Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day Two Thirty Three : A smoky autumnal uplifter!

Gosh what a depressing week -- it's been grey, rainy, muggy, and all around gross for the majority of it! What a shift from the summer sunshine and glorious days we had been having. Walking the streets of Manhattan today you can tell that the weather is starting to affect people's moods. So I thought I'd suggest a fabulous little fresh treat that will hopefully brighten your Thursday evening!

Sometimes, you just need to treat yourself to a little something special and that my friends is what Rivers Edge Chevre Up in Smoke is. Wrapped like present, except not in wrapping paper, but in a local maple leaf.

This Oregonian chevre is twice smoked and truly an example of the farm's terroir. Step one is the foraging of the maple leaves on the farm's property. Then the leaves are washed, dried and smoked. The fresh chevre is then hand rolled into little balls and then it too is smoked over the same alder and hickory chips. Once the cheese's smoking is done, it is wrapped in its own maple leaf and spritzed with a little bit of bourbon and is then aged for two weeks and then is ready for your enjoyment.

Smelling and tasting somewhat like campfire, it has something truly quintessentially autumnal about it. It is a perfect mixture of burning wood fires, smokiness, and a leafy vegetal quality with the lactic tang and kick of a fresh delish chevre. Perfect to get you in the mood for leaves turning, pumpkins, hot cider, apple picking, and more fun Fall events. Enjoy this with a nice Oregon Pinot Noir and I guarantee it will wipe the icky weather feelings right out of your system!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day Two Thirty Two - Quick and Easy Midweek dinner

Thinking about what to write for today's musings, I thought I'd continue with my weekly dosage of quick and easy dinners for one with my plan for this evening's dinner -- a green medley of yummy goodness.

Confession: I've been on a kale kick as of late. The dark leafy green vegetable in the cabbage family packs a fantastically nutritional punch -- high in antioxidants, full of Vitamin C, K, beta carotene, calcium, and more; it is also considered an anti-inflammatory. I think it's positively addicting when sauteed with some EVOO and garlic and shallot till golden brown. Delish and flavorful, filling and satisfying, it's been present quite frequently at my apartment recently.

For tonight's dinner, there will definitely be some sauteed kale. This evening I plan to combine some diced zucchini and summer squash with the kale in the pan. To get the right sort of infusion of flavors, make sure to put a top on your saute pan and cook the kale, zucchini, summer squash, garlic, shallots, and EVOO over medium heat.

While that's cooking, it's time to boil a pot of water to cook some of Fairway's green couscous and quinoa combined. The green couscous is spinach flavored and the mixture of that with the nuttiness of the quinoa is a perfect carb / protein source for me. The mixture of the two grains plus the grated cheese will give you a nice smooth, silky, and creamy consistency, not that far off from a risotto style dish, obviously not with the right grain though.

Once the couscous/quinoa mixture is nearing doneness dice up some basil and mix it in along with some grated Piave, a little bit of cooking white wine, ground black pepper and oregano. Piave, in case you're not familiar, is named after the river in the Veneto region of Italy where this cheese is produced and aged. A cooked curd cow's milk cheese, this cheese is similar in firmness and texture to a Parmesan but more nuanced and I think a nice change-up from the norm in terms of grating cheese.

Once this is done place the quinoa couscous mixture into a bowl with your sauteed veggies and then crumble some simple herbed montchevre over the top and some pine nuts. Then dress the entire bowl with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette (balsamic vinegar, EVOO, and Maille mustard). Now your warm green green salad is ready for enjoying. Healthy, filling, and delish -- you don't even have to leave the comfort of your own apartment to enjoy this good meal!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day Two Thirty One: Results

So who did you wager would win today? Contestant 1, 2, or 3?

No more anticipation necessary! It's time for answers...

Contestant Number # 1: Califon Tomme - Our aged New Jersey mixed milk contestant would be a suitable match for our Zweigelt, but there just wouldn't be sparks. It would be a fine pairing, yes, but each other's hidden nuances would not be able to shine when consumed together. This is the sort of cheese that would work excellently with a nice Pilsner. It needs the hops of the beer to coax out the "je ne sais quoi" of the cheese.

Contestant Number #3: Dorset - The smashingly delish third contestant also misses the boat with our Zweigelt -- its flavors will certainly overwhelm the well rounded softness of the wine. The wine needs a cheese that packs a punch but also has a creamy smoothness to it -- each member of the pair exhibiting a nice sense of fullness yet lightness at the same time. That is what our second contestant provides! But that does not mean that the Dorset isn't a fantastically spectacular cheese and doesn't have the perfect mate as well. I think when consuming Dorset, a nice Riesling would do the ticket, the sweetness of the wine will cut through the washed rindness and will be the perfect pairing!

Contestant Number #2: Grafton Village Duet - Therefore as I just revealed contestant number two takes the prize this week! Interestingly enough, should this have been a straight blue cheese, I believe it would certainly overwhelm the wine and should it have been a straight aged cheddar, I think it would not have been able to stand up to the wine, but the two together work in an excellently harmonious manner. The Duet is the ideal mixture of creaminess and spicy-ness with the perfect roundness of mouth feel that will allow the Zweigelt to shine.

Enjoy the Duet with some crispy bread and a nice glass of lightly chilled Zweigelt - a great way to brighten this dreary Tuesday afternoon!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Thirty - Zweigelt Marriage Mondays

Zweigelt -- that's quite the mouthful isn't it? In case you are not familiar with Zweigelt, it is a red wine grape varietal that is a cross of Blaufrankisch and St-Laurent grown throughout Austria where it was first developed in 1922 by Fritz Zweigelt. The grape is extremely popular in Austria and in other Eastern European cold climate grape growing regions and even in Canada but less so here.

Known for being lighter bodied red wines with a soft tender mouth feel and nice subtle dark red fruit notes, Zweigelts should be served slightly chilled, like a Beaujolais. Very versatile when it comes to food pairings -- a nice glass goes with everything from roasted veggies to ravioli to pizza to cheese and more.

My new Zweigelt discovery is E & M Berger Blauer Zweigelt found in one liter bottles at Union Square Wines for the surprising price of $14.99 a bottle. The perfect wine for rainy nights and cooler afternoons and at that price, you don't have to feel guilty if you have one extra glass!

So what sort of cheeses go with our dear wine friend?

Contestant Number #1: Califon Tomme - Hailing from Valley Shepherd Creamery located in our neighboring state of New Jersey, this is a raw mixed milk cheese. It is made with sheep and cow's milk and is aged for anywhere between three and six months. Semi-firm in texture, it sure is a delight on the tongue. An eclectic melange of flavors is present here -- buttery, farmy, barnyardy, herbal, toasty, and yeasty; with a nice lusciousness mouthfeel, this is a cheese that certainly thrills! Will it thrill our Austrian this week?

Contestant Number # 2: Grafton Village Duet - A veritable blue sandwich is contestant number two -- two layers of Grafton Premium Cheddar bookend one layer of St. Pete's Blue cheese hailing from Faribault creamery in Minnesota. Modeled on the classic English cheese, Huntsman, a blend of Stilton and Double Gloucester, our version is imbued with that classic American terroir. Packed with that classic cheddar-y creaminess and the spicy piquant notes of a good blue cheese, this is a cheese that satisfies both the blue lovers and the cheddar fanatics at once. Will it hit the spot for those Zweigelt fans out there?

Contestant Number # 3: Dorset - Crafted at Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont this is a raw cow's milk washed rind cheese. Our last and final contestant is a flavor chameleon; on any number of occasions one will find notes of asparagus, herbs, butter, minerals, fresh cut grass, citrus and more present in this stunner of a cheese. Rich and unctuous, it has the texture almost of an Alpine style cheese with the American artisanal dynamism of a unique Vermont creation. Does it have what it takes to win this week?

