Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day One Forty One - Cheese Spy Stories Dispatch Number # 3 - Amsterdam

Cheese Spy Stories Dispatch coming at you all early this week, hot off the presses, the newest European city to hit the cheese spy radar -- Amsterdam. This capital city of the Netherlands is known for its canals, the red light district, Anne Frank's house and many many more fantastic sites...

Interestingly enough the Netherlands had really fantastic artisanal cheesemaking traditions instilled in their society in the "olden days," but with the onset of modernization, a lot of their old food production procedures were lost. But fret not, this week our reliable spy found one of the best native cheeses at the height of the new artisanal cheesemaking revolution in the Netherlands.

This week, our spy went shopping at Caulils located at Haarlemmestraat 115 to buy a wonderful assortment of cheeses for a boating trip on the canals, what could be better to bring than cheese and snacks?

What did the spy find? Well the first discovery was an excellent local cheese known as olde remeker, a truly special award-winning Dutch style cow's milk cheese also aged for eighteen months. Unlike a lot of cheeses coming out of the Netherlands nowadays, this cheese is produced by a small farm, not a big industrial plant and trust me you can tell it is artisanal from the moment you lay eyes on it -- it a deep mustardy yellow hue. On the tongue, this is a chalky, nutty, butterscotchy mouthful of goodness - piquant, pungent, biting and fantastic -- it harkens back to the old school cheesemaking traditions of the region.

The next cheese our spy discovered is also aged eighteen months, except this time around, it hails from a little further away -- Spain. It is a Spanish Manchego -- crumbly, hard, caramelly, and all around delish! The flavors of this cheese have fully developed in its aging process making it a really dynamic and truly unique cheese.

But the best thing that our faithful cheese spy found was what is known as the "Dylan" mix -- the ultimate combo of nuts, dried cranberries, and wasabi dots... named after the Amsterdam hotel The Dylan -- one of the city's nicest boutique hotels, overlooking the fifth canal, the Keizersgracht. The building was certainly not always a hotel -- from 1773 till 1998, it was utilized by the Regents of the Roman Catholic Church Authorities as the Old and Poor People's Office.  However, in 1999, the building reopened as the hotel it is to date, fantastically new yet imbued with the city's historical memory -- a must visit on your next trip to Amsterdam.

Check back next week for another Cheese Spy Story dispatch from a totally new locale.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day One Forty - Rose Results

Couldn't you go for a nice glass of rose after today's work day? I know I could!

So let's get to the results of yesterday's Marriage Mondays so that you all can go out and have a glass of rose to celebrate!

Just a little change up in today's result post -- instead of proposing a recipe with the winning cheese and our rose, I will suggest a pairing concept and will also provide you with examples of what beverages the other two cheeses might work with most successfully.

Who's ready?!!?

Let's first discuss the two contestants that did not win out this week and why:

Contestant Number # 2: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company's Ewe's Blue - Our lovely New Yorker just simply didn't make the cut, she has too much of a fantastic presence and commandeers the relationship so it becomes all about her, not that that is bad, it just doesn't form an equal relationship. I think if you were to toss the cheese in a nice simple summery spinach salad with roasted almonds, diced strawberries, basil and dill and a nice vinaigrette, you would see that the wine could work with contestant number two. However, should you not feel like making a salad to pair the wine with Ewe's Blue, I would recommend a light red wine or even a Belgian style beer with this cheese -- the wine in this case will play off the spicy piquant notes of the cheese and bring them into another light.

Contestant Number # 3 : Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve  -- This big guy just isn't on the same planet as our rose -- they clash unfortunately. Roses need lighter more delicate cheeses and Uplands certainly isn't the most delicate cheese of the bunch. A fantastic mouthful of buttery, nutty, caramelly, butterschotchy goodness, this cheese should be paired with a nice medium bodied red wine in winter months or even a pilsner style beer in summer months. Should you want to pair this with a lighter beverage, certain white wines, like a medium bodied Tocai might work. However, if I were you, I'd stick to the red wine or beer route. 

Contestant Number # 1 :  Therefore by process of elimination, we can see that Ploughgate's Hartwell is the winner of this week's Marriage Mondays. The lusciousness yet lightness of the cheese finds its complement in the juiciness yet similar lightness of the wine. This is a great example of opposites attracting, the wine will dial down the creaminess of the cheese and exemplify the grassy, hay-like notes while still giving the wine's watermelon, strawberry, spice moments the opportunity to shine as well. So what would you pair this with? Well, I would suggest just some nice ciabatta bread. You can try out a dried fig or even some raw honey for a little pizazz, but I think you really want to allow each of these two elements to sparkle on their own.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Give it a go and let me know your feedback! Enjoy your evening folks!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine : Rose and the Americans Marriage Mondays

For me, the quintessential summer wine is Rose. Rose wines come in all colors from really really pale pink through to dark magenta-purple and are made in three distinct processes. For today's Marriage Mondays I thought I would utilize rose and discuss the three techniques of rose production before getting to this week's contestants, all of which promise to be delish on their own, but will they work with our lovely rose is the question.

Rose wine is made in three distinct ways:

1. Skin contact - Red wine grapes are crushed and the juice remains in contact with the grapes' skin for two to three days, imparting the lovely pink color we are all familiar with. Obviously, the longer the wine is in contact with the skin, the darker the color of the rose.

2. Blending - Not a very commonly utilized technique, this is a pretty obvious technique - white wine grapes are blended with red wine grapes to make rose.

3. Saignee (Bleeding the vats) - During the production of red wines, sometimes a winemaker wants to increase the tannins or deepen the color of their wine and therefore some of the pink-ish hued juice must be removed and thus the remaining wine in the vats is intensified and you now have a fantastic byproduct that can be utilized to create a rose.

So those are the three techniques of making my favorite summer drinking wine! I'm sure part of you is wondering, does she drink rose wines year round? And the answer to that question is no, I drink them from about May till September, why you may ask? Well, I think it really is just personal preference and I think that they are much more well suited to warmer temperatures and longer days.

A few of my favorite roses:

1. Channing Daughters, Rosati di Merlot
2. McCall Vineyard's Marjorie Rose
3. A to Z's Rose
4. Cotes de Provence MiP, Domaine Sainte Lucie

And of course I love Bubbly Roses as well, but that's a whole different topic!

Imagine utilizing Channing Daughters Rosati di Merlot here -- light in color and in taste, this wine almost has a bounce in its step! Full of strawberry, watermelon, mineraly, and spicy notes, this rose is made from one hundred percent Merlot grapes and sure is juicy in all the right ways. It packs a lovely mouth feel and a nice lingering finish, trust me you won't be disappointed!


So let's get going with our three cheesy contestants:

Contestant Number #1: Ploughgate Creamery's Hartwell - Hailing from the great cheesemaking state of Vermont, this contestant is a soft-rippened cow's milk creamy cheese -- vaguely reminiscent of a Camembert, this cheese is lighter on the cream and heaviness than most cow's milk cheeses and is full of grassy, hay like notes. It's a fantastic picnic cheese as it is creamy and luscious, but not too creamy that it won't hold up in the heat. It's almost slinky and velvety in consistency..

Contestant Number # 2: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company's Ewe's Blue - Landing a little closer to home here, this blue-veined baby is quite the piquant mouthful, spicy, peppery, pungent, and utterly fantastic. Made from one hundred percent sheep's milk and inoculated with Penicilium Roqueforti, this blue gives its European cousins a run for its money.

Contestant Number # 3 : Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve - Moving a little farther away from home, our last and final contestant hails from another great cheesemaking state, Wisconsin and is an aged washed rind unpasteurized cow's milk cheese made in the style of the great old school French cheese, Beaufort. Nutty, buttery, herbacious, grassy, full of caramel and butterscotch notes with a nice heft, this sure is a memorable cheese. Great for every occasion, this is a cheese that proves to you how successful American Artisanal cheesemaking is!!

So who do you think will win out for a chance to be paired with our lovely rose wines? Will it be the Vermonter? The New Yorker? Or the Wisconsonian? And is there one specific answer? 

Check back tomorrow for your results...

Day One Thirty Eight - Cheese Spy Stories Dispatch Number Two

It's that time again, time for dispatch number two of our cheese spy stories and this is Part Two from Paris -- our cheese spy returned to Androuet to pick out some cheeses this week and sure enough, our spy picked up some fantastic goat's milk cheeses just at peak at the end of June! Of course our spy kept local and only bought the best French cheeses that Androuet had to offer, cheeses that even if you can find here in the US, they taste completely different, in France, they reach that aha flavor moment!

What cheeses were procured?

1. Picodon de l'Ard├Ęche - A hockey puck sized goat cheese from the French region surrounding the Rhone river in the southern part of the country. Acidic, tangy, creamy, and perfectly puckering -- something is lost in this cheese when it travels accross the ocean to our plates here in the US.

2. Selles-sur-Cher - One of the classic Loire Valley goat's milk cheeses aged with a grey-ish blue mold in cheese caves, this was one of the first cheeses to receive AOC status, isn't that crazy? On the mouth, this is a multi-layered cheese -- the bluish mold flavors arrive first, followed by the subtlety of the goat's milk creaminess that constitutes the cheese.

