Monday, January 31, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty Six : Pickle Marriage Mondays

What's the classic accompaniment to a sandwich? Sure, you might get some potato chips or french fries, but above all, you will get a pickle! Pickles are cucumbers that have been allowed to ferment / have been preserved by either a bath of brine, vinegar, or another pickling solution. They come in a plethora of different types -- bread & butter, dill, half sour, sour, and sweet to name a few of the options. Cucumbers are not the only veggie that gets pickled, but they are the classic choice. Low in calories and fat, they are crisp and delish, a nice counterpart to a sandwich or whatever you desire.

So I thought why not make this classic sidekick this week's marriage Mondays star?

What sort of cheeses could you imagine pairing with a pickle?

Contestant Number # 1: Fol Epi - Meaning "wild wheat stalk" in French, this pressed cooked cow's milk cheese from the Loire Valley is brushed with toasted wheat flour during its aging process. Shaped somewhat like a loaf of bread with those classic Swiss cheese holes; this first contestant is loosely modeled on the recipe for Emmental, however Fol Epi is creamier and smoother. Somewhat nutty with a nice wheaty, milky, fruity finish, it sure is a versatile cheese! But will it have what it takes to stand up on its own to our pickles?

Contestant Number # 2: Rogue River Creamery's Smokey Blue - Rogue takes their Oregon Blue, the first blue cheese produced in the Pacific Northwest and makes it the first American blue cheese that has ever been smoked -- cold smoked over local hazelnut shells for sixteen hours. Creamy, luscious, piquant, spicy, with a wonderful nutty smokeyness to it! Does this pioneer of a cheese have what it takes this week?

Contestant Number # 3: Edwin's Munster - Our final contestant is not one of the orange rind Munsters you find in the supermarket nor does it hail from the classically regarded best region for the cheese, Alsace; this guy comes to you from a small village in western Austria. Crafted lovingly with raw cow's milk into eight ounce washed rind rounds, this semi soft cheese has the best type of barnyardy, farmy stink with a fabulous melt in your mouth quality. Full of gooey mushroomy notes, hints of caramelized onions, and that fantastic washed rind tangy oomph! Is it up to the task of pairing with pickles?


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty Five - A Bloody Mary with some cheese, please!

This afternoon I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Belvedere's newest vodka -- their bloody mary blend. We got to try a variation on a bloody mary, a red pesto bloody mary drink, a twist on a martini, the blended vodka straight or with the option of three different juices -- a beet, apple, celery juice, a carrot chili pepper juice, and a fennel celery juice, each delish in their own right. To accompany all of these different beverages we had the option of ordering lemon ricotta pancakes, a burger or smoked salmon with poached eggs. What a treat this was for me an avid bloody mary lover! I always think a person's preferred brunch cocktail tells you a lot about their personality. Why I'm not sure...but just take a second to think, do you prefer a bloody mary, a mimosa, a screwdriver, a bellini or something else? Or do you simply not like to drink with brunch?

This was a pretty fantastic bloody mary vodka -- infused with tomato, celery, chili, black pepper, horseradish, and lemon. It took all of those fabulous elements of a bloody mary and put them in to tango with the vodka. It sure did do the best vodka brunch drink justice, if you ask me.

I got to thinking about what sort of cheese would be perfect with a classic bloody mary, how about some Pepato? It is an Italian semi firm sheep's milk cheese that is infused with black peppercorns -- creamy yet spicy and piquant, the perfect balance of subtle yet forceful flavors. The black peppercorns in the cheese will bring out the striking peppery-ness of the bloody mary while the milky creaminess of the cheese will cut the thickness of the tomato juice. A perfect mixture of boldness with smoothness. So the next time you decide to mix yourself up a Belvedere Bloody Mary at home for you and friends, go out and grab some Pepato to go with, I guarantee you will delight in the flavor combination.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty Four - Fish + Cheese? A review of Fishtag

Fishtag is Michael Psilakisfourth restaurant in the same locale on 79th street between Amsterdam and Broadway -- first there was Onera (never went), then there was Kefi (love the new larger location), then there was Gus & Gabriel (went once but never seemed to make it back) and now there is Fishtag, a modern fish centric restaurant with a simple elegant dining room.

The menu is not laid out via appetizers, entrees, and desserts, or by vegetables, meats, fish, etc, it is laid out by the type of drink recommended to enjoy with each dish, appetizers in red print, entrees in black. They did also have an entire appetizing menu -- smoked fishes, cured meats, and a wide variety of cheeses. But this place was not about having a cheese selection, it was about trying Psilakis' inventive creations.

Before I get to what we ordered, I have to make a quick comment about the wine list -- what a disaster! Do not put unappealing descriptions of wine. It is a turn off to your consumers. We split a lovely bright and fruity Cotes du Rhone which was light and delish. However it was described as "some berry fruit, yet much more dusty licorice spice than anything."Apart from the wine list descriptions, this place was totally and completely wonderful. We split a variety of dishes so that we could get a really sense of what Psilakis had done with the space this fourth time.

First came his chopped chicory, wild arugula and bulgar salad with medjool dates, pomegranate, green olives, breakfast radish, pistachio, peppers, grilled onions, and smoked almonds.  Crispy, crunchy, and fresh, this was a salad that was right up my alley! Next up came grilled sardines with fennel confit, dried capers, safron pickled fennel and radish. For someone who doesn't eat that much fish, I love sardines, why I'm not sure, but I just do. And these sardines just melted in your mouth...the perfect combination of salty, savory, aromatic, and all around fabulous.

Then we all split two of the three bruschettas on the menu, interesting to have bruschetta on the menu at a fish place. Hard to eat, yes! Totally messy, yes! But yummy? Yes yes! The first bruschetta was tuna confit, baked ricotta, spicy peppers, pickled pearl onion, garlic confit and fried herbs. It was an excellent melange of flavors that melded together perfectly -- sure was a bold combination, but boy did it pay off! The other bruschetta was also delish, but in my opinion not as good as the first -- this one was jonah crab, sweet and sour eggplant, onion, peppers, pinenuts, smoked almonds and manouri cheese. A nice subtle eggplanty, fishy, cheesy mixture that became mostly about the eggplant but was smooth and satisfying.

The last thing we split was one of their entrees which just sounded too good to pass up and it sure was just as good if not better than we could have imagined! What was it? Homemade sheep's milk dumplings, with bay scallops, crab, aji amarillo peppers, and sea urchin fonduta. Creamy yet light, full of strong flavors that managed to complement each other perfectly. Such a treat!

Overall a fabulous meal, I will definitely go back. Each dish was composed of a large number of ingredients but they functioned to create successful and unique flavor profiles that one would not think to combine and that didn't taste complicated but had the right sort of refinement.

