCF.

A Hint of Something Asian GCF:

Asian Pear -- A mixture between an apple and a pear. These pears are crisper and juicier than their counterparts and are, if you ask me, a nicer mix between sweetness and savoriness. They do resemble more of an apple shape, so don't get confused ladies and gents at the supermarket!
Old Kentucky Tomme -- I know your first thought, is a cheese from Kentucky? Well, I hate to disappoint but it is from Indiana. A Goat's milk tomme style cheese aged for five to six months, this cheese somehow manages to capture that perfect balance between butteryness and richness and the lightness of most goat cheeses. It could be compared somewhat with a Tomme de Savoie, but lighter. Before we move on, I'd like to explain to you what exactly a Tomme is, in case you were curious. Tomme is a style of making cheese that originated in the French Alps and Switzerland. It tends to be produced from the skim milk that remains once the cream has been removed to produce butter and richer triple cream cheeses or when there is not sufficient milk to produce a fuller bodied cheese. Therefore, you guessed it, they tend to be lower in fat than other cheeses.
Lavender Honey
Eli's Health Bread

Take two nice slices of Eli's multigrain bread, packed with whole grains, flax, sunflower, and sesame seeds and coat each side lightly in lavender honey and then top with a few slices of Asian Pear and a few slices of Old Kentucky Tomme and heat. I like to enjoy this with a nice glass of iced green tea. Refreshing, satisfying, and delish for our rainy Friday evening.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day Thirty - Three : An excursion to the far reaches of the west side

Thirty-three days into my musings, I realized I had yet to do one post on how to go out and order cheese off of a restaurant menu. Everything I have discussed has either been how to buy cheese, what to do with cheese, or how to cook with cheese. But I recognize that sometimes you do not want to just consume cheese in your home, maybe you want to go out with girlfriends for wine and cheese at your local wine bar; or maybe you want to share a cheese plate with your special someone at the end of a romantic meal; or just order a cheese to complement your other dishes. And good for you, New York City has a multitude of restaurants, catering to each and every cuisine. Were you in the mood for Indonesian, classic French, farm to table cuisine, Southern Italian, Yemenite, artisanally crafted pizzas, you name it, you can find it hidden somewhere on a New York City street.

The exciting thing for us cheese lovers is that a large percentage of NYC restaurants nowadays do feature a lovely cheese selection for diners to choose from should they desire to. However there is one restaurant that stands alone when it comes to a cheese selection and dishes that incorporate cheese, it is Casellula Cheese and Wine Bar. This little neighborhoody gem is hidden on 52nd between 9th and 10th avenues and offers over forty different types of cheese, changing almost on a daily basis along with a menu of delish treats that incorporate cheese in fun and different ways. Their cheeses ranges from mild to stinky, goat to blue, cheeses you've had and love and those you have never heard of and are hard to find. And they even have cheese flights! How exciting is that!!!! To take a look at their food and cheese menu, go to their website:

This evening, I ventured over to the far reaches of the west side to enjoy some cheese and cheese oriented dishes with a few friends. When looking at the cheese menu, people who don't know that much about cheese might get a bit overwhelmed, but fear not, all of the servers are able to help you decide on your ideal cheese or you can go the route of a cheese flight. As you all probably guessed, I have had a large portion of the cheeses on their menu but I knew tonight, I wanted to try a few cheeses that either: I loved, thought my friends should try, or hadn't had!

So here's what we had tonight:

A homemade ricotta crostini with orange blossom honey, hazelnuts and lemon. The perfect start to our meal, something sweet, savory and delish!
Then we had a mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, red onions, and laura chenel chervre with an herb vinaigrette -- simple, fresh, and a nice way to start the meal.

But now on to the stars of  the meal:

The great thing about Casellula is that  on top of having a very unusual and unique selection of cheeses they pair each cheese with an accompaniment, and that does not typically tend to be a dried fruit or nut, it it is a unique and outstanding pairing that will either accentuate a muted flavor in the cheese or create an aha moment or even turn the cheese into a whole new entity.

