Friday, July 30, 2010

Day One Seventy One - An ode to Maryland GCF

When you think of Maryland, what do you think of food wise? That's an easy question right!? Crab, crab cakes, blue crab, crab legs, crab salad -- pretty much anything crabby. 

Since I will be spending the weekend in Maryland, I thought I might as well make this week's GCF in honor of my weekend destination. For my ode to crab, I decided to do a crab salad sandwich melt but before we get to that, interested in a few crabby facts?

Did you know that each year over 1.5 million tons of crab are ingested by humans?

Or that crabs account for one fifth of all sea creatures that are caught from all bodies of water worldwide?

Or that just two ounces of crab meat will provide you with enough Vitamin B12 for a full day?
See by reading today's post you learned a few more things about crab! Exciting, isn't it?
Moving on from the factoid portion of the blog to today's GCF recipe.

Crab Salad Ingredients:

1 can of jumbo lump crab meat
1 Persian cucumber diced very finely
1/2 cup of steamed corn kernels
1/4 cup of finely diced scallion
Finely diced cilantro and basil (about a handful of each)
Small drizzle of lime juice for acidity
1 1/2 teaspoons of sriracha of if you prefer you can use red pepper flakes for the necessary kick for this salad
2 -3 tablespoons of Greek Yogurt (I like to utilize this to make it creamier as opposed to utilizing mayo)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

This is a very easy salad to make, pretty much dice up all of the ingredients that need chopping and combine with the drained crab meat then add Greek yogurt and sriracha and lime juice and mix together. This salad of course will benefit from fresh crabmeat but should that not be available or in your budget, canned crab meat isn't all together awful. Once you've made the salad, it's time to grab your bread and cheese and assemble your grilled cheese.

For this sandwich, I like to use a nice multigrain bread, nothing with an abundance of dried fruit or seeds or nuts, but some delish multigrain bread is perfect. For today's cheese, I like to utilize a Fontina Fontal. Fontina is a hard pasteurized cow's milk cheese originating from the Lombardy region of Italy. I like to think of it as Italy's answer to Swiss style Alpine cheeses. It's full of flavor with an inherent paste-y sweetness with hints of mushroom, woody-ness, and earthiness. It is a very versatile cheese and pairs well with everything from sauces to fondues to pastas and pizzas or grilled cheeses like I am suggesting here.

Once you've topped your bread with the crab salad place a few nice thick slices of Fontina and bake this in the oven till the cheese is melted. Trust me, you won't be disappointed! I'd have this with a nice glass of medium bodied Italian white wine, like a Gavi.

Enjoy your Friday evening folks.

Day One Seventy - A recap of Lunch at Tre Dici, albeit a tad late

Gosh, it's Friday, how did that happen? This week certainly flew by!

I thought we would play a little catch up here and give you a recap of yesterday's lunch and then a little later on today, of course, our weekly GCF, how could we miss that? GCF recipes to me signal that it's the weekend!

So, before we get into weekend mentality, let's have a quick recap of yesterday's lunch. I feel that restaurant lunch menus are much more of a challenge than dinner menus for restaurants -- at their best, they span the gamut from salads to sandwiches to entrees to soups and smaller bites.

Yesterday for lunch, we went to Tre Dici, a small rustic Italian restaurant tucked into that "new" neighborhood that is springing up near the Ace Hotel in the mid to upper twenties east and west of 6th avenue. A mixture of factories, high end shops, cheap perfume outfitters, new and hip hotels and the odd bar or restaurant -- this is a neighborhood that's definitely on the up and up.

Tre Dici's lunch menu did what you wanted for lunch --it had a salad section, a panini section, of course a pasta section (what would an Italian restaurant be with a pasta section?), and an entree section.

I find that a restaurant's bread basket is always a good judge of the upcoming food's character and Tre Dici served delish foccacia with rosemary, sea salt and sauteed onions with an herbed butter spread. A good sign...

We split two different dishes each delish in it its own way:

We started with their zucchini chip salad. Composed of arugula, a few small slivers of tomato and red onion, some crumbles of blue cheese and a light blue cheese vinaigrette topped with homemade zucchini chips. The zucchini chips had been lightly sauteed and coated with a thin phyllo dough crust making them crunchy and delish but not heavy and overly greasy. It was the perfect melange of flavors.

Then we split their homemade semolina ravioli with a spring pea and cheese puree, mint, nettles, pea shoots, oregano and a sage brown butter sauce. Full of flavor, three of these ravioli were definitely enough for me for lunch!

Overall a lovely lunch that was an ode to summer's bounty.

Tre Dici
128 West 26th Street
New York

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day One Sixty Nine - A fast, easy, and fresh Wednesday

Are there those nights that you come home from a long day at the office starved and worn out and in the mood for something delicious but just want it to be ready quick? I know I have them! And so I got to thinking that maybe I should start incorporating fast, easy, fresh recipes using some of my favorite ingredients into my musings here -- no twenty five step in depth culinary adventures, just a simple guide that's easy for even the novice chef to follow.

While at the Brattleboro farmers market this past weekend, I purchased a fantastic looking zucchini, a nice looking squash, and a skinny mini eggplant among other yummy fresh produce. So I got to thinking, what to make for dinner later on this eve and then this simple idea came to me -- a lovely salute to all of the fresh produce I bought.
Let's get going!
Fresh Spinach Linguine (I like Raffetto's,** but most supermarkets offer their fresh version, if you don't have access to Raffetto's) Quantity to vary depending on how many people you are making this for
One large zucchini
One large summer squash
Half cup of pinenuts
2 cloves of garlic
A few sprigs of fresh oregano, diced finely
A little bit of chopped chives to brighten up the dish
A few leaves of basil (optional as topping)
Freshly grated aged Parmesan
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
1. Boil salted water for the pasta along with a pot of boiling water for the veggies.
2. While pasta water is boiling, slice thin ribbons (mimicking pasta strands) of the zucchini and summer squash. Once the water boils, drop those into the boiling water for one minute. Remove and run under cold water.
3. Toss the pasta in pot once water is boiling and let cook till al dente.
4. While the pasta is cooking, dice up the garlic very finely and toss in a saute pan with olive oil and the half cup of pinenuts. Saute until pine nuts are toasty and lightly golden brown.
5. Remove pasta and throw in bowl. Toss with the zucchini and summer squash ribbons, some extra virgin olive oil, your diced fresh oregano and chives, the sauteed pinenuts and garlic and mix together. Then top with freshly grated aged parmesan and a few sprigs of basil. I think the more aged the better here when it comes to the Parmesan, it will get nuttier, crumblier, and bolder.

Enjoy this with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc on this hot evening.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day One Sixty Eight - Results

So folks, who do you think won?

Let's get right to our results!

Contestant Number # 1 - Lambrusco "Bocciolo," Ermete  - Although a fantastic sparkler, this just misses the boat when paired with Bijou. Why you may ask? Well the red fruit flavors and the residual sugar essential in this contestant will not even overwhelm the delicacies of the Bijou, each will just function side by side. They are a mismatch. The lambrusco needs something with an obviously forward saltiness to it to partner with its sweetness, like a nice piquant blue cheese would be successful!

Contestant Number #2 - Sancerre, Lucien Crochet  - Here is an example of two partners settling for one another, no fireworks present in this partnership however that does not mean that they would be a bad marriage. The minerally acidity of the Sancerre is certainly terroir forward and when paired with cheeses from the same region with the same terroir you can achieve an aha moment. Here seeing as Bijou is from our fair shores, Sancerre works but just not to the same degree.

Contestant Number #3 - Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - This is our winner this week! Why you may ask after I just spoke of terroir in the previous explanation would a wine made halfway around the world from our cheese be the winner? Well folks it is an excellent example of "new world" cheesemaking functioning in harmony with "new world" winemaking. The grassy, herbal, and citrus flavors of the wine find an excellent and successful counterpart in the cheese. Each is both light yet has some weight making them a great match in terms of taste, flavor, and body. You can't go wrong here!!

I wouldn't necessarily recommend cooking with our lovely Bijou as it has such striking tastes that it is best eaten on it own or if you feel you have to, it works when paired with a nice crusty bread that has been lightly brushed with some extra virgin olive oil and herbs. This is a cheese that is so fantastic, you don't need to do anything to it besides pair it with a glass of wine!

Enjoy folks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day One Sixty Seven : Bijou Marriage Mondays

After a weekend spent in Vermont, I decided our Marriage Mondays had to feature one of the Vermont Butter and Cheese cheeses, Bijou. As I previously mentioned, Bijou is an aged goat's milk cheese. Modeled on the classic Loire Valley cheese, Crottin de Chavignol, this is America's answer, as jewel like as the translation of its name.