Stay tuned to find out tomorrow. Stay dry folks!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Nine : A very Nordic Tea Sandwich

Most Sundays at the New Amsterdam Market, you can find an exceptional bread made by a company called Nordic Breads. These Finnish Ruis Breads are baked by the chef for the Canadian Mission to the United Nations, Simo Kuuisto who hails from Oulu in northern Finland. The breads are all made with whole grain rye, a tradition with its toes steeped in folklore and legend in Finland. As the Finnish say, it "puts power in the wrists." Apart from being good for energy, these breads are high in fiber and low in fat. The small version is a flattened hockey puck round and the large version, kind of an oversized flagel shape.

image courtesy of

So, why am I talking about this yummy whole grain rye Finnish bread, well that's because it is great to use for an updated version of a tea sandwich, perfect for a different texture carb with health benefits to boot! 

What's my recipe for this updated tea sandwich? Local at its best that's for sure!

Take the Nordic bread and cut it in half horizontally. Heat and then top with some nice EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), some coriander, and some sea salt. Place this to the side. I like to then take some Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta and dice some red onion and parsley and mix all together. Top your bread with a nice layer of your onion - parsley ricotta. Then top with a thin slice of cucumber and a thin slice of French Breakfast Radish and one parsley leaf and you're good to go. Fresh, light, lactic, herbal, yeasty, and all around delish, this little tea sandwich will be extremely satisfying and is the perfect counterpart to a glass of Duckwalk 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. The wine will be crisp and light with tropical fruit notes and a nice bouncy-ness. Great for one another, enjoy this pairing!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Eight : A few days late Recap of Bar Luna

Today I thought I'd recap my Thursday evening when I joined a group of friends at a cozy Upper West Side Italian restaurant and wine bar where my friend was singing jazz called Bar Luna. Serving classic Italian dishes with a modern flair, this is a reliable and reasonable sort of neighborhoody place. The menu was the right sort of mixture of salads, flatbread pizzas, cheeses, cured meats, entrees, and more. This is not the sort of place where you will find ground breaking, cutting edge cuisine, but it is the sort of place where you will be able to get a meal that you know will be delish and satisfying or even a small bite while having a drink.

We split a fantastic wild mushroom, herbed goat cheese pita pizza with some white truffle oil on top. Perfect with a nice glass of Pinot Noir, some good friends and great Jazz music. Also split by other friends at the table was a simple flatbread Margherita pizza, the classic tomato sauce mozzarella sort of pie, nice and satisfying.

It's always nice to know about those reliable affordable neighborhood joints that you know you can go with friends and have a good time and have some good food and drink.

Enjoy your Saturday evening!

Bar Luna
511 Amsterdam Ave

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Seven : A Sticky Stinky GCF for a Balmy September afternoon

Indian summer is at it's peak! I love this weather, it's perfect for me and for those of us who get cold easily. The last taste of steamy, sticky, humid weather!

So I got to thinking, why not do a GCF featuring a sticky, stinky cheese in honor of the sticky weather! My mind immediately was drawn to the Alsatian washed rind raw cow's milk Munster cheese -- Gres des Vosges.

Munster is crafted at a number of different creameries through out the Alsatian region, however what differentiates Gres des Vosges, is that it is only crafted one creamery. Both cheeses are made with raw cow's milk with washed rinds and are aged for exactly one month. Interesting though to think about the fact that Munster is known the world over and few people know Gres des Vosges. It's a cheese to know and definitely to smell! Upon smelling, one gets a cornicoupia of scents -- everything from barnyardy, yeasty, and farmy to mushroomy, garlic-y, even lactic and creamy. Upon taste, you will find a lot of the same flavors present as well and the cheese will coat your mouth in that perfect stinky cheese sort of manner. A supremely fantastic cheese for those of us who like a cheese that has a presence.

When melted, this cheese oozes stink for all the right reasons so for today's GCF, I wanted to keep it simple. Grab a nice loaf of Orwasher's Chardonnay Miche Bread made with chardonnay grapes, unbleached, whole wheat, and rye flours, this bread is just the right sort of crunch and density for such a rich cheese. Once you've got your cheese and your bread, I'd add a few dried apricots and maybe a few crushed roasted walnuts to the mix and toast away. Serve this simple yet delish sandwich with a nice glass of Alsatian white, a good Riesling for example. Enjoy your sticky sandwich on this sticky afternoon folks!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Six : A substitute for cheese..

For lunch today, I ventured over to my favorite local lunch spot, Fig & Olive - a gem in a neighborhood of either extremely expensive options or boring run of the mill joints. Fig & Olive with its focus on cooking with olive oil and its Mediterranean bent is affordable and a great place to catch up with a friend; plus a large portion of the menu is exactly the food I like to eat -- clean, fresh, healthy, and flavorful.

I decided to try something new -- their chilled cucumber and pink peppercorn soup. A simple puree of cucumbers, mint, lemon, oranges, and pink peppercorns, this was refreshing, fresh, and very green while at the same time it had a creamy luxuriousness to it. It was served with a simple crostini of Greek yogurt topped with fresh slices of cucumber. The perfect light lunch on this Indian Summer Thursday.

It was interesting that the chef chose to utilize Greek yogurt instead of a fresh chevre or ricotta or fromage blanc on the crostini. A nice shift in the typical sort of pairing one would expect and most certainly lighter. Don't get me wrong, Greek yogurt has a fantastic creamy thickness to it and was just the perfect ratio of tartness to milkiness. It was the perfect lactic counterpart to the freshness of the cucumber on the crunchy crostini. Yes, still in the dairy family, but a different member.

I know that today's post didn't feature a fabulous cheese or cheese experience, but it shows you that sometimes in a place where you might expect to find cheese, you will find something else and although cheese might be your preferred option, the other options aren't half bad!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Five - A simple harvest dinner for one

Gosh this week is zooming by in a whirlwind! I guess the Fall season is starting out like a lion this year -- always a good sign in these weary economical times. Somewhat exhausting, yes, but definitely positive!

While thinking about what to wax cheese-ical about today, I thought instead of going into an depth complicated menu with cheeses that aren't easily found around town and lots of steps involved in the preparation, I'd keep it simple. Go with the menu I plan to make myself for dinner after a 20 mile training run starting at 6am and a day at the office.

So what's my dinner going to be composed of?

Veggies, Protein, Cheese, and lots of Greens!

Confession: One of my all time favorite veggies is brussel sprouts; I don't know where they get their bad rap from since I think they are consistently delish. Although we can find brussel sprouts year round, they just don't taste the same in the spring and summer months -- a little bit like my red wine drinking habits, I am a seasonal brussel sprout lover.

Even though the temperatures outside don't indicate the fact that it's late September, my roasting of some brussel sprouts this evening does. To roast brussel sprouts, I like to first cut them in half. Then dice up one garlic clove and half of a shallot. Put all of this into a baking dish, drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt, and grate a nice bit of fresh Parmesan on top. Mix together. Roast in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes at 275 or until they are golden brown and tender.

Once your brussels are done, combine in a salad bowl with some roasted almonds, nice arugula, and a few basil leaves for an herbal brightness. Mix this all together and let the cooking juices from the brussels coat the lettuce leaves. Tonight, I plan on topping my salad with a simple two egg white omelette with some young goat gouda, chives, and crushed red pepper flakes. A simple dinner that I know will strike the right taste bud cords for me. However, I think that you might find this a more successful salad if you placed a poached egg on top instead of egg whites, but for my particular tastes I'll stick to the egg whites. Should you be making this, go the poached egg route and I guarantee you'll be pleased. It will be filling and all around satisfying.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Four - Eggtastic Fantastic Results

It's Tuesday folks and you know what that means, it's results time! Did you wager your bets on whether it would be our caffeinated contestant or our soft rippened creamster or the naturally stinky pungent blue? Or did you think that none of the above would work?

Contestant Number #1: Barely Buzzed - Caffeine and eggs just go hand in hand for brunch don't they? Unfortunately not in this case. This unique cheese is so flavorful and fantastic but when folded into the setting of an omelette, its smashing nuances are lost and are swallowed up by the eggs. All you will get is the melted taste of a firm cow's milk cheese mixed with a really faint hint of the caffeine and lavender. This is a cheese that needs to be on its own to shine. Paired with a small piece of dark chocolate and a nice deep beer, this cheese makes the perfect dessert or evening snack.