I decided we had to have at least  one cheese from the five categories on the menu and in some categories we had more than one:
1. fresh (young cheeses)
    a. Fromagerie Soreda - a young fresh French goat cheese rubbed faintly with provencal herbs. A     great way to start out the tasting --  this baby was bright, flavorful, and sprightly. (Paired with a green     olive tapenade)
2. Bloomy and soft-ripened (cheeses typically with a Penicillium Candidum rind or the white rind you tend to find on bries)
    b. King Island Dairy Seal Bay Triple Cream -- A Tasmanian cow's milk cheese that was a quintessentially bloomy rind cheese, mushroomy, cakey, and somewhat sweet and savory all at once. (Paired with homemade Coconut macaroons)
3. Cooked and Pressed cheeses (both firm and semi-firm cheeses fall under this category, they do tend to be aged somewhat)
    c. Tarentaise -- An award winning Vermont cow's milk cheese that is definitely one of my favorite cheeses. It shows how far American artisanal cheese making has come! This baby is a very subtle melange of flavors but leaves you with a butter-scotchy, carmely, slightly earthy but crisp and smooth sort of flavoring. (Paired with a tomato chutney which was definitely my favorite accompaniment)
    d. Beehive Cheese Co.'s Barely Buzzed -- This Utah based raw cow's milk cheese is truly unique -- it is rubbed with coffee and lavender, definitely not a combo one thinks of often! But the result is an unusual cheese with hints of coffee and lavender while standing up as a cheese  in its own right. Nice with a glass of port at the end of a meal. (Paired with a homemade dark chocolate crisp.)
4. Washed rind Cheeses (cheeses whose rinds are washed in brine, wine, or spirits)
     e. Stinking Bishop -- An English washed rind cow's milk cheese that is quintessential washed rind at its best! This baby lives up to its name of being stinky. (Paired with roasted garlic) I think this is the sort of cheese that would be great on a grilled cheese with ingredients with intense flavors, this is a cheese that can stand up for itself!
   f. Senne flada -- A Swiss cheese that I had never heard of before and is very rare. Has a somewhat eggy, semi soft texture. Delicate and melts in your mouth, this is not one to be missed. (Paired with a kumquat overed in white chocolate) Unusual pairing for an unusual cheese!
5. Blue cheeses
    g. Bayrischer blauschimmelkase - A really dynamic and even almost sweet blue cheese that makes you smile. This bavarian blue shows you why you should love blue cheese! (Paired with a pecan brittle)

And for dessert, we all split a homemade ricotta tart with grapefruit bitters sorbet -- the perfect end to our decadent meal, not too sweet, not too savory, a great palete cleanser.

Good night all! Stay tuned for GCF tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day Thirty - Two : Getting over the hump

Happy Wednesday Folks! The week is half over for those of us who work Monday to Friday, isn't that good news? Do you ever get stuck on Wednesdays? Feeling like you are having problems concentrating at work or just are not motivated to finish up your tasks? Or did you receive some bad news and therefore seemingly spend the day working and checking items off your to-do list but just not feeling that into it? That's exactly how I felt today...yes I got a lot done but my mind was constantly drifting to other places, I had to continually reel myself back in..

So what sort of food should you eat to get you through the week, functioning at a high level of productivity and keeping you happy? Let me tell you one thing, that food is not necessarily chocolate, sugar, processed fast foods that satisfy you in the now or alcohol. Consuming any sort of the above might give you a momentary feeling of elation (a quick tryptophan fix!) but to be honest, its not going to improve your mood or your productivity in the long run.  So what should you eat?

To increase your productivity and alertness, you should eat protein rich foods like fish, meats, CHEESE (which we will discuss a recipe in a moment), beans, milk, tofu, etc. The protein rich foods will stimulate higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (brain chemicals) which will block the serotonin production in your brain. But the key here is you do not want to block the full serotonin production in your brain because then you do not get the needed happiness/mood boost! But what you do get with the protein rich foods is a blockage of the relaxed feeling you get from too much serotonin production due to the ingestion of foods rich in carbs. So what you want is a nice mix of protein rich foods with foods that have "slow release tryptophan" which improve your mood and give you a longer term sense of well-being -- definitely our goal here! If this is successful, then you won't crave overly sugary foods that aren't good for you!