3. Vache Divers - A soft rippened cow's milk cheese unlike any cow's milk cheese you would find here in the US, truly Artisanal cheese making at its best!

Check back next week for our cheese spy stories on our shores...I guarantee you won't be disappointed! And seeing as this post was for yesterday, don't fret, coming at you later today is our next dosage of Marriage Mondays!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day One Thirty Seven - An Intergenerational lunch

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekends, it is too bad about the USA loss in the World Cup, however on the other hand, there is something to be said for Ghana continuing on, the lone African hope. They deserve a shot at soccer glory and now they are one step closer.

Moving away from the World Cup as I wasn't able to watch the game because I went to visit my grandmother and bring her lunch. At 93 she is still going strong, working on causes she is passionate about that keeps her young! She certainly is an inspiration to anyone and everyone who is around her. So for today's post, I thought I would share with you briefly what I made for her for our summertime lunch. A simple, easily transportable lunch was my goal and according to her, I certainly succeeded.

For lunch we had an arugula, crunchy sprouts, asparagus, edamame salad with, sauteed mushrooms and whole grain bread as our croutons topped with little morsels of fresh goat's cheese with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Simple yet flavorful and delish! No cooking needed to be done at her apartment which was nice and I think when it is a summertime lunch you definitely want a cold dish, something not overly filling. To accompany the salad we had some Bouchon Bakery Rye Currant bread, moist and flavorful and a cheese selected in honor of my grandmother's particular cheese tastes. Her favorites are aged goat's milk cheeses. Good thing this was a summer lunch, as goat's milk cheeses are  at their peak right now. So, I selected a Chabichou de Poitou, a French cheese made in the Poitou region between Paris and Bordeaux. A classic aged French goat cheese with style -- this semi-soft cheese has a crinkly wrinkly skin (that yes is edible) with a white chalky interior, not as creamy and soft as other goat cheeses, this is a cheese that travels well and has a fantastic flavor profile -- full of grassy, fresh, citrusy, tangy notes, I knew I couldn't go wrong with this cheese for today's lunch. Sure enough I was right, she adored it!  We finished the meal with some tea and two of Bouchon Bakery's fantastic macaroons - one strawberry and one caramel.

However  the best part of the meal was seeing the enjoyment on my grandmother's face.
So I say to you all, make sometime for your families, it means so much to them.

Have a good evening folks, check back tomorrow for Cheese Spy stories and more adventures around town.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day One Thirty Six : A Summery GCF

I thought for this week's GCF, I'd suggest a simple sandwich utilizing our fourth cheese from last night's class -- Daryl which is an eighteen month aged Gloucester style cheese available for two weeks of the year made by Tonjes Farm in Callicoon, NY. Of the four cheeses we tried, I think that this cheese will be the most successful when combined with other delectables and melted.

You really don't want to add too much to this sandwich though because the cheese is so fantastic on its own that too many toppings will mask its delicate and unique flavors. I think the best bread is something crusty like Gourmet Garage has a bread that is baked with beer, slightly darker in color than white flour breads. I believe it is called their Ale Bread, however I am blanking, but if you go to a Gourmet Garage location and inquire as to this bread, I am sure you won't have an issue finding it. This bread is nutty, crusty, flavorful but not too overpowering for the cheese, a perfect base for our sandwich. After placing some nice chunks of your Daryl on the bread, grab a nice golden delicious apple and slice it really thinly, top your cheese with a few slices. Next up, to add a savory note to the sandwich, saute half a shallot with some extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Add this to the top of the apple. Then drizzle a few drops of walnut oil on top which will dial up the nuttiness of the sandwich and bring out the creamy, cheddary, barnyardy flavors of the cheese.

Go ahead and melt the sandwich and enjoy with a nice glass of chilled Coney Island Brewing Company's Albino Python. I guarantee you will enjoy it!

Have a good Friday folks!

Day One hundred and thirty -five : An Educational Recap

Last night I taught a cheese class called Summer in the City: Warm Weather Cheeses and Cooling Wines and since not all of my loyal Fromagical readers were  able to make it to last night's class, I thought I'd fill those of you in who couldn't make it.

The first  pairing we sampled was Wolffer Estate's Big Apple Wine from Bridgehampton, NY paired with Beltane Farm's Fresh Chevre from Lebanon, CT. Apple wines are hard to come by, however when you do, definitely scoop up this fantastic homage to the state fruit of NY. I am sure you are wondering what makes an apple wine different from an apple cider. The answer to that my friends is simple, apple wines are composed of apple juice made from a nice blend of different apple types. The juice is then cold settled for one week and then is inoculated with Cote de Blanc yeasts allowing a fermentation process to begin. And what you get is a light, fruity, and delish summery wine. Great for serving on hot days like today! This wine was paired  with a fresh chevre from Beltane Farms. The summertime is all about having fresh cheese that was made within the previous month, fresh, delish, grassy, young, and creamy. A perfect pairing for a rooftop cocktail party.

The second pairing we sampled was Millbrook Winery's Tocai Friulano from Millbrook, NY and Ardith Mae's Doolan from PA. Tocai Friulano is a quintessential Italian white wine grape but when transplanted to American soil, this grape gets more lively, if you ask me! Clean, medium bodied, full of citrus notes, a great example of the "New World" doing the "Old World" right! We sampled this with Ardith Mae's Doolan, a soft ripened goat cheese from the fantastic husband and wife team who run this creamery. This   cheese has been aged and hand taken care of for at least a month in their cheese caves and trust me, what you get is something fantastic. Tangy, creamy, yet more developed flavors than the fresh chevre, this is a cheese that is the full monty. The nice thing about this pairing is that the minerality of the cheese plays perfectly into the minerality of the wine and I guarantee that this is a pair that can easily go hand in hand.

The third pairing we did was McCall Winery's Marjorie Rose from Cuchoague, NY and Woodcook Farm's Summer Snow from Weston, VT. McCall winery is definitely a winery to keep on your radar, it is the only purely wind powered winery on the North Fork of Long Island and is really just beginning to grow, it currently produces five different wines, four reds and this rose. This rose is made from one hundred percent Pinot Noir grapes and is an excellent example of a perfect summer wine. It's made in the saignee or bleeding the vats style of making rose. By that, I mean that this rose is a by-product of the red wine production. When a winemaker wants to impart more tannins or color to their wine, some of juice from the must is removed and therefore the red wine that remains is intensified because there is some juice removed. That juice that is removed can be made into rose wines like this lovely one we had tonight. It is paired with Woodcook Farms' Summer snow -- a bloomy rind sheep's milk cheese only produced in the summer months when the milk utilized for the cheese is totally perfect. You will see that the crisp juiciness of the wine complements the creaminess of the cheese perfectly and creates an aha moment!

The fourth pairing we did was Coney Island Brewing Company's Albino Python brewed in Saratoga Springs, NY and Tonjes Farm's Daryl from Callicoon, NY. Albino Python is a wit beer in lager form with some added spices -- ginger, crushed fennel, and sweet orange peel. When you smell this beer it is a symphony of aromas  on your palate, certainly not straightforward beer choice. Delish on the nose and on the tongue, this is a hard to find beer that tops my beer lists! It is paired with an eighteen month aged cheese by the name of Daryl from Tonjes Farm. This cheese is only released for two weeks out of the year and is intense for all the right reasons. Daryl is Tonjes' aged Rambler, a gloucester style cheese, by that I mean Rambler is originally made utilizing a cheddaring method where after the whey is heated and drained, the cheese curds are cut into cubes and then stacked and turned over and over for a few hours. This drains excess whey and also acidifies the cheese for the right reasons!

Please go out and buy some of these cheeses for your sampling pleasures! Thank you to everyone who attended and who helped make the class possible.

Check back later today for our weekly GCF!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day One hundred and thirty four - Seasonality

As it is the week of the summer solstice and I am teaching a class on warm weather cheeses tomorrow, I thought for today's post, I'd give you a little preview of some of what I will discussing tomorrow and talk  about how seasonality effects cheeses.

Cheese seasonality is linked primarily to the reproductive cycle of the animals (cows, goats, and sheep) and secondarily to weather and in turn the amount of daylight available and lastly, obviously what the animal eats will affect the flavors and tastes of their milk. Seasonality if you ask me really only comes into play more when discussing goat and sheep's milk cheeses, as cows produce milk year round. However, many artisanal cow dairies will only produce cheese when they think that their milk is in prime cheesemaking condition.

Obviously, cheese can only be made when the  animals are lactating or have just given birth and are needing to feed their young. Sheep lactate for the shortest period of time, eight months. Goats lactate for ten months and cows can have milk all year round. Therefore, we can see that there are four months out of the year where there is no sheep milk and two months out of the year where there is no goat's milk, making cheese production at those times tougher. Now this is not to say that there is no goat or sheep's milk cheese in the winter months, cheesemakers have come up with alternative  routes -- whether it is selling cheeses that have been aged or tinkering with the breeding cycles so some animals give birth in the spring and some in the winter. However those animals that give birth in the winter, do not have the best food to graze on changing the quality of their milk. Think of it this way -- yes you can get berries and peaches and cherries in winter months but are they as good as the bounty you find in the summer? Most certainly not! Just as with our fruit analogy, cheeses produced in winter months will taste very different than the same cheese in a summer month.