222 West 79th Street

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day Three Fifty Three - Pomegranate GCF

It's that time again, time for a grilled cheese! Inspired by my crisp fresh salad I had for lunch today, I thought I would use the fun healthful crunch of pomegranate seeds in today's GCF -- high in Vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, shown to help prevent heart disease, breast cancer and many other ills. It is native to the Iranian Plateau region of Southwest Asia and dates back to ancient times. We see references to the pomegranate dating back to the Book of Exodus.

The seeds or arils are the best portion for our grilled cheese purposes here. Depending on your time constraints, you could either buy just the seeds or buy an entire pomegranate and de-seed it. Now that you have your seeds in a bowl, what else do you need for this sandwich? How about some fresh arugula? Check! How about some pepitas for extra added crunch? Check! How about a nice loaf of pumpernickel sesame bread? Check! How about some of Beltane Farm's fresh chevre? Check! Some chives and EVOO? Check, check!

You might be thinking why did she specifically suggest the Beltane Farm chevre? Well that's because of its dialed up creamy, fresh, lactic, grassy, citrusy tang which is perfect to pair with all of the other elements of your GCF.

The assembly of your sandwich should be somewhat straightforward. Drizzle some EVOO on either side of the bread, top with a nice slice of chevre, chives, arugula, pomegranate seeds, and pepitas and warm up! Enjoy with a nice glass of crisp Pinot Gris and envision the end of winter in sight. Have a good night folks.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty Two - Of winter weather and Canadian cheese...

We got another 19 inches of snow last night and with that it is official that our snow totals this winter are over thirty inches more than the average. Apparently, we've exhausted our "snow" budget here and it's only January 27th, what about the month of February?

It almost feels like we should be living in the far reaches of Northern Canada or somewhere in the Great Plains, not in New York. So I thought I'd introduce you all to my favorite Canadian cheese today in honor of our relentless winter weather -- Le Chevre Noir. You might be wondering, is Canada known for cheese? Canada does produce a nice variety of cheeses; variations of the classics and some of their own inventions, not many are imported to the US but Le Chevre Noir is and boy is it worth it!

Le Chevre Noir has been produced by the Fromagerie Tournevent in Chesterville, Quebec since 1989. It is a goat's milk cheddar in a square brick shape made in the traditional style aged in black wax for at least a year. Firm and extremely dense, the stark difference between the ivory paste-y interior and the black wax exterior is the first thing one notices when encountering this cheese. Upon tasting this Canadian masterpiece, your tongue is greeted with a melt in your mouth quality that is somewhat unexpected due to the firmness of the cheese. It is buttery, milky, herbaceous and nutty, with a floral finish and that classic aged crystallized crunch. A very versatile pairing partner, this works with red wines, white wines, beers, ports, and even a nice glass of ice wine.

So go out, brave those elements in your snow boots, pick up some of the Chevre Noir at Murray's Cheese and bring it home to enjoy with your favorite winter weather beverage. Have a good night folks and stay warm!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty One - Dinner at Graffit

Deconstructed cuisine, check! Avant-garde preparations, check! Inventive, playful, and unusual interpretations, check! Molecular gastronomy, check! Something that you most likely cannot prepare in your home, check!

Where will you find such a restaurant in Manhattan? Down on the Lower East Side or the West Village? Nope, it's tucked away on a quiet street in my neighborhood, the Upper West Side.

The brainchild of Spanish born chef, Jesus Nunez, Graffit is his first restaurant on American soil, previously running two Madrid based restaurants and even having a brief stint as the Spanish culinary ambassador to Korea. Nunez aims to bring contemporary Spanish cuisine with all of techniques to American shores. Does he succeed? Yes, he goes above and beyond, if you ask me.

There is a tapas menu served only in the front bar section along with a dinner menu. The tapas menu is a mixture of seemingly standard tapas dishes  -- pulpo (octopus), a shrimp dish, a tortilla, and a selection of cheeses to name a few. The dinner menu is a nice combination of inventive appetizers and fish and meat based entrees. For those of us who are not meat eaters, this was a place that surely had more than enough options which is always a good bonus!

So what did we have? We had a bunch of smaller plates so we could try a variety of what the chef had to offer!

Our meal started with the chef's amuse bouche which was a small frozen sangria paired with a mini braised octopus crostini with pop rocks. Colorful, playful, alive, and above all fun, this was going to be an outstanding meal.

Next up we had their tortilla - an "updated potato omelette, with different textures, served in a martini glass." Traditionally when you think tortilla, you think a thick square of eggs, potatoes and onions, right? This was not that! It was layers of purple potato puree, regular potatoes, carmelized onions, egg foam and fried onions. This dish took what you think of as a tortilla and turned it on its head! Successful, yes! Too oniony however.

Next up we had their savory carrot "cake" with Mahon cheese and asparagus and their "not your average egg, seasonal vegetable stew." The carrot cake was this fabulous carrot puree topped with melted Mahon cheese with a few slivers of asparagus and dehydrated carrot to accompany it. Mahon cheese is an unpasteurized firm cow's milk cheese from Spain, perfect for melting purposes. This dish was an ode to the carrot, dynamic, flavorful, and placed at center stage. Definitely lighter than the traditional carrot cake and just the right amount of creaminess. The vegetable stew was a beautiful melange of seasonal roasted vegetables and one poached egg -- packed to the brim with rustic and earthy flavors, this was a dish that I could go back and keep having.

Then we had two of their specials that evening -- black truffle falafel on a "soil" bed and their homemade cream cheeses. The black truffle dish was out of this world -- earthy, nutty, and not at all overly oily as falafel dishes can sometimes be. The soil underneath was a mixture of veggies and provided just the right amount of crunch and a nice dichotomy to the black truffle falafels. The cream cheese dish was supposed to be three different cream cheeses infused with: dried fruits, hazelnuts, and cured meats. However we had the dried fruit and hazelnut ones paired with a homemade red pepper tapenade and honey valedon foam with a small little side salad. The cheeses were fresh, lactic, flavorful and the perfect sort of end to such a fabulous meal!

Truly a revelation! Creative, delish dishes presented in inventive, witty, and distinctive manners with hints of humor served in a modern space. You almost felt as though you were transported to the new avant garde dining rooms of Madrid and other European cities. Easily the best restaurant I have been to in a long time!

141 West 69th Street

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty - Hot Chocolate Results

What a difference a day makes! It is easily twenty to twenty five degrees warmer than yesterday, you can actually stand to walk from one place to another. But the idea of a hot chocolate when you get inside to warm up still sounds nice, right? It's not as though it is above 50 or even 40 degrees...So with that hot chocolate, what sort of cheese do you want to have?