Here are a few examples of foods that have slow release tryptophan and will help balance out your moods:

Turkey, Chicken, Fish, Bananas, Eggs, Nuts, Avocado, Wheat Germ, Milk, Cheese and Legumes..

Isn't it interesting how cheese overlaps both categories?!!? Granted, there are some other overlaps, but for our purposes, I'd like to focus on cheese. Here's a recipe that combines the best of both worlds and will give you a little bit of added serotonin for relaxation tonight, if this were meant to be for lunch, don't worry, it would be very different, but since we are focusing on dinner, here you go:

The carb: Whole Wheat Pappardelle -- basically the same as the difference between processed, white flour breads and whole wheat breads -- it is much better for you.

The proteins: Smoked Salmon and Vermont Butter and Cheese Crottin (A young quintessentially goat-y cheese, you can substitute with a goat log if you prefer, I find the VBC crottin to have more of a delicate and dynamic flavor profile than a regular log, but it is your call. The reason I like to utilize a soft cheese here is because when mixing all the ingredients together the goat cheese will coat everything nicely and evenly) -- Both give you protein and slow release tryptophan to enhance your overall happiness/well being and to stimulate your productivity

The other: Some chopped up fresh avocado which helps heart health, lower cholesterol, prevent cancer and also a slow release tryptophan rich food

The add-ons: Chopped zucchini, sauteed garlic and shallots, olive oil, a little white wine, salt, pepper, and chives

Once your pappardelle is cooked, toss with avocado, smoked salmon, goat's cheese, then throw this all into the pan with the zucchini, garlic, shallots, olive oil, white wine, salt, pepper, and chives. Combine for a few minutes over low heat. Now you have a healthy, nutritious, protein and slow release tryptophan rich meal that provides you with whole grains as well.

Enjoy and I hope this gets you through the week!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day Thirty-One: A Spring-y Salad for the Spring-y weather!

It went up to sixty degrees today! Positively balmy in comparison to the temperatures we've experienced the past month. Of course the nice weather comes during the work week, making it hard for most of us to appreciate...but I did get to step outside for a moment during the middle of the day and when I did, I didn't need anything besides the merino wool sweater I was wearing over my silk dress, no jacket or excessive number of layers -- Spring was definitely in the air in the best sort of way!

Therefore I thought I'd give you all a nice, easy, quick weeknight recipe for a healthy, spring-y salad to go with the gorgeous weather outside. When I think spring and spring-y sort of meals, I think fresh, green, and light. So, guess what the prominent color of the salad will be -- green!

I like to keep this salad simple and not have you all go out and get a million different ingredients, you want to be able to have time to enjoy the weather rather than cooking. So here's the salad recipe:

Green Peas
Roasted Salted Almonds
Shavings of Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper

Simple right? Well there's a little prep involved, not much though, don't worry ladies and gents.

Steam the green peas and edamame so they are soft and tender. While you are doing that, I like to saute the asparagus with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and a little bit of white wine to bring out its sweetness. You want the asparagus to be crunchy on the outside but a little soft on the inside, definitely cooked through but not too much. Then toss the asparagus, green peas, leaves of basil, roasted almonds all together with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of basil oil and a drizzle of olive oil. Then shave nice long pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the salad, you definitely do not want chunks or grated cheese, the cheese becomes very delicate when shaved and compliments the flavors of this delish spring-y salad. Grab a couple pieces of a fresh baguette from Balthazar to enjoy with the salad. I like to enjoy this with a nice light white wine. If you are feeling budget conscious, I'd go with a Torrontes like the Plata La Rioja from Astor wines and right now is on sale for $7.99. Can't beat that right!?!