Creamy, a little hazelnutty, grassy, with hints of hay, citrus, freshly cut flowers, and with that classic goaty tang, this cheese does not disappoint!!

So what wine would you pair with this cheese folks?

Contestant Number #1: Lambrusco "Bocciolo," Ermete - It's bubbly! It's red! And it's delicious! It's a sparkling red wine made from Lambrusco grapes from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, more specifically in this case Modena. When chilled,  this crimson hued beverage is fantastic, slightly tart yet a little sweet with hints of red fruits, it sure goes down easily.

Contestant Number #2: Sancerre, Lucien Crochet - Classic Sancerre at its best. This is crisp and light yet full of green apple, floral, citrusy, and minerally notes, what a good Sancerre should be. This is the sort of wine you pair with Bijou's French cousin, Crottin de Chavignol, but will it work here today?

Contestant Number #3: Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - Quintessential New Zealand wine making is embodied in this Marlborough wine which is truly an expression of its terroir. It has the essence of the tropics in the form of guava and mango scents and the crisp clean New Zealand air with flavors of limes and citrus, grass, and herbs. All of these flavors are experienced in a juicy medium bodied white wine with a nice acidic finish freshening your palate.

So folks, who will it be? 1, 2, or 3? Stay tuned till tomorrow to find out!

Day One Sixty Six - VT Catch-up Part Two - Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival

The 2nd annual Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival was held at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne Vermont and featured fifty cheesemakers, twenty different wineries and breweries, and fifteen artisanal food purveyours along with tasting seminars, cooking shows, cheesemaking demos and farm tours. As I learned, last year's festival attracted one thousand visitors and this year's sold a whopping fifteen hundred tickets. Keep in mind this is not a large space, it's not like having a cheese festival at the Jacob Javitz center in Manhattan.

Luckily as a cheese blogger, we were able to arrive an hour early to the festivities so that I could snap the shots you will soon see and so that we could actually chat with the cheesemakers. When we left, about an hour into the actual event, there were lines ten to fifteen people deep for each station, making for, if you ask me, an extremely unpleasant experience!

What were my favorites??!

Wine wise which is way easier than cheese wise:

1. Shelburne Vineyard's Pinot Gris - Crisp, acidic, and citrus-y, this is an extremely versatile wine easily served with seafood, cheese, salads, fruit, desserts and more. Easy drinking without sacrificing taste or small production or extravagant pricing. This wine rang in at $15 a bottle.

2. Boyden Valley's Cowtipper - No they don't tip cows at this vineyard, but I'm sure the name caught your attention as it did mine! Also a crisp white wine, this was fruity, light, and refreshing! It is made of Le Crescent grapes and fermented in stainless steel. Reminiscent of a variation on a Riesling mixed with a Sauvignon Blanc, this was Vermont terroir bottled into a wine -- full of apricot and pear notes, its hard to go wrong when having a glass of this!

Cheese wise:

Although everything was delish, there were a few cheeses that I had not had before that were standouts. In the "I've had you before, I love you category" were:

1. All Vermont Butter and cheese cheeses - Coupole, Bijou, Bonne Bouche, & Cremont - Too much to describe here! America meets the Loire Valley -- these cheeses are excellent examples of the craft of American cheese making, each more delish than the last. Coupole, Bijou and Bonne Bouche are all goat's milk cheeses and Cremont is their new cow and goat's milk double cream cheese that is milky, luscious and decadent. Coupole and Bijou are aged goat's milk cheeses and bonne bouche is an ash ripened goat's milk cheese. I'd have to say that the VBC cheeses are among my favorites coming out of Vermont, that's for sure!

2. Jasper Hill Farm's Bayley Hazen Blue - A raw cow's milk blue that's been aged for four to six months, this is a drier and crumbly blue that has all the pungency you are used to with a nice dosage of Vermont terroir in each bite, along with a faint chocolaty, nutty finish. One of my go-to blues, always reliable and a crowd pleasing cheese.

3. Consider Bardwell Farm's Manchester - Although I know I've discussed this cheese before, to refresh your memory it is an aged goat's milk tomme named for the town of Manchester, the gateway to the Green Mountains. It is what you want out of an aged goat milk tomme - firm, lactic, grassy with a faint hay note, creamy but light.

4. Spring Brook Farm/Thistle Hill's Tarentaise - check out Day One Sixty Four to learn about this guy.

5. Twig Farm's Goat Tomme - Another goat milk tomme that is delish and full of those classic goaty notes!

6. Dancing Cow's Bouree - Aged for at least eighty days, this washed rind cow's milk cheese is a party in your mouth. Named after the French peasant dance with rapid foot movements, this cheese sure has a dynamic flavor profile -- full of creamy, milky notes yet with some smokey, earthy tones as well. Worth a try for something new!

New Discoveries!

1. Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home's Fresh Chevre - Wow was this cheese amazing! Yes it is just a simple straight forward chevre, but when done right like this it just knocks your socks off! You can tell that these goats are taken care of as their milk lends itself to a great chevre. This cheese has a depth to it that makes you want to keep going back for more!

2. Narragansett Creamery's Atwell's Gold - Although I remember Narragansett's booth from the previous year's cheese fest, I most certainly did not remember Atwell's Gold and it sure is memorable. A large block of aged cow's milk cheese made in an Italian style, this was a nutty, buttery morsel of goodness. It sure puts Rhode Island on the map for cheese.

3. Lazy Lady Farm's Mixed Emotion - I know Lazy Lady's cheeses -- always fantastic, they are certainly made with love and care. However I had never had Mixed Emotion which is a mixed milk (cow and goat) cheese with a natural herbacious rind, this cheese is only available from June till December. It is farmy, barnyardy, herbal, grassy and all around fantastic!

4. Nettle Meadow's Honey Lavender Fromage Blanc - As you all know, I love Nettle Meadow Farm's cheeses such as the Kunik made in Upstate New York, however I had never had their honey lavender fromage blanc and boy and oh boy have I been missing out! This was to die for! Perfectly made fromage blanc with hits of honey for sweetness and lavender for that herbal floral twist. Great for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts!

There are tons of other cheeses I loved but I think that's a good recap, now check out some pics from the festival! It will make you want to go next year, I'm sure!

More pics to follow over the course of the week folks :)

Check back a little later for this week's Marriage Mondays star, Vermont Butter and Cheese's Bijou

Day One Sixty Five - VT Trip Catch-up Part One

I hope you all had a lovely weekend, they seem to fly by faster and faster don't they? Especially when you are having fun! This weekend, we traveled up to the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival in Shelburne, Vermont and on our way on Saturday we made a few foodie and cheese-y stops of course...I won't go into in depth details about all of them for fear of rambling for hours and hours, instead hopefully short recap!

Our first stop Saturday was the Brattleboro farmer's market, a must see if you are in Brattleboro, VT on a Saturday between 9am and 2pm. Tons of fresh produce, food stands ranging from Thai to Malian foods, local artisanal goods, definite good value on the produce, and lots more! Worth the stop!

Should you want to visit, here's the map with the market's weekly location:

Next up was the retail store and cheese making outpost of Grafton Village Cheese also in Brattleboro. This was a sprawling shop stocked full of wines, cheeses, regional products, and up a few stairs, windows into the cheesemaking facilities. I think it is important to understand how food items are made, knowing where your food comes from and the amount of effort and care that goes into making it changes the way in which you ingest it and in turn enjoy it!

An exterior view of the shop

Moving along, the next stop we made was probably the most unusual and different from what we were used to. We thought that our next stop would give us an opportunity to view a dairy farm specializing in sheep's milk cheese and the sheep that so graciously give up their milk to create our cheese, however we were sorely mistaken. This was a back country operation that's for sure. After attempting to follow their directions which had us turning at the town's General Store, we took matters into our own hands and found the base of operations for Vermont Shepard cheese. Was it what we expected? Most certainly not! After driving down a bumpy, unpaved road, we arrived at a small shack that was labeled "Farm Store," with the door shut. There was a little sign though that said "help yourself.." So, we went in to the extremely small room, sure enough there wasn't a person in sight but plenty of awards adorning the walls and a fridge, which when opened, revealed a variety of pre-cut cheeses with prices on them on each shelf. We looked at each other and thought gosh do we just leave the money and go? What do we do? For the two of us New Yorkers, the notion of people being so trusty was both baffling and incredibly refreshing at the same time. I guess when you think about it, the cheese makers and farm hands have way better things to do than wait for the occasional person to come and visit.

