Monday, May 31, 2010

Day One hundred and eleven : BBQ + ... Marriage Mondays

I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekends, the lovely weather, and plenty of time outside!!! For this week's dosage of Marriage Monday's I thought I would do cheeses to top veggie burgers or for those of you non-vegetarians out there, cheeses for regular burgers -- otherwise known as fantastic melt able and pliable cheeses that exhibit unknown nuances when heated and melted.

Don't worry this will be a short post as I am sure all of you ladies and gents want to get out there and have fun or get in bed because you've had too much fun!

Contestant Number # 1: Ossau Iraty - The classic sheep girl next door, except this chick hails from the French Pyrenees, actually from two adjacent provinces, the Ossau Valley and the wooded Basque hills of Iraty -- already a cheese of contradictions! These sheep's milk rounds are aged for at least ninety days and deliver the quintessential sheep's milk tastes -- buttery, sweet, grassy, gooey, nuttiness all rolled into one cheese. A fantastic cheese  on its own or paired with wines and plenty of foods! 

Contestant Number # 2: Pecorino Tartufello - Mix the unctuous-ness of unpasteurized sheep's milk cheese with the richness and decadence of black truffles and you are left with Pecorino Tartufello. Looking to impress your cocktail party guests with an approachable yet somewhat "dressed up cheese," go with this option!

Contestant Number # 3: Smokey Blue - This contestant hails from the other side of the United States of America -- Oregon. Now don't get me wrong, Smokey certainly comes from a good creamery -- the Rogue creamery that manufactured the first blue cheese made on the west  coast of America. Getting back to our matters at hand here, Smokey is actually smoked with hazelnuts for sixteen hours giving the cheese a  nutty and of course smoked flavor to add on to the sweet, piquant, pliable qualities of the blue. Definitely a must try! However, certainly not for those who don't like blue or smoked flavors!

So which contestant do you think will win?

Stay tuned for the answers tomorrow morning!
Have a good night folks!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day One hundred and ten - A recap of a trip across the river...

It sure looks like this weekend is full of recaps, huh?

Well this recap is about a cheese shop across the river in Hoboken that I ventured to yesterday. After hearing about how the gem-like qualities of this cheese shop for quite a while, I knew I had to check it out on my Hoboken adventure day.

The first thing I noticed when walking into The Cheese Store at 720 Monroe Street in Hoboken is that it wasn't just another cheese store, this was a place that was owned by people who cared about cheese, cared about spreading knowledge on cheese as I do, and cared about having cheeses that they loved and that they thought were unique -- a precious shop full of lovingly chosen cheeses that span the globe. The other unique aspect to this store was the fact that they aged cheeses on the premises, not a frequent characteristic of a cheese store but one that certainly takes any cheese store to the next level.

So of course, I had to try their Hoboken Tomme which consisted of Montchevre goat's milk cheese molded into a round disk shape and aged for a few weeks - tangy, grassy, and lactic mixed with the full flavored oomph of an aged goat, I had to get a bit of this to take home. I always love when you find a cheese or a food product really unique to where it is being sold -- fully and truly local! Apart from this cheese, there are a few other goat's milk cheeses that are aged on premises.

Moving away from their home-aged cheeses, they do have a nice variety and selection of greats from around the world, some yummy crackers, preserves, Balthazar baguettes, and more. It's worth the trip to check out when you're in Hoboken or if not, at least look them up online.

Day One Hundred & Nine : A Recap of Roberta's

On Friday eve, I ventured to one of those areas of Brooklyn, that you aren't reaalllly sure if they are safer than you remember from trips out there in years past,  but they certainly have to be improving if there are restaurants and bars worth trying out there.

We ventured to Bushwick, the neighborhood of warehouses, an industrial wasteland, what I imagine Dumbo looked like circa twenty years ago. Why you may ask did we venture all the way out there for dinner? Well, the answer I would like to provide you with is Roberta's, one of the many artisanal pizza places that have been popping up all around town and this one was supposed to be one of the best. Quite the trip simply for an artisanal pizza place right? But it was totally worth it, foodwise, communal seating wise I could have done without. I always find when you are sitting at a communal table, it is very hard to actually have "your own" conversation, there simply is no privacy. I like the idea of communal tables and think that in certain situations they are fantastic, but in others, they just simply are not what you want and Friday night's communal table was exactly that -- no privacy to talk with the person you came with while sandwiched between two other couples. Oh well! The food was what we came for and let me tell you what we had which was totally worth the trip!

We started off with a Meat and Cheese  plate -- obviously the meat portion was for my dining companion and boyfriend...certainly not mine...but let me tell you about the cheese portion of the plate. It featured three somewhat obscure Italian cheeses:

1. Quadrello di Buffala - Hailing from Lombardia, this pasteurized buffalo's milk cheese is quite unusual. Taking the wash ring stink and gooeyness of Taleggio and mixing it with the creamy, rich  full flavor of buffalo milk, you get Quadrello di Buffala. Fantastically unctous, ripely pungent and richly delish, you can't go wrong with this cheese. It certainly needs a big wine to stand up to it.
2. Capra Verde - Also hailing from Lombardia, Italy, this is a fantastic goat blue, I'd even liken it to a Gorgonzola Dolce but with goat's milk. The usage of goat's milk gives the cheese a tangy, fresh flavor while maintaining the sweet, piquant, and biting qualities of a blue. A must try! My favorite of the three!
3. La Meola - A semi-soft cow's milk cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy, this cheese has all those great cow's milk characteristics -- weight, barnyardyness, gooeyness, and of course a mouth full of creamyness! A melt in your mouth sort of a cheese that you can't go wrong with and certainly not found often.

After the cheese plate, we decided to split their white and green pizza which was composed of Mozzarella, arugula, lemon, and Parmesan. Lemon on a pizza certainly added an interesting and unusual touch, not a bad one, just something that your brain had to process with each of the first few bites. The pizza was delish, light and airy, very thinly crusted. It did not leave you feeling too full but simply satisfied.

I would definitely have the pizza again, however, I'm not sure how  much of a rush I am in to go back to Bushwick, that isn't to say I had a bad time, it's just that  it is far and there is slim pickins around when it comes to things to do.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day One hundred and nine : A very Memorial GCF

As the summer gears up to get started with the first "official" weekend of the season, Memorial Day, I thought it was necessary to do a celebratory GCF! Memorial Day, although a federal holiday and the reason most of us have a three day weekend is meant to commemorate the service men and women who have served our country in times present and past. First enacted to honor soldiers who fought in the American Civil War, its significance has expanded as the years have gone by. In honor of Memorial Day, I thought I would propose a Red, White, & Blue GCF.

A simple sandwich that is delish served grilled and warm or deconstructed and used as part of a picnic. Such a simple sandwich, you can't go wrong, with only two extra ingredients, besides the essential Red, White, & Blue ingredients. Let me first tell you those and then I will fill you in on how I would prepare the sandwich.

Red : As late May and June are the height of strawberry season, I think their luscious juicy ripeness would be perfect in our sandwich. Although you may see and buy strawberries year round, they really are best in the late Spring and early Summer months when you can get them from your local farmers not shipped in from the tropics.

White : French Baguette - Made with white flour, the interior of this bread tends to be fluffy and the exterior perfectly crusty with prime crunch factor when biting into the sandwich.

Blue : Grassland Blue - Made in Wisconsin, but taking its name from the grasslands of Minnesota, this blue is American through and through. Not the America of Cheez Whiz and Kraft singles, but an excellent example of American artisanal cheese making. It is a raw cow's milk cheese cave aged for three months. Pungent, spicy, tangy, nutty, and full flavored, this is a uniquely special blue cheese as it utilizes a very particular mixture and amount of Penicillium Roqueforti that slow releases during its aging process.

Now that you have your Red, White, and Blue, so lets construct our sandwich -

Slice about one third of a nice French Baguette. Next, take three large strawberries and slice very thinnly. Place these on either side of the baguette. Next place a few nice slices of the Grasslands Blue. Then for the two additional ingredients -- add two to three mint leaves and a very very light drizzle of raw honey. The honey will complement the sweetness of the strawberries and will be a perfect counterpart for the piquant qualities of the cheese. The mint will add a nice sense of freshness to the sandwich, making it taste like a picnic in your mouth! Heat and enjoy!

Have a lovely holiday weekend ladies and gents!