If you are feeling like you might need something more substantial for dinner besides just a salad, I recommend going an Asian route:

Have you ever had Green Tea Soba Noodles otherwise known as Cha Soba? Well I hadn't until I discovered them a few months ago at the Japanese supermarket near my job and completely fell in love with them. They are considered a delicacy in Japan and only served on special occasions, but you can easily go to your local Japanese supermarket and buy a package for as little as $2.99. The cool thing about these noodles is they pack all the punch of the health benefits of soba along with those of green tea -- high levels of antioxidants, as well as a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. To go with the simple green theme of our spring-y menu, I like to cook the noodles then run them under cold water so you can serve them chilled. Then I like to toss them with scallions, sesame seeds, some chopped cucumber for a nice crunch, some finely chopped ginger, a little bit of soy sauce just to get a hint of the flavor and a little bit of sesame oil and if you like wasabi as much as I do, I strongly recommend adding a bit of wasabi for that extra punch and now you have your spring-y Asian salad to go with our Asparagus, Green Pea, Basil, and Parmesan salad -- a light, spring-y menu!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day Thirty - A Month Down!

Can you believe it's been a month of my faithful writings to you cheese lovers? I can't! The most exciting thing is that I am just getting into my musings and am so psyched to be able to share at least another eleven months with you all!

I thought we might take a break from recipes today and focus on a question widely asked by the newly cheese curious and experimental, HOW do I store my cheese so that I preserve its freshness for as long as possible -- basically what to do with a cheese once it enters the confines of your home if you are not ingesting it.

Contrary to popular belief, DO NOT wrap cheese tightly in plastic wrap. By doing so, you suffocate the cheese and deplete it of its flavor. Cheese, like humans, needs some room to breathe! Granted, also by wrapping the cheese very tightly in plastic wrap, it can also begin to taste plastic-y and who wants plastic tasting cheese? I know I certainly do not!

So what is the right way to store cheese then? Cheese paper! Cheese paper is basically waxy paper exterior allowing the cheese to breathe with a porous plastic interior. It's what you get your cheese wrapped in if you go to Murray's cheese for example and pretty much an good cheese purveyor. Now, I know you don't want to have to go buy specific paper for your cheese. You are probably thinking, this girl thinks I have all the money in the universe to spend on cheese, don't worry, that's not the goal! If you don't have cheese paper which I imagine most of you don't, then I recommend wrapping the cheese somewhat loosely in wax or parchment paper and then placing it in a loose plastic bag. This way, the cheese is protected from the air in your refrigerator but can still breathe. I like to take softer goat cheese's like bucheron and the sort, and place them on paper towels in small plastic containers so they really have the opportunity to breathe. Also, if you were to place them in wax paper, the cheese tends to stay on the wax paper so that you loose quite a bit of your beloved and expensive yummy cheeses, definitely not the name of the game!

Two quick other tips :
1. Keep the cheese in the warmest part of the fridge, if cheese gets too cold, its active cultures freeze and it quickly looses flavor.
2. If you have a cheese in your fridge for a while and it is stored in the manner in which I recommend and it still gets mold, that does not mean you have to throw it out, you can just cut it off and eat the remainder of the cheese. Mold on cheese is not at all like mold on fruits or veggies or other is good for the cheese and shows that it is still alive!

Now you will be able to store the delish cheeses I discuss here and reuse them with their flavor in tact!

Day Twenty-Nine: A Decadent Hors d'Oeuvres for the Oscars' Decadence, fashionably late..

It's Oscar time! Are you rooting for Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side," or "Avatar" for best picture or Jeff Bridges for "Crazy Heart," the discussion of who is going to win always seems to spark debate amongst all the movie buffs out there...Now, if I had seen all of the movies up for best picture, I thought it would be a fun experiment to imagine what cheese would embody each movie and its nuances. Too bad for you all, I have not seen all of the Best Picture nominees making that experiment a little tough. So I thought instead, I would provide you all with a recipe for a decadent hors d'oeuvres that you can serve your guests.