Not the Fromage Blanc, although decadent and fabulous, this fresh creamy contestant does not have enough of a presence to stand up to the sweet warmth of a thick and milky hot chocolate. The Fromage Blanc is light, fanciful, fresh, and airy, it begs to have the opportunity to be paired with a Vinho Verde or a cup of Green Tea -- something light to go with something light.

That leaves our Bijou and the Rogue River Blue, which will win out?

Although fabulous, sophisticated, and dynamic, the Bijou will miss the boat this week. The delicate nuances of the Bijou will be swallowed up by the sweet creaminess of a warming cup of hot chocolate. Should you feel the desire to pair Bijou with chocolate, I would vote for a 70% cacao chocolate bar maybe with some sea salt crystals, something that is semi sweet with a bit of a punch that will play off the flavor profile of the Bijou coax out unknown notes in this jewel of a cheese. Perfect with a glass of Loire Valley Sancerre or even an Oregon Pinot Gris.

Therefore, the bold and beautiful Rogue River Blue will win out this week! Why you may ask? Such a weird thing to think cheese and hot chocolate! But the spicy piquant punch of the cheese will be the perfect counterpart to the sweetness of a cup of this warm beverage. Each will play off the other's creaminess but by exhibiting such different forms of creaminess while still maintaining that central round mouth feel, this will be a winning pair! Differences yet certain similarities bring these two together.

How would you enjoy these together?

I would probably serve the Rogue River Blue with some nice simple homemade EVOO sea salt baguette crisps, keep things simple here as each the cheese and the beverage have quite the presence.

Enjoy your hot chocolate and blue cheese and lets be thankful that the temperature is no longer in the single digits!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day Three Forty Nine - Hot Chocolate Marriage Mondays

Gosh it feels like the arctic out there, doesn't it? While running this morning, it was 5 degrees out with a wind chill of negative 5. There are very few days I can remember when the actual temperature, not the wind chill factor, was in the single digits. How to warm up when its sooo cold? How about having a nice steaming cup of hot cocoa? The good old fashioned children's favorite is perking up around town, sometimes spiked or simple and straightforward or even dressed up with a unique twist -- you name it, the hot chocolate is quite the popular winter beverage. Decadent, fun, and warming, how could you go wrong?

Why not pair a cheese with that nice cup of hot chocolate on a frigid day like this one?

What sort of cheese could work?
Contestant Number # 1: Cowgirl Creamery's Fromage Blanc - Bright white, super young and fresh are the best ways to categorize our first contestant. Made with whole milk not cream, allowing for a lower fat cream cheese style consistency on the tongue, this is milky, lactic, and all around smooth and silky. This fromage blanc is infused with its specific terroir -- grassy, citrusy and bright! It melts in your mouth but will this youngster be able to hold up to the sweetness of our hot chocolate?

Contestant Number # 2 : Rogue River Blue - A raw cow's milk blue cheese done right! Boasting classic blue veining, that nice spicy punch, piquant and invigorating all at once. Hailing from Oregon, this award winning blue is wrapped in grape leaves during its aging process. Wheels of Rogue River are turned multiple times per week infusing an earthy twang to the cheese. Creamy, rich, and decadent but not over the top -- a perfect mixture of opposing flavor nuances. But will those work with a cup of hot chocolate?

Contestant Number # 3: Vermont Butter and Cheese Bijou - Meaning jewel in French, this final contestant sure is precious. Pasteurized goat's milk with a natural rind crafted into two ounce cylinders, Bijou is modeled on the classic Loire Valley cheese, Crottin de Chavignol. But our dear Bijou is imbued with that classic Vermont terroir with the stamp of American artisanal cheese all over it. Goaty, grassy, and lactic but with a light creamy sweetness. Will our little jewel win this week's prize?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day Three Forty Eight - Spotlight on Wisconsin & Upland Cheese Company

In honor of the Green Bay Packers winning their playoff game today, I thought I would do a feature on my favorite Wisconsin cheese producers - Uplands Cheese Company. Located on the opposite side of the state as Green Bay, this creamery based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin produces some of my favorite cheese nation and world wide. It has been owned by two families since the 1980s and over the past three decades they have perfected their take on an Alpine style cheese.

What is this cheese?

Well it's Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Made from May till October when their cows are being milked and out at pasture, this farmstead Alpine style cheese adopts certain cheese making styles of Gruyere's and Beaufort's but the unique landscape of Southwestern Wisconsin and the grasses that the cows whose milk is utilized to  make this cheese makes all the difference in the world -- it is honest. What do I mean by that? I mean it is fresh, buttery, creamy, nutty, and all around fabulously infused with the local terroir. Crafted in ten pound wheels that are aged for anywhere between a few months and a few years. The older the cheese gets, the flavor nuances become more developed, complex, and special. Melted butter, butterscotch, toasted nutty notes, hints of honey with a woodsy sort of feel and of course that classic crystallization crunch present in older cheeses.

A great cheese for a cold winter night like this one with a nice red wine or a deep dark beer.

Image courtesy of

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Forty Seven - The 2011 version of the Tea Sandwich

Inspired by my trip to visit my grandmother today and all of the tea we drank, I thought I would suggest the perfect winter snack to pair with an afternoon cup of tea, whether it is with family, friends, or alone in your apartment. The type of tea I leave up to you.

Traditional tea sandwiches date back to the parlour rooms of the Britain of yesteryear and the fabulous  ritual of high tea. Although the customs have shifted and changed through out the centuries, the relic of this 17th century custom remains present.

Instead of utilizing the idea of a sandwich here, I thought we would make individual oat cake crostini utilizing Nairns Mixed Berry Oat Cakes as the base. Each will be simple with a few ingredients but with plenty of flavor and not too filling that you wouldn't be hungry for dinner later on.

Oatcake Crostini Number # 1: My vision for the first will be a simple canelle composed of a food processor blended mixture of fresh ricotta, fresh chevre, and fleur de sel. Once you blend, chill in the refrigerator for about an hour giving the cheese a nice crisp coolness so that you can form canelle that will maintain their shape. Place one canelle on top of each oatcake and top with raspberry confiture.

Oatcake Crostini Number # 2 : The second will be a simple Stilton honey crostini. For the meat eaters out there, maybe prosciutto as well and for those of us vegetarians, maybe a few slivers of cherry to top off each?

Raise a cup of tea and enjoy. Savor those opportunities to relax with a glass of tea with friends or family.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Forty Six - Grilled Tangerine GCF

In my excitement about Julianna yesterday, I can't believe I forgot to wish everyone a happy Cheeselover's Day! Yesterday was National Cheeselover's Day so if you didn't celebrate yesterday by enjoying some fabulous cheese, why not go out and buy a new cheese this weekend and a bottle of wine and plan to enjoy it with good friends or a significant other.

