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.

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