Contestant Number # 2: Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert - Luxuriously creamy is this contestant, the perfect roof of mouth coating sort of cheese, decadent for all the right reasons. However, I think that this is one of those bloomy rind cheeses that becomes its worst self when combined with other ingredients and cooked. I don't know about you, but for me there are certain cheeses that just shouldn't be heated and combined, they are meant to be eaten at room temperature with little accoutrements -- crackers or bread and maybe some fruit, dried or fresh.

Contestant Number #3: Bayley Hazen Blue - Therefore by deduction, contestant number three is our winner this week in Marriage Mondays. Why you may ask? That's because it has the right sort of meltability mixed with a flavor profile that lends itself to the heat of the skillet. The nuances of this blue cheese are coaxed out and brought to the forefront when cooked  and combined with the eggs, granted, it might not be your first choice, but I guarantee when you try the following recipe, you will be converted.

For my omelette recipe, I like to utilize egg whites as we discussed yesterday, but if you want to go with the full-on eggs, go ahead.

3 egg whites/eggs
1/2 pear
1/2 shallot
Cider Vinegar
Raw Honey
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Crumbled Bayley Hazen Blue
Fresh Rosemary
Sea Salt/Black Pepper to taste

Dice pear and shallot, throw in a skillet with some sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and cider vinegar. Saute over low heat for five minutes and add honey, cook till golden brown. Place to the side. Crack three egg whites into a  bowl and whisk together till the eggs get fluffy. Pour into pan over low heat, wait till the eggs are just getting opaque and drop in your pear caramelized shallot filling then top with about a 1/3 to 1/4 of a cup of crumbled bayley hazen blue. Cook till eggs appear done and fold omelette and place on a plate. Top with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, some sea salt, and a small dusting of black pepper.

Enjoy my dressed up omelette, a little sweet, a little savory, and all around delish!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Three - Eggs Marriage Mondays

Chicken ones, duck ones, turkey ones, ostrich ones, quail ones, you name it, as humans, eggs have been a staple of our diet since ancient times and one of a cook's most versatile ingredients. Utilized in everything from cocktails to wedding cakes to everyone's favorite brunch dish to meatballs, eggs crop up in the funniest of places don't they?

For today's Marriage Mondays eggtastic musings, I thought we would stick with breakfast. However that doesn't narrow it down sufficiently does it? Eggs appear in so many different capacities even as a starter to the day! Therefore, I say we go with my favorite preparation for eggs -- an omelette.

Now, I tend to strictly like egg white omelettes but I understand that you might not feel the same way. I get that by not eating the yolks, I am reducing the nutritional benefits of the eggs like the vitamins A, D, and E found in the yolk; however overall, I am reducing my cholesterol intake which when you eat cheese as often as I do, is not a bad idea. Also, to be honest, I really don't like the taste of the yolks and I really enjoy the lightness of just eating the egg whites. You still get the protein punch from the whites!

So moving onto the topic of cheese in this omelette, shall we discuss today's contestants? Let me first say that the point of today's cheese choices is to show you how you can push the envelope when it comes to cheese and omelette combos. We all know your traditional gruyere or cheddar or crumbled chevre will be delish in an omelette but which of the following cheeses will really go above and beyond in a truly spectacular way?

Contestant Number #1 : Barely Buzzed - Hailing from Utah, this firm cheese packs your caffeinated punch without having to drink a cup of coffee, great to get going in the morning! This aged cow's milk cheese is rubbed with lavender and a special coffee blend giving the cheese a burnt, smoky, caramelly, buttery sort of flavor profile. What could be better than caffeinated cheese for a breakfast/brunch item? Saves you the trouble of ordering a coffee!

Contestant Number #2 : Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert - Moving a little closer to home, this second contestant hails from Upstate New York. This soft-ripened local is made from Old Chatham Sheperding Company's sheep's milk along with a nice mixture of cow's milk. Smooth, buttery, creamy, unctuous and utterly decadent, this is the perfect sort of cheese to enjoy with a Mimosa. Even though it works with the upbeat bubbles of a Mimosa, will it work with our eggs to make a smashing brunch dish?

Contestant Number #3 : Bayley Hazen Blue - This final contestant is named for a road commissioned by George Washington to allow American access to fight the English on the Canadian front lines. However, this road never led to battle, it did lead to the growth of the town of Greensboro, VT where our third contestant is made. A natural rind cow's milk blue cheese that is aged for four to six months, this baby is more prone to crumbling than other blues but don't loose any of those crumbs because they are so fantastic! Rich, piquant, spicy, nutty and even grassy, this is a cheese that strikes a special cord of yumminess. Will it strike our eggs' cord to make the best omelette? Stay tuned!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty Two : An update on the Good Food Fest and a Guest Viandiste..

Today was the inaugural Back to Basis Good Food Fest. A festival on Gansevoort Street celebrating the harvest with a nice number of local restaurants, producers, and farmers -- a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you ask me!! Especially one as gorgeous as today.

I got four tickets which allowed me four tastes of different foods, unfortunately there weren't that many vegetarian options available and what was available was a LOT of eggplant bruschetta options. Don't get me wrong, I love eggplant but I wasn't in the mood for strictly eggplant today. Yes I had two different eggplant bruschettas -- one from the Farm on Adderley in Ditmas Park in Brooklyn, a resto I know and love; and the other from Counter, a resto I've been wanting to try down in the East Village. Then I had the classic goat cheese pairing -- a simple beet salad with goat cheese crumbles and red onions, straightforward, simple and delish. Lastly I split a veggie flatbread from Colicchio and Sons, nothing to write home about though!

However, my favorite part about the festival was learning about a Hudson Valley creamery known as The Amazing Real Live Food Co located in Pine Plains. Amazing Real Live makes cheeses that are strictly probiotic. We tried their Saint Maure style ash ripped cheese which was spectacular, a true specimen of the Hudson Valley. They also had on offer an aged firm cheese that was nice. Along with those two cheeses, Amazing Real Live makes a variety of farmer's cheeses, a camembert and some queso blanco style blocks. The standout definitely for me was the Saint Maure style cheese, I'd definitely seek a log of that for a later date and probably would have purchased one today if I was going straight home from the fest but since I wasn't, I knew this was a cheese that would announce its presence by its scent if it was not refrigerated. But a great thing to know for next time!!!

Great discovery! 

Moving off of that discovery, today, I'd like to introduce a guest post known as the Viandiste. Viande in French means meat and even though I know a whole heck of a lot about cheese, since I do not eat meat, I thought I'd invite someone to write who knows meat...So enjoy the second part of today's post about football, meat, and cheeseburgers...that being said, I could easily tell you about cheeses for a veggie burger....

