Monday, February 28, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Eighty Four : Looking forward to Springtime

It's the last day of February -- no more snow coming down, yes it is still technically winter, but it sure isn't as cold as it has been. Today's weather repertoire of rain, gray-ness, and slightly better temperatures signaled to me that Spring was on the horizon. It was the sort of day that makes you feel like you've been transplanted from New York to London. So I thought we should have a cheese that is full of sunshine and brightness today, hinting towards Springtime. What cheese would that be?

Hailing from the Golden State with warmer temperatures and plenty of sunshine, this young cheese follows in the footsteps of yesterday's "Social Network" cheese pick -- Fresh chevre from Cypress Grove Creamery in California. Known as Purple Haze, it is a four ounce disk of young tangy goat's milk paste infused with lavender and fennel pollen -- full of herbaceous and vegetal notes. This is a cheese that feels alive, full of pep and spunk -- to me it signals mornings of birds chirping, blue skies, sunshine and leaves sprouting on the trees.

Want to fast forward to springtime? Go grab a wheel of Purple Haze and a nice bottle of white wine and put the cold, dreary, snowy, winter behind you!

                                                               Image courtesy of

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Eighty Three - The Cheese Oscars

For today's post, I thought I'd match ten cheeses with the ten movies up for Best Picture Oscar this evening instead of suggesting what cheeses to take to an Oscar party. The cheese selections will be based on the film / plot / actors / director etc, I'll let you be the judge of why I chose what I chose.

Of the movies up for Best Picture I've seen most, not all -- Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours and the Social Network. The movies I have not seen are -- Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter's Bone so excuse me if my references aren't excellent.

So who are the cheese nominees?

Black Swan : Selles sur Cher - This Loire Valley goat's milk cheese has a greyish black exterior, our black swan, from the ash applied to help the aging process and a fabulously white ivory interior, our white swan. Tangy and punchy with that satisfying goaty milky-ness.

The Fighter : Cabrales - This Spanish cheese comes at you with guns blazing -- it is the most punchy, spicy, intense and in your face blue cheese I know, somewhat like Christian Bale in the Fighter, in your face. It is a mixed milk cheese -- cow, goat, and sheep's milk; slightly granular with a vegetal and farmsteady bent. This cheese surely is rough around the edges!

The Kids Are Alright : St Pat -- This California girl is strictly seasonal, only available in the springtime when the birds are chirping and new romances are a-blooming, kind of like Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore's brief romance. A cow's milk bloomy rind cheese that is wrapped with stinging nettle leaves giving you a creamy luscious mouthfeel with a nice herbaceous vegetal artichoke bent.

The King's Speech : Stilton -- The most regal of the blue cheeses out there, this cheese surely knows how to dress up any cheese plate, served I am sure at plenty of royal dinners, this cheese never gives up, just like Colin Firth fixing his speech stutter with Geoffrey Rush.

127 Hours : Parmesan -- Grab an aged Parmesan, preferably one aged at least 3 to 8 years here, it's worth the wait, you sure will be waiting longer than James Franco did but you won't have to cut off your arm to survive.

The Social Network : Cypress Grove's Fresh Chevre -- Young, fresh, exciting, dynamic and new, just like the Facebook was when it was created by Mark Zuckerberg. Crafted not that far away from Silicon Valley, this cheese melts in your mouth full of grassy citrus notes that are designed to delight.

Toy Story 3 : Huntsman -- Bright orange cheddar is combined with the blue hued Stilton to make this firm creamy nutty yet spicy but all around satisfying cheese -- just as bright in color as the cartoon characters in this film!

True Grit : Promontory from Beehive Cheese -- Named for the intersection of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Rail Road lines -- the key to the West expansion, this is an Irish style cheese....Westerns and the wild west were a different place once the railroads arrived. The cheese is buttery with a round mouth feel with nice floral and citrus notes.

Winter's Bone : Doolan -- Made in the mountains of Pennsylvania, far from the Ozarks, and not nearly as rough around the edges as this movie is said to be, this is a nice tall cylinder of hard aged goat's milk cheese, delish and crisp.

So who will the Oscar go to this evening? Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Eighty Two - Spanish Cheeses at Graffit

Last night I had the pleasure of dining at Graffit restaurant for a joint birthday celebration -- plenty of delish inventive food, good wine, lovely conversation and an overall great time. As part of the meal we ordered a selection of three of their Spanish cheeses: Valdeon, Ibores, and Garrorxa. They had about eight different Spanish cheeses to choose from. Accompanied by a variety of homemade jams, jellies, honey, and crostini, the cheese surely didn't disappoint. The three cheeses I chose were from three distinct regions of Spain showcasing the breadth and depth of Spanish cheese production and experimentation.