So are you curious what cheese to eat when?!!? This is just to give you an idea, I think you can figure it out for yourself!

Springtime months - Ricotta, really fresh fresh goat cheeses, young sheep's milk cheeses, certain cheeses like St. Pat's are only made in Springtime months and are fantastic. St Pat's is a creamy cheese that is wrapped in nettle leaves.

Summertime months - Semi-aged goat's and sheep's milk cheeses, fresh goat and sheep's milk cheeses, mozzarella and burrata, some cheeses that were made with last summer's milk and aged for the past year like Comte and of course bloomy rind sheep and cow's milk cheeses like camemberts.

Fall months - Washed rind cheeses  that were made with spring time  milk and aged and we see a second growth in the pastures after summer's drying out. This second growth enables extended production of cheeses into the late fall and early winter months.

Winter months - Blue veined cheeses that have been made with early spring milk and aged, same goes for firmer and harder cheeses that need aging to bring out their flavor profiles like  Ossau-Iraty, Gruyeres, etc.

I hope you learned a little bit about what cheeses to eat at what times of year. It is definitely worth the experiment of trying one artisanal goat cheese in the height of summer and then trying the exact same cheese, if you can find it, in the middle of the winter, I guarantee you will think that you had two totally different cheeses.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day One hundred and thirty three : Results and a bright recipe for a dreary summer eve

Who is curious to find out the winning contestant from yesterday's Marriage Mondays?!? Can you guess who it might be and why? Well....should you not be able to, I can fill you in!

So, lets get going...

Contestant Number #1: Unfortunately Red Hawk simply overpowered our lovely Orzo this week. Pairing these two together becomes a completely one sided relationship, it becomes all about the Red Hawk. This pairing actually teaches us something very important about washed rind cheeses, it is really tough to utilize washed rind cheeses in cooked dishes or really to pair them with anything besides a simple baguette, a nice wine or more rather beer, and maybe one other ingredient. Washed rind cheeses have such a presence that when combined  with another ingredient or utilized in a dish, they are not able to take a supporting or back seat role. But please feel free to enjoy our beloved Red Hawk with a nice beverage and some crusty bread, I guarantee you won't be disappointed with the party in your mouth.

Contestant Number # 2: Manchester also falls short of winning, for some of the same but also different reasons as Red Hawk. Manchester is a show stopping cheese if you ask me and is a cheese that  should be eaten on its own so its nuances are able to be revealed. If you were to combine Manchester with Orzo you would be taking the brilliance of Manchester and dulling it a little bit, it is just not a fair match-up. Now, that is not to say Orzo isn't delish, it just doesn't have the world's best leg to stand on in comparison to Manchester. So the moral of this contestant is that sometimes the fantastically artisanal cheeses are meant to be eaten on their own so their true colors can shine, they can be combined into other dishes, but it will diminish their excellence, yes they will meld very well with the flavor profile of most dishes, but they fall short of their potential. Manchester and other artisanal cheeses are meant to be enjoy as themselves...not intertwined with other elements.

Contestant Number #3: So that means by process of elimation, Manouri wins this week's Marriage Mondays. Does that mean that Manouri is the best cheese by far? No, not at all, it just means that Manouri and Orzo form an excellent relationship, they balance each other out for all the right reasons and neither of the two steals the spotlight from the other... The inherently nice thing about this pairing and in turn relationship is the creaminess of the cheese is able to boost the flavor profile of the Orzo without overpowering it and turning the Orzo into something it is not. I truly think that with such a simple carb as Orzo, you need think simple like this cheese. To give you an example of how they work together, let me give you my summer Orzo salad recipe:

1 lb of cooked orzo - If you've never cooked orzo, imagine you are cooking rice or pasta, it is pretty much the same.
2 teaspoons of diced dill
2 teaspoons of diced chives
1 cup of corn
1/2 cup of fresh cooked peas
1/2 cup of thinly diced sugar snaps
1/2 lb of olive oil, herb, and garlic roasted salmon
1/3 - 1/2 lb of diced Manouri
Homemade Vinaigrette - sauteed shallots, eight year aged balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Maille mustard.

Combine all of these ingredients together and serve this fantastic summer salad cold with a nice glass of Pinot Blanc, say for example Lieb Reserve Pinot Blanc from the North Fork of Long Island.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day one hundred and thirty-two - Orzo Marriage Mondays

Phew, finally all caught up, hopefully going to have a better week this week in terms of being on top of my musings. How it's time for Marriage Mondays again, I'm not exactly sure, but it seems to be the case! Wow, right?

For today's Marriage Mondays, I thought I would choose one of my favorite carbs -- orzo! Resembling a mixture between an over-sized grain of rice and a skinny-mini pine nut, this pasta is typically found in salads, stews, soups, or baked into casseroles, this is a very delicate and not overly carb-y pasta, good for summer nights yet also baked and warm for cold winter afternoons....

You must be thinking, why is she talking about a pasta shape here, doesn't any cheese go with pasta since pasta is somewhat of a blank canvas...well I don't think so, I think that certain cheeses work excellently with certain shapes of pasta because not only do they coat the pasta successfully but they accentuate the pasta's shape and contours and turn a  blank canvas into a beautifully painted landscape.

If you ask me, each pasta shape has a particular cheese that suits it perfectly...well let's get going here  with this week's three contestants:

1. Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk: Hailing from out  west, this triple cream cow's milk cheese is a mouthful in all the right ways. Washed in brine and aged for four weeks, this is a cheese with personality, it certainly does not go lightly into the night. Sunset orange in color, this cheese sure is show-stopping and award-winning-- full of farmy, barnyardy, creamy,  salty, gooey and tangy notes, this is a cheese that will make a meal. But the question remains, will it make our meal with Orzo?

2. Consider Bardwell Farm's Manchester: Hailing from the great cheesemaking state of Vermont, this a firm aged goat's milk tomme. Named after the town that is situated at the base of the Green Mountains, this is a cheese that certainly is a little rough around the edges, certainly not manicured for the urban environment... Earthy, grassy, nutty, this is a cheese that adds a unique and loving note to the goat tomme style, but will this cheese be  the appropriate song and dance  for our beloved Orzo??

3. Manouri: The only international contestant, this Greek cheese is deceiving -- in color, it resembles a young, fresh goat cheese, but in reality it is the leftover feta-making whey. Aged for two to four months, this pasteurized sheep milk beauty is somewhat akin to the Italian manner of making Ricotta, yet the product here is clean, fresh, milky yet dense, silky smooth, luscious yet firm cheese. Ripe with contradictions, this is an extremely satisfying and simple yet full flavored cheese that would make any palette happy. But is it the match for Orzo??

Stay tuned to find out the results tomorrow folks, sleep well.

Day One hundred and thirty one - Sunday brunch

Yesterday, while on the Cape, we went to a yummy brunch at the Dan'l Webster Inn located in Sandwich, Mass. However, instead of telling you all about the food and drink and surroundings of our brunch which were wonderful, I thought I would imagine a different approach and create a Cape Cod centric omelette, simple yet totally yummy and if you ask me, summing up some of the classic flavors of the region in a brunch dish rather than in our lobster roll...

So lets get going! This is a very simple recipe:

Although I tend to prepare my omelettes with egg-whites, please feel free to use full eggs if you prefer. Once you determine whether or not you are using egg whites or full eggs and how many people you are making this for, crack your eggs into a bowl and whisk for one minute, this will make the eggs fluffy. While wisking, warm up a skillet on your stove over very low heat with some Pam or non-stick spray, pour your eggs into the pan. Now, slice a few thin slices of  Lynnhaven's Chevre with Cinnamon and Dried Cranberries (found at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays). This cheese is a nice homage to the cranberries that Cape Cod is known for. Let the cheese melt a little bit and combine with your eggs. Now, chop up a few raspberries and drizzle on top of your eggs, I know this might sound like a weird ingredient to add to an omelette but I guarantee it melds perfectly. And to me, raspberries scream summer. Next up chop up some mint and basil and sprinkle on top. Cook over low heat till you are able to get your spatula under one of the sides and fold in half, cook for another few minutes and remove from stove. Top with a really light sprinkle of Rose Sea Salt. Enjoy while still hot. A very different sort of omelette, sweet and savory, fruity yet full of herbal and green notes.

Day One hundred and thirty : The perfect beach picnic

As I was away on Cape Cod this weekend, writing to you, my dear Fromagical readers was somewhat tough, but fret not, I will catch up with all of the days I missed now...

This weekend's weather was fantastic allowing for plenty of outdoors time and even my first visit to the beach this summer. Granted, I was bundled in a heavy wool blanket and quite freezing but for those of us who do not get cold in 80 degree weather, you would have found it quite lovely and brisk! While sitting on the beach this past Saturday, I got to thinking of previous experiences sitting on beaches when it was significantly colder than I expected...beautiful weather conditions, just not beachy temperatures...I fondly thought back to sitting on the beach in southern Spain five or so years ago...

So for my catch-up post number one today, I thought I would propose the perfect Spanish beach picnic for the next time you're at the beach and want a yummy snack.