Day One hundred and eight - Wednesday's lunch review - PERA

First off, let me apologize for being a bit behind, this has been quite the chaotic week! In my catchup mode for yesterday's post, I thought I would tell you all about Wednesday's lunch at a Mediterranean / Turkish restaurant in the heart of midtown, PERA. The resto takes its name from an Istanbul neighborhood that characterizes the unique melting pot characteristics that make Istanbul the bridge between East and West and its menu certainly is an excellent example of this cultural fusion.

Walking into the space, you step into a very welcoming, simple, modern wood room full of people chattering away, very few  empty seats in the entire  place, always a great sign!

The lunch menu was split into mezes, pidettes, salads, "from the braiser," and sandwiches. For my meal with my friend yesterday we decided to split a variety of dishes, always the best way to get a good sense of the menu!

As we perused the menu, our waiter brought over some fantastic homemade rolls topped with black and white sesame seeds and a small bowl of sheep's milk ricotta with rosemary and olive oil to dip our bread in. We decided on their special salad of fresh peas, pea shoots, sheep's milk feta, mint, and honey mustard dressing followed by an order of their homemade hummus, we certainly couldn't dine in a Mediterranean restaurant without trying their hummus, always a good way to judge the quality of the food in a restaurant featuring that cuisine. We also ordered two of their pidettes (small little Greek-ish pizzas either on bread or on pitas). The first pidette we ordered was their Greek salad pidette, basically a Greek salad with a crunchy toasted pita underneath, yummy and simple. The other pidette we ordered was on one grilled piece of country bread and was topped with spinach and pinenuts. Not the most successful of our ordering choices, the spinach tasted somewhat stewed and lacked somewhat of an oommph. I think this would have been successful if the spinach leaves had been roasted so they crisped up and then top with a sprinkling of pinenuts and a few shavings of parmesan. Lastly, my dining companion ordered their fried artichokes which looked delish but as I did not partake in eating them, I couldn't judge them. We finished the meal with Turkish Coffees and baklava.

A delish foray into Mediterranean cuisine in a tough area of town for a unique and authentic dining experience. Not necessarily an intimate dinner date spot, but a great locale to catch up with friends over lunch.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day One hundred and seven : The perfect cheese for a baseball game

Summer is about lazy afternoons laying in your local park, spending tons of time outside, baseball games, barbecues, and more! Last night, on a veritably balmy Wednesday eve, I went to a baseball game and I got to thinking and talking about, what cheeses would be perfect for a baseball game so I thought I would share with you, my faithful readers my thoughts!

I think there are two different routes you could go when thinking about bringing a picnic of bread and  cheese to a baseball game :

Route # 1: Go with a small round of cheese -- like an Aged Crottin (about 4 oz half cylinder) of fantastic aged Loire Valley Goat Cheese OR a Bijou, the younger American version made by Vermont Butter and Cheese Company OR even something like Ardith Mae's Doolan, a soft ripened goat from Pennsylvania, nutty, buttery, delicate and delish.

Route 1 at a baseball game provides yummy cheeses in small quantities that you can easily use a plastic knife to slice or even just break off a piece here and there. Easy, compact, and definitely better than going with a large majority of baseball stadium food out there!

Route # 2: Go with aged crumbly cheeses that have a nice salty, caramelly, crunchy taste to them. You don't need a knife to slice these cheeses since they are so crumbly, you can easily break a piece off. These sorts of firm aged cheeses also tend to last the longest without refrigeration making them less messy to eat on a warm summer evening. A few good examples for route # 2 would be: a twelve month aged  Manchego, a nice nutty Parmesan, a Piave or a Sbrinz (an raw cow's milk aged Swiss cheese), to name a few. Any of these cheeses would provide a great addition to snack offerings at a baseball game and would be truly satisfying and delish!

One little side note, I would certainly not recommend bringing any bloomy rind cheeses to a baseball game, they can get messy and are hard to share in groups unless you have proper knives, plates, etc!

So next time you go to a baseball game, pick up some cheese and nice crackers or bread and bring them along, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day One hundred and six : Stepping outside the box..

Let's get right down to business about the results from yesterday's Marriage Mondays. Today's recipe is going to be more so a pairing suggestion for the winning cheese to bring out nuances in the wine. I hope you enjoy!

Contestant Number # 1: Vermont Butter and Cheese's Coupole - The easy and safe choice - the young cheese pairs well with the young wine, similarities abound when it comes to the zippy-ness of each member of this pair. However, without excitement and differences this pair will fall somewhat flat, not bad, just flat -- in a way it's like dating someone who is too similar to you that you don't bring out each other's unique qualities. It's about challenging what you are used to and expanding your horizons here in Marriage Mondays just as in real life you want someone who pushes you and turns you into your best self! If you were to go the safe and easy route and not feel the desire to challenge yourself, I recommend making a spinach salad with the goat's cheese, some slivers of strawberries, slivered roasted almonds and a nice light balsamic vinaigrette.

Contestant Number # 2: Monte Enebro - Maybe a one night stand, but this certainly is a case where one member of the pair controls the spotlight, so the tasting becomes more about the cheese with its delicacies and intricacies than about the happy marriage between the fresh, light, and fanciful wine and this bold and unique cheese. Monte Enebro with its complex taste profile needs a supporting actor, not a full-on partner. There are times in food and wine pairing where you want to specifically highlight the qualities of one member of the pair and this is an excellent example of one of those times. The piquant characteristics of the cheese will be perfect when paired with a sweet sherry or a Sauternes for example. I attribute the success of this pairing to be due to the fact that the cheese is inoculated with Penicillium Roqueforti and therefore in certain ways assumes some classic blue cheese notes, making a dessert wine an easy choice!

Contestant Number # 3: Achadinha's Capricious - The surprise winner -- A perfect case of opposites attracting here. The aged goat's milk cheese when paired with its opposite, a young white wine,  gives each member of the pair an opportunity to exhibit characteristics that one would not necessarily notice when consuming each separately. This sure isn't the easy and safe route, but with a little coaxing, this will prove to be the height of success. The nutty, crunchy, caramelly-ness of the cheese will be complemented with its opposites in the fresh, crisp, floral qualities of the wine. The wine becomes a much more complex and dynamic entity when paired with this cheese which I find really interesting -- making an everyday drinking wine, a special occasion sort of beverage.

I am sure you are curious what I envision as  the perfect way to serve this, well these two contestants should be paired without too much fuss to ruin the nuances in each.

I would try this pairing together without any other elements first and then to add a little bit of oopmh, I like to put the cheese on a nice toasted piece of Bouchon Bakery's Brioche Bread -- inherently sweet and crumbly this will complement the crumbly texture the cheese perfectly. Apart from the bread, I would add a few marcona almonds for salt and a few slices of fresh Apricot to your little open faced sandwich. The mixture of the saltiness of the marcona almonds with the sweetness of the fruit will balance out and complement the wine and cheese's brilliant flavor profiles. This pairing should show you that sometimes just adding one or two elements to a wine and cheese pairing will take the relationship to the next level of greatness.

Enjoy folks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day One Hundred and Five : Gruner Veltliner and the Goats Marriage Mondays

This week I thought for Marriage Mondays, I would focus on my favorite, go-to, weeknight, drinking grape varietal -- Gruner Veltliner. Grown mainly in Austria and the Czech Republic, you occasionally see this wine produced in Hungary and as of very recent, in a select few US wineries. Generally a crisp dry young white wine, sometimes found sparkling, it is considered a fantastic food wine! You tend to find very good value in Gruners which is an important characteristic for me for a weeknight wine, nothing too fancy, but something delish and satisfying and easily adaptable flavorwise to the food that I decide to prepare on a given evening.

One of my favorite Gruner's is Franz Etz's Gruner from the Kampal Region of Austria. It is a fresh, crisp, floral white wine, not nearly as acidic as say a Sauvignon Blanc but on the level of lightness and body of one.

Let's get going with our cheese contestants of the week! I decided to suggest three different goat's milk cheeses to pair with the Gruner, as goat's milk based cheeses tend to be my favorite. As I've told you previously, Gruners are great food wines, so the contestants should have fun this week with the flexibility of the wine.

Contestant Number # 1 : Vermont Butter and Cheese Coupole - Hailing from the pastures of Vermont, this young goat's milk cheese is lightly dusted with vegetable ash to give it a very thin edible rind. Creamy, pasty, tangy, and light, a delicate mouth feel full of nuances. Modeled on the great Loire Valley Goat's milk cheeses, this cheese is an excellent example of the American artisanal movement and one of the first of its kind, having been in production for over a quarter of a century. Most other American artisanal cheeses have maybe half that life span of our Contestant numero uno.