What did we buy with the money we left in their little jar on the small table?

Well we bought their Invierno cheese, a mixed cow and sheep's milk cheese that is full of flavor -- creamy, mushroomy, buttery, and dynamic. You could tell that this was a small production cheese made with a whole lot of love!

A few from the side of their farm store.

Our next stop was more for my significant other than for the non-meat eater in the car -- the New England Championships of Barbecue at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT. Events for both of us is what made this weekend so much fun! With over forty barbecue teams, this certainly was a cult event and a definite experience! Award winning Northeastern barbecue from far and wide!!

The last cheese stop of the day was Vermont Butter and Cheese's manufacturing plant which was the exact opposite of our previous rural cheese stop -- this was a large scale cheese operation. That is not to say that they make processed tasting cheeses, they certainly succeed in making some of my favorite American artisanal cheeses. More on them as I will be featuring one of their cheeses for this week's edition of Marriage Mondays!

Ready for part two of the weekend? A written and photo recap of the second annual Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival? Stay tuned!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day One Sixty Four - A Vermonty GCF

This weekend I am going to the Second Annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival in Shelburne, VT. Yes I went last year and it was fantastic, fun, educational, delish, and truly an adventure. This year's adventure at the cheese fest will be detailed for you all to read here after this weekend. Thinking back to last year's festival, I thought of the cheese that I fell in love with there and so I decided that for this week's pre-Vermont departure GCF, I should focus on that cheese -- Tarentaise.

Tarentaise has been made since 2002 by John Putnam at Thistle Hill Farm. It is based on the French cheese, Abondance, but crafted with quintessential American terroir. Made of raw unpasteurized organic cow's milk, aged for six months or more, this is cheese is a product of locavorism -- lessening the commute of the cow's milk to the cheese production facility, you can tell that these cow's are eating high quality grass. Why you may ask? Well the answer is found in the butterscotchy color of the cheese illustrating to you that there is high quantity of betacarotene, vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids found in the milk which are a direct corollary to a reduced rish of diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's, and cardiovascular diseases.

So what does this cheese taste like?

It's sweet, nutty, buttery, grassy, rich, delicate, and just wonderful. Each morsel is infused with the local Vermont terroir to create an award winning cheese.

For the GCF utilizing this cheese, I wanted to keep things really simple and grab a nice French Baguette and some tomato chutney (nothing spicy, just tomato preserves) that will give the cheese a nice counterpoint of acidity and juicyness which will accentuate its inherent flavors. Toast this simple GCF and serve it with some marcona almonds and a small argula salad and a glass of medium bodied fruity red wine.

Enjoy folks!

Stay tuned this weekend for all sorts of Vermont adventures...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day One Sixty Three - Cheese Spy Stories Dispatch #6 - Northern England specifically the little village of Leonard Stanley

Don't you just love it when you encounter someone who truly loves what they are doing? You can tell  because they light up when they talk about it! This week's cheese spy stories dispatch features a farm that definitely loves what they do. On top of which, its pretty apparent that they are having fun making their cheese so you should have fun eating it...However that is most certainly not to say that this is not a farm that isn't serious about their cheese, quite the contrary, they have won many an award in England and worldwide. This week's cheese spy stories features Godsells cheese Church farm located in the village of Leonard Stanley in the Glouchestershire region of Northern England.

Definitely unforgettable right?

Well, let's get to our spy's info on their cheeses! This week's dispatch will detail the cheeses made by Godsells, a farm you should know about if you love cheese.

First off, they make both a traditional Single Glouchester and a Double Glouchester.  In case you didn't know the difference between the two, that is apart from the annato coloring added to the double glouchester, it is simple -- both are made with evening and morning milk from the farm's cows, the difference is that the cream is extracted from the evening milk utilized to make the single glouchester making the single a lighter and lower in fat cheese.

Named after their town, Godsells makes Leonard Stanley -- a cheddar that is aged for at least seven months. This is what cheddar should be, this puts those orange cheddar slices that you are so familiar with to shame! This is a grown up cheese, full of flavor and nuances.

Next up on the cheese production menu, is Holy Smoke -- their single glouchester smoked with oak and beech wood. What is delivered is a nicely smoked cheese, neither too dry nor tasting of cigarette smoke, it is perfectly moist with that hint of cigar smoke, oak, and woodiness.

Moving onto their softer cheese offerings, Godsells makes three different choices:

1. Scary Mary - A back country camembert, less tailored and buttoned up than its French counterparts. Stinky, creamy, peppery, pungent, and apparently fantastic, this cheese will stick in your memory just like the name of the farm it is produced at.

2. Three Virgins - White, creamy, innocent and smooth, this chesire style cheese melts in your mouth. Incredibly lactic and milky, when tasting this cheese, your mind is immediately transported to the milk utilized to make it.

3. Nympsfield - Their  youngest, this fresh cheese is buttery, spreadable and completely in opposition to their double glouchester -- showing you the versatility of Godsells.

Godsells is a small town farm making some show stopping cheeses, it sure is necessary to seek out the next time you're across the pond in the land of Stonehenge, Big Ben, bubble and squeak, and of course pubs on every corner.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day One Sixty Two - A luncheon Recap - Fig & Olive

I hope everyone has had a good Wednesday, gosh this week seems to be flying by doesn't it?

For today's blog, I thought I'd give you a recap of the fantastic salad I had for lunch at the Lexington locale of Fig & Olive. Fig & Olive has three locations around town and at each, all their dishes are prepared with a distinct extra virgin olive oil to produce delish Mediterranean style cuisine, spanning the gamut from French to Spanish to Italian influences.

The lunch menu features a variety of crostini, cured meats, roasted vegetables, cheeses, olives, carpaccios, salads, soups, sandwiches, tarts, and more.

When I walked in out of the hussle and bussle of Lexington Avenue in the lower sixties, every table was full, always a good sign of a restaurant! Once we were seated and ordered our food, we were presented with three different olive oils and homemade foccacia, a lovely way to start the meal, each oil is sourced from a different region and has distinctly different notes -- one sweeter and nuttier than the next which was more grassy and hay like and one quintessentially olivey.

Moving along from the oils, let me tell you about their namesake salad that I had -- the Fig & Olive salad. When you first hear what is in the salad, you might think of it as overload but it is just the right amount of flavors to produce the perfect salad. It starts with mixed greens, some arugula, then a few fresh figs and some black olives, chopped tomatoes, manchego, gorgonzola dolce, goat's cheese, walnut, chive, scallion, green apple and it is all topped with their eighteen year aged fig and balsamic dressing which brings all the distinct flavors together. The nice thing about the melange of tastes in this salad is that each bite differs completely from the next but it truly works - its a party in your mouth!

I definitely recommend checking out Fig & Olive, I think they have some really interesting Mediterranean dishes and all with a nice twist on what you find at many other restaurants in the moderate price range.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day One Sixty One - Results

Tonight's blog will be short and sweet folks as I'm so tired that although I wanted to make sure to write to you all, it will be significantly less wordy than my normal posts. But fret not, should you love my longer ramblings, tune in tomorrow for a more extensive post.

The results are in folks, Italy won the Peanut Butter Marriage Mondays competition. Why you may ask?

Well that is simple:

The French contestant, Comte -- firm, flavorful, and fantastic did not have the right consistency to pair with our peanut butter and consistency in this pairing is important where as it might not be so in other situations. When taking a gooey slimy substance like peanut butter and piting it with the firmness of the comte, they do not play off one another nor accentuate each other's differences, they simply function side by side, neither one revealing hidden and unusual notes about the other.

Although the Spanish contestant is more appropriate in terms of consistency, here you definitely want softness paired with softness; Queso La Serena's delicate flavors will be swallowed up by the large and in charge presence of our peanut butter. Our Spanish contestant has a lot  of bark and a lot of bite, but on a much lighter plane than that of our peanut butter. Should these two be paired together, it would be all about the peanut butter, a truly unfair relationship.

That leaves our Italian stalion armed with the right softness and enough bark and bite to stand up to the peanut butter -- the piquant qualities of the Gorgonzola cancel out the overtly sweet qualities of the peanut butter while the puckery-ness of the cheese dials down the stick to the roof of your mouth sort of feel that peanut butter classically provides you with. This is a relationship that is based on the fact that each ingredient has a series of similarities while their diferences accentuate aspects of the other -- an ideal pairing.

So you must be thinking, really?!? Blue cheese and peanut butter, you have got to be kidding me!

Well not when paired with a nice toasted cranberry walnut pecan bread say from Balthazar with some fresh cherries or even red berries added into the mix. You will be surprized how the salt of the cheese really plays up and brings out nuances in the peanut butter you never knew were there.