What are the ingredients in your picnic basket you may ask? Well, folks here you go:

One bag of Tortas de Aceite (typically found at Spanish speciality stores or at cheese shops) - These walk a fine line between cracker, pita, and bread, however they are none of the above. These inherently Spanish crisps are kneaded with flour, sesame, salt, yeast, and the most important ingredient of all - virgin olive oil! They are fantastically delish, crunchy, and satisfying. Easier than a big box of crackers or a loaf of bread for a beach picnic.
One bag of Marcona Almonds - Native only to Spain, these are super delish, salty, crispy, nutty, oily, and highly addictive. They are large and flat almonds with a much richer and more intense flavor than their ordinary almond cousins. The saltiness of the almonds is really good for you if you are sitting at the beach sweating...
 
A nice jar of Olives - Spanish olives are delish, salty, briney, and yummy...I like to get the green olives stuffed with garlic for that nice savory jolt to your picnic.
 
A slice of Fig Almond cake - Also found at most supermarkets or cheese shops, this is basically figs and almonds and is great sweet and savory accompaniment to the cheeses.
 
A jar of Membrillo - The quintessential Spanish accompaniment to cheese, this quince preserve is to die for, dark in color and rich in taste, you can't go wrong bringing a jar of this.
 
And now on to the cheeses, I think best to bring between two and three different cheeses. When thinking of cheeses to take to the beach or for a picnic in the summer, I tend to try and stray away from really young cheeses or curmbly blues, too much of a mess. I like to go the hard and firm route, easy to cut and they can last for a much longer period outside of the fridge.
 
So here are my picks:
 
Ibores  - A Spanish goat cheese whose rind is rubbed in paprika and olive oil. An aged firm cheese, it sure will hold up in the heat and won't become too much of a mess as certain fresh and softer cheeses might. Spicy yet tangy, fresh yet buttery, grassy yet somewhat oily. Delicate, flavorful, and very light, this is a cheese that is extremely versatile. I would pair it will a few olives on one your tortas..
 
Mahon - This cheese hailds from the Spanish island of Menorca and is one of very few cow based cheeses produced in Spain. Yellow in color, this aged cow's milk cheese is piquant and biting while at the same time full of lemony citrus hues, definitely a puckery cheese with a nice creamy cow's milk finish. It has the texture of cheddar but with a completely different and inherently Spanish flavor profile. I would pair this probably with a nice bit of the fig almond cake.
 
Zamorano (or should you feel the desire, 12 month aged Manchego) - Hailing from the Spanish region of Castille-Leon, having been made for centuries, this cheese takes Manchego and makes it nuttier, richer, more crumbly, barnyardy and gamey. A hard, aged sheep's milk cheese it has a deceptively melt-in-your mouth quality to it! A full bodied cheese perfect with some membrillo!

So that folks is what I would take on a Spanish themed picnic, should you want to take other quintessentially Spanish foods, please do! The best place for Spanish goods if you ask me is Despana at 408 Broome Street in Soho.
 
Enjoy!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day One hundred and twenty nine : A very Cape Cod-ey GCF

It's that time again! Time for this week's GCF and as I am spending the weekend in Cape Cod, I thought what a perfect opportunity to do a Cape Cod GCF! When you think Cape Cod, what do you think? I know I think Cranberries, chowdah, lobster rolls and more...So for today's GCF, I thought I would do a twist on a lobster roll GCF.

Lets get going, instead of using the typical hot dog bun that you tend to find lobster rolls served on, lets use some nice Sourdough bread, preferably San Francisco Sourdough. I recommend going to the Greenmarket today and grabbing a nice loaf from one of the fantastic bread stands offering yummy homemade loaves. Now, for the ingredients on the interior:

1/2 pound of cooked lobster (finely chopped)
1/2 pound of cooked shrimp (finely chopped)
1/2 tablespoon of grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 - 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound of Salvatore Brooklyn's Ricotta or another homemade artisanal ricotta (I like to use this as a substitute for mayo, yummier and better for you!)
1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
2 teaspoons chives finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
A light sprinkling of Dill (a little under a teaspoon)
Salt
Pepper

Combine all together in a bowl. You need to of course think of your cheese, that is apart from Ricotta. For this sandwich, I would go with a Swiss style cheese, excellent at melting and melding with the other flavors of your sandwich. You could go with Appenzeller or the classic Gruyere or Sbrinz or a Vacherin Fribourgeois. I'd probably go with the Vacherin as it just blossoms when it is melted, becoming grassy, nutty, sweet yet savory, puckery, and totally delish! Once you've got your bread, cheese and your lobster salad, all you need are a few sprigs of arugula to top your GCF. Now, it's time to heat this sandwich!

Enjoy this with a crisp white wine such as a Gruner Veltliner or a Pinot Gris.

Have a fantastic weekend ladies and gents!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day One hundred and twenty eight -- Cheese Spy Stories Week One - Paris

I am sure you are all thinking -- who is the cheese spy and what is this new development on Fromagical?

Well folks that's simple math, as it is summer-time and most of us like to take a break from our normal lives and get out of town -- whether it is to lie by the beach, read books, and relax or to go explore far-away lands or visit friends in other cities, you name it, people need a break. I know, at least, whenever I travel, I like to know the off-the-beaten track places that are must sees -- food, drink, markets, shops, museums, neighborhoods, you name it, I want to know the inside scoop! That's where the cheese spy comes in...

Each week from now through Labor Day, the cheese spy will report on fantastic cheese experiences worldwide, maybe it will be a must-visit restaurant or cheese shop or simply a cheese that our spy tasted, who knows what our reliable cheese spy will find. One thing is guaranteed, our spy will write from places near and far.

I'm sure your next question is who is this cheese spy and why do they have unlimited funds to travel the world tasting cheese? That's the cool thing folks, the cheese spy is among us, changing on a weekly basis, one week it could be a close friend, another week a family member, the cheese spy will always remain anonymous. So if you are traveling to a far-off land or to visit friends and family in small-town America or are taking a much anticipated trip, please write to me and let me know of your cheese experiences and you will have the opportunity to be featured as that week's cheese spy. Even if you aren't going away, but you know someone who is, tell them of our fantastic cheese spy stories and how they absolutely must be a part of them.

CHEESE SPY STORIES DISPATCH # 1 - Paris, France



Must visit affineur for brilliantly fresh artisanal cheeses, THE place to go in Paris :  AndrOuet - 37 rue de Verneuil, just off the Rue du Bac. 

It's been said that the 20th arrondissement is the new place to be, what the Marais was like fifteen years ago -- young, hip, fresh, full of start-up businesses, fun restaurants, hot bars, great boutiques and more, it is the new up and coming neighborhood in Paris. And in the 20th, is according to our Parisian cheese spy THE hippest place to be in all of Paris -- Mama Shelter. Mama Shelter is part hotel, part bar, part restaurant, part dance club, part fun people watching, but most importantly a fantastically beautiful space designed by the one and only Philipe Starck. Our Parisian cheese spy writes that Mama Shelter has a really yummy goat cheese - Honey on 1 side, 1 side extra virgin olive oil with St. Marcellin in the middle.

Mama Shelter, 109 Rue de Bagnolet, Paris, 75020. 







Image Courtesy of Telegraph  UK review of Mama Shelter, 22.4.2009

Day One hundred and twenty seven : Avocado Results

This week seems to be the week of being behind, all starting with not feeling well on Monday and it seemingly has spread through out the week, whoops!! I know you are all pretty curious about the results from the Avocado Marriage Mondays, who wouldn't be, right? Such an unusual pairing cheese and avocado and actually, the interesting thing, is that I'm going to show you a way that more than one of our three contestants is a possible pairing for avocado and I will even suggest an interesting way to incorporate another well known cheese into the classic avocado dish we all know and love, guacamole!

So let's get going on our avocado discussion. Before I reveal the winners and loser and my secret to fantastic guacamole, or at least I think so, let me go through a few simple pairing rules in relation to avocado and cheese:

1. Creamy + creamy melds and mushes together. By that I mean, without a distinct difference in terms of consistency, two very distinct ingredients can become one in an all together not so successful manner, imagine eating avocado with Brie cheese -- there is zero sense of opposites attracting here, therefore neither of the two is able to illustrate the other's nuances.

2. Avocados do not work well with blue cheeses. Although avocados work well with piquant peppers and other spicy pairings, when it comes to the spice of a blue cheese, this is just not a route you should take.

3. Avocados do not work with well stinky or pungent cheeses as their flavors are delicate, vegetal, creamy, and gooey and the stink of a cheese will over power the avocado's tastes.  This is rule, definitely disproves the potentiality of Avocado and Tomme de Savoie. Each so decadent in such different ways when combined, it is somewhat like oil and water and certainly not for all the right reasons!

So now lets move on to why Contestants 1 and 2 have potentials for success:

Contestant # 1: Mozzarella - Although quite the creamy cheese, it is the sort of cheese that is able to be sliced, meaning that it is not too creamy to be paired with avocado. Why you may ask? Because when you take thin fresh slices of avocado pair them with some nice slices of fresh mozzarella, some sprigs of cilantro and a few leaves of basil and drizzle the entire thing with basil oil and lime juice, you actually get a very refreshing salad and a new version of the quintessential Caprese that was featured in last week's MM series. You are probably thinking, wait a minute, she just gave us an example of how this works, not why it works...don't fret, it is quite simple. The fresh lactic qualities of the cheese play off the vegetal creamy qualities of the avocado and create an interesting relationship, is this a relationship meant for long term bliss? Well that is your decision! I think it is a pretty unique way to use avocado and a pretty successful one as well, perfect for summer picnics and barbecues. This is an example of where two somewhat similar yet somewhat different ingredients create a fantastic harmony, not an instance of opposites attracting.