And now the guest post Viandiste -

What is more quintessentially Sunday in the fall then football and tailgating?  Waking up early amidst friends dressed in gameday uniform, sometimes with war paint.  The smell of charcoal from the grill, the company of friends, and the tasting of everything from wings, to ribs, to franks, to chips and salads.  But how did tailgating turn into 200,000 fans in Jacksonville showing up 2 days before the actual Florida vs Georgia game every year?
It was an inevitability that tailgating become synonomous with sport but how did tailgating become such a huge tradition? 
History tells us that the 1869 New Jersey football game between Rutgers and Princetion was the birthplace.  Lots of people were on hand with their wagons, food, and voices in tow.  However, if you can believe it even before that event at the Battle of Run during the Civil War in 1861 supporters of the Union showed up with baskets of food and enthusiastically cheered the soldiers on by shouting, “Go, Big Blue!”  A true though somewhat disturbing story...
One of my favorite tailgate delicacies, American Comfort Food, backyard, late-night, lunchtime, anytime choice is the CHEESEBURGER.  The debate continues as to where these lovebirds met - Pasadena, CA, Louisville, KY, Denver, CO in the early 1920's.  From a random suggestion from a passerby, to a drive-in, to the stuff of local restaurant legend.  Yesterday (Septemeber 18th) was even unofficially National Cheeseburger Day soon to be a bigger deal we hope with more publicity by the American Diary Association. 
So what is the best cheese for your cheeseburger?  The answer depends on your toppings and overall goal.  For a great melt follow the wise Philly Cheese Gods and go the processed or can route.  What they lack in flavor they make up for with undeniably superior meltability.  They contain added emulsifiers which help prevent the separation of water, fats, and proteins when heat is applied.  Processed cheeses are also the way to go if you want to really showcase the flavor of the meat.  If you're the type that wants a litle more flavor with the same effect go with (Swiss/Alpine cheeses) Gruyere, Comte, Brie, Taleggio, Boursin and Fontina are also good options. 
If you need more of a bite an aged Cheddar or Provolone, Monterey Jack, or even a Parmagiano-Reggiano would work.  Although they may seperate when heated it may provide a better balance. 
Recent burger war trends lean towards the Maytag Blue, Saga Blue and Roquefort for contrast.  This is definitely risk vs reward as sometimes it can overpower the other flavors, while at other times it can be an out of body experience. 
Whatever your route - old fashioned original, new age, or fusion always respect your ingredients, eat happy, add bacon, and cheer for the NY Giants :)

Happy Sunday folks! Sit back, relax, grab the NY Times and enjoy a low key evening.
Check back tomorrow for Marriage Mondays!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty One - A Cheese to Break a Fast

As many of you may know today is Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. That being said without getting too much into the topic of religion, I tend to consider myself a spiritual person, not an organized religion sort of type. I do believe in the fasting portion to cleanse and atone for one's sins, I think it is a nice way to renew oneself and rediscover one's center.

At the end of the day, many people get together for break fast gatherings -- a time to celebrate and enjoy!

So for today's post, I thought I would reveal to you all one of the cheeses I got for the break fast gathering I will be attending, keeping the other in secret as the event hasn't happened yet and that would ruin the element of surprise.

When thinking about what sorts of cheeses to procure for the break fast I had a few goals in mind when choosing cheeses:

1. At least one of the cheeses should be somewhat decadent in honor of the fact that many people won't have eaten for the previous day.
2. I wanted to keep to European cheeses, there was something about sticking to the old world cheese making methods that just felt right to me when choosing today's cheeses.
3. They needed to be easily sharable cheeses, ideally those in nice sizable rounds.

So what is one of the cheeses I chose?


This soft ripened pasteurized goat's milk cheese hails from the Piedmont region of Italy. Upon observation, one can immediately recognize that this baby is influenced by the French Loire Valley great goat cheeses. Shaped in a small cake style round, it has an unctuous and pasty interior with a bright citrusy lushness on the exterior. Notes of grass, straw, and freshly baked bread perfume this fantastically creamy Italian goddess of a cheese. Perfect for a break fast celebration if you ask me, a nice glass of something bubbly would be great with this cheese. Even a nice Lambrusco as an idea!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty - A GCF in honor of Co.

Co is Jim Lahey's fabulous pizza spot. This is not your generic grab a slice and go, the space is composed primarily of communal tables and to-go pizza is not available. Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery, opened Co in the Winter of 2009 to "celebrate bread as the centerpiece of the meal." The menu is composed of salads, toasts, flatbread pizzas, and more. But the best part of their meal, I'd say is their thin crusted Roman style pizzas with a plethora of inventive toppings.

Of course they have the traditional Margherita, but then they have pies like the Popeye (pecorino, gruyère, mozzarella, spinach, black pepper, garlic); and the Ham n' Cheese (pecorino, gruyère, mozzarella, prosciutto, caraway); and the Meatball (tomato, mozzarella, veal meatballs, caramelized onions, olives, aged pecorino, oregano); and the special one we had last night, Mushroom and Jalapeno which was mixed seasonal mushrooms, bechamel, gruyere, pecorino, garlic confit, jalapeno, and fresh dill.

So for this week's GCF, I thought I'd suggest a riff on that fantastic Mushroom and Jalapeno pie we had last night. What made last night's pie was the tenderness of the mushrooms mixed with the hint of spice from the jalapeno and the bright jumpiness of the dill with the mixture of cheeses all elegantly placed on the backdrop of the homemade crust. The earthy-ness of the mushrooms cut through the creaminess of the bechamel in just the right fashion.

Most important therefore for our GCF is high quality mushrooms roasted to perfection. Grab a nice selection of a variety of mushroom types from the Greenmarket in Union Square, you most certainly don't want just baby bellas in a package from the supermarket for this GCF, you need to step it up a bit. Don't chop the mushrooms, keep them whole and toss them with some extra virgin olive oil and roast for 30 minutes at 250 degrees in your oven or until they are golden brown, tender, flavorful and lip-smacking good!

I think instead of utilizing dill in our GCF, I'd suggest using chives for brightness and herbaceousness. You also definitely need that spicy kick and as you all know, I love crushed red pepper so lets change things up a bit and utilize that instead.

Now for the bread, I recommend you visit Jim Lahey's bakery, Sullivan Street, and pick up a loaf of their pane casareccio. It is their house specialty and is best compared to a rustic sourdough country bread, made with a small percentage of whole wheat flour, this is a crunchy, crumbly, fantastic bread and the perfect backdrop for your GCF.

The missing element here is of course the cheese! You need to keep the alpine element for the nutty caramelly side of things and instead of going with a Gruyere, go with a Comte. Like Gruyere, Comte is an Alpine style pressed cow's milk cheese, firm, aged, and delish. Along with the Comte, I'd also suggest utilizing some Young Goat Gouda to add to the creaminess -- goat gouda is excellent melted and isn't too heavy, some cheeses develope an added weight when melted, this one doesn't. Lastly, I'd utilize some fresh Parmesan to grate over the top of the mushrooms.

To assemble your sandwich, slice two nice thick pieces of bread, drizzle some olive oil on either side, then some of the Young Goat Gouda and Comte, then top with the mushrooms, crushed red pepper, sea salt, chives, black pepper and then grate fresh Parmesan over the top and pop this baby in the oven. It'll be a delight with a nice glass of red wine, like a Tempranillo, something spicy with some red fruit.

Enjoy folks and definitely check out Co.

235 Ninth Avenue

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Nineteen : Spotlight on Petit Billy

You are probably wondering why I chose to do a spotlight on Petit Billy today. Well folks that's because  I had some of a Petit Billy imported from France last night reminding me how delish this cheese is and I thought, it is a cheese you all should know about. It is extremely accessible, perfect for the starter cheese on a summer cheese plate. Petit Billy is one of those classic French cheeses - a symbol of freshness, of that classic lactic tang of good French goat cheese. Definitely a delight on the palate.

It is a cheese I don't always gravitate to, why I'm not sure...but maybe it has to do with the fact that being that it is a fresh goat cheese, I feel that some of its freshness oomph is lost when one procures it on our shores. Granted, that is not probably the case, but I am big into the length of the commute to one's plate and this little fresh guy has a long commute if you buy one here. That being said, it is a delish, simple, fresh goat cheese that will never disappoint.

Petit Billy is named both for the male goat - Billy and for the town in the Loire Valley where it is made, Billy. It is a pasteurized goat's milk cheese that one can buy in rounds wrapped in a single chestnut leaf, slightly larger than a hockey puck. I think it is perfect when served with a nice Sancerre from the region -- both bright, light, grassy, and flavorful!

Although you may think it is a simple goat cheese, I guarantee it is not. Try a taste test! If you taste this next to a plastic wrapped goat cheese log found on your supermarket shelf, you will notice the difference and never turn back.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Eighteen : Mia Dona

What's your favorite place to go to unwind with friends? The sort of place where they know you by name, your favorite drink, your preferred dish -- it fits your personal bill of locale...I think that having places you go back to, where they know you and appreciate the fact that you come back to them time and time again in a city where there are millions of options; is what makes New York City feel less like a city and more like a town, if that's possible.