Valdeon is a mixed milk blue cheese from Castilla y Leon region-- pasteurized cow and goat to be precise. Wrapped in sycamore leaves during its two to three month aging process, this is a powerful and punchy blue. Considered the more approachable cousin of Cabrales (one of the most intense blue cheeses one will find), this cheese sure is stronger, saltier, spicier, and more biting than say a Stilton or a Gorgonzola Picante. Round mouthfeel with a nice vegetal herbaceous farmstead-y notes from the sycamore leaves. Definitely not for the blue cheese amateurs!

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Ibores is a firm goat's milk cheese hailing from the Extremadura region of Spain. Making this cheese stand out from the crowd is the olive oil and paprika that have been rubbed on its exterior over the two month aging process. Bright ivory white interior paste is greatly contrasted with the rusty orange reddish exterior. Lactic and milky with a zesty tangy finish and a very versatile pairing partner.

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Garrotxa is another goat's milk cheese produced this time in the Catalonia region of northern Spanish. Coated with blue-grey mold in the exterior of the cheese to help the aging process, this is Spanish firm goat's milk cheese done right. Lactic, grassy, citrusy and milky with a snappy light crisp finish. This is the sort of cheese that would please any cheese lover, experienced or amateur. An easy pairing partner as well, this is a great introduction into Spanish cheese, apart from Manchego.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Eighty One - A GCF fit for the Oscars!

Today I thought we'd have a guest appearance of one of our old traditions -- GCFs or grilled cheese Fridays and why not do a gussied dressed up GCF with Truffle Tremor. Truffle Tremor hails from Cypress Grove in California and is a bloomy rind aged Goat's milk cheese that is infused with black truffles giving the crisp, citrus-y, grassy, bright and lactic paste an earthy rustic delicately decadent twist. Truffle Tremor is fabulous on its own but I thought we would dial things up a notch and make a GCF utilizing the fantastic Truffle Tremor, some raw honey, and a few diced chives on nice thin slices of French baguette that have been lightly brushed with truffle oil. A simple straightforward yet fabulous GCF. We can pair this with some Prosecco and a homemade citrus salad.

What's in your citrus salad?

1 pink grapefruit
1 white grapefruit
2 navel oranges
2 blood oranges

1/4 cup of mint
1/4 cup of basil
Teaspoon of diced chives to mirror the GCF
Drizzle of Raw Honey for sweetness

Combine all together and let the juices meld to form a bright, refreshing, juicy and herbal salad to go with your creamy truffle forward GCF.

Have a great weekend folks!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Eighty - How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 3

How to Save :

Searching for an American artisanal cheese that is under $10 a pound? Maybe you're having a bunch of people over for the Oscars but don't want to break the bank? You've come to the right place, how about Black River Blue? Clocking in at $9.99 a pound at Murray's Cheese it will surely be a hit! Great with a nice beer or a glass of red wine, it is a very versatile blue.

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Crafted by North Hendren Co-op in Willard, Wisconsin who have been in the cheese business since 1923, Black River Blue is one of two cheeses in their regimen, the other being a Gorgonzola.  Made with fresh milk and a closely protected recipe this blue cheese is medium bodied -- creamy and buttery with that  fabulous blue spicy piquant punch and a nice bright milky citrus-y finish! It has that classic blue veining with a nice ivory paste and somewhat crumbly.  This is American farmstead cheese done right and affordable! So take yourself to Murray's Cheese and pick some up for the Oscars or for a night in with friends or to share with some wine and that special someone.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Nine : Fast, Easy, Fresh Dinners for one

Today seems like the right sort of day for roast vegetables  -- comforting, homey, warming, simple and delish. With winter hopefully nearing a close, I thought it would be just right to celebrate winter's root vegetable bounty today -- how about some la ratte potatoes? Purple  Peruvian potatoes? Gold Ball Turnips? Parsnips? Sunchokes? Carrots? Chop them all up, toss some fleur de sel, EVOO, fresh rosemary and thyme over them and place them in the oven to cook over 300 degree heat for thirty to forty minutes, until they are golden brown.

Let's dial up the rustic feel today and make a homemade warm spicy roasted tomato, white bean, Parmesan, Pecorino Pepato, herb "salsa" to go over the top of those roasted veggies, adding a certain je ne sais quoi!