Now on to my Oscar hors d'oeuvres (I apologize ladies and gents, this is definitely not the budget route!) :

Depending on how many people you will be having over, I recommend going to Grandaisy bakery and purchasing one of their bianca con pecorino pizzas that is long and thin and can be cut into eight pieces. This baby is a simple flatbread foccacia baked with a thirteen month old Sardinian pecorino folded into the dough. We are going to have three different toppings to your bianca con pecorino so in your mind, not in reality, separate the pizza into three sections, each to have a different truffle cheese made with a different milk on it:

Part 1: Cow's Milk Truffle Cheese: Sottocenere - This is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese from the Veneto, aged for three months. The cheese has decadent pieces of truffle interspersed within it, but the kicker is the fact that it is rubbed in ash (sottocenere means underneath the ashes) and some awesome ground spices like nutmeg, coriander, cloves, fennel, etc. Needless to say what you get is quite the unique mouthful with a wide variety of flavors, this is not necessarily a beginner's cheese, but is outstanding if you want to try something completely different from anything you've had before!
Part 2: Sheep's Milk Truffle Cheese: Pecorino Tartufello -  A raw sheep's milk cheese from Tuscany, only aged for about seventy days, this is truly a young cheese! The large quantities of truffle mixed with the sweet, gooey-ness of a young pecorino are outstanding. This cheese unlike its previous counterpart, is definitely an ode to the truffle!
Part 3: Goat's Milk Truffle Cheese: Truffle Tremor - The only American cheese we are utilizing here, this cheese is made by one of the American goat's cheese pioneers, Mary Keehn. Keehn is famous for her Humboldt Fog, a delish goat's cheese with a bloomy rind aged for about three months with an ashen layer directly in the center of the cheese. Her Truffle Tremor basically is her Humboldt Fog without the ashen central layer but with black truffles instead interspersed throughout the wheel. What you get is the chalky awesomeness of a wonderful goat cheese mixed with the luxury of the black truffles. A winner if you ask me!

So now that you have topped each third of your bianca with a truffle cheese, bake the whole thing in the oven till the cheese starts to melt! Then serve with some nice bubbly and enjoy the Oscars!

On a side note, if you aren't feeling like breaking the bank on this decadent hors d'oeuvres, grab your favorite cheese and put that on top of the bianca and then top with a drizzle of truffle oil, only $6.99 at Fairway!

I hope you all enjoy! I apologize that this post was fashionably late, but better late than never right?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day Twenty - Eight : Reinvention Invention

I hope you all had a lovely Saturday, it certainly felt like Spring with highs in the mid fifties. More people out running this morning in Central Park than the past few days combined that's for sure! I love how New Yorkers come out en masse from their winter hideouts/pied a terre's on the first seemingly nice days of Spring -- today was certainly one of those days!! Unfortunately, yours truly, had decided to go to some of the many artfairs in town, meaning I was going to spend a large chunk of the day inside. But don't worry ladies and gents, I made sure to get a sufficient amount of outside time in too! The perfect balance!

After another one of my jam packed Saturdays, I got to thinking about what I wanted for dinner -- I decided on my redefined version of Greek Salad, an easy, nutritious, quick dinner and that was exactly what I was in the mood for. I knew I needed some relax time and before that, I needed to have a simple and efficient dinner. Now don't get me wrong, I love to cook and find it to be one of the best forms of relaxing for me, but do you ever have those moments where you just want to eat something simple without a lot of prep? Tonight, I certainly did!

First lets go over what you typically see in a greek salad (also known as horiatiki) : tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives, a little bit of green peppers, feta, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, salt and oregano. I consider this classic, to be the equivalent of France's ratatouille - a dish known the world over, constantly adapted and changed, and pretty much the dish you see eaten by all of its nation's residents -- whether they are rich or poor.

I personally love the freshness of the combo of the tomatoes and cucumber; but I also adore the salty, tanginess of the olives and the feta. Such a simple mix of ingredients, residing in harmony in this salad. My salad has a few additions and subtractions, here we go:

Nice cherry tomatoes chopped in large wedges so approx four pieces per tomato
Between a third and a half an onion sliced
A half cup of chickpeas (it depends on my mood whether I use the dried version or the canned version) today, in the interest of hurrying up to relax, I went the can route.
About a dozen kalamata olives sliced up
A half an orange pepper that is lightly sauted (aka like three to four minutes), this orange pepper adds a crunch but a more gentle flavoring than its green cousin. (not everyone finds the flavoring of the green pepper to be on the intense side, so if you don't, totally go ahead and utilize it, however I much prefer its orange cousin.)
On top of the cucumber, I like to put in about two to three mini carrots sliced up.
Of course feta
Fresh basil
Olive oil
a drop of lemon juice
and oregano.