Contestant # 2: Piave - A great example of how hard cheeses are extremely successful with avocado, the perfect example of opposites attracting! The hard crunchy, caramely, butterscotchy qualities of Mr. Piave are excellently complemented in their opposites with the creamy, grassy, herbal and vegetal flavors  of the avocado. However this is not a pairing I would suggest with strictly raw avocado, what I like to do with hard aged cheeses that have a nice slow meltability is I like to make my favorite guacamole in an oven safe bowl and then top that guacamole with a nice thick layer of Piave or your favorite hard and meltable cheese. Then I like to bake it in the oven and serve with pita or tortilla chips. Great for winter movie nights with girlfriends or getting together with a group of friends in the late Fall to watch a baseball or football game. The best part about this dip is that it is good for you and delish! Enjoy a new way to eat avocado and cheese with contestant # 2.

And now lastly my little secret for extra creamy and super delish guacamole with a special added ingredient:

4 small avocados that are pitted, pealed, and halved (should equal between 1 and 1.5 pounds, closer to the 1 pound side though)
1/3 cup of finely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of finely chopped basil
1/3 cup of finely diced vidalia onions
1/3 cup of finely diced shallots
1 fresh serrano chile
1/4 cup of thinly diced red bell peppers
1/3 cup of fresh greek feta
2 teaspoons of lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 cup of water

Blend all together in the blend and top with a few sprigs of basil, I guarantee you will find it to be delish.
Enjoy this delish dish with warm pita or ciabatta bread or tortilla chips.

Check back later today for our new section -- Cheese Spy Stories from across the globe

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day One twenty six - Results tomorrow, but for right now, a little discussion on the cheese known as the Boule de Lille

Ever walk into your local cheese store or go up to the cheese counter at your supermarket and see this cheese that resembles an overgrown cantaloupe but with the coloring of Cheez Whiz or Kraft singles? Wonder what this cheese is?

Well, I thought for today's post, I'd tell you a little about Mimolette or the cheese otherwise known as the Boule de Lille. The name comes from the fact that this cheese used to be aged in Lille's cheese caves. The history of the cheese is somewhat interesting, most believe that in the 17th century, Colbert forbade any foreign cheeses from being imported into France, however the French at the  time had already begun producing Mimolette in the Dutch Edam style. Whether or not the cheesemakers at  the time copied or appropriated a Dutch cheese making technique, we will never know. To this day, Mimolette's history is still a little cloudy. However, interestingly enough, it was not until 1935, that the Dutch and the French signed a treaty establishing the legitimacy of Mimolette.

Mimolette's history is certainly not its most interesting characteristic though! As the cheese ages, and it sure can age, best when eaten after eighteen to twenty four months of aging, it is home to cheese mites. Yes, that is exactly what you are thinking, they are little nits that burrow and nibble their way through the dark damp crevices of the cheese. This nibbling and burrowing actually helps develop the cheese, it allows an increased airflow and flavor development to the cheese. After its aging process, the original cheese wheel has become cantaloupe sized with plenty of mite created craters on every side of the cheese. However, let me assure you, by the time you eat that cheese, the mites have left the premises!

In case you were curious the burnt orange/ carrot like color of the cheese comes from a natural dye by the name of annatto, the coloring is unfortunately not the work of the cheese mites.

The cheese can be eaten young and is oily, creamy, nutty and delish! But best and most unique as it gets older, caramelly, barnardy, waxy, intense, burnt sugary, and overall completely brilliant! It is most unlike many cheeses you will find. So next time you are looking for a new cheese to try, think of Mimolette, it might surprise you.


Here's what a piece of Mimolette looks like : 






Image courtesy of Formaggio Kitchen

Day One hundred and twenty five - Avocado Marriage Mondays

Before we cut to the chase here, let me apologize for not writing to you all, I was feeling somewhat under the weather yesterday and do not think that any of my musings would have been particularly entertaining. I originally had another Marriage Monday idea planned, but in pondering how I wanted to lay the competition out, I decided to take a distinctly different turn and go with a fruit that is already quite creamy and might not be your first thought when you come to pairing with cheeses...

And that fruit is avocados!

I admit, it is tough to pair something rich like avocado with a large percentage of cheeses and since avocados are so good for you, I thought this would be quite a fun Marriage Mondays. As things have gotten a little scrambled with me missing yesterday's posting, you will get your dosage of Marriage Mondays on Tuesday Evening and another post this evening, but your MM results will come tomorrow with a special new Summer section of Fromagical, stay tuned, I guarantee its exciting!

Jumping right back to avocados here, before we getting going with our three cheese options, let's go over a few basic facts about the avocado:

1. Avocados are native to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. The oldest evidence of avocados date back to 10,000 BC in Puebla, Mexico.

2. The term avocado actually refers to both the flowering tree plant and the well-known fruits that we are utilizing in today's Marriage Mondays. Avocado, the name itself actually comes from the Nahuatl (or Aztec) word 'ahuacatl' meaning testicle which is a direct reference to the shape of the fruit.

3. Enough about the fascinating etymology and history of the avocado that has been around for centuries, let's talk about why it's good for you! Well, it is rich Vitamins B, E, and K, high in fiber, and has more potassium than bananas. It promotes healthy skin and hair and has significant antibacterial qualities. But more importantly than all of that, it is high in monounsatured fats aka good fats. Actually a diet high in avocados helps reduce one's cholesterol across the board.

Really delish, satisfying, filling, and all around really good for you. This sure is a fun contestant!

Let's get going with the three cheeses, Mr. Avocado will have the opportunity to be featured in tomorrow's recipe with:

Contestant Number #1 : Mozzarella -- Last week's feature in Marriage Mondays, this contestant is young, fresh, creamy and fantastically delish. A classic Italian cheese with more nuances each time you taste it. As we know from last week's MM dosage, this is a cheese  best eaten somewhat chilled and fresh not baked or roasted into any dishes, the flavors get lost. So I am sure that makes you wonder will Ms. Italian meet her match in Don Juan the Avocado? We will have to find out!

Contestant Number #2 : Piave -- Another Italian queen of the cheeses, this pasteurized cow's milk cheese is grown up. Aged for anywhere between six and fourteen months, it resembles Parmigiano-Reggiano in its caramely, crunchy, butterscotchy, dry, and crumbly textures and tastes; however unlike Parmiagiano, it is full of tropical fruit and almond flavors with a fantastically sweet finish -- a perfect mixture of contradictions.

Contestant Number # 3 : Tomme de Savoie -- Hailing from Italy's neighbor, France, this is a classic stinker that comes in many different forms, however always made with cow's milk -- whether it is raw or pasteurized, whole or skimmed milk, homemade or industrial crafted, you name it, tomme de savoie is made in that manner. But don't you worry, surprisingly enough, there are elements that never change -- it comes in medium sized rounds with a light wooden colored rind with plenty of white and yellow mold and when you cut into the cheese, the paste is straw color, full of mold holes, stinky and sticky and fantasticallly delish. The flavors in the contestant are everything from fresh to barnyardy to rustic to buttery to creamy to savory to grassy -- a party in your mouth! Will it be successfully paired with a great party food like guacamole??

We shall see who will triumph with tomorrow's results and our unveiling of our new Summer weekly special...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day One hundred and twenty four - Local Sunday brunch

Who doesn't like the sound of brunch?? The embodiment of the weekend -- relaxing with friends, family, and loved ones over a nice meal with yummy food, drink, and good conversation. Brunch is especially fantastic when the weather is nice out and you can sit outside and watch the world go by. This morning, I did just that with a few girlfriends -- the perfect way to spend an early summer morning.

As we all live within a four block radius  of one another, we decided to stay local and chose one of the simple and affordable choices in our neighborhood - Arte. With ample outdoor seating, this is an excellent place to watch the world go by. For  the drinkers, they have unlimited mimosas, bellinis, bloody mary's, etc for $14 and a nice casual Italian influenced menu with all of the brunch classics. Nice homemade muffins distributed as you are looking at the menu, are always a yummy treat!

I was just thinking that most of the restaurant reviews I've posted are about amazing meals or unique places or places with fantastic cheese selections, but rarely do I post about the "normal" neighborhood joint with reliable food, affordable prices, and a nice ambiance and that is exactly what Arte is -- no fuss, nothing too fancy or overdone, just simple good food.

On the note of simple, good food, for brunch today, I had their egg white asparagus and Parmesan omelette. It comes with a mixed green salad, two pieces of toast and homemade hash browns with red peppers and onions. Delish and satisfying.

Arguably the nicest way to spend a Sunday morning...once in a while, take some time out of your busy lives and sit down with friends for a relaxing meal, it does a body and soul good!

Enjoy Sunday evening folks...