For this week's GCF, I decided that we would pay homage to citrus fruits. Great to enjoy at any time of year but especially in the winter time as they boost immunity; are high in Vitamin C; great for cardiovascular health and are good for your skin, to name a few of their health benefits.

So I thought why not do a grilled tangerine GCF with homemade honey basil ricotta on a nice olive oil rosemary foccacia bread -- it will be bright and flavorful and perfect for a cold day like today.

Take one peeled tangerine and place the sections on a stove top grill that has been coated with Pam. Cook for about five minutes on each side or until the slices are cooked through with a nice grilled flavor infused. While those are cooking, grab a half pound of fresh ricotta cheese and mix in a nice drizzle of basil infused olive oil and honey, sea salt, and about two tablespoons of chopped up basil leaves. Mix by hand till the flavor is dispersed evenly through out the ricotta. Then spread this on either side of your foccacia and put a nice amount of your grilled tangerines on the inside. Toast away! I'd say enjoy this with a nice glass of bubbly to start the weekend off with a bang!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Forty Five - Spotlight on Julianna

This evening, I ventured into the little gem of a cheese shop in Chelsea Market, Lucy's Whey. Lucy's Whey has two locations, one here in Manhattan and one out in East Hampton. Specializing in American artisanal cheeses, this is a me sort of place.

What was I looking for?

I was looking for a cheese to bring out to my grandmother this Saturday to accompany the fabulous salad I was planning on making. I knew I needed to get a goat's milk cheese but preferably not too young, maybe something with a bloomy rind? Or maybe something infused with vegetable ash? Definitely nothing too hard, so here's what I found...


A raw goat's milk natural rind cheese rubbed in herbes de provence aged for between four and eight months. This was the perfect mixture of herbaceous-ness, firmness, softness, grassy-ness, bright citrus tang and all around deliciousness. It was the perfect goat-y sort of cheese for my grandmother's liking with a nice interesting twist -- marrying the softer aged bloomy rind goat's milk cheeses and the firm goat milk tomme style cheeses.

Hailing from Capriole Goat Cheese Creamery in Indiana this is a unique and different take on a goat cheese, a fabulous one at that!

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Forty Four - Fast, Easy, Fresh Dinners for One

My fast, easy, fresh dinners have been lagging it seems in the past few weeks, so I thought I'd provide you all with what I made last night for dinner - a one pot dinner for one full of yummy things.

As you may know from reading my musings here, I love brussel sprouts. They are one of the quintessential fall and winter vegetable staples in my household. Having gotten some nice farm raised brussel sprouts over the weekend, I thought I should use them last night. Instead of cutting them down however, I separated each brussel sprout into tons of leaves, that was to be the base for my one pot warm salad. I then chopped up a clove of garlic and placed my brussel sprout leaves into a saute pan with some Olive Oil PAM and the garlic clove. To this pan, I added some roasted slivered almonds, a nice amount of cubed firm fine herb tofu (If you don't like tofu, please feel free to substitute maybe for some chicken?), and grated over the top aged asiago infused with rosemary and olive oil. The perfect cheese to add that nice melted melding quality will not overpowering, I wanted to be able to taste each and every element of the dish. Then I drizzled a little bit of EVOO; mixed in a dollop of dijon mustard, sprinkled some gray salt, rosemary, and basil and placed a lid on the saute pan and turned the heat up to medium. Mixing every few minutes for about twelve to fifteen minutes, your one pot dish should be done. Top with a sliced Persian cucumber for crunch and should you feel the desire a drop more grated cheese. Enjoy!

I enjoyed it with a glass of Astoria Prosecco, a light fruity bubbly with a clean finish from Italy. At $10 a bottle, it surely doesn't break the bank but it will delight the palate.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Forty Three : MLK Pecan Pie Results

It is the worst mixture of wetness, coldness, mucky-ness, and all around just unfortunate winter weather. The perfect sort of evening to go home and bake a savory pecan pie to lift your spirits and look forward to warmer weather, right?

So who won the chance to baked into the mix today?

Image courtesy of

I actually somewhat tricked you all because it is in fact a mixture of two of our fair contestants who won out this week but before I get to the recipe, I wanted to explain why I suggested our last and final contestant -- Grafton's 2 year aged cheddar. Baking with cheddar can be a fabulous experience and can infuse that fabulous creamy cheesy flavor into your dish but I think you need to add another element into the mix that has a higher water content because the cheddar is such a firm and dry cheese. So should you feel the desire to make a pear, cheddar, pecan pie that could be a fabulous option! Or even an apple one!

But for our purposes here, I tried to stick to the classic recipe without adding a large number of additional elements, of course the cheeses but otherwise, I tried to keep it simple. Why did I choose a mixture of the Honey Cana de Cabra and the Gorgonzola Dolce? Because the faint piquant blueness will be the perfect counterpart to the crunchy sweetness of the nuts and the honey infused into the Cana de Cabra will imbue your pie with a sweetness without the necessity to add excess amounts of sugar. The cheeses together will add this nice creamy, lactic, round mouth feel which will play off the crunch of the pie topping and add more substance to the dish as a whole. I think you will find that this pie will be sweet, savory, crunchy, and all around fabulous.

So let's get to making it already!

3 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter (I like Pulgra or other European style butters)
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup (I think it adds a nice toasty-ness to the pie that isn't as present when you use lighter corn syrup.)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of grated or cut down Gorgonzola Dolce
2/3 cup of cut down Honey Cana de Cabra
2 cups of pecans
1 9 inch frozen crust (you can also make your own but if you are feeling lazy, buying pie crust is a decent option too...)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Line bottom of pie dish with PAM Baking spray and lay pie crust in with a light coating of butter.

3. Melt butter in skillet on top of stove.

4. Combine all of the other ingredients with a whisk or stand mixer. Add in pecans at last minute.

5. Pour filling into pie dish and top with a small dusting of brown sugar and a few sea salt crystals.

6. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.

7. Cool and Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Forty Two - MLK Marriage Mondays

Today being the third Monday in January, it is recognized as a federal holiday in remembrance of the life, impact, and changes the world has witnessed due to the remarkable life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate the memory of this amazing man by doing a marriage mondays focusing on his favorite foods.

Dr. King loved all soul and southern food -- collard greens, grits, fried chicken, mac n' cheese, sweet potatoes, and fried pork chops. But his absolute favorite food was pecan pie. So I thought why not suggest the idea of a savory pecan pie Marriage Mondays in honor of MLK day? We will have three cheese contestants today with a recipe for the pie tomorrow!