Once you combine all these elements together, mix them so as to allow the juices to marinate. Then enjoy this springy Salad!

Before I leave you all for tonight, I thought I'd provide you all with one sentence on feta because I know everyone has had it but I bet you don't know everything about the cheese...So here goes: It is a brined, cured cheese made from the milk of sheep and goats and comes in the form of white blocks, yes that's obvious part. Orginially this cheese making technique was perfected in Greece and only Greece, but once other countries in the European Union saw what a profit/success feta was, they got on board which is why we now have French Feta, Bulgarian, Italian, etc... A delish accompaniment to salads, sandwiches, omelettes, etc.

Enjoy the salad, was delish for me. I had mine with a poached egg on top for increased protein and a glass of Torrentes. Yum!

Good night guys!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day Twenty-Seven : Improvised Umami GCF

TGIF! GCF! Cheers to the weekend ladies and gents! As your cheese, wine, and cooking musings master and occasional weather forecaster/complainer, I thought I would fill you in that, guess what, this weekend it is supposed to be in the middle to upper forties, almost even in the fifties, woohoo! Spring here we come...don't worry, I won't continue with my venting about the weather, I know that's not why you read my blog posts..

So tonight, my boyfriend and I went to an event entitled "Anarchy in the Kitchen," which was a part of the Umami Art and Food Festival -- a festival that brings to light the manner in which food is utilized as an art form and how certain individuals are challenging our boundaries for what we perceive as food -- it is an opportunity to bring together the worlds of art and food with a unique creative point of view.

In case you were wondering what Umami is, let me tell you: the name Umami is perceived as the fifth taste (the other four are: sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness) and comes from Japanese and basically implies a savoriness developed from the presence of glutamate, an amino acid. I believe Umami to be that savoriness that has that pucker your lips and dries out your mouth in an awesome way that makes  you want more of it or drink a lot of Torrentes or another light acidic white wine that is the perfect pairing for the savoriness of umami.

Our event this evening was composed of two distinct parts: there was an hour of video/performance art pieces utilizing food as their subject matter such as "lemons making their own lemon merengue pie," and an improvisational video mime piece of a mime who hadn't eaten in three days being told what to eat and  then acting out the process of eating everything from a quiche to an unopen coconut.  The other aspect of tonight's event was "edible cocktails" provided by the outstanding chefs  at  the French Culinary Institute -- they ran with that quintessential umami flavoring mixed with an inventive technologically creative edge. Here's what was served:
Gin Cucumber, Fruit Salad, Gazpacho
Grilled Cheese Sandwich with tomatoes
Tea sandwich with smoked trout, dashi
"Peanut Butter and Jelly" sandwich
Porcini parfait with yellow tomato fluid gel

Guess which dish we are going to discuss here? You guessed it the grilled cheese! This baby certainly stretched your mind when it came to what you imagine grilled cheese  to be. It was that delish German pumpernickel bread with parmesan and a pickled tomato and all of the flavor and extra special oomph was packed into one tiny bite. I know it seems like a weird mixture of flavors, but it was outstanding...sooo I thought I'd play off of that and make my own version of an Umami GCF:

The thing that was important to maintain in my Umami GCF, was the simplicity of the ingredients and