Yes I know my bakers, my cheesemongers, my veggie guys, and the ladies at the wine store -- they make my neighborhood feel like home. But where do I go to unwind, that comfy sort of hang out locale, my go-to spot?

That spot is a little Italian restaurant on 58th between 2nd and 3rd avenues called Mia Dona. I tend to go for their super happy hour -- $5 mixed drinks and 2 for 1 nice beers, how can you go wrong there? The drinks aren't too small or made with sub par liquor, they are quite nice in fact. Apart from the great pricing on their drinks, I'd have to say my favorite part about Mia Dona is their homemade black olive taralli and fresh ricotta cheese dip with olive oil, salt and black pepper. They aren't immediately offered, but if you ask, they will be brought to you gratis and boy are they delish! Crunchy, full flavored with plenty of herbal and olive-y notes. The perfect thing to dip into a nice bowl of fresh lactic, creamy, sumptuous ricotta cheese - they've got this right! 

Other snacks they offer during happy hour are spiced fava beans and truffled popcorn -- each has the right amount of salt with not too much fat or grease, but satisfying while enjoying an alcoholic beverage that's for sure...

For me Mia Dona is that right blend of affordable drinks, quiet, and decent snacking, all in a convenient locale and the best part is they know me there, not soo bad right?

They do have dinner and the few times I've eaten a full meal there, I've been quite satisfied. If you are ever looking for an easy Italian place to go in that neck of the woods, I strongly recommend it, especially for happy hour.

Mia Dona
206 East 58th Street

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Seventeen - Results

It's results time! Don't worry there won't be any interruptions like with last night's US Open Men's Tennis Final. Good for Nadal though, quite the smashing success Grand Slam summer, right? Anyhow, enough about tennis, let's get down to the good stuff and the results from this week's Marriage Mondays, who is excited?

Contestant Number # 1: Appenzeller - Fabulously nutty is this contestant but it just isn't the right type of fabulous for our white port. The residual sugar and musty flavors of the port will clash royally with the caramelly creaminess of the cheese. This is the perfect sort of cheese for fondue and is often found melted in a nice pot perfect for dipping purposes. I tend to think Appenzeller works best with Alsatian white wines. However in the winter time, it can be paired successfully with certain medium-bodied reds, like for example Merlot.

Contestant Number #2: Pont L'Eveque - This king of gooey-ness is such a decadent treat but not the right sort of treat for our white port. To pair a beverage with Pont L'Eveque, you need something that will balance out the creaminess of the cheese in all the right sort of ways, say for example Champagne. Our white port is a little more viscous than a glass of bubbly and viscous liquids do not typically tango successfully with cheeses like Pont L'Eveque. Coupled with the fact that the barnyardy characteristics of the cheese simply miss the ball with our port.

Contestant Number #3: Cambozola - Therefore by deduction, it seems that our Blue-Brie mixture takes the cake this week. The piquant edge of this cheese will find its match in the residual sweetness of white port where as the creaminess of the bloomy rind will find its counterpart in sumptuousness of the port. Each, so round and full, these are two elements that have many similarities with just the right number of striking differences to create a successful pairing.

So what other sorts of cheeses could you pair with white port if you wanted to make a dessert cheese plate?

I would suggest most blue cheeses as a good pairing concept, for many of the same reasons that Cambozola works. Or potentially a nice creamy ricotta or even a soft ripened goat cheese like a Chabichou de Poitou. Should you want to go the harder cheese route, I think Barely Buzzed, a semi-firm cow's milk cheese that is rubbed in a blend of Lavender and a blend of Indonesian, Central and South American coffee beans would be super fantastic, really unusual, and interesting!

If you are looking for a new after dinner liquor or a unique aperitif, pick up a bottle of white port the next time you are at the liquor shop, you might be surprised as to how much you like it!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Sixteen : White Port Marriage Mondays

What's your after dinner drink of choice? Sherry, Port, Dessert Wine, a Liquor? You name it, there's an extensive variety of drinks served specifically after the meal to aid digestion and to relax.

In case you couldn't guess my favorite after dinner drink by the title of today's post, let me give it away -- White Port!

Port hails from the Duoro Valley in the north of Portugal. Produced from grapes grown in this region, it is then fortified with a natural grape spirit which halts the wine's fermentation, leaving a nice amount of residual sugar and a higher alcohol content. It tends to come in ruby, tawny, pink, and white varieties -- ranging from sweet to dry. It is the sort of drink to enjoy while relaxing into a big ole leather club chair in front of a fire with a good mystery novel.

White port has the perfect mixture of sweetness and dryness to it, a nice woody caramelly sort of finish yet full of musty burnt sugar notes. Definitely a great candidate for cheese pairing! So lets get going!

Contestant Number #1: Appenzeller - Hailing from the great nation of Switzerland, this cheese is anything but neutral. Yes, it is a classic Swiss alpine style cheese in many ways, but this contestant takes that Swiss cheese thing to a whole new level. Bathed in an unusual mixture of wines, spirits, and herbs, those flavors take hold of this cow's milk paste and render the four month aged cheese into the perfect blend of herbaceous, nutty and milky notes. Do those nutty notes in contestant number one have what it takes to reveal our White Port's nuances?

Contestant Number # 2: Pont L'Eveque - Landing back on French shores with Contestant number two, this cow's milk washed rind cheese has been made for centuries in Normandy. Don't be deterred by the orange exterior or the interesting stench coming from this cheese, it is supremely gooey with a nice grassy bite, yet smooth, creamy, and even somewhat sensuously sleek. It is the sort of cheese that announces its presence on arrival for all the right reasons -- the perfect guilty pleasure sort of cheese.

Contestant Number # 3: Cambozola - Produced in a nation known for its beers and meats, this Blue-Brie style cheese shows that Germans can cut it when it comes to cheesemaking. If you break it down -- it's obvious from its name that it has elements of Camembert and notes of Gorgonzola. On the tongue, it sure has got that creamy sticking to the roof of your mouth sort of feeling of Brie with the nice spicy bite and pucker that comes with a good punchy blue cheese. Sure to delight! But will it delight our White Port? Only time will tell.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Fifteen : A Local's Market

In most New York City neighborhoods these days, you can find your occasional Greenmarket on particular days of the week, but there really is nothing like the New Amsterdam Market. Previously somewhat of a quarterly pop up market, the New Amsterdam is here to stay on a weekly basis starting this Fall. Designed to promote a locavore way of life, promoting local producers, stimulating the regional economy, this market is modeled on the old world markets of yesteryear. A mixture of fresh produce, cheese, meats, wines, cider, pasta, prepared foods and more, the New Amsterdam Market holds a special place in my heart.

While there on this particularly dreary Sunday morning, I picked up Cooperstown Cheese Company's version of a Pepato cheese. I've had their Toma Celena before, their take on a classic Alpine cheese but from New York state but had never had their take on Pepato before. Pepato is typically made in Italy with a pecorino style paste -- that is a semi-firm sheep's milk cheese, with black peppercorns scattered throughout. This version keeps the main elements intact -- sheep's milk and black peppercorns, but it has a buttery, creamy, nuttiness that simply is not present in its Italian cousin. Its got almost a Parmesan sort of nuttiness to it, great when grated over fresh fettuccine or when paired with a nice Pinot Meunier from DuckWalk Vineyards on Long Island. A true local find! They also have a cheddar infused with garlic scapes that was pretty fantastic, heavy on the garlic, light on the cream, but with a nice cheddary bite.

I love trying local interpretations of the well known classics  from across the pond, they are always imbued with quintessential regional terroir and a certain specific oomph found here in the Northeast.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Fourteen : Sometimes a little Simplicity goes a long way...