Contestant Number # 2 : Monte Enebro - We cross the pond to Avila, Spain for this contestant, made with love and care by cheesemaker Rafael Baez and his daughter Paloma. Consisting of pasteurized goat's milk and inoculated with Pencilium Roqueforti (the mold utilized to make Roquefort), this is a complex, dynamic, and exceptionally unique contestant. Piquant like a blue but tangy, lactic, and citrusy like a goat, an interesting mixture of flavors.

Contestant Number #3 : Achadinha's Capricious - Returning stateside, we land here in Petaluma, CA. Made of pasteurized goat's milk, this is a cheese that has been aged naturally with the Pacific Ocean air for six months and rolled into an almost square like shape utilizing traditional European techniques. One of the most unique goat cheese's out there, this has the crumbly, caramelly, butterscotchy tastes of say an aged Parmesan, yet it maintains its integrity as an aged goat cheese with the tangy, fresh flavors of the younger goat's milk cheeses we know and love.

So which contestant do you think is going to triumph? Young, middle-aged, or the old guy?
Check back tomorrow to find out who has taken the cake!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day One hundred and four : A trip to a new marketplace

Remember dancing the nights away at Limelight? I know certainly do! Opened as a nightclub in November 1983, this Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion was the place to be in the 80s for rock and disco music, in the 90s, it was at the center of the techno and goth craze. It was, if you ask me, my generation's "Studio 54" -- scandalous, decadent, fantastic, full of naughty acts, certainly a right of passage in a way to have gone dancing at Limelight. It sure was about experiencing the music in this somewhat eerie environment that was originally built as a place of worship.  As a club, Limelight closed and reopened a series of times in the late 90s and early 2000s. In 2003, it underwent a makeover and was transformed into Avalon - a place I never stepped foot into, but apparently fell short of its previous days of nightlife glory. Avalon shuttered in 2007 and the church remained a haunting reminder of its former self. Earlier this month, Limelight reopened, not as a club this time, but re-branded and redone as Limelight Marketplace.

Limelight Marketplace boasts around fifty shops spanning the gamut from doggy boutiques to cupcake bakeries to Hunter boots retailers to bookstores and bag stores to gourmet food purveyors and chocolatiers and more -- really a one stop shopping sort of spot. Like a mall but "Manhattan-ified." As soon as I heard about this transformation, I knew I had to check it out for myself, not sure what to expect, I'd heard good things and bad, I was going to make my own opinions....

Walking into the "new" Limelight, it felt very NEW, certainly a shopping experience that could only be created and successful in New York City. Every nook and cranny was taken up by a different sort of purveyor, with walls but no doors separating each shop from the next, however it felt like one fluid shopping experience. Walking towards the back of the first floor, I knew I needed to check out Jezalin's -- the high-end gourmet food shop that I was told had cheeses and meats and other fun food goodies! Definitely a me sort of place!

 The nice thing about walking into Jezalin's was that it felt somewhat separated from the new and shiny other retail outposts -- rustic and inviting, you could order a sandwich, sample some cured meats and cheeses, or pick up some preserves. Their cheese selection is decent -- with some great Loire Valley goat's milk cheeses, some of the European greats and a very small selection of American artisanal cheeses. However, the prices certainly reflect what I imagine to be the extremely expensive rent. Definitely worth a visit! Moving along from Jezalin's, throughout the three floors of this new retail mecca, you come across the artisanal chocolatier, Marie Belle, with their extensive selection of chocolates filled with everything from fennel to champagne and more. In search of satisfaction for your sweet tooth, your options don't stop there -- there's cupcake stop, Candy Cake company, a candy store, a frozen yogurt counter, and plenty plenty more!!

Limelight Marketplace re-branded has attempted to wash itself clean of its nightclub aura of years past -- successful in accomplishing that goal, I only wonder whether it will be successful as its new entity.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day One hundred and three : Colicchio & Sons Brunch

One of my favorite parts of the weekend is the custom of brunch - a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning / afternoon. Although I had previously eaten at Colicchio and Sons Tap Room for dinner, I had yet to experience their brunch, so on this lovely Saturday afternoon, I sat down in the sun-filled tap room area of Colicchio and Sons to give their brunch a go.

A nice menu, not too overwhelming with too many options, just around a dozen, a good variety of egg dishes, a burger, a pain perdu -- successful twists on the typical brunch items. Their service definitely however could have used an extra cup of coffee, a little slow on the uptake.

I had one of their three dishes that had cheese in it -- the frittata. I ordered it with egg whites, instead of normal eggs, I like the lightness and taste better of simply egg whites, and well they are better for you, less cholesterol! The frittata was made with spring green vegetables, ricotta, truffle honey, and topped with arugula. Sound a little like the recipes I suggest here? Yes, right? Certainly tailor made to my sensibilities. It sure was delish, with a nice sweet finish due to the truffle honey. What I did like, was that the frittata was "normal" sized, not overwhelming large that you feel if you eat all of it, you will be full for the day like some previous brunch experiences of mine. This was just the right mix of filling, satisfying, light, and springy. I won't be able to critique either of my dining companions' meals because both contained meat, but to give you a better sense of the menu, I will at least tell you what they had -- one had the tap room burger with balsamic onions and pecorino accompanied with homemade potato chips and pickles and the other had a Carolina rice johnny cake with duck confit, poached eggs and red eye gravy. The meal was finished off with the one dessert on their menu, homemade strawberry filled doughnuts.

A very nice and enjoyable brunch, nothing overly fussy but good food. I think I preferred their dinner menu, however I would totally return for another Saturday or Sunday brunch. It is such a great space to sit and grab a bite and a drink and enjoy watching the world go by on 10th avenue.

Have a good Saturday evening folks!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day One hundred and two : A Farmy GCF

For today's GCF, I thought I would utilize Tonjes Farm's Cowhill cheese that we sampled in our class this previous Sunday, that was paired with Wolffer Estate's Cabernet Franc 2006. I think it is always good to get our head wrapped around how we can use a cheese in other contexts apart from simply pairing the cheese with a good glass of wine.

The characteristics that stand out for me about this aged raw cow's milk cheese are farmy, barnyardy, vegetal, crumbly, buttery, full, round, and somewhat sweet. It is not a delicate and dainty fresh goat cheese, it is definitely a more full bodied cheese -- I'd characterize it as medium to full bodied. It could definitely hold up to a meat pairing, but as you all know, I don't eat meat, so I wouldn't want to presume that I could tell you what sort of meat might work best with it, but I imagine a cured meat such as a proscuitto would work excellently, saltiness paired with salty sweetness.

However for our purposes, I'd love to suggest a simple pairing for our Cowhill with sauteed onions and duxelle mushrooms and a few little other ingredients...

Let's get going! Starting off with the mushrooms -- they should be chopped finely and sauteed with madiera or wine, if you do not have madiera, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Saute till they are nicely brown and cooked down. In a separate pan, saute the onions just with some olive oil and salt and pepper. The cheese, onions, and mushrooms should go on a nice flatbread, thin and crusty works best! Apart from the mushrooms and onions, this sandwich needs a little bit of balsamic mustard (take aged balsamic vinegar, the thick kind, and combine with some Maille mustard, honey mustard works best). The sweetness of the mustard will complement the inherent sweetness of the cheese when placed on the backdrop of the bread. Lastly, I would add a few leaves of baby spinach to give the sandwich a more rounded vegetal flavoring and play off the vegetal undertones in the cheese. However, if you prefer, you can leave the spinach out for a purer sandwich experience.

Heat and enjoy with a glass of Wolffer's Cab Franc. A warming, comforting and delish GCF, probably better suited to a chilly Friday afternoon as opposed to the positively balmy day we are currently enjoying! Have a good Friday evening ladies and gents!

Day One hundred and one : 101 dalmations, nope! 101 days!

Woohoo, we are in the triple digits, wow, right? So exciting! So exciting in fact that it seems I didn't have the chance to finish the post till day 102!

For one hundred and one, I wanted to suggest a simple yet I think unusual recipe, perfect for a summer appetizer on a warm sunny afternoon.

With the sun beating down on your shoulders, I always find fruit to be quite refreshing, especially citrus fruits so I thought we would take grapefruit and pair it with a cheese to create a nice appetizer or even an excellent brunch dish. Seldom, in my opinion do you see the pairing of citrus and cheese in a savory capacity, with citrus being cheese's co-star, not just a side note to balance the complex flavors in a dish.