Take some of Grandaisy's plain flatbread, homemade olive oil foccacia, some of the best thin crust focaccia in town! Now you need to top each toasted slice of bread with a few slices of Roquefort. In case you aren't familiar, there was a bit of a scare last year  that then President Bush was going to raise the import tax on Roquefort so it simply was too expensive for American cheese retailers to sell, needless to say, with the Obama administration in place, we are safe with our Roquefort! In case you aren't familar with Roquefort, this baby, like champagne has had its name and methods protected since 1411 and trust me they should be! Raw Lacune Sheep's milk is aged for three months in caverns in the midi Pyrenees and you end up with this delish combo of sweet, spicey, picante, amazingness. Then with the beets and cheese, I like to add a few leaves of arugula to add that green side to the sandwich that also breaks up the cheese, beets, and bread. So now, with the toasted bread, drizzle a little sunflower oil on either piece of  bread, then top with cheese, pickled beats and arugula and toast away. I know this is a different way to go with the umami flavors but I think it will definitely be successful.

Good night all....check back tomorrow for longer musings! Happy Friday all!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day Twenty-Six: Brussel Sprout tartines

For the first time today, I didn't have to wear three layers under my coat, I only wore two! Such a promising moment -- did that mean Spring was truly on its way? It certainly is supposed to be in the mid 40s this weekend, positively balmy in comparison to the past few freezing cold months. You all know that I don't need to tell you how excited I am, it is truly thrilling to think that spring might potentially be on the horizon. All this cold weather is just depressing and well certainly not good for the skin, huh?

Today was one of those crazy days of running from place to place, all for good reasons, but I sure did feel like I didn't have much of a second to breathe! After a lunch meeting uptown, I thought I might as well work for the rest of the afternoon from home seeing as the amount of back forth all around Manhattan would mean, I would end up having very little quality work time...needless to say, I spent the afternoon working away in the comfort of my apartment, listening to oldies music, with a thoroughly content dog, who had the treat of Mommy being home! While working away, I thought, why not do some cooking on the side too? I had a few brussel sprouts in the fridge that I'd been wanting to roast for the past few days, but simply didn't have the time. The perfect time was now...and what was I going to do with them?

Simple - wash them, cut them in half, toss them with some olive oil, garlic, hazelnuts, and some salt and pepper and put them in the oven at 300 degrees till they got nice and golden brown and were tasted crunchy but also cooked through, so a little softer in the center. Now that those guys were done, I thought why not make them into a nice tartine for dinner, before an evening of running around. One quick sidenote here, you could always make these into crostini as well, great for when you have guests over and want something simple but that will still impress, you can easily include this as one of the hors d'oeuvres.

For my purposes, I was going to utilize the Artisanal Wine Bread I'd purchased from Gourmet Garage. They always have a different bread on sale for $1.99 and they are kind enough to slice the breads so that you don't make a mess of the crumbs on your kitchen floor. Now now, I am sure you are wondering, what is a wine bread, well my impression is that it is basially a crusty boule bread with whole grains, somewhat like their pane rustica, but with a whole grain interior as opposed to a white interior. I find the bread to be quite delish.

Take two nice slices of bread and toast them and then top them with slices of two different cheeses:
1. Comte Saint Antoine: A sibling to the well-known Gruyere, this baby is the most produced French cheese by far. It tends to be aged for between ten and sixteen months and tends to take the form of ninety pound rounds...heavy boys! If you ask me, the main thing differentiating it from its Swiss counterparts is the fact that it is sweeter, a little more carmelly and nutty -- definitely, if you ask me the grown up family member!
2. Then a little bit of Pecorino Pepato: A raw sheep's milk cheese from Sicily with whole peppercorns. This baby packs a nice big spice and will complement the flavor of our brussel sprouts perfectly!

So once you've got the cheese on your toasted bread, top with the roasted brussel sprouts and a very small drizzle of olive oil and enjoy!

Some closing thoughts on brussel sprouts -- one of my favorite fall/winter vegetables. I never seem to understand why people do not like them and why they have this bad reputation, I attribute it to the fact that people simply have had them prepared the right way, because when you do, they just melt in your mouth...I guess it just depends on what you prefer! I will leave you with the fact that these little guys have a high amount of Vitamin A, C, folic acid, dietary fiber, and apparently protect against colon cancer, so expand your horizons people, and give these little guys a go.

Have a good evening ladies and gents, check back tomorrow for GCF!!!

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