I'm one of those people that loves starting their day with a cup of coffee and a nice plate of scrambled egg whites, high in protein and light! I tend to get into a groove with what I put in my eggs, not liking to eat them plain but liking to jazz them up a bit, whether its with veggies, herbs, and/or cheese. I even change up what I put them on -- sometimes it will be a whole wheat pita, a piece of multigrain bread, a crumpet; you name it, I like to have a little carbs in the morning after a long run, it refuels the body.

I've been a very simple groove as of late but boy is it fantastic -- clean, and delish, not overwhelming when it comes to flavor, but each ingredient sings and is given its own voice. I like a lot of flavor in my cooking typically; utilizing plenty of aromatics and ingredients as you all know but here, that's not the case.

Simple fluffy egg whites with some freshly grated Parmesan, fresh basil, black pepper, crushed red pepper and sea salt was pretty spectacular this morning. It was an ode to the caramel nuttiness of the Parmesan and the herbaceousness of the basil with the kick of the crushed red and black peppers. Excitement for the tongue but comfort for the tummy.

Sometimes it is nice to go the jazzed up, exciting route with plenty of veggies, unusual cheeses, and my beloved aromatics; but there are other times that stripping down to the basics just brings a smile to one's face.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Thirteen: A GCF in honor of last night's dessert...

Last night, we sat down to dinner to celebrate the Jewish New Year and my mother outdid herself foodwise -- homemade challah, inventive concepts rooting each dish in a specific historical or cultural context, everything was quite smashing. But I think my favorite part of the meal, might have been her new dessert creation and for today's GCF, I decided to utilize the elements from her dessert to concoct a savory yet sweet GCF perfect for your enjoying purposes.

This GCF starts with a nice crunchy baguette, Tom Cat Bakery makes some pretty fantastic ones. Grab a small 8oz tub of Salvatore Brooklyn's Ricotta from Saxelby Cheesemongers down at the Essex Street Market, but call in advance, you don't want them to be sold out of it! Also grab a nice Vermont Butter and Cheese Goat Cheese log, this will add a nice tang. Combine the ricotta and the goat cheese into one cheesy creamy paste. Once you've cut your baguette, drizzle basil olive oil on either side of the bread, then spread a decent amount of your cheese on the baguette, top with a few pieces of crumbled roasted almonds, some sliced strawberries and your basil "dressing." The basil dressing is made by blending basil, extra virgin olive oil, and some honey. Once you've put your basil dressing on top, add a little bit of salt and pepper and heat away. Your sandwich is now ready to enjoy. I'd have it with maybe a nice White Bordeaux but feel free to have it even with a yummy Pilsner, that might be just the ticket.

Have a nice Friday night folks!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twelve - Fashionista Cheese-inista

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week started today, it runs till the 16th of the month. This season, the tents have moved northwest to my neck of the woods -- Lincoln Center. How exciting right?!? So I thought for today's post, I'd put together a selection of fabulously fantastic cheeses for the fashionista paired with a lovely glass of Prosecco.

Our fashionista cheese-inista plate will be composed of four cheeses, one for each quadrant of the cheese clock. In case you are unfamiliar with the cheese clock, fret not, there's an image just below for you to peruse.

Our cheese plate will start at 6 with the smashing Nettle Meadow Honey Lavender Fromage Blanc, definitely a dressed up beginning to our cheese-inista adventure. This fresh cheese is creamy and bright -- packed with luscious sweetness from the honey and floral herbaceous notes from the lavender. It is a great way to start any cheese plate. I like to serve it on a little homemade baguette crostini.

Moving along to the 9 o'clock spot and to Vermont Butter & Cheese's Coupole. This Vermont-ster takes its cues from its elegant French cousin, Chevrot - an aged soft ripened goat's cheese, this baby does a minerally chalky vibrant dance on your tongue and delights all of the senses. Named for its dome-like shape, the texture and flavors of the rind play the perfect counterpart to the interior. A nice followup to the creamy freshness of our first cheese, this shows you that American cheeses can hold their ground when compared to their Frenchy counterparts.

Now it's time to move to 12 o'clock and here we will feature Cato Corner Farm's Womanchego, not your typical Manchego, this cheese is definitely dressed to the nines in a pair of Jimmy Choos. Taking its inspiration from the classic Spanish sheep's milk cheese we all know and love, this baby takes that flavor to the max with whisperings of fruits and nuts with a hint of sweetness on the finish and a firmer paste than its Spanish counterpart.

Lastly we'll waltz over to that 3 o'clock spot with the show stopping Point Reyes Blue Cheese. Hailing from the surf and sun state of California, this raw cow's milk baby is a piquant spicy delight! Deep blue veins populate this aged finale on our cheese plate, sure to leave a lasting memory in your heart. 
So put on your favorite pair of stilettos, grab a nice bottle of bubbly, some good girlfriends, and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Eleven: A look inside Mecox Bay Dairy

While out in East Hampton this past weekend, I decided that if possible, I would love to pay a visit to Mecox Bay Dairy --  one of very few cheesemakers/dairy farmers that I can think of based on Long Island. I love their cheeses that I have tried and am always interested in going to see where the magic happens. Thankfully Art Ludlow was kind enough to take a nice chunk out of his day to show us around.

Mecox is run by Art and Stacy Ludlow, a husband and wife team who are fourth generation farmers; originally potato farmers who decided to convert their farm into a strictly dairy operation in 2001, opening their doors in 2003. Every room has been built by Art himself and each space emanates his complete love and care.

Our tour started with a "meet and greet" with six of their twelve milking Jersey cows, a self contained farm for more than the past five years, each cow whose milk is utilized to make Mecox's cheeses has been born and bred right on their property. You can certainly tell that when you taste the cheese that it is the ultimate in local. Art and his son are working hard to be able to grow the grains necessary to feed his cows in the winter months so that he doesn't have to have them shipped from a different location. If this happens, the farm will be a completely self sustaining unit.

Moving along from our time with the cows, next up, we entered into the milk container/transfer room, a standard procedure space for a cheesemaking facility. This was immediately followed by the cheesemaking room. Art had made cheese that morning, we were too late to see that, but we did get to see the homemade cheese aging room. This was truly a sight, cheeses of every shape and size sitting on plastic and wooden shelves, some with plexi or plastic over them to increase the amount of humidity necessary for the cheese to age properly. What I in particular really appreciated about this room was that it seemed as though Art had created the best possible scenario with the options that he had available.

The final stop on our tour was a tasting of a few of their cheeses. All of their cheeses are raw cows milk and aged for at least the minimum amount of time legally necessary to sell here in the US.

First up was their take on Cheddar -- crafted in the traditional English style this baby is aged for anywhere from six months on up. Subtly sweet with a grassy and creamy finish, this was cheddar done right. I'm typically not the biggest fan of cheddar style cheeses, but this one definitely won me over.

Next up we tasted their Gouda -- a cheese still in the experimentation phases but gosh is it fabulous! This was unlike any Gouda I had ever had before -- the depth of flavor here was just smashing, a real toast to the richness of the terroir. Smoky and barnyardy yet luscious and milky, this Gouda puts the Dutch wax rind version to shame.

Lastly we tried their Atlantic Mist, which Art mentioned he'd been having some issues with this year. According to Art, his cheeses tend to have a shift yearly in the springtime just as the cows go from eating grains to grass, sometimes making them somewhat temperamental and not necessarily producing the specific flavor profile Art is seeking. Therefore he said that when he takes those sorts of cheeses to a farmer's market, he makes sure to offer his customers a taste before selling it to them -- he wants them to know the product that they are getting, a truly honest and well intentioned cheesemaker, that's for sure! But back to their Atlantic Mist, a small hockey puck sized cheese modeled on a traditional Camembert style of cheese making, this guy is rustic, gooey, and farmy with a mustiness to it -- a complex cheese truly unique to Mecox Bay Dairy.

All three were winners in my book, but the Gouda took the cake, such a unique and unusual take on a classic. I thought before we wrapped up here, I'd fill you in on the other cheeses they produce that we did not try upon our visit to the farm:

1. Sigit - Their Gruyere style cheese that is aged for traditionally at least one year, if not more. It is the oldest cheese Mecox Bay makes and has a dynamic flavor profile with that comforting and warming feeling of good hard Gruyere style cheese. This is the sort of cheese that would be perfect with a nice glass of red wine on a cozy winter evening.