Contestant Number # 1 : Gorgonzola Dolce - That classic Italian blue but significantly more mild, almost even sweet in comparison to other blue cheeses and other members even of the Gorgonzola family. Why you may ask? Well that's because the cow's milk utilized to produce this cheese comes from only one milking of the cows where as other blue cheeses tend to be composed of milk from multiple milkings. This is coupled with the fact that Gorgonzola Dolce is ready to serve at a much younger age than other blue cheeses -- meaning that the traditionally spicy and piquant qualities typically present in a stinky blue cheese are not found in our first contestant. Does that mean that this light and sweet blue will win the chance to find its place in a pecan pie?

Contestant Number # 2 : Cana de Cabra with Honey - Spain's answer to the French Bucheron style cheese -- semi-firm, bloomy rind, aged goat's milk cheese. Here it is infused with honey giving it a nice chalky, grassy, lactic, bright tang like a classic aged goat's milk but with a sweet natural honey finish. Will our honey win out this week?

Contestant Number # 3 : Grafton Reserve 2 year aged Cheddar - The ultimate in Vermont cheddar, made in the classic English cheddaring style where cheese curds are cut and stacked every ten minutes until the acidity of the whey is extremely low. Our final contestant is aged for two years giving way to a nice firm mouth feel with that fabulous crystallization present in aged cheeses. Mellow yet dynamic, sweet and creamy with a nice buttery butterscotchy finish. Will our two year old win out?

Stay tuned to find out.

Please take a second to think about the manner in which Dr King has changed our world - past, present, and future.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Forty One - Of Sundried Tomatoes and other things...

I think sundried tomatoes are one of those foods people either love or hate. I find that very few people are apathetic towards them. Why I'm not too sure, but I think there is a great sundried divide.

Confession: They are one of my favorite foods and always have been. Store bought, homemade, served in a dish or as an accompaniment or as a snack, they always bring a smile to my face. Food should bring a smile to your face, don't you think?

They are such a simple pleasure I find that you cannot go wrong. Pretty much straightforward tomatoes dried in the sun or in one's oven, draining them of their water content but maintaining the tomato's nutritional value.

So why focus on them today?

How about for a little herbaceous dip?

Perfect for a night in with friends watching the Golden Globes or watching the Jets - Patriots game, this is an easy, accessible, fast dip!

8 ounce log of herbed chevre
1/2 lb of ricotta
Drizzle of EVOO
2/3 cup of diced up marinated sundried tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup of roasted almonds
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
Handful of basil leaves
Sea Salt
Crushed Red Pepper

Combine all together in the food processor and enjoy with veggies or with pita or whatever your heart desires.

Enjoy folks!

Day Three Hundred and Forty - A bit late....

Sorry folks to be writing a little bit later than expected, I was very under the weather yesterday, now I'm feeling back to normal and am able to play some catch up.

So Friday night, I went for drinks and a few nibbles with a friend. The food menu was a nice mixture of go-to salads, entrees, and share-able snacks. We decided to split their flatbread mozzarella, tomato, and basil pizza which was simple, straightforward, and satisfying. Not too oily, the crust was perfectly crunchy and thin, not too browned on the bottom that you tasted the oven in which it was baked on. Apart from the classic, they had a ricotta and lemon pizza that sounded somewhat fascinating and a prosciutto pizza. I got to thinking however, why not be a bit more experimentative? Go with a different flavor profile than the norm, lets stand out a bit! Granted, it is meant to be bar-ish food so I understand you have to go with the classics, but even a sauteed mixed mushroom pizza with Gruyere and Comte and some rosemary would be a welcome addition. Dressed up somewhat maybe with some truffle oil drizzled over the top? Or how about a brussel sprout leaf and Parmesan flatbread, doesn't that sound delish?

I think flatbread pizza is the perfect simple share-able food and they might benefit from having one or two other inventive choices, but hey I'm not in charge of the menu...Go for inventive and creative for sure! I think people here in New York like options and excitement! Whether its in the form of a menu, a new restaurant, a bar, you name it....check back later for today's post!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Nine - Kale Pesto GCF

Happy Friday! Despite the arctic chill outside and the fact that it's mid January, I know I am looking forward to the weekend, I hope you all are as well.

To ring in this January weekend, I thought we would do a Kale Pesto GCF, utilizing my absolute favorite dark leafy green! I could eat kale everyday and be happy. High in antioxidants, vitamins C and K, calcium, and beta carotene to name a few of its nutritional properties.  So why not utilize it as the base for a pesto style sauce for this week's GCF?

Saute one bunch of kale with EVOO, a clove of garlic, sea salt, and crushed red pepper till golden brown and somewhat cooked down. Place this in a food processor with one extra clove of garlic, 1/4 cup of pine nuts, 1/3 cup of EVOO, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, sea salt, and a little more crushed red pepper. Combine till all the ingredients are melded together into your kale pesto. Place a nice generous helping on some crusty French baguette and put off to the side.

Next up grab one zucchini and slice long somewhat thin ribbons and toss this into a saute pan with a diced up shallot, EVOO, rosemary, oregano and sea salt. Saute till these are golden brown. Place them on top of your kale pesto and then place a few nice generous shavings of Piave over the top. Toast away! It will be a green cheese-y explosion in your mouth that I guarantee you won't be disappointed with. The perfect way to combat the cold winter weather.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Eight : Football Playoff Cheeses

Interested in the Baltimore - Pittsburgh game or the Jets - Patriots or what about Green Bay - Atlanta? Maybe you want to watch Seattle vs the Chicago Bears? It's a big football weekend -- for those who don't follow football all season, these games get more exciting, not as exciting as the Super Bowl, but still significantly more thrilling than regular season games!

So I thought, why not suggest a selection of three cheeses for those of you grabbing a six pack of beer and settling into your friend's couch to root on your favorite team!

You want a nice variety but certainly approachable cheeses for those with a less discerning palate.

Our first choice is Dancing Cow Farm's Menuet from Bridpot, Vermont. It is a raw cow's milk tomme style cheese made with un-cooled milk from a single milking of their Jersey cow herd and consequently aged for at least five months. Named after the French Baroque dance, it is just as lively and fanciful as its namesake. Gently creamy and sweet with a nice light nuttiness and hints of grass and melted butter. With added aging, it almost adopts certain Cheddar-y moments, however it is not crafted in a Cheddar style. Fabulous for amateur cheese palates, this is the sort of cheese that goes down easy but is a standout. Very versatile when it comes to beers, this could work with a pilsner, an ale, you name it!

How about a nice creamy bloomy rind cheese next? Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont is a great choice! Made in the style of the fabulous French Chaource, this cow's milk cylinder of creamy cheesy goodness just melts in your mouth. Aged for just sixty days, it is thick, buttery, milky, and superbly decadent. Why not go with a nice Pilsner here? Light enough to cut the creamy-ness of the cheese in all the right ways? A Radeberger with its crisp clean notes would be a nice choice.