So next time you are in the mood for peanut butter, try this, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day One Sixty - Peanut Butter Marriage Mondays

In preparation for today's Marriage Mondays, I got to thinking and thinking outside the box about cheese and food pairings and I settled on something that you see rarely paired with cheese in the form of a sandwich -- peanut butter and why not?

Peanut butter is quintessential Americana embodied in a food product if you ask me --whether it comes paired with jelly on Wonder bread or eaten as a snack with celery or with bananas as Elvis' favorite sandwich or inserted into chocolate circles in the form of the ever popular, Reese's Pieces. Utilized in so many different situations, this simple combination of ground peanuts and salt is ubiquitous nation and worldwide.

Peanut butter also has a series of health benefits, if eaten in moderation, as it is quite high in fat, granted the good sort, but still. It protects against the risk of cardiovascular disease as it has such high levels of monounsaturated fats. Peanut butter and of course consequently peanuts provide a significant amount of protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate, and dietary fiber.

So, shall we meet this week's contestants for the opportunity to be paired with peanut butter?

Contestant Number #1: Comte - Hailing from the Franche-Comte region of France, this cow's milk cheese is aged for anywhere between eight and eighteen months. I like to think of it as a "dressed up" Gruyere cheese as its flavors are more developed, delicate, and distinct. Sweet and caramelly yet nutty and buttery with an almost tobacco, cedar finish, this cheese is a star, so full of flavor, you can't ever go wrong!

Contestant Number # 2: Gorgonzola Cremificato - Originating in the Italian region of Lombardy, this young cow's milk cheese is rich and thick that when cutting into it, it collapses because there is not sufficient aeration. Gooey, creamy, classically blue with all its pungency -- this is the sort of blue cheese that hits all the right cords. This is that nice balance between sweet and savory.

Contestant Number # 3: Queso de la Serena - This small production artisanal vegetarian Spanish raw sheep's milk cheese is special -- it is coagulated with cardoon thistle which gives the cheese an intense, vegetal, floral, grassy, barnyardy yet even sour flavor. It is the ultimate characterization of gooey in a cheese -- thick, creamy, runny, mushy, and all around fantastic, this is the perfect cheese to dip a crusty piece  of bread in.

So folks, who will win? France, Spain, or Italy?

Check back tomorrow for your results!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day One Fifty Nine - A Central Park Picnic

This steamy Sunday afternoon, I made my way to a picnic in the park. Sheep's Meadow to specific, although hot, a great opportunity to be around friends,  catch up, have some good food and drink.

For today's post I thought I would keep things simple and tell you all about our picnic offerings and the two cheeses that I brought. I know, its a shock, I brought cheese!

Before I get to my cheeses, let me fill you in about the other offerings we had -

Of course there was some fresh fruit -- watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, mangoes, and kiwis. Then there was a sufficient amount of salty food, good for you in this heat! Olives, cured meats, and more. A homemade tarragon, grape, celery chicken salad, along with a baguette, multigrain bread, an assortment of cookies and water and beer for everyone. Last but not least were the two cheeses I brought, simple not overly unusual cheeses, both French in honor of this past week's Bastille Day and today's Smith Street celebration of the French holiday:

1. Bucheron -- This bloomy rind goat cheese log is native to the Loire Valley -- semi firm with an edible rind and accompanying cream line, it sure is always a crowd pleaser. Bucheron packs those classic aged French goat cheese notes -- tangy, grassy, lactic, somewhat puckery, citrusy, and all around delish. It also holds up well in the heat as it is a semi firm cheese, great for a day like today!!! As the cheese stays out for longer periods of time, it's flavors completely open up and it lends itself to that perfect melt in your mouth quality.

2. Camembert -- Another classic delish French creamster that is great for splitting, easily transportable in its hockey puck sized shape and accompanying wooden box. Originally from Normandy, this young cow's milk cheese is gooey, unctuous, indulgent, and totally and completely buttery. With extended exposure to the heat this cheese oozes its way out of its circular shape for all the right reasons! Great when spread on top of a nice crusty piece of bread.

So you may be wondering why did she bring two bloomy rind cheeses today? Well the answer is folks they are easily transportable, great for groups and hold up in the heat. You don't want really fresh young cheeses sitting outside in the sun for extended periods of time nor do you want a blue cheese to crumble all over  your cheese board.

I hope you all enjoyed your Sundays and check back tomorrow for Marriage Mondays.
Nite folks!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day One Fifty Eight - A Recap of last night's dinner : Spitzer's Corner

Last night after hearing some live jazz, we decided to go to Spitzer's Corner, an American gastropub with over forty beers on tap and many more in bottles  along with a nice wine selection. A great casual spot conveniently located in the center of the hussle and bussle of the always crowded Lower East Side.

Known for its "elevated" bar food, Spitzer's truly offers something for everyone! A great place to satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

We started with the chef's selection of three cheeses that was served with preserved walnut, homemade quince paste and homemade cranberry pecan bread. The three cheese plate started with the Italian creamster, La Tur. Hailing from the Piedmont region, this young cheese is a mixture of goat's, sheep's and cow's milk creating the most fantastic mouth feel and flavor -- creamy, moist, sweet, savory, with an almost ice cream like consistency. It is perfect with a nice sparkling wine. The second cheese was the Classic Blue Log made in Western Massachusetts. A traditional goat's milk log here is coated in blue Glaucum mold giving the cheese a mild piquant side to it. Otherwise, a great simple delish cheese. The last cheese, a nice hard pecorino, was a lovely way to round out the cheese selection.

Following the cheese, my companion and significant other ordered an appetizer of Pork Rillettes which is pork shoulder confit, duck fat and herbs  and is served with toasted country bread. According to him, it tasted somewhat like a mixture of hummus and olive oil. His next dish was a "Crispy Lady Sandwich" which was polish ham and lots and lots of gruyere on grilled brioche topped with fried quail eggs with a side of fries. Too bad you all missed his face when biting into this sandwich, it was priceless.

For me, I had their quinoa spring salad which was wild rice, fresh fruit, cherry tomatoes, green onions, toasted almonds and a hazelnut cider dressing. The perfect dinner for me, light, healthy and nutritious starring my favorite grain - quinoa.

A good time was had by all,  and it sure is hard to find a place that has a fresh quinoa salad along with beef tongue, pork rillettes, mac n' cheese, coriander crabcakes and more! Each dish was done with care and nothing was lost in the vegetarian dishes versus the meat heavy ones.

Have a good Saturday evening folks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day One Fifty Seven - Height of Summer GCF

It sure feels like the height of the summer when you step outside on this muggy, humid Friday, doesn't it? Today's GCF will be simple and full of quintessentially summery ingredients - fresh, local, and delish.

So let's get going!

I would probably utilize either some nice thin Mediterranean flat bread or even nicely toasted pita bread for this sandwich, less carbohydrate heavy than say a Pullman bread and on a day like today you want something light and easy don't you!?

The first ingredient that goes into this sandwich is summer squash. Summer squash is obviously a member of the squash family but do you know why it is called "summer" squash and not just regular squash? Two reasons:

1. It is harvested when really young so that one is able to ingest the skin etc.
2. It has an extremely short shelf life, unlike the winter squashes that have thicker skins which protect them and thus provide them with a longer shelf life.

Without getting too sidetracked here, let's get back to our GCF....Take one nice summer squash, you can generally tell if they are ready to use if they are not too hard or too soft to the touch, similar to telling if a zucchini is ready to use. Slice it really thinly. Toss this in a small skillet with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and some diced up shallots. Cover the pan and cook over very low heat for about six to eight minutes or until the summer squash is al dente, still crunchy yet somewhat cooked.

While your summer squash is cooking, it's time to make some homemade pesto with fresh basil. In the summer months, the basil that you buy is definitely locally sourced and tastes so much better than the basil shipped into our region in the winter months. So a nice simple pesto I think is a fantastic ode to my favorite herb. Let's keep things simple with this pesto, toss the following ingredients into your food processor and blend together.

One bunch of basil
Two cloves of garlic
1/3 - 1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/3 cup of Parmesan
Black Pepper
Sea Salt
Extra virgin Olive Oil
I like to add a little bit of red pepper flakes for a little kick.

Now once your pesto is done, top either side of your flat bread with your pesto, summer squash, and a few leaves of purple basil. Purple basil is also a quintessentially summery ingredient -- more intense and developed in flavor than its green cousin, this adds a nice color and flavor kick to your sandwich!