2. Mecox Sunrise -- Their award winning cheese that is in such high demand that we could not take a taste -- a definite sign of a good cheese. Sunrise is a washed rind medium aged (2-4 months) semi firm cheese that comes in medium sized wheels. This cheese has the brightness of the sunrise with a piquant kick of washed rindness along with a smooth finish.

3. Shawondasee - The last cheese in their portfolio; I've not had the pleasure of tasting this one but it gives me something to look forward to for next time. Named after a Native American word that translates to "prevailing southwest wind," this is a mold ripened cheese aged for longer than the Sunrise, but not as long as their Sigit, traditionally somewhere between four and five months. Somewhat nutty, the longer this cheese ages, the better it is for grating purposes.

To wrap up my trip to Mecox Bay Dairy, I wanted to take a brief moment to thank Art for giving us this fantastic tour Monday and for crafting such fantastic cheeses that I imagine not that many people have had the opportunity to try but from now on, if you stumble across Mecox's cheeses, pick one up. Each cheese is lovingly crafted with a true stamp of local terroir. Unique and individual interpretations of the classics and others as well with the twist of their own inventiveness.

Mecox Bay Dairy cheeses are available for sale at local farmer's markets and a few supermarkets. For those of us who live in Manhattan or else where, it's a little harder, I recommend you go through their website: Tough to find but worth the search, this Long Island dairy farm is local in the very best of ways.

Day Two Hundred and Ten : Results and a Recipe...

This will blog post numero uno of the day as I'm still playing catch up here and hope to be finally fully caught up by the end of today.

Lets get right to this week's results then!

Contestant Number #1- Grayson : Our stinky stinker Grayson unfortunately misses the boat here when paired with eggplant, why you may ask? Unlike the Italian Taleggio, Grayson is modeled on, when melted and combined with veggies, pasta, or something else, it takes the cake and overpowers the dish. Granted if you have a grilled cheese with Grayson alone, I think you would enjoy it and find it quite spectacular, but it's not a "mixing" cheese, it sure is a cheese that comes to the party and lets you know it's there and it is ready to TAANGO.

Contestant Number #3- Redwood Hill's Raw Milk Feta : This salty star is supremely fantastic and if you wanted to make an eggplant salad, it sure would be a good contestant but eggplant raw is simply not appealing, too bitter with a lack of flavor depth. When our dear eggplant is cooked, the keys to its flavors are unlocked and boy are they dynamic and complex. Unfortunately, I do not feel that the feta opens up when heated, its nuances are lost and somewhat melded together into one briny block.

Contestant Number #2 - Eden : Therefore by deduction folks, our Sweet Grass Dairy Eden takes the cake this week. Not only is this cheese made in the state with the largest production of eggplant in the US, it is also the most successful. Why you may ask? Well this cheese provides the ideal mixture of grassy tang, herbaceous pop, salty creaminess and semi-firm goodness in a pairing with our dear eggplant.

This week's recipe is a simple melange of flavors, easy but guaranteed to delight and be the right sort of dish to prepare as nights get cooler and days get shorter...This dish is an Eggplant Tomato Mushroom ragu served over a Parmesan Sundried Tomato Quinoa

1 1/2 lbs of eggplant
1 lb of tomatoes
1/2 lb of chanterelle mushrooms or portabellas if you're feeling like you don't want to spend a fortune
1 box of quinoa
1/2 lb of sundried tomatoes
1/2 lb of Eden
1/3 cup of Parmesan
Fresh Rosemary & Thyme
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Soy Sauce
Sherry Vinegar
Red Pepper Flakes
White Wine

Preheat oven to 350. Dice up the eggplant, tomatoes, and mushrooms and one full shallot. Place in a roasting pan and toss with olive oil, a small drizzle of white wine, sherry vinegar, rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, pull out and grate Eden over the top of a creamy herbal cheesy topping. Place back in the oven for another ten to fifteen minutes or until the cheese and all the veggies are nice and golden brown. While cooking the eggplant, in a sauce pan, saute a handful of diced sundried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, fresh thyme, and a clove of garlic. On another burner you should be making quinoa, cook till very al dente. Now toss in the pan with the sundried tomatoes etc and pour a bit of wine into the sauce pan and your 1/3 cup of Parmesan, cook low and slow for about eight minutes and now you've got somewhat of a quinoa risotto to place under your eggplant ragu. Pull out your eggplant ragu from the oven and top your quinoa with a nice helping of eggplant and a few nice large shavings of Eden and some red pepper flakes for a nice kick. Enjoy this delish dish with a nice glass of Malbec.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Nine - Eggplant Marriage Mondays - A little displaced

I love eggplant, I think it is such a versatile and delish veggie with a nice oomph to it. But a lot of the people who are quite close to me, do not like eggplant, why I'm not sure, but because of that, I seem to have not been eating eggplant enough.

Before we get to this week's contestants, let me give you a few fun eggplant facts:

1. It is considered a berry.
2. It is richer in nicotine than any other plant. The nicotine comes from the small seeds found in the center. These seeds contain nicotinoid alkaloids. You need to eat 20 lbs of eggplant before having received the same amount of nicotine as one cigarette.
3. It is native to India, obviously found worldwide nowadays. However production is very concentrated in five nations: China, India, Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia.
4. It is a source of folic acid and potassium.

Found in a variety of cuisines from French ratatouille to Italian eggplant parmigiana to Middle Eastern baba ganoush and Greek moussaka, it sure is featured in countless different ways! Let's learn about the contestants who will have the chance to be featured with our eggplant in this week's dosage of Marriage Mondays!

Contestant Number # 1: Grayson - Hailing from Meadow Creek Farms in the hills of Virginia, our first contestant is a washed rind stinker. Modeled on the fabulous old world Italian cheese, Taleggio, this cheese steps it up a notch. An orange exterior due to its brine washing, this cheese has a semi soft interior composed of cow's milk. Pungent yet sweet and smooth, tangy and in a weird way refreshing, in an awakening of the senses sort of manner, this cheese does not go silently into the night. Maybe it could find its match in a fantastic eggplant dish?

Contestant Number # 2: Eden - Hailing from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia, this is a raw goat's milk cheese with a semi-firm texture rubbed with dried rosemary and basil and then consequently aged for two months. Herbal is the first thing you notice upon scent and taste with this cheese but it is that right sort of herbaceousness; like smelling a bouquet of just picked fresh herbs. Don't get me wrong here, it's not just about herbs, its got a nice tangy, grassy, and smooth side to it with a citrusy bright finish, this is a cheese that delights the senses! Will it be strong enough to delight our fellow eggplant?

Contestant Number # 3 : Redwood Hill Farm's Raw Milk Feta - Moving across the country to the wine making region of Sonoma in California, we land on our third contestant, Redwood Hill Farm's Raw Milk Feta. Obviously modeled on the classic Greek blockbuster cheese, Redwood subtracts the sheep's milk that is normally utilized in conjunction with goat's milk to make feta cheese. Here, we get strictly goat's milk feta and boy does it show! This cheese is bright and sunny with a nice salty, grassy tang, you cannot go wrong here. Will it be right with our eggplant?

Stay tuned to find out the results tomorrow!

Day Two Hundred and Eight: A Casinca and Fromaggio Essex

Let me start off by apologizing for being so behind in my blog posts, an overnight getaway got away from me and my musings to you all, so lets get going. Lots of catchup to do!

Catch up time round one, on Saturday afternoon, after my Eataly adventure, I stopped into a cheese store that is tried and true for me -- Fromaggio Essex, the NYC branch of Fromaggio Kitchen, the fabulous Cambridge, Mass based cheese purveyour. Fromaggio Essex is located in the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. I like Fromaggio Essex because they seek out unusual and different cheeses while still offering the classics. Not an enormous selection, but always a good one. You are sure to find a unique cheese from a small producer. They tend to focus more on European cheeses as opposed to American ones, however you might get lucky and find an American one here and there. But for American cheese in the Essex Street Market, you want to go to Saxelby Cheese, that's for sure!