Finally, how about a Blue cheese? A friendly one for sure! How about Lively Run's Cayuga Blue? One hundred percent goat's milk blue hailing from Upstate New York, this is has a round mouth feel with a supremely nice creamy finish. Yes it is somewhat piquant with hints of musky-ness but those are cut by the fresh floral citrusy notes from the goat's milk. This would be great with a nice Lambic style Ale if you want to spice up the party? Fruit forward and light, this would tone down the piquant notes of the cheese in all the right ways. How about a Lambic Framboise?

Enjoy folks!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Seven - Sala One Nine

Last night I got together with a bunch of friends for our monthly dinner. This month's dinner was at a tapas joint in the Flatiron area -- Sala One Nine. A buzzing energy of conversation, wafting scents of yummy food hit you as you walk through the door.

Sala One Nine features standard tapas fare but it's done quite well! My gauge on tapas restaurants is always by the Tortilla Espanola or the Spanish potato, onion, and egg omelette. Here at Sala One Nine, it is delish! Savory, filling, and warming. Other notable dishes are : the goat cheese croquettes with sauteed onions and drizzled with honey (a crowd favorite!); their pulpo and potato dish and although I don't eat meat, my dining companions all loved the bacon wrapped dates. They also have a few open faced sandwiches, the Spanish version of a bruschetta or a tartine. Here they are called toasts -- the portobello mushroom, sauteed shallot and garlic cream one was delish as was, again according to my dining companions, the duck toast.

Overall, traditional tapas fare with a twist in a lively and entertaining setting! Good for out of town guests and fun group dinners!
Sala One-Nine
35 west 19th street

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Six - Sunchoke Results

Getting excited for the next big snowstorm of this 2010 - 2011 winter? You think we will get the full foot of snow they are predicting for the New York area? Everyone seems to be taking sufficient precautions in the event that this is blizzard number two! And today's sunchoke recipe would be perfect if you are caught at your apartment looking for a warming and rustic roasted dish to enjoy with some red wine while the snow is falling outside.

So which cheese-y contestant won the opportunity to be paired with our sunchokes?

It surely wasn't our first contestant, Tomme du Berger. Why? Tomme du Berger's fabulously barnyard-y washed rindedness will overwhelm the delicate flavors of the sunchoke, both raw and roasted. Tomme du Berger is one of those washed rind cheeses that is best showcased on its own or perhaps with some crusty crunchy bread and a nice glass of Riesling. Ruling out our first contestant, that leaves either the Midnight Moon or the Bucheron.

The Bucheron unfortunately also misses the boat here. There is no sense of a successful melding between these two distinct ingredients, the bright citrusy tang of the Bucheron won't coax out those unique flavor nuances in the sunchokes. Bucheron, if being combined with other vegetables, is best in salads. In such a case, enjoy a glass of Loire Valley white wine with your meal.

Therefore Midnight Moon wins out here. The rustic qualities of the cheese will find their tuber counterpart in the sunchoke and the nuttiness of the paste will complement the startch-yness of the roasted sunchokes. Midnight Moon is a fabulous melting cheese because it remains true to itself and its flavor profile without totally overwhelming other ingredients while still infusing them with a butterscotchy, buttery, toasted cheesy "je ne sais quoi."

So how to prepare the sunchokes?

Preheat the oven to 350.

Chop up one full shallot and one clove of garlic. Chop up a dozen sunchokes, three large carrots, a purple top turnip, and one parsnip. Place all into roasting pan. Top with a decent amount of EVOO, sea salt, oregano, a sprig of fresh thyme and rosemary. Place in the oven for twenty minutes. Pull out and grate a decent amount of Midnight Moon over the top to cover the veggies and put them back in the oven for another five to seven minutes or until the cheese is golden brown, melted, and has coated the veggies nicely. Enjoy with a few slices of whole wheat baguette and a glass of rustic medium bodied red wine.

Don't forget your snow boots folks!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Five : Sunchoke Marriage Mondays

In honor of those of us who enjoy cooking with seasonal ingredients, in a farm to table manner, I thought I would choose a vegetable specifically in season now in the dead of January winter. How about the sunchoke?

Sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes or earth apples are not actually related to artichokes, but actually are a sunflower style plant native to the Eastern United States. The tuber which somewhat resembles the look of ginger root is the portion that is edible and can be eaten raw or roasted or sauteed. Raw it has a nice refreshing crunch (think maybe akin to a water chestnut somewhat) and when cooked it begins to adopt a similar flavor profile to the potato.

I know you must be wondering why it is called a Jerusalem artichoke right? And actually the origin of the name is still unknown. There is no affiliation with Jerusalem we know since they originated in the US. We do know that when the French first tasted the tuber in the 1600s, they noted that it's cooked flavor profile was somewhat similar to the artichoke which is where the artichoke comes from...Most people in this day and age have taken to calling them sunchokes as I do.

The sunflowers known as Jerusalem artichokes

Image courtesy of

And their tubers..

So what sort of cheeses could work with these tubers?

Contestant Number # 1: Tomme du Berger - A washed rind collaboration cheese -- a mixture of  raw goat's and sheep's milk cheese produced by two brothers. Crafted with the fall / winter milking herds in Corsica and then consequently washed and aged in the Provencal caves where the spring/summer herds reside. Stinky, gooey, gamey, and utterly fabulous, these washed rind babies strike the right cord of uncutous cheesy paste with the added oomph of the barnyardy, farmy washed rindedness. Will our washed rind stinker have what it takes to form a collaboration with the royal sunchokes?

Contestant Number # 2: Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon - The fantastic California goat's milk creamery's answer to aged goat gouda. This baby is aged in black wax for six months to a year allowing it to develop a nice depth of flavor with that fabulous crystallized graininess of an aged cheese. Nutty and butterscotchy yet with a nice goat's milk light tang. Will Midnight Moon take over our sunny sunchokes?

Contestant Number # 3: Bucheron - An aged French bloomy rind goat's milk log cheese with a tangy paste-y interior and a creamline surrounding the bloomy exterior. Not nearly as crumbly as young chevre style cheeses, this final contestant is semi-firm due to its aging. Chalky with a dense mouth feel, this is the sort of cheese that coats every nook and crevice of your mouth for all the right reasons. But will it coat our sunchokes in the right way?

Stay tuned to find out tomorrow!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Four - Harpoon Cider

Originating in Boston, with a second brewery location in Windsor, Vermont, Harpoon Brewery is well known for its fabulous beers, but maybe less known for its utterly delish cider crafted in honor of the longstanding New England tradition of cider. Crafted completely with local apples, primarily McIntosh's, it is fermented with their own blend of yeast to create a natural, clean, light, fruity, and lightly acidic beverage. It is definitely one of my favorite local ciders -- fanciful, fun, and fabulously fantastic!