The sandwich's last ingredient is of course the cheese and here I choose to use the lovely Pyrenees Brebis, a sheep's milk cheese made in the Basque region of the French Pyrenees. With a yellowish orange rind and an ivory center -- this cheese is firm yet with an excellent melt in your mouth quality from the fat content of the sheep's milk utilized in the production of this cheese. It is aged for anywhere between four and six months and is full of herbacious, grassy, sweet, nutty notes -- the perfect complement to our fresh summer squash two basil pesto GCF. Go ahead and slice a few nice pieces of Pyrenees Brebis on top of your other sandwich ingredients and throw this baby under the heat. Once melted, enjoy this sandwich with a nice light white wine.

Happy Friday Folks!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day One Fifty Six - Cheese Spy Stories - Dispatch # 5 - Coming at you from Down Under...

I can just hear the Men at Work song playing in the background, "I Come From a Land Down Under," as I dispatch our next cheese spy stories to you all, coming at you from Australia.

Although I too have traveled to Australia and most certainly want to go back, I do not remember any particularly spectacular cheeses that I sampled while there. I certainly fell in love with Vegemite and the freshness of their seafood. Nowadays when I think of Australian cheese, I think of one particular blue cheese known as Roaring Forties Blue. A Semi-soft cow's milk blue cheese covered in wax made by King's Island Dairy, based on an island north of Tasmania. The cheese takes its name from the up to 100 kms per hour winds that this island, located at 40 degrees latitude, experiences. The cheese itself is sweet, savory, not too piquant, and a fantastic beginners blue. Apart from this cheese, there are one hundred different varieties of cheese produced in Australia, would you ever think that Australia could be a cheese destination? Well now you can!

I'm getting carried away here, this post is not meant to be about my memories and loves of Australia, it is coming right at you from this week's cheese spy, so get ready!

This was our cheese spy's first trip to Australia and just like you and I, certainly did not think that Australia was known for cheese production, boy were we all wrong! Our reliable spy actually found something quite interesting in terms of a favorite Australian produced cheese, what was that? Well folks, it was Manchego cheese. I am sure you are thinking, Manchego in Australia? Isn't that made in Spain traditionally?? Nope, you can also find an Australian Manchego... As we know, Manchego is the classic Spanish sheep's milk cheese traditionally produced in Spain's La Mancha region... But the residents of Kangaroo Island adopted the Spanish ways and began producing the cheese. The “Island Pure” Manchego, as it is called, is not simply a replica of its Spanish ancestor. The Australian version has a more mellow taste than that of Spain, but they do share a similar texture are both relatively hard cheeses. This sheep’s milk cheese is great on crackers and was surprisingly less dry than the Spanish version.

So folks, do not doubt that you will find cheese in almost every corner of the world and sometimes that cheese will mirror a cheese you know and love and you will determine that actually the cheese you discovered in this far off land is better than your tried and true version.

Thank you to this week's spy and check back next week for another Cheese Spy Stories Dispatch.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day One Fifty Five - Energy, Fuel, and Holes

After you work out, what do you want to eat? Are you the sort that goes directly for the processed energy bar? A bagel? Eggs? Juice? Protein? You name it, everyone has their own routine. I always think it is so fascinating to think about what sort of food ones body craves after a long workout or stressful it something comforting? I think that the meal you choose certainly says a lot about you and your habits, interesting to stop and watch what those are, in case you aren't keenly aware.

As I'm just beginning to train for the ING NYC marathon, I thought I'd fill you all in on that breakfast that is nutritious, invigorating, satisfying and delish and exactly what I want after a long run in the rain...

It starts with a nice toasted piece of mutligrain bread, I like to have a little bit of carbs after running to refuel. While that bread is toasting, I like to throw two egg whites for protein in pan. Today, I topped those egg  whites with some of last night's zucchini, a few chopped mushrooms, a little bit of pearl onion, some fresh diced basil, crushed red pepper, black pepper and some shaved Emmental cheese. I cook the eggs, veggies, and cheese into a small omelette and then place this on top of my mutligrain toast and eat with a nice big mug of coffee. It is the perfect mixture of veggies, eggs, cheese, and herbs -- this omelette will replenish my system after a long run, never too heavy but extremely satisfying!  It is surely the sort of meal that gives my batteries more energy to keep going.

To finish off today's post, I thought I'd give you all a little educational lesson on where the holes in Emmental cheese come from --
Emmental in case you aren't familiar is a hard cow's milk cheese produced traditionally in Switzerland. The cheese is a member of the Swiss cheese family and like other members of this group has holes produced by one of three bacteria utilized to produce the cheese. This particular bacteria is known as propionibacterium freudenreichii and is actually what triggers the sweet nutty flavors in the cheese. In the later stages  of maturation of this cheese, the previously mentioned bacteria will consume the lactic acid released  by the two other forms of bacteria (Streptococcus thermophilus and lactobacillus)  utilized in the production of this cheese and in turn produce carbon dioxide which will create the holes in our beloved Emmental. Interesting right?

Well next time you pick up a piece of cheese with holes in it, just think about the energy that went into the creation of those holes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day One Fifty Four - Results

Funnily enough, just before I sat down to write this post to you, I made myself some zucchini blossoms for dinner, unfortunately not with cheese but the winner of today's Marriage Mondays could easily insert itself into this simple recipe.

So, without further ado, let's get to that winner!

Contestant Number #1 - Nettle Meadow's Kunik - This creamster of a contestant is so spectacular that she certainly would take the spotlight away from our star this week. Although delicate and extremely flavorful, Kunik has a weight to it due to the quarter of Jersey cow's cream involved in its recipe. This cow's milk cream increases the heft of the cheese and therefore overshadowing our blossoms. Being a bloomy rind cheese, this is the sort of cheese that if you ask me, should not be heated, some of its flavor intricacies are lost when heated. As a rule of thumb, for me at least, I do not think you should heat artisanal bloomy rind cheeses, it's somewhat like drinking a really fantastic wine too cold -- it masks the flavors. That is not to say that this should be an across the board rule, sometimes more everyday-like Brie can be heated and can be delish to some, less so for me. So as a rule of thumb, I'd keep Kunik separate  and would eat this baby at room temperature.

Contestant Number #2 - Ardith Mae's Fresh Chevre - Fresh, vegetal, grassy, tangy and young this contestant mirrors some of our blossoms' fantastic flavors and therefore is our winner this week, the similarities outway the differences here in our pairing. However the best part about of this pairing is how the tang of the cheese and the sweetness of the zucchini blossoms are able to form a perfect bite -- sweet, savory, fresh, and wonderfully out of this world. Each member of this team is young yet at its prime and finds its complement in the other -- the makeup of a great relationship!!

Contestant Number #3 - Bobolink's Jean Louis - Another case of a cheese overshadowing our blossoms, piting these two together will be completely one sided relationship -- it will be all about the cheese and not about this  exceptional seasonal bounty. I think what we should take away from this is that something as delicate and seasonal as zucchini blossoms, quintessentially summery and always served young, it should be paired with a light, creamy, young cheese. Why you may ask? Well that's because young cheeses tend to have excess water in them that infuses the blossoms and brings out sometimes hidden flavors. Little fact  -- the younger the cheese, the more water in it because the water evaporates or is absorbed or drained as the cheese ages and gains weight.

So how would you utilize the fresh chevre folks?

Well I would stuff the zucchini blossoms with goat cheese and put them in a pan and saute them with fresh basil, olive oil,  some white wine, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, garlic, sliced zucchini itself and some summer squash.

Step one: Wash your blossoms and stuff 1/3 - 1/2 way full with goat's cheese.

Step two: Pour some olive oil in a large skillet with two diced cloves of garlic.

Step three: Dice up one full zucchini and one summer sqaush and a big handful of fresh basil.

Step four: Throw all together in a pan with your spices, more olive oil, and a small drizzle of white wine and cook over low heat on top of the stove with a cover on the pan. By covering the pan, the veggies will cook more efficiently and will meld more successfully in terms of their flavor profiles. Take off in ten minutes or when you feel that the blossoms are cooked through and the zucchini is crispy and al dente. Enjoy this with a nice glass of crisp white wine.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day One Fifty Three - Zucchini Blossoms Marriage Mondays

Phew do I feel sleepy, I just took my first ever bikram yoga class and boy oh boy, it makes marathon running feel like a walk in the park. Always curious to try this intense activity, I think I satisfied my curiousity with my ninety minute session this evening. Therefore this week's marriage mondays might be somewhat shorter than others and for that I apologize.