Back to Fromaggio Essex...looking into the cheese case I saw that they had a Corsican cheese, A Casinca. Ding, ding, I needed to try it after my Corsician adventure in August. And boy was it fabulous! A small washed rind round of goat's milk; it had that classic washed rind stink but with the smooth tang of fresh goat's milk, creamy, barnyardy, stinky and with a lot of pizazz. It sure was the sort of cheese that had nice beginning, middle, and end notes, overall definitely struck a cord with me.

Next time you're looking for a unique cheese for a small gathering of friends, see if Fromaggio Essex has A Casinca, trust me you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Seven - Eataly

Eataly is the new Italian slowfood mecca opened by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich on 5th avenue between 23rd and 24th street. Supposedly the second of two locales of this resto/marketplace, the first being in Turin, Italy, this was one of those built up fantastically fabulous restaurants. Eight figures later, did it deliver?

The answer to that question is NOT REALLY. It was crowded, loud, overpriced, a tourist trap, and most of all seemed like it was kitsch-a-fying a culture and its cuisine. Yes, it has a panini place, a fish and a meat counter, fresh pasta, pasteries, ice cream, espresso, cheese, cured meats, wine, beer, veggies, you name it, it was in this 50,000 square foot  space. But as a foodie, was it a place that I would want to go back, not really.

I would have considered buying their homemade mozzarella that is made on location, but wait they were out of it at 1:30pm on a Saturday...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Six - Earl's GCF

Are you ready for Earl to pound down your doors, all you East Coasters out there? It seems he should be arriving just in time for dinner, so make sure to make something to soothe him and calm him down tonight...maybe make him this week's GCF?

For this week, I thought I'd do a slow roasted GCF, since its a three day weekend with a storm predicted, why not cuddle up inside with a nice glass of red wine some good girlfriends or that special someone or some family members and roast some nice veggies low and slow, perfuming your home. We are going to make a duo of roasted veggies with two cheeses and served with a homemade roasted red pepper aioli on grilled sourdough bread. Before you can get to the grilled bread, you have to do the veggies themselves. Grab a small baking dish and preheat your oven to 250, like I said folks, slooooooow cooking!

At every farmer's market now, you see some spectacular eggplants and this past weekend I saw some really lovely small eggplants at the Greenmarket in Union Square, grab a few of these. Slice them horizontally and cover the bottom of your baking dish with them. Top these eggplants with a nice drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper, and fresh oregano, then place a nice layer of Ardith Mae's fresh chevre over them. Top the chevre with thin slices of heirloom tomatoes which will then be topped with some freshly chopped garlic, fresh rosemary and one thyme sprig and some EVOO of course. Now take the back of your spoon and push the tomatoes down just a bit so that you get rid of any excess air or space between the veggies. Top your veggie stack with a few leaves of basil which will crisp up and get crunchy as you roast them. Place this in the oven at 250 for about 45 minutes or till the tomatoes curl up on loose their liquidy interiors. While you are roasting the eggplants and tomatoes, grab one orange, one red, and one yellow pepper and dice them up. Throw them in another oven roasting dish with olive oil, a few diced carrots, salt, pepper, and some marjoram. These only need about a half hour. You will smell them being done. Pull them out and put them in a food processor and blend, put some red pepper flakes in the food processor as well. What you will get is a fantastic roasted red pepper carrots spicy sauce to dip your roasted veggie sandwich in, a vegetarian French Dip sauce.

Lets get back to this veggies now, once you've made your pepper sauce, you can grill two nice pieces of sourdough bread, the perfect backdrop for your veggies. Pull them out of the oven and cut out a nice piece to put between your two slices of bread. On the bottom piece of bread (the eggplant side), I like to put some pecorino pepato to add to the sandwich's cheesy quotient and to provide a difference in cheese textural qualities. The pecorino pepato will add the piquant punch of the black peppercorns that this straightforward creamy sheep's milk cheese is intensely infused with. It will also add a gooey, decadent bent to this sandwich. Once your sandwich is toasted, stick a tooth pick through it so it's easier to dip into your roasted red pepper carrot spicy sauce. Enjoy this with a nice light red wine and welcome the thought of cooler nights.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Five - Running and Nutrition

If you're like me and enjoy running marathons, you are guaranteed to find a large amount of literature on how and what you should eat while training, pre-race, post-race. Let me let you in on a little secret, you've gotta do what's best for you -- that perfect balance of veggies, fruits, dairy, proteins, carbs and so on is tailor made to each and every person.

My own personal philosophy when it comes to this entire topic when training is that you are only as good as the worst thing that you've put into your body. On those mornings when I've had an extra glass of wine or something, I certainly feel it while running...You aren't going to get the most out of that ten mile training run if you went out boozing the night before and had a few beers and a plate full of chicken wings...

So why am I getting all nutritional on you folks? Because I thought I'd share the tuna salad recipe I made for myself after doing a 20 mile training run this morning. Not that you have to eat it after doing a long run, but that it is simple, easy, delish, and nutritious.

Don't ask me why, but I truly love having a homemade tuna salad after a long run, I feel that it replenishes me with protein, veggies, dairy, and carbs.

So what's in this salad?

One can tuna in Water
A small handful of arugula
One stick of celery diced finely
One Persian cucumber diced finely
1/4 red onion diced finely
1/4 yellow pepper diced
5 baby carrots diced
2 tablespoons fresh ricotta, today I used Tonjes Farm's. Tonjes is based in Callicoon, NY and makes three farmstead aged cow's milk cheeses along with fresh ricotta, fromage blanc, mozzarella and yogurt.
1 teaspoon Maille Dijon mustard
Handful of basil leaves
Drizzle of olive oil
A few drops of balsamic vinegar
Red Pepper Flakes

Mix this all together. 

I just love it! It's creamy, but not heavy like tuna salad with mayo. Packed full of veggies, protein, and some dairy, it hits the spot! Today I put it on two pieces of San Francisco sourdough bread from Gourmet Garage. Yum!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Four : September 1st

Its 95 degrees with very high humidity, a pro tennis player collapsed at the US Open today and the air quality is on high alert, would you guess its September 1st? I wouldn't! So in thinking about what to do as a recipe for today, I thought about suggesting a cooling salad featuring an ingredient that is in season now but in other forms signals harvest time, Fall, and Thanksgiving. What is it? Corn and its autumnal cousin would of course be Indian corn.  For our cooling salad, I took some inspiration from the side dish I had at ABC Kitchen this previous weekend and decided to make it my own...

So let's get going with our simple salad:

Honeydew Melon
Persian Cucumbers
Pearl Onion
Lime Juice
Young Goat Gouda
Pink Sea Salt
Black Pepper
White Wine Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First steam 8 ears of corn, take the kernels off and place in a bowl. Next get a nice ripe honeydew melon and dice about a half cup of small squares. Take between two and three Persian cucumbers (depending on size) and dice into equally small squares. Dice up between half and two-thirds of your pearl onion, you don't want the onionto be the overpowering taste here, that's for sure! Combine all together, drizzle with a small amount of lime juice, white wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Then top with diced up parsley and mint mix together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then top with young goat gouda grated on top.

Why young goat gouda and not regular gouda or even goat gouda?

Well that is because of the fact that young goat gouda is lactic, fresh, and grassy with a grate-able consistency and a lingering hint of sweetness, perfect for the creamy component of our corn salad, not overpowering but definitely subtly present.

Once the cheese is grated on top, enjoy this with a nice glass of Ravines Keuka White Wine. A Franco-American blend, 20% Vignoles, 80 % Cayuga White grapes, this Finger lakes white wine is perfect for a day like today. Floral, fruity, with a minerally finish, this is a light, easy drinking white wine.

Ravines Keuka White 2008

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