Image courtesy of

The best thing about cider is its versatility -- great for cold winter days hanging out with friends; summer picnics; with cheeses; with salads, pizzas, meats and more...

On that note I think having a nice hard cheese like a Tarentaise would support the lightness of the cider and bring to life the rustic apple qualities of the cider. In case you don't remember, Tarentaise hails from Vermont and is an aged raw cow's milk cheese modeled on the big guy alpine cheeses from across the pond. 

To counteract the Tarentaise, why not also have a light blue cheese here? How about Old Chatham Shepherding's Ewe's Blue? Hailing from upstate New York, this blue gives the big European guns a run for their money. 100 % sheep's milk inoculated with penicillium roqueforti; this is a creamy punchy blue that isn't too in your face, with just the right of spicy piquant tang. The cider's natural floral fruity sweetness will be the perfect partner for this lovely local blue!

Have a good Sunday night folks!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Three - A triple cream for a day of 3s...

As it is the three hundred and thirty third day of my cheese musings I thought I would continue with the tradition of 3s and introduce you all to a fabulous French triple cream cheese that is PURE and UTTER decadence, the exact opposite of what you probably want to ingest if you are on a New Year's diet. But that being said, this is like ice cream in cheese form.

Pierre Robert was the brain child of a team of cheese makers who had made their living crafting Brillat Savarin. It is made with cow's milk that is then further enriched with cream with a natural rind, in the style of a Brillat-Savarin, yet this is aged allowing the bloomy, mushroomy flavors to develop. Mild, milky, unctuous, buttery, with a fabulously round and silky smooth mouth feel.

Pierre Robert stands out from other triple creams as it is aged for longer than its counterparts allowing this cheese to develop a unique flavor profile. If you are looking for a cheese to enjoy for a special occasion in the New Year with a glass of bubbly, this is your guy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty Two - New Year, New GCF

At the end of the first week of 2011, I thought I'd just inquire to all of you, what is your New Year's resolution this year? Did you make the resolution to loose weight? Start working out? Save money? Revamp your life? Travel more? Get a new job? Think back to where you were at this point last year, did you achieve last year's new year's resolutions?

Here's one for those of you making the weight loss New Year's resolution...You must be thinking a grilled cheese sandwich for people on a weight loss plan?

Fret not folks, treating yourself in moderation is important and with the right ingredients, there's no reason you couldn't have a multigrain baguette and cheese and vegetable sandwich. Cheese is high in protein and calcium and phosphorus and especially utilizing a goat's milk cheese that is lower in calories and fat than other cheeses or even a low-fat cheese is the key here.

Why not use Beltane Farm's Goat Milk Tomme style cheese that not only is made with goat's milk but is also made in a tomme style meaning that it is made with the left over skimmed milk from the production of richer, higher fat cheeses. Beltane Farm is a goat milk farm based in Lebanon, CT.

They produce a variety of types of fresh chevre, an ash ripened cheese, a bloomy rind style cheese, a firm tomme cheese, and some goat's milk yogurt.

So what are you going to do with this goat's milk tomme and muligrain baguette (always better to eat whole grains, folks) ? How about some greens? Arugula perhaps? Low in calories but rich in vitamin C and potassium. How about a nice crunch factor of some watermelon radish? Watermelon radish is obviously in the radish family. These guys can grow to the size of grapefruits with a fabulous crunch factor and freshness they will cut the creaminess of the cheese in the perfect way. That's all you really need, toast away, it will be fresh, light, almost even refreshing. Enjoy with your preferred drink.

Have a lovely weekend folks and here's to a healthy, happy, successful, and prosperous 2011!

Image courtesy of

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty One - Labneh

In thinking about my ricotta post, I started thinking about other fresh young cheeses and my mind landed on labneh which I had for the first time in a while recently.

How many cheeses can you think of that hail from the Middle East?

Not many right?

Well now you definitely know one!

Labneh is a bright white yogurt cheese, traditionally made from strained cow's milk. In the summer months, you can sometimes find it made with goat's milk or even camel's milk...Obviously the specific type of milk utilized to create this young cheese tremendously changes the flavor profile. Derived from the word laban meaning white or milk, this yogurt cheese is extremely popular in the Middle East and is considered a traditional Bedouin food. It is utilized in everything from breakfast dishes to mezze to sauces to desserts, like other young fresh cheeses, it is super versatile. Why not use it instead of cream cheese with some smoked salmon? Or top it with some honey and berries and serve it as dessert? Or use it as the base of a sauce for couscous? You name it, labneh could find a happy home in a wealth of distinct dishes.

Just like our ricotta dip yesterday was made with olive oil, herbs, and spices, one could take some labneh and add some olive oil and za'atar (a traditional Middle Eastern spice blend) and have a similar yet completely different cheese dip.

How does it differ in flavor profile from ricotta?

It has more of a tart yogurt-y tang with a brighter citrus finish than ricotta. Ricotta is the denser of the two, with a heavier mouth feel and weight to it. A nice way to change up your culinary routine.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Thirty - Simple Ricotta

When having people over for drinks and / or dinner, you want to have some nibbles out for them when they arrive, right? I think every host has their favorite hors d'oeuvres to prepare -- dishes they love to snack on or items specifically catered to their guests.  My go-to's tend to be homemade hummus or white bean dip, homemade flatbread pizzas, roasted almonds, and cheeses with bread or crackers. Tonight, I thought I'd do my traditional homemade hummus with crudites but also I'd prepare a ricotta dip with crusty grilled whole wheat baguette and grilled asparagus. I think that a lot of people do not utilize ricotta to its fullest and put it into the lasagna filling category. Let me tell you a simple fresh ricotta dip with some basil oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and fresh rosemary just melts in your mouth. Super lactic and creamy with that nice milky tang, on a piece of crusty nutty bread, you cannot go wrong! This sort of cheese dip is light and airy, not too heavy like say a fondue, but perfect with a nice glass of white wine or bubbly before a meal. Simplicity allows for one's appetite to be wet but not for your taste buds to be overwhelmed so that you cannot taste the main dishes.

So next time you are thinking of what to make for friends coming over, why not go the simple ricotta route, I guarantee everyone will enjoy it!

Yes, it is key that you buy nice fresh homemade ricotta, not the Polly-O version. However buying a 1/2 lb of ricotta is cheaper than say buying a variety of cheeses for a cheese plate.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Twenty Nine : Delirium Results Time!