Day One hundred and twenty three - World Cup ways

Oops oops, as usual, it seems that the weekend got away from me and I have yet had the chance to write to you all, my dear followers. Yesterday was a historical day in the game of soccer, for the first time since 1950, England and America faced off on the soccer field. And of course by now, we ALL know what happened - it was a tie, not what many had predicted and left a lot of English quite unhappy. So in honor of the World Cup, I thought we would have a friendly competition between two quintessentially nationalistic cheeses. It is up to you my readers, to determine whether you think these two just like the soccer game will tie, or whether there is a clear winner.

When thinking of England and English cheese, the first thought that comes to mind is but of course Stilton, the quintessential English cheese, right up there with fish and chips, bangers and mash, and tea and crumpets. As you probably know in the event that you haven't tried it, this a pretty punchy and pungent blue cheese, not for the amateur. Stilton has been produced since the mid 1730s in three specific counties of England -- Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire. And since that time there are a few characteristics  that have never once changed in terms of its production and look -- It is always made in a traditional cylindrical shape; it always has to be allowed to form its own "crust" or exterior;  it is an unpressed cow's milk cheese that always has a delicate blue veining through the entirity of the cheese. Steeped in history, this is a cheese that definitely has chops and the ability to defeat its opponents.

On the other hand, when thinking of America and American cheese and what is quintessentially American that would be a successful and a fair match up for our competition of Stilton, I struggled to come up with an appropriate opponent. When I think well-known American cheeses I think Kraft singles and cheese in a can. Granted there are so many local and artisanal cheeses that I love that are made here in the US, why couldn't I utilize one of those?? Well, the reason I couldn't do that, was because the majority of those cheeses I loved, were totally obscure and not a fair competitor. So in the end, I decided to put another blue cheese up against Stilton for our USA vs England Blue Cheese World Cup game one. The cheese that I chose is Rogue River Blue Cheese hailing for the Northwestern state of Oregon. Also a raw cow's milk, blue veined cheese, this cheese is aged for over one year and is lovingly cared on a daily and weekly basis as the wheels get turned and tended to. Apart from just being cared for, this cheese is wrapped in grape leaves harvested from Carpenter  Hill Vineyards in the Rogue River Valley.  Before being applied to the cheese, the leaves are macerated in Clear Creek's Pear Brandy and tied with raffia. The leaves impart an earthy, fruity, fresh, farmy yet vegetal sort of flavor to this fantastic cheese -- an excellent representation of its terroir, being aged in local caves, wrapped in local leaves that are macerated in local brandy, how can you go wrong here?!!?

Now, the interesting thing here, is  that in fact these two cheeses have been put up against one another in competition a few years back. However, before I reveal the winner in that competition, I'd like for you all to think which you might prefer and send me some opinions!

The original winner will be announced during the next USA World Cup Game on Friday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day One hundred and twenty two: A Seasonal and Local GCF

It's that time again, time for a GCF, who's excited?!? For this week's GCF, I thought we would stick seasonal ingredients and make somewhat of a sweeter GCF...a combination that is simple, easy to make on the go, and for sure satisfying! And really emphasizing my locavore ideals in lessening the commute of your food to your plate. I think it is so important to patronize your local farmers, it gives back to the community, strengthens the economy, lessens the amount of chemicals utilized in preservation, and all around just tastes better!!!

This week's GCF is totally Perfect for picnics, brunch, lunch, or even with dessert wine as a palate cleanser after a meal.

Today's bread choice is Amy's Bread's French Baugette. A fantastic bakery with locations in the Village, Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen. They have a very large variety of different types of breads, its worth a visit it if you're in the neighborhood.

Next stop to get ingredients for your GCF is the Union Square Greenmarket. Go find Beth's Farm Kitchen's stand. Since 1981 in Columbia County, NY, this team of jam makers have been bottling and making jams, jellies, chutneys and more. Starting with the very basic Strawberry Jam, they now sell over 90 different flavors. For today's GCF, go grab a bottle of their best selling Strawberry - Rhubarb Jam -- perfectly sweet and tart at the same time, a great addition to our sandwich.

While at the Greenmarket, go and visit Lynnhaven Creamery hailing from Pinebush, NY. They make nine different varieties of fresh chevres, some with herbs, nuts, fruits, and more. I'd probably go with the classic plain chevre for our sandwich here. It will be fresh, tangy, citrusy almost, grassy, gooey, and fantastic.

Next up, to combat that tang, you need a few slices of white peach to top your chevre. Just coming into season, these scream summer to me -- yummy, juicy, and so satisfying. The perfect amount of sweetness to play off the tang of the goat's cheese.

And now, the last ingredient you need is a few sprigs of wild arugula to bring out the grassyness of the goat's milk cheese and to be the savory to the jam and peach's sweetness. A perfect combo!

Now go ahead and heat your sandwich, I guarantee this will be delish! I might pair it with a bright and light Sauvignon Blanc from the North Fork, something with some fruit but not too heavy.

Enjoy!

Day One hundred and twenty one - An unlikely place for Camembert

Last night, I ventured to an izakaya restaurant that I'd heard a lot about and had been wanting to try for a while, Zenkichi. Located a few blocks away from the hussle and bussle of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, this was like stepping into another world. Walking through the unmarked door, you enter an intimate and Zenlike maze restaurant. Each table is protected by a straw screen allowing for an extremely private meal. The only way to reach your waitress is via the service button on the wooden table you and your dining companions are seated around.

You must be thinking, why is she telling me about a Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg? Isn't this a blog about cheese and aren't the Japanese not known for cheese?? Well, not to worry an element of our meal had cheese...shockingly enough...

Before I get to that dish, I will tell you the other dishes we had, each more delish than the last, full of delicate flavors and really unique, this was certainly not Americanized Japanese food, it was authentic!

We started off sharing two of their small plates - Tako Wasabi or otherwise known as wasabi-cured octopus along with kinpira renkon which was lotus roots & carrots simmered in soy sauce and sesame oil, served chilled. Before I ordered the octopus, the waitress asked me if I liked wasabi and if I liked the chewyness of octopus because as she said this was not a dish for the American palate and boy, was it fantastic! So flavorful, so simple yet dynamic, a homerun of a dish. The lotus root and carrots dish was equally yummy, sweet yet savory, crunchy yet silky. Really delish! I think lotus root is an under utilized ingredient in western cuisine and it has such unique flavors.

Next up, I had their Zenkichi salad which contained homemade tofu, baby greens and was topped with a sesame dressing. There are very Japanese restaurants in New York that I know that make their own tofu, in fact, I can only think of one other, En Japanese Brasserie on Hudson Street. Homemade tofu is as far from the packaged blocks you get in the supermarket as you can imagine - luxurious, creamy, delicate and full flavor, it melts in your mouth, it has the consistency of a really fresh young cheese.

Instead of telling you about the cheese dish, I will tell you about the other two dishes that were ordered, the first of which was their grilled miso oysters which were grilled on the shell with a red-miso sauce. This dish came in one big oyster shell and was covered with the red miso sauce, instead the large shell were about a dozen oysters out of their shells, salty, sweet, tasting of the ocean but with a spin! The other dish was Saikyo Black Cod grilled black cod marinated in saikyo-miso. Delicate, delish, simple, and perfect!

Moving along - the dish that featured the camembert was a shrimp, corn and camembert tempura served with green tea salt and a light scallion and soy sauce broth to dip each of the four pieces in. A completely unique and unusual pairing to see on a Japanese restaurant menu, the camembert added the perfect creamy tang to the fishiness of the shrimp and the corn. It was the glue that held all the distinct flavors of this dish together, truly a success! I imagine it does not sound like an ideal combination, but isn't that one of the reasons that makes dining out fun -- tasting ingredients that you would never have thought to put together but that create an aha moment!

Definitely worth the trip to Williamsburg.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day One hundred and twenty - Rainy Days, Rainy Ways

Certainly doesn't feel like the second week of June does it? Cold and rainy -- definitely not the sort of weather you want to be doing much outside in, being inside watching movies under the covers is a much more ideal activity if you ask me. However since it is June, suggesting comforting food recipes such as Mac N' Cheese or lasagnas or the such really doesn't seem appropriate to me. Baked pastas with yummy  cheeses and veggies are definitely a seasonal dish in my household, too heavy after the month of March, even on evenings like tonight.

However what is perfect for tonight is a nice light red wine and a homemade flatbread pizza, comforting, yet, inherently light. Key to this recipe, as with last night's Marriage Mondays results is keeping it simple. If you are feeling lazy, you can always use for this recipe a store bought Mediterranean Flatbread, found in the pita section of the supermarket or you could also utilize store bought pizza crust. If you go down the later route, I recommend going to a place like Rafetto's or if worst comes to worst, Fairway makes decent pizza crust, you definitely do not want frozen crust, it completely ruins the flavors...

Once you have the crust (whether it's homemade, store bought, or well improvised as in the form of flat bread), you need to dress this crust up! Lets get going, huh? While you are preparing your ingredients, lets get your oven warmed up at 350 degrees.

The key to this pizza is utilizing nicely aged parmesan that is not pre grated, you must grate on your own!