While you are roasting your veggies, slice up a cup of cherry tomatoes, place them on a flat oven safe pan, add some crushed garlic, EVOO, oregano, dried basil, sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes shrink up. Take them out and combine with a half cup of cannellini beans, some dijon mustard, EVOO, crushed red pepper, fresh basil, oregano, and parsley, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan & 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Pepato for that black peppery kick. Mix all together and let the flavors meld, it should be a herbaceous spicy cheesy tomato bean-y salsa perfect as a bright counterpart for our roasted veggies! Enjoy with a nice glass of medium bodied rustic red, perhaps a nice Nero D'Avola.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Eight - SCS Spotlight - Dispatch # 2, Blue cheeses

Last week was bloomy rind cheeses from New York and England, this week we will take on blue cheeses from our respective State and Country.

Ewe's Blue hails from the Hudson River Valley region of upstate New York, more precisely Old Chatham to be exact, produced by Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, the largest sheep dairy in the US. They are most well known for Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert, but between you and me, I personally prefer their Ewe's Blue, it sure gives the European great blues a run for their money.  One hundred percent East Friesian sheep's milk crafted in the traditional Roquefort style, inoculation with Penicillium Roqueforti and aged for at least six months, this completely vegetarian cheese delights on the palate. Smooth yet spicy, simple yet refined, dynamic and well-made and all around delightful. A nice ale would be lovely with this blue or even a medium bodied red but this if you ask me is a blue cheese made for a frothy fabulous beer!

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And what about our dear friends across the pond? Who will they propose? There's of course Stilton we all know and love but I thought today, I'd propose what's considered the orange Stilton, otherwise known as Shropshire Blue. What makes it that fabulous orange color? Annatto, the natural food dye. Crafted with one hundred percent cow's milk and a natural rind that is developed over the course of its two to three month aging period. Originally known as Blue Stuart when it was first crafted in the 1970s, over time the name, Shropshire Blue was adapted to aid in helping it gain popularity. Sour on the outset, dial up the punch from a classic Stilton, increase the piquant and tang qualities and add in a bit more creaminess and you get today's Englishman. Caramelly on the finish, it will pair perfectly with a sweet wine, you cannot go wrong!

Image courtesy of

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Seven - President's Day Cheese

It's the third Monday in February meaning that it is President's Day, an opportunity to celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and a three day weekend for some. As the years have passed, this day has also come to symbolize the many birthdays of other American Presidents and is utilized as a marketing tool for retail sales geared at the consumer with mid-winter blues / a three day weekend on their hands and free time. For today's post, I thought it would be fun to suggest cheeses that could be paired with some of the favorite foods of each George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I thought that I would keep the cheeses straight forward and easily accessible to the masses today rather than choosing my favorite local and obscure cheeses that are location specific somewhat.

It is said that George Washington loved cherries, cherry pie, and everything cherry. He loved fish, potatoes, string beans, sweet and savory pies, and more but for our purposes today, I thought we'd adopt the cherry -- a great fruit to pair with a blue cheese. The sweet juicy tartness of the cherry will find its counterpart in the creamy spicy piquant qualities of the blue cheese -- the perfect marriage of opposites attracting. So what blue cheese did I choose?

Buttermilk Blue cheese hailing from Roth Kase cheesemakers in Wisconsin. Made from the raw milk of Jersey and Holstein cows and inoculated with mold to help age this mid-western gem for two months. You get a gentle yet spicy blue, with a clean tangy mild finish. A great starter blue, perfect for snacking, dips, cooking, and pairing with fresh cherries or cherry compote in honor of George Washington.

Image courtesy of

So what about Abraham Lincoln? It is said that Lincoln wasn't the biggest fan of food and eating but he did have a fondness for fresh fruit especially apples, apple pie, cheese and crackers, biscuits,  and oyster stew. Although I am sure I could attempt to come up with a cheese that might be the perfect counterpart to oyster stew, I thought we might take on something easier here like apples. How about pairing it with Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from the great cheese making state of Vermont? Crafted by Cabot, this traditional English style clothbound cheddar cheese is then aged in the cellars of Jasper Hill in Greensboro, VT for around a year, if not longer. The end product is a result of a perfect cheesemaking partnership -- complex, nutty, firm, caramelly, sharp and even somewhat biting. It is an excellent pairing with Lincoln's apples and maybe a small drizzle of honey over the top. 