Our refreshing recipe for today features burrata, the fresh melt-in-your-mouth Italian cheese made from fresh mozzarella curds and cream, creating a little pocket of yummy goodness, harder like a fully form mozzarella on the outside and gooey for all the right reasons on the inside.  This recipe starts out with one burrata, slivers of fresh grapefruit, finely chopped mint and basil, some pinenuts and finally a little drizzle of basil oil to top the dish off. As you cut into the burrata, the creaminess will come pouring out and will be excellent when combined the acidic citrusness of the grapefruit -- sweetness and citrus going hand in hand, with a light crunch from the pinenuts and a nice herbal infusion from the mint and basil. Enjoy this refreshing recipe.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day One hundred - Can you believe it?

Pop the Champagne, it's day 100!!! Thinking back, I cannot believe that I've been writing to you all for one hundred days, feels like the perfect mixture of nothing and forever. By that I mean, feels like I just started writing to you all yet feels like I never did not write to you all.....

On our hundredth day anniversary, I thought I would keep things simple and ask all you faithful readers to help spread the cheese word about Fromagical...yet at the same time, I also thought I'd mention my next class to you all:

Summer in the City : Warm Weather cheeses and cooling wines, June 24th 6:30 till 8pm -- a fun and educational evening of cheese and wine that are perfect for those summer months, whether it is by the pool or at the beach or in Central Park, stay tuned for my recommendations for summer cocktail party cheeses and picnic cheeses and rooftop cheeses. More details to follow for our 24th  class, don't fret, you should receive them before Friday.

I'd also like to ask, of you my faithful readers, please let me know what topics you are interested in! Please email me questions, comments, and thoughts....

Lastly, I'd just like to say that the past one hundred days have brought a change within me, a chance to really express myself and trigger the stimulation buttons when it comes to my passions, but most of all, the past one hundred days, have lit me up inside -- creating a fire beneath me. All I can pass on to you, my faithful readers, is the recommendation to figure out what your passion is and go for it! Life is short, take a chance, whether you are ready for it or not! Get your feet wet!!!

Check back tomorrow for day 101's fantastic recipe!
Nite all

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day Ninety - Nine : Ricotta Results

 To all of you in the New York area, I hope that you didn't get too wet when leaving the office this evening, boy is it the perfect night to get under covers and watch movies and have hot soup! The weather certainly doesn't deter me from providing you all with the results for our Ricotta and the R's Marriage Monday pairings, so lets get going....

While running this morning, I got to thinking that each of our R's could take on a different relationship with Salvatore Brooklyn's Ricotta -- whether it was a one night stand -- a casual no-strings attached pairing; or a full-on serious monogamous relationship -- a standby, comfortable pairing you can't go wrong with; or the diamond in the rough that leads to ultimate and unexpected bliss. So for this week's results, each of the R's will be graded on the level of relationship capabilities they could possibly assume.

Contestant # 1 : Rotini - Our full-on serious monogamous relationship pairing - This contestant is the perfect vehicle to showcase the delish lacticness of our ricotta, however it becomes somewhat of a one sided relationship, the rotini assumes a supporting role to let our ricotta shine. However as we all know, relationships need to be about each partner stimulating the other and if this were a contest to see which allowed the Ricotta to sing on its own most successfully, contestant number one would probably win -- yet as I am sure you can see there is a lack of harmony. But with hard work and dedication, one could succeed! For example if you were to saute some fresh peas, shaved asparagus and basil with some olive oil and garlic and toss that with the rotini and add a decent amount of ricotta and combine it all together, you would have a very nice meal  in which the rotini allows the ricotta to shine.

Contestant # 2 : Raspberries - Our one night stand, casual no-strings attached pairing - Not your first thought when you think of pairing a Ricotta, a little bit of a stretch! Here both the contestant and our star, Ricotta, have a melt-in-your-mouth sort of quality that melds them together in a way that I do not think allows either to fully shine. The juicy, red fruit qualities of the raspberries  hold up somewhat  to the creamy, milkiness of the ricotta but each misses a beat -- possible but not in the long term! However, raspberry confiture with ricotta on a nice homemade piece  of shortbread wouldn't be bad.

Contestant # 3 : Radicchio - The diamond in the rough that leads to ultimate and unexpected bliss - Why you might ask did she decide to go with this contestant as her favorite? Well ladies and gents, I think that the bitterness of the radicchio is complemented and muted by the sweet milkiness of the ricotta. The leafy, crispiness of the radicchio is perfect for the smoothness of the ricotta -- a prime example of how opposites attract and succeed!!

Now on to our simple Ricotta and Radicchio Recipe. What I think you will see is that with the simplicity of this recipe, it really allows each ingredient to shine and play off the other:

Take a full head of radicchio and carefully tear off each leaf, toss with olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic. Roast for about twenty minutes at a low heat of 250 degrees or until the leaves are crisp and somewhat golden brown. Now slice a medium sized Grandaisy Ciabatta bread length wise and brush lightly with olive oil. Put on the stove top grill for a few minutes just to get a nice char on the bread infusing the bread with that fantastic grilled taste. On top of the bread, place a few leaves  of  roasted radicchio, then a nice canelle between table and teaspoon size of ricotta. To top the ricotta off, dice very thinly some fresh basil and drizzle with a very small amount of olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. Now you have a fantastically delish and simple open faced sandwich full of bitter, sweet, milky, crunchy, leafy, and aromatic tastes that blend together in perfect harmony. Enjoy and stay dry!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day Ninety - Eight : Ricotta and the R's Marriage Mondays

For this week's installment of Marriage Mondays, I thought I would feature a cheese I utilized in last night's class --  Ricotta and by that I do not mean the Polly O version, I most certainly mean the Salvatore Brooklyn version! Night and day in terms of difference in taste between the two, our cheese of choice is hardly recognizable as being related to its very distant Polly O cousin. Our cheese today is creamy, lactic, bright, salty, young, and gooey. Full of subtle flavors, this is a cheese that you can enjoy plain or combined with other ingredients or even simply pair it with one other ingredient.

To keep things interesting, I thought we would strictly choose contestants whose names also began with the letter R, just to change things up!

So let's get going! Keep in mind today's cheese is young, vibrant, and fantastic!

Contestant Number #1 : Rotini - A classic pasta shape -- a mixture between a helix and a corkscrew. Very similar to its cousin, fusili, but with a tighter makeup. Fantastic as a backdrop for sauces and equally great as the star in a pasta salad. Hailing from Northern Italy, this contestant tends to be made out refined white flour, however you will see it sometimes made out of wheat flour or even in different flavors such as spinach.

Contestant Number #2 : Raspberries - Traditionally a mid-summer red fruit, with developments in technology, we now have the pleasure of enjoying this little ball of deliciousness year round. Full of Vitamin B 1 - 3, Vitamin C, antioxidants, folic acid and fiber, this contestant is supposed to aid against inflammation, pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, diabetes, and decline in eyesight with age. Great on their own or cooked down to create a jam or baked into muffins, pies, and breads -- always a delish and nutritious treat!

Contestant Number #3 : Radicchio - Leafy, bitter, and spicy, this contestant is a form of an Italian chicory. Cultivated since ancient times, it was utilized once as a blood purifier and as an aid for insomniacs. Nowadays, you tend to find its primary uses in the kitchen. Definitely an acquired taste, one tends to find this contestant grilled, sauteed, or roasted -- it simply becomes too overwhelming in large quantities when raw, granted not bad, in small quantities.

So which R do you think will triumph? The Starch? The Fruit? Or the leafy green??

Check back tomorrow to find who has won the chance to be part of a recipe with Salvatore Brooklyn's Ricotta.

Day Ninety - Seven : A Recap of last night's lessons!

Last night, Sunday, I led a cheese class entitled Think Local : New York State Cheeses, Wines, and One Beer. The class was meant to be a fun, lowkey, laid back exploration of the excellent bounty that hails from New York State. Getting people familiar with all of the delish produce we have at our fingertips and hopefully encouraging them to think local and patronize New York state's farmers, winemakers, and beer crafters.

Here's a brief recap of what we tasted and talked about and don't worry pictures will be coming within the next few days!! I had prepared four different pairings, feel free to try these out at home! I hope you all enjoy!