Start by brushing your flat bread with Extra Virgin olive oil. Now slice thin slices of Pecorino Tartufello over the crust. Pecorino Tartufello is a young sheep's milk cheese from Italy, that is infused with small chunks of black truffle -- decadent, fantastic, rich, and delish! Put the crust to the side.  Next up, take a half dozen shittakes and flash or quickly saute with one sliced garlic clove and half of a sliced shallot and some herbs. While the mushrooms are sauteing, steam some fresh peas and three asparagus. Spread your sauteed mushrooms on top of the flat bread crust.  Then sprinkle some peas on top. Then slice paper thinly the three asparagus and place on top. Next thinly slice Parmesan in nice long pieces to cover all of your veggies. Now sprinkle some sea salt and freshly ground pepper over the top. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes or until the Parmesan on the top is melted and golden. Pull out and slice and enjoy with a nice glass of Cab Franc from Long Island or a Washington State Pinot Noir or even a spicy Tempranillo.

Enjoy your rainy day dinner folks!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day One hundred and nineteen - Results and A Recipe, albeit a tad late

Phew, it's Tuesday night and for some reason I'm already exhausted, not exactly sure why, I wasn't up late last night nor did I have a really tiring weekend, gosh, I feel like at 10:15, it's already past my bedtime. Maybe I should start partaking in the early bird special as well...

With my exhaustion, today's post is probably going to be somewhat short and sweet, with more elaboration tomorrow, but I felt too guilty not writing to you all! So without anymore of my endless ranting, let's get to the results of yesterday's Marriage Mondays. Oh wait, before I get there, I think it is important to state that these are my own personal opinions and you might not agree with me, that's totally fine. As we all know, all of this is about your tastes and what triggers your aha moment and unfortunately that certainly might not be the same as what triggers my aha moment.

The results for yesterday's Marriage Mondays are quite simple if you ask me -- Contestant number #1 wins! Why you may ask? Well I feel that with such a young cheese, it really is best to consume at room temperature as its original entity. When this cheese is heated in the form of Contestant number #2 or number #3, it goes from being a blond to a brunette -- a totally different sort of cheese with a distinct and less dynamic flavor profile. When warmed, this is a cheese that is easily blended with other ingredients, muting the fantastic nuances of fresh mozzarella. The reason we tend to see mozzarella combined in so many different baked/heated/broiled/ etc. dishes is because: not only it is a semi-soft cheese and is easily meltable; when warmed it adopts the best actress supporting role and enhances other ingredients and flavors but to enjoy this cheese's nuances, it needs to be eaten at room temperature.

So, as promised, I thought I would suggest an alternative salad pairing for mozzarella. The lusciousness of the cheese coupled with the juiciness of the tomatoes is what makes the classic Caprese. In past posts, I've talked about Mozzarella with Mangos as well but I think that there is another fruit route that is fantastic with the Mozzarella and that is pairing it with fresh blueberries and basil -- maintaining the freshness and juiciness of the fruit mixed with the creaminess of the cheese and the herbal greenness of the basil -- perfectly refreshing and delish. Such a simple combo but something you cannot go wrong with, great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.

The wonderful thing to remember about fresh mozzarella is that it is such a sweet, delicate, unctuous, mouth watering cheese that you must eat it at room temperature, those qualities are so diminished when heated and combined with other ingredients -- for this cheese, I think rule of thumb should be: keep it simple.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day One hundred and Eighteen - Mozzarella and the Classics

For today's Marriage Mondays, I decided to do something a little different...I will be placing our contestant Mademoiselle Mozzarella up against three classic preparations that utilize her and will be discussing why in my opinion one of these three is most successful and would lead to long term marriage. Also I will be offering as my recipe tomorrow, a recipe that is twist on the winner, something that keeps all of the original elements intact but makes them new and fresh.

Before we get to the three preparations that I am going to mention today, let's give you a few key facts about Mozzarella:

1. Mozzarella comes from the Neapolitan dialect's word, 'mozza' meaning cut or 'mozzare' meaning to cut.

2. The first time we see Mozzarella written about was in 1570 in an Italian cookbook.

3. Traditionally made with cow or water buffalo's milk. It is a semi soft cheese with a typically white color.

4. It is actually the umbrella term for a few different types of similar cheese: mozzarella di bufala (buffalo milk); mozzarella fior di latte; smoked mozzarella and of course low moisture or part skim mozzarella. You can also mozzarella rolled with cured meats, pestos, oven roasted tomatoes, and other veggies.

5. It is meant to be ingested very young and therefore has a very high moisture content. Obviously, the part-skim mozzarellas with lower moisture context can be preserved for a longer period of time.

6. It is said that mozzarella was first made by accident, lots of great discoveries happen by accident I think....In this case, apparently cheese curds ended up in a pot of hot water.

7. There are two distinct ways to make mozzarella either by utilizing rennet or a procedure of milk acidification  to form the curds necessary to make the cheese. Once you have the curds, they are cut into small chunks and combined with hot water. Then, these chunks are "strung" or "spun" into long cheese ropes known as the stringing of the curd which is specific to pasta filata cheeses like scamorza, provolone, and of course mozzarella. Next step, is to form your long cheese strings into the classic and easily recognizable balls. Unlike certain cheeses, the entire production process of mozzarella takes less than a traditional work day of eight hours.

Ok so I'm sure you've probably guessed what I'm going to choose for the contestants, the more obvious the better here...and don't worry, I'll be armed with plenty of explanations come tomorrow.

Preparation / Contestant #1 : Served Cold as in say a Caprese Salad

Preparation / Contestant # 2 : Served Warm and on top of crust as in say pizzas

Preparation / Contestant # 3 : Served Baked with pastas as in say lasagnas.

Tonight, think about which is your favorite way of eating mozzarella and why! Check back tomorrow for my feedback.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day One Hundred and Seventeen : A dressed up cheese

I hate  to admit it, but back in the day,  I adored Sex and the City, that is when it was a TV show -- quintessentially New York, fantastic fashions, fabulously sexy story lines, and most of all, every so often, a line or two that you women out there might to be able to relate to...Now I feel though that I'd be frowned upon for going to see the new Sex and the City movie, which I did do, despite the awful reviews. I know your next question is, were they right?

Well yes pretty much, not so great acting, bad dialog, bad punchlines, unfortunately not so fantastic fashions, somewhat insulting to the United Arab Emirates where a large portion of the movie is supposed to take place (yes it was filmed in Morocco...); however totally banal yet somewhat fun. One thing I will say for the movie is it takes you out of real life and transports you into a fantasy world of $22,000 a night suites, personal butlers, black diamonds, free flowing Champagne, Manolos, Dior and more.....

In thinking about the movie's excesses, I thought I would propose a cheese that sums up those excesses into one aha moment...I know I've spoken about cheeses infused with truffles which was my first thought, then cheeses that are only produced at particular times of year and then I realized, in my own personal aha moment, that no, it had to be a cheese that signified the luxurious bent, that sort of feeling of not thinking twice or worrying about the cost of consumption and that cheese, really tough to find, in my opinion is the Italian cheese, Bitto. Originating from the Italian Alps, this mixed cow's and goat's milk cheese is special production to the hilt. Each of the goats whose milk is utilized for this cheese is hand milked, requiring way more time and "hand power." On top of which, the breed of goats utilized is exceptionally rare and tends to only live in this particular region of the Italian Alps.

The production process of the cheese takes the entire summer and more -- from June 1st till the end of September....without getting into the intricacies of each detail of the process, I can tell you that the cow's milk is immediately combined to the goat's milk while still warm -- an important aspect of this cheese's production. Also important to production are the ages old wooden tools utilized to make this cheese.

Once  made, this cheese because of its particular makeup can actually be aged for up to ten years, can you believe that? Most cheeses that you can find easily aren't ever aged for over three, so imagine more than tripling that!!!!! This is a cheese that needs at least one year of age in a casera, a rural hut not far from the pastures and then more time in cheese caves.

Quite the intense production for one cheese right?? Well, now, what do you think the per pound price tag is on this cheese?!?

$55 and up!

A pair of Manolos it is not, but an expensive and luxurious experience it certainly is. If you happen to come across this cheese and you must try it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day One Hundred and Sixteen : A New Discovery - Tommette Brebis Piments

Who doesn't like trying new things? Foods, wines, places, things, you name it, life is certainly made more  exciting by adventure and exploration!

So last night, when going to buy cheese for a friend's dinner, I went into the somewhat emptier than normal Grand Central Station and in turn Grand Central Market, turns out 8pm on a Friday night is not rush hour and the space was peacefully empty, allowing one to appreciate the beauty of old New York and this fantastic landmark. As this is not a blog about New York City landmarks, let's cut to the chase shall we and discuss my new cheese discovery at Murray's Cheese counter in Grand Central Market.

Well maybe with one extra second spent on the fantastic produce you find in Grand Central Market -- from artisanal cheeses to homemade breads to fresh fish and cured meats, spices, fruits, veggies and more, it is such a nice addition to the area!

Moving along, last night, I tried a new cheese for me: Tommette Brebis Piments. From appearance, it pretty much resembled a Petit Basque style sheep's milk cheese -- cylindrical with a light light brown rind with an eggy white-ish interior. However for those of us who speak French, the Piments in its name meant that this cheese had a kick to it! That is most certainly attributed to a nice amount of Piments d'Espelette, a rare sweet paprika from the Basque region of France. With about four to six months of aging done, this cheese really develops into something so fantastic and unique which is taken to the next level when the cheesemaker, Rodolphe Le Meunier, brulees the rind rendering the cheese the perfect mixture of sweet, spicy, savory, and delectable. On the tongue, it has nutty, toasty, tangy, and farmy flavors-- a unique and fantastic blend owed to the care and treatment of the cheesemaker. It is worth a try! Don't get scared off by the word Piments, its not too too spicy...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day One Hundred and Fifteen: A GCF to unwind from Stress

We're catching up! Woohoo! So for this week's GCF, I thought I would provide you all with a stress reducing GCF -- a nice way to unwind from the week!