Enjoy your President's Day folks!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Six - Brunch at Nice Matin

Nice Matin is one of those Upper West institutions -- always crowded, reliable and yummy food, and a nice atmosphere. Unfortunately however they do not take bookings for Sunday brunch which depending on the time you go and the number of people in your party, it could be a bit of a wait. Not today for us really and we got sat at a sun drenched table looking out onto West 79th Street.

Their brunch menu is a mixture of standard breakfast / brunch dishes with a nicoise inventive twist along with a selection of more standard lunch fare. They are participating in a stinky cheese festival going on around town for the next week but unfortunately it seemed that the stinky cheese fest was more of a dinner event.

So what did I have?

An artichoke, leek, pesto, Parmesan, and ricotta egg white frittata which was lovely, herbaceous, flavorful and satisfying after a nice long run in the windy cold weather this morning. Rustic yet light, the perfect bridging of winter and spring! Got me thinking, people don't use leeks enough in eggs, they provide a fabulous texture and unique flavor.

Go for a yummy and satisfying meal and enjoy the people watching, great for brunch or dinner, at any time of day.

Nice Matin
201 West 79th Street

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Five : A basic Eastern European Cheese Primer

By special request of a Fromagical follower, today I'll be giving you a brief introduction into the cheeses of Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungry, and Romania), at least what I know of them. I guarantee traveling to these different nations you will find authentic, fresh, unique, and non-imported cheeses so this pretty much is a primer of cheeses from that region and their history. In eras past, cheeses produced in this region were never consumed outside the borders of their home countries. Now, that is not the case in our contemporary society where local and national produce transcend international borders.

Eastern Europe's cheese making timeline is closely tied to the constant shifting and changing of national borders over the course of history. Greatly influenced by the great cheeses of Western Europe, we see the appropriation of classics -- Mozzarella style cheeses, Asiago style cheeses, Swiss style cheeses and more. However the most widely produced cheese influenced by neighboring countries would have to be Feta style cheeses - white, paste-y, young sheep's milk cheeses aged in brine. Bulgarian and Romanian cheesemakers adopted the Greek feta producing techniques to create cheeses like Brinza and Telemea from Romania and Sirene from Bulgaria (translated from Bulgarian, it means white cheese). Each are produced as simple white table cheeses that are crafted in the technique of fetas and are meant to be served plain with bread as an accompaniment to a meal or can also be utilized to cook.

The most well known and widely imported cheese from the region is Kashkaval (meaning yellow cheese), produced in Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Macedonia, and Serbia, this cheese was inspired by and dervived from the Italian Caciocavallo. It is a yellow sheep's milk cheese that is aged for six months and is classically smooth, buttery, and milky with a nice tangy olive oil finish. Essential to the Eastern European diet, you see Kashkaval utilized as a snacking cheese, grilled as it doesn't melt kind of like Halloumi, or cooked with. There's even a restaurant on 9th avenue here in Manhattan named after it.

So now that we covered the white cheeses and the yellow cheeses, let me tell you about the most unique cheese from the region I know of -- Ardalena. Produced in the Transylvania region of central Romania with Transylvanian water buffalo milk, this cheese sure is special and truly local to the region. Aged for twelve months, it is hard and firm with some holes of various sizes -- an honest and pure cheese. Slightly tangy, with hints of grassy farmstead-ness and butterscotch / caramelly notes with some crystallization like other aged firm cheeses, this is a must try. How often can you say you had a cheese made with the milk of Transylvanian water buffalo?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Four : A spring like salad for a spring like day!

It's 67 degrees out and February 18th, crazy right? No coats necessary! A glass of bright crisp white wine is in order! So I thought we would celebrate the warmth that will quickly fade with a bright green salad.

So what's in this salad?

1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen edamame
1 Persian cucumber
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
Crumbled Bucheron cheese
Chopped up mint & parsley
Toasted slivered almonds
Homemade Vinaigrette

For me, peas and edamame signal the beginning of spring and unfortunately with all of the cold weather this winter, the notion of getting fresh peas or edamame is not really realistic, at least not yet. That's ok, you can get by utilizing the frozen kind here. Saute both with some EVOO, sea salt and a shallot and you will barely be able to tell that they were frozen. There are a very few veggies I don't mind utilizing the frozen versions of and peas and edamame fall into that category so once sauteed, I guarantee they will be delish. Chop up a few leaves of fresh mint and fresh parsley to bring that bright herbaceousness to the salad. Toss the spinach, herbs and a diced Persian cucumber all together, add the peas and edamame to the mix. While you are doing all of this prep, place a handful of slivered almonds into the oven and toast over very low heat -- 200 degrees for ten minutes or until they are golden brown. Add the almonds to the salad and then crumble up some Bucheron over the top. Bucheron, in case you aren't familiar is a bloomy rind log aged goat's milk cheese that is grassy, citrus-y, lactic, chalky, and all around creamy and delish, the perfect light cheese for this springy salad!