Pairing #1 : SALMON RUN RIESLING, 2008 (HAMMONDSPORT, NY) & SALVATORE BROOKLYN RICOTTA CHEESE (BROOKLYN, NY) - The wine is a classic Finger Lakes Riesling, not overly sweet, but with a decent amount of residual sugar making it light in body and not too overwhelming on the palate. This was paired with a crostini made with Salvatore Brooklyn's ricotta cheese. The brainchild of Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark, this is the best ricotta out there if you ask me -- creamy, lactic, salty and the perfect melt in your mouth sort of feel! It is most certainly as far from the plastic containers of ricotta you grew up with. Both the cheese and the wine have a slight bit of residual sugar and together they create such a fantastic combo, you can't go wrong. Perfect for a rooftop summer cocktail hour!

Pairing #2: CHANNING DAUGHTERS ROSATI DI MERLOT, 2009 (BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY) & NETTLE MEADOW FARM’S KUNIK (THURMAN, NY) This is a very light rose from one of my favorite Long Island wineries, Channing Daughters, full of red fruit on the nose with a crisp grassyness as well, clean and delish! This is paired with a truly unusual cheese, Nettle Meadow's Kunik. Why is it unusual you might ask? Well that's because it is a goat based triple cream and those are very few and far between. By that I mean, it has that tangy, grassy, lightness of goat's milk cheeses but with the weight of a cow's milk cheese. That is because of the fact that it is 25% Jersey Cow's Milk and 75% goat's milk. Buttery, bloomy, unctous with an excellent mouth feel!

Pairing #3: WOLFFER CABERNET FRANC 2006 (SAGAPONACK, NY) & TONJES FARM COW HILL (CALLICOON, NY) A great example of how Long Island does Cabernet Franc so well, the Wolffer Cab Franc from 2006 is everything a cool climate cab should be. Lighter in taste but not without some body, but not too heavy that you feel that you should be eating meat or heavy pasta dishes. A good summer red! This was paired with Tonjes Farm's Cow Hill, a three month aged raw cow's milk cheese that is a bit piquant, crumbly, barnyardy and delish. A great companion to the cab franc.

Pairing #4: OMMEGANG ABBEY ALE (COOPERSTOWN, NY) & OLD CHATHAM SHEEPHEARDING COMPANY’S SHAKER BLUE (OLD CHATHAM, NY) Ommegang hails from the first Belgian brewery on New York land, opened in 1997. Made in the traditional Belgian style, with their own yeasts and hops, this beer has a redish hue and is full of fruit and spice and everything nice. A dubbel style meaning that it was double fermented and has 8.5%, easy dynamic drinking! This was paired, to finish the evening off with Old Chatham's Shaker Blue -- salty, pungent, piquant, creamy and fantastic, all the things you want in a medium bodied blue cheese. A great pairing and a fun change up to the more common blue cheese and dessert wine pairing, I recommend trying it out!

That wraps up what we tasted last night, I encourage you to try these on your own time or if you are interested in having a private tasting, please write me!

Stay tuned for details of my next class -- Summer in the City: Warm Weather Cheeses and Cooling Wines.

Day Ninety - Six : A little neighborhood gem

Oops oops, I'm running extremely behind here with my posts, it's my weekend lag time, I suppose you could call let's rewind the clock and fill you in on Saturday and Sunday...

Friday evening on my way out of the office, upon a tip, I stopped into a fantastic little neighborhood store called Cheese on 62nd. A most unassuming block sandwiched between the hussle and bussle of Lexington Avenue in the lower 60s and the relatively quiet residental retail area of 3rd avenue. Walking into the small store front, you feel immediately transported to another time and place. Barely large enough to fit five people comfortably, you are confronted with wall to ceiling displays of various food products, artisanal crackers, pastas, pastes, jams, dried fruits, anything and everything you can think of. Turning your attention to the cheese selection, you will be equally as bombarded with the overstocked cheese case. A quick galance reveals cheeses that span the globe, some classics and some lesser known stars like the fantastic cheeses made by Lazy Lady Farm. Typically, I find with these sorts of neighborhoody stores, prices can sometimes be so marked up that it makes it daunting to even think about buying a cheese you can enjoy on a simple lowkey night. Not here, you can definitely find some decent deals and even better the sales people are very nice and allow you to have a few tastes if you're not sure exactly what you are in the mood for!

For all you Upper East Sider's out there or even Midtown East folks, it is definitely worth a visit to Cheese on 62nd! Always such a treat to find the small little neighborhoody places pulling their own weight and managing to stay a-float in our current economy!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day Ninety-Five : Elvis Presley meets this week GCF scrambled up

As American citizens, I'm sure that a large percentage of us are aware of the King of Rock n' Roll's favorite sandwich -- peanut butter and bananas, some people think that bacon was thrown into the mix on the backdrop of two pieces of Wonder or white bread. Classic, right?

I thought for today's GCF, I would reinvent that classic and make it new and delish. If you strip the sandwich down to its basics, it is bread, a nut based creamy spread, a fruit, and a potential salty addition. Easy right? Here was one thought:

Instead of Wonder bread, lets use some nice Pullman bread. Next up, lets swap out peanut butter for almond butter and instead of bananas lets use some dried figs sliced thinly. In the event that bacon is thrown in there, lets use instead, Fourme d'Ambert. Hailing from the Auvergne region of France, this is a delish, creamy blue full of veining. Sweet, nutty, and smooth, impossible to go wrong with! It has a sufficient amount of salt to stand up to the sweetness of the dried figs and then creamyness of the almond butter. Heat your Elvis Sandwich reinvented and enjoy a truly yum snack or meal.

And another:

Lets use the same bread, Pullman, nice and thick, this is the perfect bread to absorb the creaminess of the nut based butters. Here's lets use hazelnut butter, richer, nuttier, and a little more piquant than say an almond or peanut butter. For our fruit, let's slice really thinly a granny smith apple which will play off the flavors of the hazelnut butter perfectly! Lastly, for our salty addition here, I think a nice fresh goat's milk chevre would be perfect. Milky, chalky, and creamy, great to play off the nuttiness of the hazelnut butter and the crisp, freshness of the apples! Bake Elvis Sandwich option two and enjoy!

Should you not like my two ideas, feel free to use my model and create your own.
Have a good night ladies and gents.

Day Ninety - Four: Chopin, Gougeres, and Martinis

Last night, I went to a fantastic celebration of the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth for Chopin Vodka at the Rose Bar at the Plaza Hotel. Walking into the Plaza, I felt transported back in time to an era of opulence and elegance, classic old world New York City at its finest -- such a treat!

Chopin vodka was flowing, little bites were circulating, candles were blown out in honor of Chopin's birth and lastly, the world's largest vodka bottle, at 200 liters, handblown in Prague, was on display -- a fun time was had by all.

I got to thinking, if I were to add an hors d'oeuvres, cheese specific to the mix, what would I add? They were offering sliders, smoked salmon, proscuitto & melon, and veggie samosas. The go-to easy, classically French route is gougeres which are basically light and airy balls or popovers infused with gruyere. Yummy savory and utterly delish, some of the best in town can be found at Artisanal, however they are easy to make at home. Here's a recipe to try for your next cocktail party:

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
A pinch of nutmeg
A few sprigs of rosemary
A few sprigs of thyme
1 cup flour
1 cup grated gruyere
1 cup water
5 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup of Parmesan
1/4 cup finely chopped chives

To take these ingredients and make them into the delish cheese hors d'oeuvres, you first need to preheat your oven to 425. While the oven is heating up, you can combine the water, butter, olive oil, herbs, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a pan and allow it to boil over low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the flour to your pan and stir with a wooden spoon over low heat for two minutes, till it is nicely combined. Next up, mix in the cheese. Lastly, add one by one, four out of our five eggs, whisking away to combine each egg. Lastly use a tablespoon to plop your little bite sized gourgeres onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. To top of the gourgeres off, take that last egg and combine it with a half a tablespoon of water. Now brush each gourgere with your mixture. I like to make mine extra cheesy, straying a little bit from the classic recipe, and sprinkle a little parmesan and chives over the top of each after the egg mixture has been placed on top. Now bake for seventeen to twenty minutes or until they are golden brown. Take out of the oven and enjoy with your friends for hors d'oeuvres!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day Ninety - Three : Luncheon Recap - Bar Breton

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Bar Breton, a quaint little brasserie style restaurant on 5th avenue and 28th street. Granted, honestly you could have been in any major cosmopolitan city in the Western Hemisphere -- quite the nice trait in a restaurant. Yes, it is nice to walk into a place and know that you are in New York as well, but sometimes this geographical anonymity is a welcome surprise and quite the treat. It allows you to forget your city's food agenda but more specifically hopefully enables you, as the diner to dispose of any preconceived notions of what the food is going to be like and what-so-and-so said about the food and what this critic said about the place -- it instills a sense of naivete within you.