Feeling like you could use some belated holiday cheer from the pink elephant on our beer's label? Having a tough time getting into the rhythm of work in the new year? Well fret not, it's results time and then you can take yourself to your local Whole Foods, grab a bottle of Delirium Noel, some cheese, a loaf of yummy herbaceously spicy and warming pumpernickel bread, a good bottle of olive oil and a handful of roasted walnuts and you're set for the night.

So what cheese to buy at Whole Foods?

Well you certainly wouldn't want the Livarot with your Delirium Noel -- this is a case of oil and water. The Livarot will take control of the relationship and make it all about the cheese, masking any of the unique and dynamic nuances of the beer. This sort of washed rind stinker calls for a medium bodied, fruit forward wine, maybe a Riesling. Certain cheeses just aren't meant to be paired with beers and if I do say so myself, Livarot is one of those.

The remaining two cheeses pose an interesting conundrum because each works for its own reasons but obviously if you're not a blue cheese fan, the Roquefort would be off the table. Let's get to why each works...

Buying yourself some Roquefort is definitely taking the road less traveled in terms of pairing here. The piquant spiciness of the creamy cheese needs somewhat of a sweet counterpart to coax out the cheese's flavor nuances. The tartness of the beer will cut the creaminess of the cheese while the molasses, candied apple, malt, and spice notes of the beer will balance the punch of the cheese creating a lovely yet intense pairing -- a great way to awaken your senses on a cold evening. Each has a big presence here but they balance each other out. Beer and cheese pairing should sometimes be about pushing one's limits and that's why I'd vote for this pairing personally.

However if you want to go the easier, non-blue cheese route, grab some Abondance which will give the beer an opportunity to shine as the beer is more dynamic than the cheese. The floral fragrance of the cheese will bring out the spice notes of the beer and the buttery creamy paste will be a good backdrop for the tartness of the beer. Each has a nice silky texture, smooth complementing smooth.

I leave it to you folks to determine which you prefer! You know my preference. I personally think blue cheese is traditionally fantastic with darker beers -- depth and weight working together!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day Three Twenty Eight - Delirium Noel Marriage Mondays

Delirium is a Belgian beer producer most well known for its Tremens which utilizes three different types of yeast to help ferment the alcoholic beverage you will then be able to enjoy! My favorite of the Delirium family is by far their Noel beer. Released in the wintertime in time for Christmas, this rich and dark Belgian Brown ale is the perfect winter beer -- warming yet crisp and invigorating with a high alcohol content, clocking in at 10% abv. With such a high alcohol content, you would think it would be very heavy on the booze notes on the tongue, but not at all, it is a very easy drinking beer. Somewhat tart and piquantly peppery with candied apple, molasses, cinnamon, clove, caramel, and some malty yeasty notes. Smooth and somewhat silky with a full mouth feel and a subtly creamy finish.

If you are looking to pick it up at the store, look for one of these four labels with their classic pink elephant:


So what goes with this superstar of a beer?

Contestant Number # 1: Roquefort - THE classic French blue cheese -- a piquant sheep's milk blue crafted in south central France by seven different producers. An AOC certified cheese since 1925, this blue is special! Why? Well apart from being a fabulously dynamic and well balanced blue, it also has to do with the infusion of penicillium roqueforti mold that allows this cheese to develop its certain "je ne sais quoi." Spicy, creamy, rich, crumbly, and almost even a little chalky, this is a blue cheese that announces its presence for all the right reasons. Will those reasons work with our beer?

Contestant Number # 2: Livarot - Hailing from Normandy in Northern France, this is one stinky washed rind cheese! Easily picked out from a line of cheeses, our second contestant is the most pungent. Crafted with cow's milk into cylindrical shapes wrapped in orange (due to annato) strips of raffia that maintain its circular shape while it ages. It is creamy, luscious, soft, and decadent with fabulously funky barnyardy, yeasty, and straw notes. Does this stinker have what it takes with our Delirium?

Contestant Number # 3: Abondance - Our final contestant hails from deep in the mountains of the Haute Savoie, also in France. Raw cow's milk cheese makes up this semi-firm, buttery and nutty cheese.
Floral and fragrant, this cheese has a nice sweetness to it with lovely and bright hay notes on the finish. Will our mountain man win this week?

Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Twenty Seven - A Trader Joe's Pepato

Pecorino Pepato, that classic young Italian creamy semi firm cheese that is infused with black peppercorns is a favorite of mine. Rich and milky with the piquant back end of the peppercorns -- a nice mix of flavor nuances.

Trader Joe's makes their own version called Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper and I have to admit for $7.99 a pound, it might give the original Pepato a run for its money. Richer and nuttier with butterscotchy notes. Instead of having an infusion of black peppercorns spread throughout the paste, this version is coated with cracked pepper so you don't have the opportunity to bite into an entire peppercorn while enjoying the cheese -- there's still that certain "je ne sais quoi" of the black pepper but there is also a salty, vegetal quality to this cheese -- the perfect grating cheese over pasta or melted on its own.

Sometimes its nice to change up the norm, right? It's always nice to know what to buy at Trader Joe's and I am here to help!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Twenty Six - New Year's Cheeses!

Happy New Year my dear Fromagical readers!

I hope you all had a lovely New Year's celebration and wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011!

Last night, my good friend out-did herself with a fabulous New Year's Eve Southern feast - deviled eggs, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, green beans, asparagus, black eyed peas, and homemade cheddar cornbread. As I'd mentioned on Thursday, I brought along cheese from ideally south of the Mason-Dixon line to keep with the theme! Two of the three cheeses I brought were definitely from south of the Mason Dixon line and one was somewhat debate-able as it originates from a farm on the Indiana - Kentucky border.

What did I bring?

1. Old Kentucky Tomme, IN - A bloomy rind aged raw goat's milk cheese made by Capriole. Barnyardy, mushroomy, and funky with a creamy tangy finish, this is a nice weighty mouthful of cheesy goodness.

2. Mini Grayson, VA - Grayson, that washed rind stinker I discussed on Thursday made by Meadow Creek Farm is dialed up a notch here because it is also washed in local Highland Brewing Company beer -- giving the cheesy paste that nice briny feel with hints of hops. Lighter than its larger cousin, these light squares are sweet and grassy with that classic washed rind punch -- a true treat!

3. Singing Brook Cheese, TN - Blackberry Farm in Tennessee crafts this unpasteurized aged sheep's milk cheese. Olive oil washed, modeled on the style of a Pecorino Toscano, this is firm cheese full of buttery, milky nutty notes, a nice counterpart to the washed rind stink of the Mini Grayson and the lusciousness of the Old Kentucky Tomme.

Was it missing a blue cheese? Yes, I thought so, but four cheeses might be have been too much with everything else last night and plus I had significant trouble finding a blue cheese from south of the Mason Dixon that was available here.

Enjoy your New Year's day folks!

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