Mix all together and then add your homemade vinaigrette (EVOO, sherry vinegar, half a sauteed shallot, a tablespoon of dijon mustard, and a few drops of lemon juice for that citrus kick!). Enjoy with a nice glass of crisp white, like a Sancerre would be lovely!

Enjoy the warmth while it lasts folks!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Three : How to Save / Splurge Dispatch 2

How to Splurge :

Take thee to Artisanal Cheese either in person or online and order some of the Beromunster Schafskase, don't try to pronounce it, just point to it. It is the only place you will find this deliciously decadently nutty cheese in New York. Hailing from Canton Lucerne, Switzerland it is crafted with the milk of Laucane sheep, the most fabulous and richest sheep's milk out there. What makes this different from other Swiss cheeses I'm sure you're wondering? Well that my friends is because it is the perfect melding of traditional milky creamy-ness of firm French Pyrenees style cheeses like Ossau Vielle and the nutty butterscotchy-ness of those hole-y Swiss cheeses we all know and love, it bridges a cultural gap in cheese form. Doesn't that sound appealing to you? Sure does to me!

Sweet, creamy, indulgent with a grassy herbaceous side to it, it is designed to delight. This sure isn't the Honda of Swiss cheese, its the Maybach. Clocking in at $45 a pound, this sure is a splurge but worth it for a special occasion. Enjoy with a nice crisp white.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy Two : Red Rooster Inspired

Last night I went to the much hyped new Harlem restaurant by famed chef, Marcus Samuelsson -- innovative cuisine drawing on a variety of inspirations -- the chef's training in Northern European cuisine mixed with the classic flavors and roots of the neighborhood and delivered on a plate in a spectacular manner. Although I didn't have any cheese and this my friends is a blog about cheese, I did get inspired by a side dish of collard greens and the spread that they serve with your bread composed of chickpeas, EVOO, and balsamic vinegar. So I thought I would create my own version of an open faced sandwich -- homey yet dressed up, flavors that you know and love with a twist, just like Red Rooster.

For our dish, I thought we would make a smoked cannellini bean spread with sauteed kale, mustard greens and fennel leaves over the top of a nice crusty bread.

1/4 lb of Salvatore Brooklyn Smoked Ricotta
1/4 lb of Salvatore Brooklyn Ricotta
1 can of Cannellini Beans (you can use dried ones that you cook as well)
Large drizzle of EVOO
Two tablespoons of tahini
1 garlic clove
Sea Salt and Crushed Red Pepper to taste
Handful of chopped parsley
Drizzle of lemon
1/2 teaspoon of srichacha for a nice little kick.

Blend all together in the food processor and you will get a creamy bean dip with a nice herbaceousness and the perfect amount of kick.


1 bunch of mustard greens
1/2 bunch of kale
1 shallot
Handful of the greens atop a fennel bulb or fennel greens as I'm calling them
Sea salt and crushed red pepper to taste

Saute over medium heat for seven to ten minutes.

Grab your crunchy bread and spread a nice amount of your dip and top with the sauteed greens and a few thin slivers of fennel. It will be smoky, creamy, cheesy, herbaceous, vegetal and an all around delight to the senses. I'd enjoy this with a nice light white wine.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy One - SCS Spotlight # 1 : New York & England

For our first dosage of SCS - State / City spotlight, I thought I'd stick close to home with a cheese from New York and then a cheese from England. This week's focus is bloomy rind cheeses -- Kunik and Waterloo.

Kunik hails from Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman, New York in the Adirondacks. Run since 1990 by Lorraine Lambiase and Sheilia Flanagan, Nettle Meadow is home to 300 goats, a few dozen sheep and other farm animals. They produce a variety of soft cheeses -- infused chevres and fromage blancs along with a few aged cheeses of which Kunik is one. Made with seventy-five percent goat's milk and twenty-five percent Jersey Cow's milk this a dynamic, unusual, and unctuous triple cream cheese. With a bloomy white rind on the exterior and a decadent creamy interior, this cheese fills every corner of your mouth in the right sort of way. It's roundness of mouth feel is opposed with the light, tangy, grassy-ness of the goat's milk providing one with the perfect balance -- soft, creamy, luscious, unique and a true New Yorker at heart!