Back to Bar Breton...the cuisine at this little spot is inspired by the classic dishes of Chef Cyril Renaud's home of Brittany in the Northwest of France. The lunch menu is a nice mix of the flavors of Brittany translated into salads, sandwiches, mains, and of course galettes or buckwheat crepes -- you can't visit the region without trying one! Galettes are light and certainly nuttier than their more well-known crepe cousin, definitely an overlooked dish.

We started with their salad of arugula, enoki mushrooms, shaved parmesan, and a light lemony vinaigrette. So light, crisp, and clean, you couldn't go wrong with this salad. What I liked about the salad was the fact that it is not a typical pairing you see on restaurant appetizer menus but was the perfect amuse bouche. Also, the salad definitely highlighted the deliciousness of Enoki mushrooms - a member of the mushroom family that I certainly don't think gets sufficient time in the spotlight.

Following the salad, I had to have one their galettes, I settled on their Goat's Cheese & Sundried Tomato Gallete with Spinach coulis, Parmesan, basil and micro greens served open face, rather than folded like most traditional crepes. Upon first glance it almost looked like a crepe met a pizza and this was the result but it really wasn't. It had a lightness because of the buckwheat flour and thinness of a crepe but an inherent freshness from the ingredients and such a simple flavor combination but the backdrop of the galette made it dressed up and new!

A simple, delish place for a lowkey lunch, I would go back -- clean food, a nice atmosphere, nothing fussy, and not overpriced.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day Ninety - Two : Results and a Warming Recipe for a Seasonably Cold Afternoon

Who else thinks that it currently feels like it is March outside? I know I sure do! Four layers in mid-May, really? Guess that's what global warming does to us, huh? If each and everyone of us took just an extra minute in each day to reduce our negative impact on the environment, do you think we would be able to make any difference? I like to think we could! Every little bit counts right?

Enough of my environmental preaching, granted it is a very important issue and one that we should all spend more time on. However, you all don't read my blog so that you can learn about how to save the environment, you read my blog for CHEEESE and that's what you will be getting today! Moving right along, shall we discuss the results of our Gruyere Marriage Mondays.

The trick with this week's contestants is that since each of the three candidates has so many sub-categories, to be very honest, each could win for a different reason. But the key here is which I think goes the best!

Contestant Number One: Tomatoes - Although luscious and juicy, tomatoes in their fresh form sliced thinly with gruyere and say some olive oil and basil are not good bedfellows. Why you may ask? Well that is because the juiciness of the tomatoes overwhelms and consequently takes center stage to the hard, nutty, caramelly-ness of the cheese. More simply, this just isn't a case where opposites could hypothetically hit it off. Granted, that isn't to say that non-fresh tomatoes wouldn't be a hit with gruyere..

Contestant Number Two: Salmon - Another case where opposites don't attract but again, not necessarily a case where they couldn't find another means of potential attraction. The fishiness coupled with the consistency of roasted/baked/etc salmon gives off an indulgently rich melt in your mouth sort of feel that triggers a different set of flavor profiles than gruyere and unfortunately they simply are not complementary. However, if you take smoked salmon, gruyere, some herbs and creme fresh and maybe some other veggies and throw them in a crepe, and heat the entire mixture up together, you probably wouldn't be disappointed, thrilled, I'm not so sure, but satisfied yes.

Contestant Number Three: Pickles - Did you figure it out?? Obviously I have chosen pickles to win.. The reason for this choice is the salt + puckery-ness mixing with nutty + buttery + barnyardy + puckery-ness working together. In more paired down wording -- both the pickles and the cheese share certain similar characteristics and complement each others' differences -- key needs in any and all relationships, right?

So, without further ado, the simplistic recipe for this evening's meal.  Being that it is cold, this is meant to warm you, your tummy, and your soul -- bring back memories of elementary school lunches and delis you frequented in college.

Start off with some good ole fashioned Italian bread (you know what I mean, the crusty bread with the white fluffy cloud like interior), nothing too fancy, but good quality bread. Before you do everything else, lets slice length wise, three carrots, toss them with olive oil, garlic, and herbs and roast, depending on your oven for twenty to thirty minutes or until they are caramelized. Next up, a nice amount of sliced gruyere, then a few of Rick's Pick's "the People's Pickle," a crunchy garlic dill pickle. Now most people would then want to insert a meat here, as you all know, I do not eat meat and have an interesting other option, a marcona almond, green olive, olive oil, garlic, chile, and herb spread that can go on one side of the bread -- somewhat like a tapenade, but saltier and spicier. Apart from the tapenade, this sandwich needs its roasted carrots and a few leaves of mixed greens and it is ready to go! Salty because of the tapenade, puckery because of the pickles, vegetal because of the greens, nutty because of the cheese and finally sweet because of the roasted carrots, this will all create a surprisingly successful dialog when placed in the confines of two pieces of Italian bread. Heat and enjoy tonight's recipe.

Nite all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day Ninety-One: Keeping it Simple -- Gruyere Marriage Mondays

Today I thought I would go with very approachable contestant, known by all for its excellent meltable qualities in the form of the winter comfort food, Fondue. Nutty, buttery, and puckery, this raw cow's milk cheese is now produced worldwide, however for our purposes, I'd like to stick to the tried and true, Swiss version. Not that, the "clones" are bad, it's just nice to go straight to the top! I think this is the sort of cheese that will please a wide audience, appealing to those of us with developed cheese palates and those of us just getting our feet wet with cheese. Make sure to buy the non-processed version at the supermarket, go for the cave aged option!

So let me introduce you to the contestants that will be in the running for tomorrow's recipe:

1. Tomatoes : Juicy and plump, this contestant is the most common garden plant grown worldwide. There are many variations of this delish fruit and in turn countless options for what to use it for when it comes to cooking or simply eating it. Yellow, red, green, heirloom, plum, cherry, sundried, to name a few, the options with contestant number one are endless.

2. Salmon : Pink in color, this contestant is one of the most popular fishes. Also with a variety of types, this is the sort fish that can insert itself into many different dishes where other fishes might simply not work! Smoked or unsmoked, this contestant certainly melts in your mouth.

3. Pickles : A cucumber that has been soaked in either a brine, a vinegar, or another solution that allows the cucumber to ferment, the classic accompaniment to a sandwich this contestant can take on a wide variety or forms -- each very distinct. Salty, briny, and delish, this contestant tends to be utilized for snacking purposes or as a sidekick to the main show.

So who do you think will win? Check back tomorrow for the results and a recipe!

Day Ninety : Mother's Day Cheeses

I apologize this is coming to you after Mother's Day but as I am sure you all have gathered, weekends tend to get a little busy and sometimes my musings get slightly delayed...but better late than never right!

As we all know, yesterday was Mother's Day - a day devoted to celebrating the mothers and grandmothers that brought us into this world and bring our world to life on a daily basis. We did not take the route of going for a sit down brunch at a restaurant surrounded by other families, a home cooked brunch was a much better option for us. Not that there was anything wrong with the former, just a different sort of celebration.

Before telling you about the cheeses, I will tell you about the fantastic meal we had prepared by my mother:

To start off, homemade popovers. Followed by a homemade chilled pea soup garnished with an egg, some parsley and other greens, homemade croutons and a light pea sauce. Delish and light, it was even thickened with tofu as opposed to cream! I'll admit a little something you all, I tend not to be the biggest soup fan, I don't exactly know why, but soups are not my food of choice typically. However this chilled soup was fantastic. The soup was followed by a green salad, homemade rice bread, cheese, homemade strawberry confiture, and Pain Quotidien's Oat, raisin and walnut bread, perfect for the cheeses. Lastly, the meal was capped off with homemade decaf espresso panna cotta.

Now, I am sure you are all curious about the cheeses I chose to bring! Well the selection was based on people's preferences and unusual cheeses of note, I thought nicer to go for a random selection this time around than my typical themed plate.

We started with Ardith Mae's Bigelo, the ash coated aged Goat's cheese from Pennsylvania. I knew that the crowd loved goat's milk cheeses and that this was one of the best ones I had had recently. Moving along, we had Jean Louis, a raw cow's milk cheese from Bobolink Dairy based in Vernon, New Jersey. Jean Louis is a crumbly, sweet, bright and somewhat grassy and barnyardy cheese. Different than most cheeses and definitely worth a taste! Bobolink is great because not only can you buy cheese from them at your local greenmarket, you can also buy their homemade bread. Lastly, we had Saint Agur, a stinky, heavily veined pasteurized cow's milk blue cheese. It's semi soft and if you ask me the perfect mix between approachable and not approachable -- enough stink to satisfy a developed cheese palate but not too much stink to scare away new comers to cheese and those who are blue-ambivalent.