For this week's Marriage Mondays, I thought I would choose an ingredient that is certainly in season now, zucchini blossoms -- delicate flowers of the zucchini, these guys are such a warm weather treat. Full of flavor, these blossoms transport me to the south of France, complete with a glass of rose in hand. Truly the sort of produce found strictly for a few months of the year, you know that you have to enjoy them when you can. And enjoy them we will when paired with one of this week's three contestants:

Contestant Number #1: Nettle Meadow Farm's Kunik - Decadence and luxury in cheese form symbolize our first contestant. Hailing from the Southern Adirondacks in Upstate New York, this cheese is 75% goat's milk and 25% Jersey cow's milk cream giving the cheese the weight of cow's milk with the light tang of the goat's milk -- the perfect mix! A bloomy rind cheese, this hockey puck sized roundelle is buttery, creamy, gooey for all the right reasons.

Contestant Number #2: Ardith Mae's Fresh Chevre - Our youngest contestant of the bunch, this chevre is freshly imported from the mountains of PA. Best in the early summer months, this cheese is imbued with the terroir of the region in which it is produced -- full of grassy, citrusy, and herbacious notes, just because it is young, that does not mean it doesn't pack a punch!

Contestant Number #3: Bobolink Dairy's Jean Louis - Our oldest  contestant today, this raw cow's milk gooey contestant hailing from our neighborhoring state of New Jersey is named for Jean Louis Palladin. Palladain ran the Jean Louis resto in the Watergate, opening its doors in the boom-time 1980s and staying alive through the mid to late 1990s  -- this restaurant definitely saw the American artisanal food movement take off! And being that this cheese  is so incredibly unique and extremely stinky and totally American, it makes sense that it is named for a man who changed the culinary landscape of America. Not for the faint of heart, this is a big cheese full of barnyardy, farmy, puckery and pungent sure makes its voice heard when served.

So who do you think will win folks?

Check back tomorrow....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day One Fifty Two - The World Cup of Cheese : The Netherlands vs Spain

Tuning in at 2:30 today to see whether the favored Spain will actually clinch the game? Or do you want the Netherlands to go all the way, the underdogs surprising us all? Well folks, I won't reveal to you who I'm rooting for but I will pit a Dutch cheese against a Spainsh cheese today in our world cup of cheese and tomorrow, I will announce my own personal winner, whether or not it is in line with today's game! I decided to stick with the classics for our World Cup of Cheese, cheeses that we all know and love and represent to me each country

When you think Dutch cheese what do you think? Gouda? I do!

Gouda comes in all shapes and sizes -- aged, not aged, with cumin, with cow's milk or goat's milk, you name it, gouda lends its name and its flavor profile to all sorts of variations. As the cheese is aged longer, you loose its sweetness somewhat and it becomes drier, crumbly, saltier, and more caramelly -- truly two totally different cheeses, young vs old gouda.

For our purposes here, I'd like to suggest Goat Gouda as the Netherlands cheese representative for today's world cup, young, creamy, lactic, grassy, and a full out lovely mouth feel, it's hard to go wrong here! Smooth yet firm and milky and luscious, this cheese is great alone or with a nice crisp white wine or a cold beer. Great as a melting cheese in a grilled cheese or even grated and placed over a salad, it is very versatile.

Interestingly enough, there are way fewer Dutch cheese  imported to America than Spanish cheeses, if the World Cup of Cheese was based on that fact alone -- who imports more cheese, well then Spain would definitely win, but who knows that may not be the case!

And now onto our Spanish competition, I thought we would put up a nice aged Manchego, the classic Spanish sheep's milk cheese also sold at varying ages from young to middle aged and older! As Manchego gets older, just as with Gouda, it's flavors deepen and its texture hardens. To me aged Manchego has that certain je ne sais quoi. Nutty, barnyardy, farmy, and fantastically crumbly, this cheese pairs lovely with medium bodied whites and red wines.

So folks, that wraps it up! Will it be our Youngster Goat Gouda who wins out or our aged Manchego taking the crown? Check back tomorrow to find out!
Enjoy today's game.

Day One Fifty One - Uruguay + Germany + Italy = Piola

Originally I thought it could be fun to do a Germany vs Uruguay and a Spain vs the Netherlands World Cup of Cheese, however although there are plenty of native Uruguyan cheeses as I have never had any of them, I thought probably not best for me me to do a third place cheese world cup, just a first and second place competition. So instead, I thought I would tell you all about the little place that we went to watch the game yesterday -- Piola. An Italian restaurant with locations all over the world, this place has an extremely extensive thin crust pizza menu, salads, antipasti, pasta, and more. Simple, laid back, good food, and not over crowded!

We ordered two pizzas for the table and a few other things to share while watching the World Cup third place game. The first pizza we ordered was what  they called their Italia pizza and as soon it was delivered to our table, you could see why it was called that -- the ingredients that topped the pie made the Italian flag -- arugula, ricotta, and fresh tomatoes topped a tomato sauce and mozzarella base with a thin crust. The other pizza that was ordered was a meat pizza, known as the Ragusa pie and this pizza also had a thin crust with tomato sauce and mozzarella as the backdrop for pancetta and gorgonzola rolls spread across the pie. Apart from the pizzas, we ordered a fresh and light ceviche and a three cheese gnudi which was creamy and delish.

A nice chill and not too expensive place to go with friends for a soccer match, you know you will be able to get a seat!

48 E 12th Street

Day One Fifty - Take me Out to the Ballgame GCF

Whoops the weekend seems to have gotten away from me without having the opportunity to write to you all my faithful readers.

Friday night we went to a baseball game and I thought it'd be fun for this week's GCF to do a play on CrackerJacks, the quintessential American snack at the ballpark -- caramel coated popcorn and peanuts all rolled into one bag of sugary salty sweetness. So for this week's GCF, I've decided to take the essential flavors and turn it into a sandwich.

For this sandwich, you need a crusty, rustic bread made with white flour, you want to make sure its nice a crumbly and when toasted provides a nice crunch, similar yet different to the crunch of the caramel coated  popcorn in crackerjacks.

Next up, you need your special ingredient for this sandwich - La Maison d'Armorine's French Salted Butter Caramel spread, liquid caramel gold. A little of this decadence goes a whole long way! So spread this on either side of the bread.

Now grab your cheese, I think to dial down the sugary sweetness of the salted caramel spread, you need a nice piquant salty side to your sandwich and that should come in the form of blue cheese -- I think a nice Point Reyes Blue Cheese would be great.  This cheese is everything that a blue cheese should be and more -- piquant, biting, salty, puckery, and all around brilliant! The salty savory qualities of the cheese will balance out the sweetness of the caramel perfectly.

Next up instead of the peanuts used in crackerjacks, I like to substitute some marcona almonds in our sandwich here, you can crush a few up and drizzle them on top of your cheese and toast away!

Crackerjacks as a sandwich it isn't but it is delish and a fantastic flavor combination. Enjoy this with a nice pilsner.

More catch up coming right up folks!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day One Forty Nine : Cheese Spy Stories Dispatch Number #4 - Antibes, France

Ready for your next cheese spy dispatch folks?!?

This one comes at you from the southern French town of Antibes, a gem of a port town located between Nice and Cannes. Breath-taking on even the most dreary day, this is a must visit place, special in its own remarkable way! 

Moving off our talk of the town of Antibes and on to the matter at hand -- cheese!

Every day in the center of the old town, there is an open-air farmer's market offering up for purchase and consumption everything from organic fruits and vegetables, picked the morning of the market to spices, olives, meats, both cured and uncooked, of course cheese and some regional specialities. It is the sort of place where buying produce and cooking it is so delish that you couldn't imagine going out to eat at a restaurant! Among the cheese vendors at the market, our reliable spy found the most outstanding stand -- the Farm called Scop Cravirola, a coop or collaborative 5 hours from Antibes, or 1 1/2 hours form Montpelier. It was founded by Germans who moved to France more than twenty years ago. At the time, they concluded that they had to be resourceful and come up with a way to earn a living; what did they decide on but goats, sheep and cheese making?!!? How could you go wrong there? It is all self-run, and has a camp ground and a guest house should you want to go visit, along with of course the cheese making facility itself.

Our cheese spy informs us that their goat and sheep cheeses are unlike any other cheese tasted the world over. The man who runs the stand, Anthony recommends a different cheese each day. Why you may ask? Well his recommendations depend on the weather, grasses the goats have eaten, production of milk the goats have delivered. On the day our cheese spy visited, he recommended a goat called "fermier", which is a slightly aged fresh chevre with a more highly developed taste. In this case the cheese was mild and savory, just less than pungent, it seemed to melt in the mouth. It had a soft outside that had turned slightly golden pink, in which much of the savory flavor resided. It would have been possible to eat this small roundel, approx. 2 1/2 inches in diameter in one fell swoop, but with restraint we managed to share the roundel over the course of two meals. This is a cheese one can eat with a fork or spoon. It requires no bread or pairing, it is extraordianry unto itself, a summer treat.