What sort of treat do we have on hand from across the pond? How about a nice taste of Waterloo? Crafted by Anne and Andy Wigmore, retired executives from London who decided to pursue a slower pace of life and look where it got them?!? A washed curd not washed rind cheese meaning that a certain amount of curd is replaced with water before the curds are drained and moulded. This produces a gentler and weaker cheese, one that is very round around the edges but for all the right reasons. Creamy, vegetal, herbaceous, unique, fabulous, this is a force to be reckoned with!

Stay tuned for next week's NY + UK SCS, night folks :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Seventy - Valentine's Day Cheeses

Happy Valentine's Day Fromagical friends! Going out for a romantic dinner with that special someone? Staying home alone and watching a movie? Going out with friends for fun? Treating yourself to something you haven't done in a while? Whatever you plan on doing, I hope you all enjoy your evening.

For today's Valentine day post, I thought I'd suggest three different cheeses that would be great either separately or as a cheese tasting for you and your special someone or for a group of friends getting together or for those not interested in celebrating. There are quite a few creameries that produce cheeses specifically for Valentine's.

1. Red Hot For You - Cowgirl Creamery's answer to Valentine's Day cheese.  A triple cream cow's milk cheese made in the shape of a heart that has been lightly dusted with red hot mixture of Georgia flame and Jalapeno peppers. Decadence, yes definitely! Indulgent, creamy, and over the top, of course! With a nice hint of spice and everything nice, this cheese is destined to wake up those emotions. Enjoy with a glass of bubbly.

2. Brin D'Amour - Why not have a cheese with the word love in its name? Meaning Love Strand, this Corsican delight is an uncooked and unpressed sheep's milk cheese that is dusted with rosemary, thyme, coriander seeds, and other savory aromatic herbs characteristic of the rocky mountainous terroir. This cheese is rough around the edges in all the right ways however inside its all creamy milky delight. Unique, this cheese stands alone. Best with a nice crisp dry white wine. 

3.  Aged Bloomsday - Cato Corner farm's fabulous mistake, a ten to twelve month aged cow's milk cheese that is named for Joyce's Ulysses. Nutty and sweet with hints of butterscotch and burnt caramel, this cheese is the perfect as the counterpart to the herbaceous inventive qualities of other two cheeses. You always want something simple yet intense, a firm cheese that will be pleasing across the board with a twist. Great for grilled cheeses, unctuous and oozing or snacking on its own. Drizzled with honey, this cheese sings beautifully. Nice with a medium bodied red.

Also a good option would be Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor, a delish goat's milk creamy cheese infused with truffles. Valentine's Day is about decadence right, so why not grab some of this as well? 

So Happy Valentine's Folks! Enjoy your cheese and your evening.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Nine : Valentine's Market?

This weekend the New Amsterdam Market was putting on a special weekend long Valentine's Day Market. The New Amsterdam Market was originally started as a pop-up market consisting of all local vendors and purveyors, meant as a way to stimulate the local economy and somewhat based on the fabulous markets of a New York of yesteryear. I fully back the New Amsterdam Market's mission and think all of their markets I have been to have been unique, wonderful, and amazing. That is except this one. Housed inside the New Amsterdam Market school (who knew they had a school? I didn't!), this was a market specializing in Valentine's day gifts -- candies from Liddabit Sweets, of course chocolates from Mast Brothers; ice cream from The Bent Spoon; homemade syrups and sodas from P&H sodas, nuts, heirlooms citrus, and teas from Terra Cura Botanticals. Yes, it was a nice selection of homemade local goods but I felt that it was supremely lacking!

A Valentine's Day market shouldn't just focus on sweets, teas, chocolates, and the such! Where are the heart shaped cheeses like the aged Goat's milk special production cheese from Coach Barn? Or even heart shaped breads? I bet you could find that at Amy's Bread. Just because the tradition is sweets for your sweet, why should an nontraditional market try to conform to tradition?

So folks, tomorrow I will provide you with three recommendations for Valentine's Day cheeses, who ever said that cheese couldn't be an aphrodisiac right?

I look forward to warmer weather when the New Amsterdam Market can resume its outdoor locale with diverse, distinct, and delish local produce and purveyors.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Eight : Nisa

Everybody seems to be talking about Portuguese wines as of late. Why I'm not sure, but apparently February is the month for wine stores to have Portuguese specials. So I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon and tell you all about one of my favorite Portuguese cheeses -- Nisa.