I hope you too celebrated the mothers and grandmothers in your life!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day Eighty - Nine : Deals

Aren't weekends supposed to be relaxing? Full of time to enjoy yourself, occupying your free hours with activities of your choosing? I treasure those sorts of weekends, granted they do not come very often, but hey I figure as long as you enjoy what you're doing whether its for pleasure or business, sometimes we all have to make a little sacrifice here and there, right?

This weekend sure hasn't started off as the sort of pure relaxation, I'm aiming to have the rest of the weekend be hopefully a little more relaxing. Originally I was going to blog about cheeses that might relax you and take you to a place of zero stress. However, cheese can definitely be a vehicle to get you to that place of relaxation, but sometimes there have to be other factors involved!

Needless to say, I decided to tell you all about the cheese selection at the Westside Market on 7th avenue between 14th and 15th. It is a hidden gem if you ask me! They have a very extensive selection of cheeses, truly fantastic for neighborhood supermarket. What makes it even more outstanding is that they constantly rotate the cheeses they have on sale and unlike say, the Gourmet Garage, who tends to have one cheese on sale, they tend to have a wide variety on sale at any given time.

Today I stopped in to get some cheese for a movie  night tomorrow evening and got two different,  simple, easily pair-able cheeses. Just to give you an example of the sales, I got two different cheeses:

1. Sole Gran Queso - Originally $16.99 a pound, now on sale for $6.99 a pound. In case you aren't familiar, although this sounds like it should be from Spain, it is actually from Wisconsin. Modeled on a Manchego style cheese, this six month aged pasteurized cow's milk cheese is crumbly, nutty, caramelly, and even sweet on the finish. Definitely worth a try, especially at these prices!

2. Fol Epi - Originally $14.99, also $6.99 a pound. Also a cow's milk cheese, this one is a pressed and cooked cheese produced in the Loire Valley and has a high protein content. Fol Epi means "wild wheat stalk" in French, and it sure has a wheaty flavor. That is due to the fact that its rind is made from a wheat base. Funnily enough, the cheese comes in rounds that resemble loaves of bread. It is a semi-soft cheese with a wheat-y, nutty flavor to it, with similar notes as a Swiss Alpine cheese. An easy cheese that is very pleasing to every level of cheese palate!

So, needless to say ladies and gents, check out the Westside Market for all your cheese deals.
Have a lovely weekend.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day Eighty - Eight : Thai time GCF - East meets West

 Happy Friday folks! What a glorious day out, truly perfect warm Springy weather and definitely ideal for sitting outside and eating or sipping on a nice light wine. Sitting outside is certainly what I did this evening at a fantastic neighborhood Malaysian resto. I got to thinking, why not play off one of my favorite Malaysian and Thai dishes - green papaya or in the case or green mango salad. A simple refreshing salad that we will deconstruct for tonight's GCF -- an east meets west mixup.

Let's get going:

I like to use thick slices of Grandaisy's Pullman bread for this sandwich. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any Malaysian or Thai cheeses that are imported here to the US, cheese is not big in Asian culture. For this sandwich you want a semi-soft, somewhat sweet, definitely not a washed rind cheese. I'd like to suggest Queso de la Serena, a raw sheep's milk cheese from the Extremadura region of Spain. Made in somewhat of an alternative manner being coagulated with cardoon thistle as opposed to animal rennet. The thistle will impart a lovely vegetal, barnyardy sort of feel to the cheese. Easily spreadable and meltable, this is our ideal choice for tonight's GCF. Next off, julienne some cucumber and radish and chop up some unripe or green papaya. Add to this some bean sprouts and a thinnly chopped chile. Combine all of this with some chopped peanuts and lime juice, shrimp paste, soy sauce, a small drizzle of honey, olive oil and fish sauce. Mix together. Place some of this salad on top of your cheese then top with some cilantro. Heat away! What you will get is a spicy fresh salad mixed with the gooey, vegetal sweetness of the cheese all complemented with the bread. I recommend either a nice bright Gruner to pair with this GCF  or even a glass of Sake or  a beer.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day Eighty - Seven : Short & sweet & simple

Catching up to this evening where I sure am exhausted  and want to be an old lady and go to bed really early, I thought I would provide you with a short and sweet quick recipe.

While walking home this evening, I decided I needed strawberries from the fruit and veggie guy on the corner. 3 boxes of strawberries for 5 bucks, I was sold, I needed some fruit in the house, something yummy, fresh, juicy, and delish!!

After I had my dinner this evening, I got to thinking, well what did I want to do with the strawberries and here is what I did, boy was it delish and simple!

What do you normally dip strawberries in? Chocolate right?? Definitely not in cheese as in a fondue preparation!! Too bad!! But here is what I did tonight, I strongly recommennd this:

Leave a bowl of fresh and washed strawberries to one side. Take a tub of our favorite ricotta, Salvatore Brooklyn  and combine that with fresh basil, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of raw honey. Now when you dip that strawberry in, you will get  those outstandingly unusual flavor profile Delish!! Perfect with a light minerally whie wine!!

Enjoy this incredibly simple recipe, sometimes the simplest are the hardest to think of but definitely the most satisfying!!!

Have a good night ladies and gents

Day Eighty-Six: Albeit a little late, an unthought of pairing and a festival

Yesterday, Wednesday evening, I went to Brooklyn Uncorked, a fantastic yearly event held at BAM in Fort Greene in Brooklyn. It brings together over twenty wineries from Long Island and food purveyours and restaurants  from all over the five boroughs, truly an event worth attending! It is always in May, so stay tuned for next year's event. Don't know anything about Long Island wines? Want to try a variety of food by well known NYC chefs? And not pay a fortune to attend? This is the event for you! Damn, I should be on their PR team, huh?

Anyhow, I wanted to share with you an excellent pairing I tried while there for : Grafton's 3 year aged cheddar and Rick's Pick's pickles. Such an easy and well very obvious pairing, it is not something you would necessarily think of, but they complement each other so nicely Try it sometime and you will be surprised. Pickles are not just to accompany a sandwich, evidenced by this awesome pairing.

Apart from that pairing, there was a fantastic little amuse bouche prepared by Stinky Brooklyn (one of Brooklyn's best cheese stores), that was composed of a mixtured of stilcheton, feta, herbs and olive oil, to create a creamy topping for a piece of crusty bread A great idea to pair in the fall with a nice light red. Even though these were only a bite, there still was something that felt heavier about them.

The only other dish that had hints of cheese was a fava bean, shrimp, parmesan warm salad done by the chef behind El Quinto Pino and Txikito, simple flavors melded together so successfully!

Always fun to try new things, if you have the free time, definitely check out Brooklyn Uncorked next year!! Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day Eighty - Five : Results and an Orangey recipe...

After a long day of work and sky rocketing prices at the auctions, I regret to inform you all this all be a short post, however I wanted to make sure to get it in...

So, who is curious about the results?

Well here's the key thing, depending on Madame Quinoa's preparation, there could hypothetically be a place for each of these pairings, trick Marriage Mondays! However if you ask me, there is one clear leader on the whole so lets discuss why that contestant won and the recipe that he won for!

Contestant Number One: Feta -- Unfortunately not our winner in this week's competition, this salty and creamy block of cheesy goodness is best served fresh and cold in a salad or occasionally warm in a simple pasta preparation. However the fresh brininess of this cheese will overwhelm and "over salt" the quinoa making the pairing more about our cheese than about the dainty, crunchiness of the quinoa. This is such a great  cheese with crunchy veggies and a nice glass of minerally white wine, stick to that.

Contestant Number Two: Mr. Stink over here is a fantastic mouthful but unfortunately yet again is not the mouthful to pair with Madame Quinoa. Again the cheese will overshadow the delicacy of this grain. However Mr. Stink is an excellent and unusual addition to risottos, if you ask me, so you could stretch our imagination here and make a quinoa risotto preparation utilizing contestant number two but honestly the dish will become more about our lovely Tallegio than about our star, Madame! So, lets stick to her, right?!?!

Therefore, using your powers of deduction, you have been able to gather that, Contestant Number Three has won! Why you may ask? Well, don't fret I have an answer and a recipe to prove it! Primarily I think these two exist in an excellent harmony because not only do they complement one another in terms of heft yet lightness, each has an inherent nuttyness that finds its counterpart in the other. Each becomes its best self when combined with the other -- the key to an excellent long lasting partnership, huh?