Scop Cravola offers fresh chevre and brebis (sheep cheese) along with fermier--medium aged--and aged cheeses. They also offer a cheese cake, not in the American style, but a cake made with their goat cheese, somewhat sweet, not cloying, a showcase for their soft fresh chevre. In addition they have tomme de chevre and tomme de brebis, harder offerings made at the farm. Finally, they offer a camembert like no other camembert on this earth. Scop is at the farmer's market three days a week and certainly sounds extremely hard to resist, doesn't it?
A few pics from their stand courtesy of our reliable cheese spy:

Have a good night folks and stay tuned for this week's GCF tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day One Forty Eight - Cucumber Results

Ready for the results of our cucumber Marriage Mondays, even though it is Wednesday...So did you figure out who was the winner?? Well folks, in the event you didn't, let me reveal this week's results with recipes.

This week was somewhat of a tricky week, why you may ask? Because in theory all three of our contestants could work with cucumbers since they are such a great canvas and meld so wonderfully with a variety of ingredients. I think what is nice about the star of this week's MM's is that it showcases how versatile cheese can be and that cheese can be inserted into many different situations that you would not have thought of previously.

For today's results, I will give you an example in which each of the three contestants could work and I will in turn reveal my favorite of the three!

Contestant Number # 1 - Fromage Blanc or Fromage Frais: This young creamy cheese brings out the freshness of the cucumbers and allows them the opportunity to pop and exhibit all of the things I love about them. The fromage blanc in my mind becomes the cucumber's creamy counterpart, both exhibiting many of the same characteristics but in different forms. It is interesting to note here how the consistency of the cheese completely opposes that of the cucumber making one more aware of the crispiness of our star. These two pair perfectly in a situation such as on thinly sliced toasted whole grain bread that is topped with Fromage Blanc, some thinly sliced cucumbers, a piece of gravalax (cured smoked salmon with dill), a few sprigs of arugula and a few shavings of raw red onion -- fresh, crisp, bright, and flavorful in your mouth. You can also make this sandwich without the smoked salmon and it will be just as delish! This certainly would be a refreshing snack or open faced sandwich after a hot day.

Contestant Number # 2 - Feta: The briny, salty qualities of the feta in certain circumstances could overwhelm the delicacies of the light cucumber but in the right context, this is a pairing that could most certainly work!  It is interesting to note though that when pairing with feta, you already have the built in salt content in the cheese which will coax out distinct flavors in the cucumbers that otherwise would have needed some sea salt to do the job. I think the best way to showcase a feta and cucumbers pairing would be in a salad -- such as a modified Greek salad or even a riff on a green salad. By Greek salad I mean: a nice combination of chopped tomatoes, red onions, olives, cubes of feta, romaine lettuce, sliced cucumbers, sliced radishes, some diced up hot peppers, and some olive oil and vinegar. Here all of the other ingredients tame the saltiness of the feta and become a nice backdrop for the crispiness of the cucumber. The more unique route for feta and cucumbers would be in what I call a green salad which is composed of  edamame, green peas, sugar snaps, steamed asparagus, diced cucumbers, some diced parsley and basil, and some feta and red onions. This second option allows for the cucumber to be in a milieu where they will play off flavors of the other vegetables and really come into their own.

Contestant Number #3 - Cantal : Our third contestant is definitely an exercise in opposites and the hardest to actually pair successfully, you can but it is not a recommended option. Why you may ask? Well, the farmy, barnyardy, hay, grassy, and buttery flavors of the cheese are in such opposition to the fresh, crisp, green, refreshing tastes of the cucumber that it's somewhat night and day. However in small quantities and in the right situation, Cantal might be the right counterpoint to the cucumber -- in being in opposition with one another, the flavor profiles of the cucumber will be accentuated. On the other hand, I think Cantal's qualities are best shown when heated; and melted cheese and cucumbers do not form a successful relationship, if you ask me. So, how would Cantal work? In basically a cucumber carpaccio manner by slicing the cucumbers extremely extremely thin, adding some acidity in the form of a small drizzle of lemon juice, and some white wine vinegar and then a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. The cucumbers are then topped with really thinly sliced apples, I'd utilize something like a fuji apple here. This is to be topped off by some dill and diced raw red onions. The Cantal will top this is  in very thin shavings, just the same thickness of the cucumber and apple. You will find that the Cantal will step the dish up a notch and exhibit more depth in the cucumbers that you might not have thought was possible. So as you can see, sometimes opposites attract!

Which one was my favorite??

Well folks, that would be number one! But I strongly recommend trying all three.
Enjoy your evening.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day One Forty Seven : Last Catch up Post! Panzanella Salad done differently

It sure has been a while since New York City has seen triple digit temperatures, hasn't it? When you come inside from this sweltering heat, are you hungry and in the mood for a big meal? I know I am certainly not!

You want something refreshing yet nourishing and satisfying but nothing that will weigh you down and make you feel lethargic! So what is that meal that I think is perfect for an evening like today? It's my version of a summer panzanella or Tuscan bread Salad!

In case you aren't familiar with the original panzanella salad, it typically has day old Tuscan bread cubed, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and some sliced raw red onions.

My version is a little bit different, yet I think just as good, if not better!

Instead of just cubing the day old Tuscan bread, I like to saute our bread cubes with one shallot and two cloves of garlic and some olive oil till they are somewhat crispy on the outside with a golden brown hue. And of course, what would a panzanella salad be without the tomatoes? Grab four to five yellow instead of red tomatoes and cube and toss these with some freshly diced chives while your bread is toasting/cooking. Now add some cubed watermelon to your tomato mixture and some freshly steamed peas. Combine your bread and veggies, add one ball of fresh Joe's Dairy Mozzarella cut into small cubes and a decent amount of finely chopped basil, some salt and pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil and a few drops of white wine vinegar. Mix this all together and top with a few kernels of fresh corn as it is totally coming into season now.

Enjoy your crunchy fresh Panzanella salad courtesy of me with a nice big glass of water and a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Stay cool folks!

Day One Forty Six : Cucumber Marriage Mondays

I don't know what it is, but I'm really having a cucumber moment as of late. Do you ever go through those periods where you really only want to eat one specific thing or at least make sure said specific thing is in as much of what you eat as possible? I know right now that thing for me is cucumbers. I've had my edamame, soy crisp, sundried tomato, hummus, egg whites, and tuna periods to name a few of my previous food moments.

Why cucumber right now? Maybe its because it just tastes so refreshing when you come home into your apartment after walking in this hundred degree heat that we're currently experiencing. Or maybe its because they are at their peak this time of year. All I know is that they are crunchy and fresh, light and delicious, and my food of the moment. I personally prefer the small baby ones as opposed to the big hunky cucumbers that you see pickled and then sliced and served as an accompaniment to a sandwich.

So I thought since I'm having a cucumber moment, why not do a cucumber dosage  of Marriage Mondays...although this is being written on Tuesday...results will come in tomorrow folks so stay tuned!

Contestant Number # 1: Fromage Blanc (sometimes known as Fromage Frais) - Our first contestant is of French origin and literally translates to white or fresh cheese and fresh it is! Young, creamy, and extremely versatile, you will find this baby in everything from breakfasts to desserts and savory dishes. Pure fromage blanc or frais is virtually fat free but most people have a problem with this taste sensation and therefore cream is added which in turn boosts the fat content. Imagine the combination of the lactic qualities of milk with the decadent creamy qualities of cheese and you have our first contestant.

Contestant Number # 2: Greek Feta - Originally hailing from the nation of Greece, this briny aged traditionally sheep's milk cheese is now made the world over. Similar in coloring to our first contestant, this cheese is a salty, crumbly, acidic block of cheesy goodness. Also a very versatile cheese but be prepared for a bit of  pucker here, it will certainly jazz up something simple!

Contestant Number # 3: Cantal - One of the oldest cheeses in France, this contestant became popular when it was served at the court of Louis XIV. Hailing from the Cantal mountains in the Auvergne region of France, this aged cow's milk cheese is simple, straight forward, and an easy crowd pleaser -- good for the beginning cheese enthusiasts and those of us with more of a developed palate. One could say it is almost like the "cheddar" of France in terms of its widespread consumption and popularity. It is full of buttery, grassy, hay, and farmsteady notes on the tongue, you can't go wrong here!