Crafted in the Eastern central portion of Portugal, this raw sheep's milk cheese is quite the delight! Coagulated with vegetarian cardoon thistle rennet, this cheese is nothing like other cheeses crafted with thistle which tend to have hints of bitterness. Not Nisa, it has the most fabulous round subtly sweet mouth feel. I am sure you are thinking thistle? Yes, there are a few cheese makers that utilize thistle as a coagulant, most of them hail from Spain or Portugal.

Cardoon thistle, in case you couldn't call an image to mind :)

Yellowish rusty brown on the exterior with a bright ivory interior, it is only aged for between 45 and 70 days. So why do I love this cheese?

Well it's got classic sheep moments -- fullness of flavor, creamy, slightly earthy, barnyardy and farmy, with heated milk notes. Definitely rustic! But the cardoon thistle elevates what would otherwise be a not very exciting but well done cheese to a whole new level -- the cheese becomes minerally, grassy, herbaceous, and overall decadently fabulous. The perfect balance of lightness and weighty-ness. So go grab some at Murray's Cheese and have it with a nice minerally white or a light to medium bodied red of the region.

Image courtesy of

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Seven : Flatbreads galore

Last night at dinner, I had an interpretation of a flatbread pizza -- puff pastry, Montenebro cheese, semi dried tomatoes, onion marmalade, and mesclun greens on top. It was the perfect mixture of salad and pizza, light, simple, and delish!

So I thought for today, we would take the key ingredient of last night's flatbread and make it our own to ring in the weekend! Let's utilize that Montenebro as the centerpiece. Unsure of what Montenebro is?

It's a Spanish log goat cheese crafted by Rafael Baez and his daughter in Avila, west of Madrid. It has an uneven grey-ish rind, due to the exterior of the cheese having been coated in Penicillium Roqueforti (the mold that makes blue cheese), during its aging process. On the inside, the paste is bright white and firm with that classic lactic citrus tang of a beautifully aged goat's milk cheese. The peppery piquant pungent rind definitely plays a nice counterpart to the interior paste. But wait, don't forget the cream line between the two, a result of the aging process -- somewhat earthy, walnut-y and decadently rich.

Ok so now you've got your cheese, what else do you need? How about some sauteed brussel sprout leaves, zucchini spears, and pine nuts? I know that sounds like an interesting combination for a pizza, but the unusual and bold profile of the cheese will play off the earthy nutty saltiness of the pine nuts and the herbaceous vegetal qualities of zucchini and brussel sprouts with their hints of sweetness will round out the pizza perfectly.

Shall we get to assembling it?

Let's assume you want to utilize frozen pizza crust, that's completely fine. Go ahead. Coat with a nice thin layer of EVOO then place a generous amount of montenebro on top, some fleur de sel and ground black pepper. Place this in the oven at 300 degrees for ten minutes. While that is the oven, saute brussel sprout leaves, zucchini spears, and pine nuts with EVOO and shallots till the veggies are golden brown, approximately the length of time the pizza is in the oven. Take the pizza out and add the veggies to the top and add a small drizzle of EVOO and some fresh rosemary. Pop back in the oven for another ten minutes. Add some black pepper and if you like a jolt of spice like I do, some crushed red pepper. Cut and serve with Fritsch Red Soil Zweigelt. An Austrian red wine, medium bodied, fruit forward red wine that will be perfect with this creamy vegetal flatbread pizza.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Six - How to Save / How to Splurge 1

How to Save :

This inaugural week will feature an affordable cheese that when dressed up can taste like a million bucks but your wallet won't feel that much lighter.

What is it?

Trader Joe's Chevre with Honey at $3.79 for 8 ounces this luscious creamy tangy citrus-y grassy yet subtly sweet cheese with a fabulously lactic round mouth feel is Trader Joe's version of the more pricey Cana de Cabra with honey. 

How to serve it? 

On some oatcakes with sliced apples and honey. Great for an appetizer or a savory yet sweet dessert. 

What to serve it with?

A light crisp white wine or even some Prosecco. I think it goes excellently with a nice Gruner Veltliner.

Next week stay tuned for a splurge....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Five - Happy 1st Birthday Fromagical!

Fromagical turns ONE today, how exciting! Let's pull out the bubbly and the decadent cheese and celebrate this monumental occasion! Looking back to that first week of posts and my goals, I got to thinking about Fromagical at the beginning of its second year.