A simple warming recipe for those of us who have had a long day and just want to relax and go to bed early! Let's get going! 

Start by cooking the quinoa as though you would cook rice on the stove top, in a pot of boiling water. Remove quinoa when it is aldente. While your quinoa is cooking, dice up one butternut squash and toss your small diced pieces into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes just to get them al dente as well. Next up, dice up some carrots and saute these babies with one chopped garlic clove and some fresh rosemary and thyme. Now combine all of this is an oven safe baking dish with some olive oil, fresh basil, a tablespoon of pumpkin puree (yes I know its out of season and all, but it will add that certain "je ne sais quoi" to the dish!); a little more rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. The final touch on this dish is a nice and healthy amount of thin slices of Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Bake this orange-tastic dish in the oven for about fifteen minutes on a low heat or till the cheese melts somewhat and gets golden brown, signalling that the rest of the dish has had the pleasure of being infused with the fantastic cheese. Pull out and serve with a fresh simple mixed green salad and a glass of either a medium bodied white or a very light red wine. Great to warm your body from the inside out when you've had a long day or on a lazy cold rainy Sunday afternoon. Enjoy! I guarantee you will enjoy the quinoa! It is fantastic!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day Eighty - Four : Quinoa Marriage Mondays

Originally my plan for today's Marriage Mondays was to focus on a simple standby cheese of Gruyere, but then as I had my Quinoa on the stove cooking in preparation for dinner, I thought I had to do a Quinoa Marriage Mondays. Now, I know some of you probably don't like quinoa or even know what it is but let me give you a few facts  and I encourage you to try at least once or twice, you surprise yourself.

Considered an Incan superfood, quinoa has all eight essential amino acids and is stocked full of protein, calcium, iron, vitamins B and E and is considered a slow release carb (good for you long distance runners out there.) Technically, quinoa is a seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. However, upon visual examination, you certainly would put it into the same category as millet, barley, rice, couscous, etc and it resembles all of the above in terms of typical preparation techniques. Somewhat similar to rice, it does come in a variety of colors --everything from a lightish yellow up to black, each equally delish as the last. Feel familiar somewhat with quinoa now? If you haven't tried it, please give it a whirl!

So today's contestant is Madame Quinoa and she will be potentially paired with three cheeses, one of which will create the excellent pairing recipe in tomorrow's post!

1. Feta - Traditionally hailing from the ancient lands and isles of Greece, this is a brined sheep's milk curd cheese, that sometimes has the guest partner of goat's milk. In our contemporary day and age, feta is made worldwide and maintains its consistancy of being an aged cheese, produced in blocks with a grainy, milky, crunchy, and of course salty flavor. Lip-smacking good when combined with some tomatoes, red onions, olives, and cucumbers to make a Greek salad. A very versatile cheese when it comes to wines, it  can work with whites, red, roses, you name it.

2. Taleggio - An Italian god of the washed rind clan, this is a semi-soft cow' milk cheese that sure is a stinker! Oozy, gooey, melty, buttery, pungent, and all together, yummy -- this certainly is a spreadable or meltable cheese. Also very versatile  when it comes to wines, working with both the white and the reds!

3. Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve -Wisconsin's award winning artisanal and farmstead answer to its regal French mountain top sibling, Beaufort. This is a firm cow's milk cheese with a nice weight to it while maintaining the difficult balance of a lightness in flavor profile. Nutty, caramelly, yet rich and clean, this baby also pairs well with everything from whites to reds...

So three contestants are vying for the chance to be combined in a recipe with Madame Quinoa. Who do you think it will be? Tune in to find out tomorrow!

Day Eighty-Three: A Refreshing Salad for a Mighty Hot and Humid Day

I realize I am coming to you all a little late for yesterday's post, the weekend got away from me, as it seemingly does quite often. For that, I am so sorry. Did it feel like summer to you yesterday or what? Certainly did for me! Perfect day to go to a baseball and go to a baseball game I did.

I've got a little confession to make, I love going to baseball games, primarily Yankees games but I do like attending others as well...Baseball screams summer to me -- sunny afternoons, cocktails, home runs, peanuts, and good ole times with friends, you simply can't go wrong!

As I was thinking of what recipe I wanted to share with you, I thought of my favorite drink to ingest on a hot Sunday afternoon at a baseball game, that is apart from water, and no it's not beer nor is it wine, it is a gin and tonic. Call me whatever you want but I find it delish and very fitting for the occasion. So I thought I would give a recipe for a refreshing cucumber salad that works very well with a gin and tonic or simply alone with a nice crisp cold glass of white wine on a hot summer day.

The key for this salad is the thickness or thinness with which you slice your cucumbers, it will keep them light, fresh, and delish! I'd grab about four medium sized cucumbers and slice each paper thinly. Toss them in a bowl, I like to add a little acid here in the form of a little bit of lemon juice over the cucumbers. Then add a drizzle of sesame oil. The nutty richness of the oil is perfect for our light cucumbers. Then dice up into very small squares, a radish and mix together. Next add a little heat, preferably in the form of sriracha sauce, just a few drops, this is strong stuff! Made from sun ripened chilis and garlic, this is an excellent pastey liquid to utilize to infuse most any dish with heat. Next add some fresh sprigs of thyme and then just a really small drizzle of raw honey to bring all of the saltiness, savoriness and sweetness together. This salad now needs a very light thinly sliced cheese and that cheese is: Ricotta Salata. Don't get confused name wise, this isn't a ricotta and don't get confused color wise, this isn't a feta. Hailing from Sardinia, this is a hard white cheese, essentially made from the whey of Pecorino Romano that is pressed, salted, and dried for three months to acquire a firm and yet simultaneously young and smooth texture. On the tongue, this is a sweet and milky cheese, great to add flavor to add salad just as we are doing here. And that's it! Enjoy this with a gin and tonic or a glass of crisp white wine on a humid Summer day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day Eighty - Two : Yesterday's trip to the Greenmarket

Friday is by far and away the best day to visit the Union Square Greenmarket, less crowds than on Saturdays and some of the purveyours, cheese, wines, vegetables and other fresh produce, fish, meats, and homemade pastries and breads!

I was especially excited to visit yesterday's greenmarket because I had read the past week's New York Magazine's Urban Forager column on Ardith Mae Cheeses and Todd and Shereen Wilcox, a NYC based couple who followed their dreams. Abandoning the hussle and bussle of the daily chaotic life of New York city for a farm in hills of Pennsylvania -- really following their dreams! It is always so inspiring to hear the stories of people like the Wilcoxes who really went for it, decided to truly follow their passions!

Needless to say yesterday was their debut at the Union Square Greenmarket, even though they have been selling in smaller quantities around town at other more neighborhoody greenmarkets, this was their first day out in front of the "big guys." Trust me, they did not disappoint in anyway! All of their cheeses are goat's milk based and each more delish, unique and truly lovingly produced than the last.

They only produce seven different types of cheese but with a small variety comes the opportunity to excel at each and every one. I only tried four of the cheeses and purchased two to enjoy in the comfort of my own home but I will tell you all of their availabilities and truly recommend sneaking away from the office on one Friday to visit Ardith Mae creamery at the Union Square Greenmarket, you won't be disappointed, I guarantee!

Their cheese offerings are as follows:

1. Of course they have the classic fresh chevre, with a few variations available. Creamy, lactic, fresh, fully melting in your mouth, you can't go wrong here.
2. Feta - which I didn't try, but I am sure is fantastic!
3. Doolan - soft rippened, small little rounds of goat cheesey goodness that are apparently firm and nutty. They were sold out of these when I went around lunchtime yesterday, but they sure sound delish!
4. Mammuth - also soft rippened but softer and creamier. These come in hockey puck sized rounds and are the perfect mix of soft tangy lactic-ness with a slight hint of age.
5. Bigelo - Soft rippened and ash coated, their answer to Valencay. This pyramid was somewhat firm from being aged, yet still sweet and tangy and my favorite! I definitely got one of these to take home and enjoy later.
6. Henry - one of their two harder cheeses, this semi-soft raw milk cheese was also sold out but is apparently supposed to be one of their superstars!
7. Bevan - the second of their harder cheeses, this washed rind raw milk cheese was stinky, nutty, buttery, gooey and delish! I couldn't resist bringing home some of this to enjoy with a nice glass of wine.

All in all, you can't go wrong with any of their offerings! Check them out the next time you are in the Union Square Greenmarket on a Friday!

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