So who do you think will win?!?!?

Stay tuned to find out the results tomorrow!

Day One Forty Five : Lovely Little Local

As I continue to play catch up here, let's rewind back to this weekend for Sunday's post. Wouldn't that be fantastic if that was an actual action you could take like the buttons on your TV remote? How would you ever get anything done work wise though if that was the case?

Moving out of fantasy land and back into reality, lets get back to the lovely little local wine bar I went to this past weekend in Dennis Village, Mass, on Cape Cod. Known as the Harvest Gallery, this gem of a spot showcases art by local and regional artists -- both visual and musical. While we were there, a jazz pianist was playing some mid-20th century greats for his audience to enjoy. Harvest offers regional beers and a good wine list with a mixture of New and Old World wines along with some small plates, cheeses, cured meats, sandwiches and salads. The really nice thing about Harvest is that they always have a chalk board with wines "on sale," meaning that they are running low on them and they are offer them at a discounted price. For example, we had a nice simple yet solid French Rose for $25, now how often do you find a bottle of wine priced at that amount in a wine bar?

With our bottle of Rose, we split some local oysters and a housemade ricotta  with honey, marcona almonds and some fresh basil shaved on top. The ricotta was served with "bread chips," really thin pieces of bread that have been toasted in the oven to get them all crispy and crumbly. The ricotta was delish and flavorful -- creamy and milky and everything a ricotta should be. The bread crisps or chips were delish on their own but hard to actually eat the ricotta with. The brightness of the wine really worked wonders with the melt in your mouth qualities of the wine.

Worth a visit if you are looking for a nice hidden place on Cape Cod:

Harvest Gallery
776 Main Street
Dennis, MA 02683

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day One Forty Four - Massive Catchup Mode Here - Holiday Weekend Backlog Part One : Pico

Hello faithful readers, I hope you all had a good holiday weekend!

I apologize I am so far behind here, I am sure you all know what it is like to be out of town and not having access to a computer...but fret not, in the next two days, I'll get all caught up. Yes, unfortunately that means that will be a lot of posts ALL at once, so don't feel overloaded, there's plenty of time to read my musings when you have some free time...

For post number one of the weekend, I thought I'd discuss a fantastic cheese that was given to me by my significant other as a sweet little gift before going away this weekend for our roadtrip -- Pico. It was given to me with a lovely Zaros loaf of bread and Spanish artisanal sea salt crackers..yum yum!

Back to the cheese matter at hand, Pico is an aged goat's milk cheese from the Ardeche and Drome regions of France that is packaged in its own individual wooden box. This creamy, grassy, gooey, classically fantastic French goat's milk cheese is in its prime at this time of year. Unlike the old French translation of the cheese, it is most certainly not sour -- decadent, dynamic, delish, you can't go wrong with this easily transportable cheese. Perfect with crisp, light wines like Sancerres... It will melt in your mouth and lead to a full out smile. More importantly though, if you aren't familiar with Pico, definitely go to Murray's and check it out within the next few weeks.

Such a special little treat, a great way to start the holiday weekend!

That's all for now folks, I apologize the remainder of my catchup will have to happen tomorrow when I won't have spent the better portion of the day in the car. Nite all!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day One Forty Three - Red, White, and Blue GCF Part Deux

In thinking about what to write about for this week's GCF, I realized that for Memorial Day weekend I did a Red, White, and Blue GCF, so why not do another version for July 4th weekend -- another quintessentially summer and classically American celebration. For me, July 4th is all about fireworks, barbecues, beaches, sun, fun, food, and drinks so I thought why not do a GCF utilizing some grilled flavors. You are probably thinking, well she doesn't eat meat, so what is she going to grill?

Fret not friends, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Also, should you not have access to outdoor grill, you can always utilize a stove top grill, not ideal but it will allow you to make this sandwich indoors or out. So lets get going on our sandwich folks, don't want to take up too much of your day here.

Grab a nice ciabatta loaf, slice in half and brush either side with olive oil, grill this first. While this is grilling, grab a dozen strawberries and slice them into thin discs and then toss them with an aged balsamic vinegar (the sweet thick sort that has been aged for anywhere from eight years onward), some diced fresh basil, a little bit of salt and allow the berries to marinate until your bread is nicely charred with grill marks, nothing tooo burned, but say just crunchy and toasty. Now put your berries in some tin foil and place them on the grill, this will allow strawberries to cook with the basil balsamic flavors and a hint of grill taste as well. While your strawberries are grilling, take your ciabatta and top either side with a nice coat of Berkshire Berries Wild Blueberry Jam (either found at the Union Square Greenmarket or online at ) -- the wild blueberries really make the difference with this jam, it has a freshness and herbalness that makes the jam want to jump off the bread. Now in a separate bowl take 8 ounces of Salvatore Brooklyn's Ricotta and mix this with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a few fresh sprigs of rosemary and some salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine this all together with a spoon and then place this on top of your wild blueberry jam. Now, when you feel that the strawberries are cooked take them off the grill and place them on top of your cheese -- you do not want to melt them down because then you would have cheese sandwiched by jam sandwiched by bread, you want to make sure that they maintain their berry like qualities. Then on top of the strawberries add a little sprinkling of fresh basil and then you can either eat this sandwich as is with the grilled flavors or you can put it back on the grill with a weight on top of it to dial up the grilled-ness a little bit more.

Sweet, savory, and full of summer's bounty, this is  a hard sandwich to go wrong with.

Enjoy your July 4th weekend folks!

Day One Forty Two - A Recap of last night at The Tangled Vine

The Tangled Vine is one of many fantastic little UWS wine bars. I love the fact that my neighborhood is full of these intimate, relaxed places to hang out and chat with friends. I know I have written about the Tangled Vine before, but I thought I would give you last night's cheese and wine dispatch showing you all that you can all go out with a few friends, split some wine and cheese and all spend just around $20.

The nice thing about the Tangled Vine is that their wine list has a really strong focus on organic and sustainable wines. The food menu has a lovely modern European bent with a nice mixture of well-known and less well-known cheeses, meats, crostini, small appetizers, salads, and larger plates. There is definitely something for everyone.

Going out at wine bars can easily be an extremely expensive venture and trust me it certainly doesn't have to be. A few tips - go with a wine you like but that is affordable, you can easily find a decent number of options for $35 and under at Tangled Vine. When it comes to food, I find that a three cheese selection tends to be satisfying as a complement to your wine and that rings in at $18, divided by three or four people, that is not an expensive venture. Splitting a few small plates always allows for a nice mixture of tastes and flavors yet never too much. One little, seemingly obvious note, don't order on an extremely empty stomach, you will order way more food than you actually want to consume and be left with a larger bill than you want to pay -- always better to order less and then see if you're still hungry.

Back to last night we ordered a bottle of Windspiel Gruner Veltliner Fritsch 2008 from Austria. This organic light crisp white wine was perfect for a nice summer night -- full of energy and bounce but not too overpowering that a food pairing would become all about the wine. Ringing in at a round $30 this was easy drinking yet refined with a developed flavor profile -- green apples, a nice bit of acidity and tang, inherently smooth.

With our glasses of Gruner, we ordered a three cheese selection which comes with a few pieces of Organic Whole Wheat Walnut Raisin bread, some grapes, some slivered apples and a few figs, all nice complements to the cheeses.

The first cheese was Tome Jacquin hailing from France -- this was a bright goat based tomme with all the right semi-soft goaty flavor that you think of to begin a three cheese tasting. Full of grassy, peppery, herbal notes, this was a very light cheese that  managed to maintain a full mouth flavor. It was the perfect complement to our wine -- an excellent example of a pairing in which both the cheese and the wine exhibited similar attributes and when combined, they created a fantastic aha moment.

The second cheese was a little more out there - a Quadrello di Bufala hailing from Italy, somewhat reminiscent of a Taleggio, this washed rind cheese was definitely a step up! A stinker of a cheese -- gooey, creamy, barnyardy, intense and totally yummy. The acidity of the wine nicely balanced out the intensity of the cheese here, not as successful of a pairing as the first cheese but delish still.

The third and final cheese was a yummy blue cheese also hailing from Italy known as Blu del Moncenisio. This cow's milk cheese was a medium bodied blue cheese, the perfect mixture of piquant, spicy, yet luscious with a full mouth feel. This cheese went perfectly with the dried figs and the bread that we had been provided with -- a great sweet and savory morsel to end the tasting.

We all left having had some delish tastes of cheese and a nice amount of wine and a great time.  So next time you are thinking of a nice place to go with friends and are near the Upper West Side, I recommend checking out Tangled Vine.

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