As we all know, the aromas of lavender have significant relaxing and de-stressing qualities, so why not make a GCF with a cheese infused with lavender along with fennel pollen? A perfect cheese to relax after the week. The cheese I am suggesting is known as Purple Haze and is a fresh young goat's milk cheese from California -- sweet, savory, tangy, fresh, grassy, aromatic, and all around brilliant! For our sandwich, you need a nice mixture of sweet and savory flavors, nothing too over powering because you wouldn't want to miss the delicacies of the cheese. I think the perfect backdrop for this cheese is a crusty french baguette. However, that isn't it.

Let's get going with the other ingredients and assembling this sandwich:

First off, Spread a nice amount of Purple haze on either side of the baguette, then top with dandelion greens - the perfect bitter, leafy complement to the complex flavor profile of our cheese. Dandelion greens also aid in digestion, help reduce swelling and inflammation and treat viruses; always nice to ingest foods that have health benefits and not detriments.  Moving right along, the other element this sandwich needs is sauteed cepe mushrooms. I recommend utilizing about a half a dozen mushrooms and slicing them somewhat thinly and then sauteing them over low heat with shallots, aged balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, some fresh rosemary and thyme and some salt and pepper. Saute till the mushrooms are browned and exude a natural earthy sweetness and place on top of your sandwich. You will now have a perfect balance of sweet and savory, earthy and herbal, aromatic and muted, bitter and luscious. Go ahead and heat your sandwich and enjoy while putting your feet up after the long week.

Day One hundred and fourteen - A Cheese Portrait

For those of you who aren't in the know...apart from my cheese passion, I photograph at the Union Square Greenmarket on a monthly basis, documenting our local produce season by season -- celeriac and root veggies in February, rhubarb in March and April, berries and stone fruit in the early summer, squash in the fall, you name it, it has been captured by my camera's lens.

Last night, Thursday evening, June 3rd, was the opening of a group photography show in which five of my photographs are featured and can you guess my dear Fromagical readers what one of these images captured??

You guessed it! CHEESE!

So I thought as I played catchup over here, I would tell you about the cheese featured in the photograph entitled, "Cato's Corner." This photograph features the best selling cheese of Cato Corner Farm, a mother son owned farm based in Colchester, CT -- Brigid's Abbey. Brigid's Abbey is a trappist style cheese made with cow's milk aged for anywhere between two and four months, depending on seasonality. The cow's milk gives the cheese a creamy, smooth, gooey consisitency. Mild yet rich, barnyardy yet clean, a great mix of contradictions in an excellently approachable cheese. A well liked cheese by any and all cheese lovers! Worth a try! You can find Cato Corner Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays pretty much year round. Try Brigid's Abbey in the winter and again in the summer months, you will be shocked at the difference in taste and texture of the cheese! Creamier and softer in winter months, this cheese becomes firmer and nuttier in summer months. Just as the produce at the greenmarket changes seasonally, so does our cheese.

Day One hundred and thirteen - A review of lunch at Avoce Madison

Ooops, oops! I'm sooo far behind, this week has been a whirlwind, I can't believe it's already Friday and you haven't heard from me since Tuesday, oh no! Have you missed my Fromagical musings?? I know I've missed writing to you dear readers. So let's play catch up!

On Wednesday's sunny June afternoon, I sat down to lunch with old friends and family at the centrally located A Voce Madison right off of Madison Square Park, one of two branches of the modern Italian restaurant. At the helm of both restaurants is the Executive Chef, Missy Robbins and her dishes focus on seasonal ingredients, carefully prepared pastas, and regionally sourced fishes and meats, with a definite Italian bent.

With a lovely outdoor seating area, one certainly could not pass up sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful early summer weather today, that's for sure. Granted, the locale of our seats was not ideal -- there was an awful odor eminating from the restaurant building.

Moving away from the scents, lets discuss our meal which was delish, refined, and wonderful cuisine!

We started with an appetizer of their classic Ricotta dish (served for free at Avoce Columbus in a smaller portion, however not so here...) -- it is basically a small terracotta dish full of ricotta, olive oil, thyme, chili flakes, and mint served with grilled bread. A great sharing dish and a yummy way to start any meal. Also, a really easy dish to make at home. However I would not recommend making it with store bought ricotta, you need fresh homemade ricotta.

Moving along I split two of their appetizers for the rest of my lunch meal:

The first of these two apps was a roasted mackerel with mandarins, fennel, capers, and pistachios. A small sliver of fish placed beautifully on a dish with the salad of mandarins, fennel and capers underneath and pistachios spread around the plate. Sweet, savory, salty, and ulitmately so satisfying in such a small package.

The second app I split was their roasted trumpet royal mushrooms, fonduta, truffle, and hazelnuts. A richer, more decadent dish yet also presented in a small package and a great example of Robbins skill at taking simple ingredients and dressing them up and making them into something else entirely. That in my opinion is what makes Avoce great -- basic ingredients, lovingly prepared with a dash of Italian influence and a sprinkle of seasonal local influences as well.

It is sure worth a visit to either Avoce Madison or Columbus, however make sure to not sit all the way at the Park Avenue end of the outdoor seating, you might be in for a very odorifious meal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day One hundred and twelve : Results and other fun outdoor ideas

I hope all you ladies and gents had a good return to the workplace today after a lovely long weekend. Instead of providing you all with a recipe that involves the contestants today, I thought I would provide  you with a great Summery side dish recipe to go with your veggie or regular burger. But before we get to that, shall we unveil the results??

In my  opinion, of these cheeses there is a clear cut winner, however you may not agree with me. So much of food, cheese, and wine pairing really is so much about your own personal taste preferences so please feel free to disagree, there is nothing wrong with it! Let's discuss my choices and I'd love to hear feedback on your choices:

1. Contestant Number # 2:  Pecorino Tartufello - Decadent, special, and truly meant for a celebration, this is not a cheese that belongs paired with a burger, veggie or regular. The flavors in this cheese will overwhelm anything it is paired with. Granted, when heated, it does develop a richer more dynamic flavor profile, making it into a big bodied cheese. However, if heated, it really strictly should be featured on its own or with a few herbs sandwiched between either a Ciabatta or a baguette, nothing with too much flavor or richness on its own, this cheese can easily support the crustiest and blandest breads. You definitely wouldn't want to opt for bland, but simple is the way to go when pairing this cheese.

2. Contestant Number #3: Smokey Blue - A delish and uniquely smoked cheese, I think it also overwhelms the tastes of the veggie or regular burger. As this cheese gets melted, its smokey characteristics are brought more to the forefront, coming hand in hand with the piquant-ness of the blue cheese -- each getting significantly stronger with the rising of the cheese's temperature. I find that the delicate flavors this cheese exhibits when at room temperature are lost somewhat when heated. On the other hand, some people find that the smokey-ness is too much when paired with a grilled burger. However, I know that there are a great many people who would love to top their burger with this cheese, some roasted onions, and bacon, for example; I'm just not one of them. Worth a shot, who knows, you might surprise yourself here!


3. Contestant Number # 1 : Ossau Iraty - My favorite cheese to top a veggie burger -- it is simple yet complex; it will not overwhelm the burger itself, but will complement it and even dress it up in a way that a Kraft single never could. When heated, this cheese takes on a new persona -- it has a significant depth to it, full of hay, nuttiness, barnyardy-ness, and even a gamey-ness coupled with the quintessential rich, buttery-ness of any lovingly crafted sheep's milk cheese. This cheese comes to life when heated and that my friends is why I think it is this week's winner.

So let's get to the recipe to accompany your burger, sound good?

When I think of summer time and barbecues, I think of corn, so I thought to accompany our burger today we would do a fantastic little corn salad, simple, easy to prepare, and utterly delish.

Let's get going:

Steam four ears of corn and shave off all the kernels. Next up take fifteen to twenty fresh sugar snaps, great for their brilliant crunch and dice thinly. Steam one full zucchini and one summer squash, dice both of these up and toss together. Add some diced chives, scallions, and a little bit of fresh parsley for a fresh herbal side to the salad. Next a spritz of lemon to keep the entire mix upbeat. Now here's the turning point, I think adding some olive oil, garlic, and basil poached shrimp adds a fantastic oomph to the salad and I recommend it. However if you don't like shrimp, don't include here. I like to add, depending on the number of guests you are having, around a dozen shrimp to the salad, diced or kept whole, however you see fit. Of course I couldn't provide you a recipe without cheese right and the cheese here will provide the perfect amount of salt to add to the salad for those hot summery days. I tend to think that ricotta salata is the perfect cheese for this salad, simple yet flavorful and a great cheese to bring out the nuances in the veggies and shrimp. Now toss all together and maybe add a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Enjoy this with your burger. I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

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