Will I stop writing as I said I would -- do the Julie Powell experiment for a year and see where it has led but close that chapter after one year?

Nope! I love the daily routine of writing about cheese, wine, beer, food, life and more. It provides me with the constant opportunity to share my knowledge bringing people closer together while continuing to learn and expanding my horizons, so folks, Fromagical is going nowhere. It's just growing older. Things get better with vintage, don't they?

I've heard that it takes at least a year for a blog to take off and now that I am at my year point, I am writing to you, my devoted Fromagical readers, asking you for the first time to please help spread the Fromagical word to new ears and eyes. My goal for year two is to greatly expand my Fromagical audience, grow the blog's following, and maybe hopefully turn it into a book one day -- of fabulously fantastic fromage fun!

So I'm sure the burning question is how will the blog change in its second year?

We will institute new traditions. Year One traditions of Marriage Mondays and Grilled Cheese Fridays will now become monthly guest appearances. MM's will appear the first week of the month and GCF's the last Friday of the month. Fast easy fresh dinners and cheese spy stories will still make their guest appearances from time to time.

So what will this year's traditions bring?

1. A rotating weekly column : How to splurge vs. How to save? One week we will have a spotlight on a prudent and affordable cheese and the next week something truly decadent and extravagant! This column will appear on Thursdays starting tomorrow.

2. State / Country Spotlight (SCS) : Each month, we will have a spotlight focus on one state and one country. On a weekly basis we will learn about a different cheese/cheesemaker from one US state and one international country. Then at the end of the month, we will tackle a new state and a new country and begin our investigations. This tradition is geared towards educating my readers about the different cheeses being produced in specific geographical regions, learning about how important terroir truly is or isn't. I will provide a suggested pairing for each national and international cheese as well. This column will appear on Tuesdays starting next week.

Thank you dear readers for your support in my inaugural year of Fromagical, I look forward to many more fabulous posts, weeks, years, classes, questions, dialogs, cheeses, wines, beers, and meals to come! Interested in learning about the cheeses from a particular country? Let me know and I will make sure it happens. Have I not covered a topic you'd like to know more about? Please feel free to send me feedback, recommendations, thoughts on this exciting day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Four : Airco Results

So folks, who do you think won out for the ideal Airco pairing and how did I decide what pairing would work best?

I decided what pairing would work best based on what I thought would make the best sort of food to eat while watching a sporting event like the Superbowl mixed obviously with the best way to display the unique nuances of the Airco. Airco is a melting cheese, not a cooking cheese. By that I mean, it's great for grilled cheeses but less great for creamy cheesy sauces.

So who won?

How does a portobello mushroom burger with melted Airco, homemade arugula pesto, caramelized onions and sundried tomatoes sound? Good right?

Let me explain a little more in depth why a fresh tomato or the eggplant wouldn't work as successfully... Fresh tomatoes juiciness would overwhelm the delicate sweet smokiness of the cheese and mask its most excellent flavor nuances. An eggplant, although somewhat of a blank canvas, does not need to dial up it's smoky bitterness, it needs to downplay it with a cheese like mozzarella that is fresh, lactic, creamy and luscious -- opposites attract for our dear eggplant.

The portobello on the other hand with its earthy meaty-ness will be the perfect backdrop for the hickory sweetness of the cheese. The homemade arugula pesto and caramelized onions will add some herbaceous brightness and the sundried tomato the right umami "je ne sais quoi."

How to make arugula pesto?


1 bunch of arugula
2 garlic cloves
2/3 cup of pine nuts
1 full cup of Parmesan cheese
4-6 tablespoons of EVOO
1/3 cup of basil leaves
Sea Salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Blend all together in the food processor.

Next up, to caramelize onions, I like to use EVOO and cook them over really low heat till they are golden brown and ready to top your sandwich!

For the portobello, I think a nice sear is perfect, coat it in some EVOO, sea salt and black pepper. Cook over low to medium heat for a five minutes per side.

Now your sandwich is ready to assemble -- I recommend utilizing a nice sesame semolina bread as the backdrop for your Airco portobello mushroom sandwich. Coat each side of the bread with a nice dollop of your arugula pesto then top with the mushroom, some generous slices of your cheese, sundried tomatoes and caramelized onions and you're ready to pop this baby in the oven!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Three : Airco Marriage Mondays

Seeing as the Packers won last night's Superbowl, I thought it would be fitting to utilize yesterday's Wisconsin contestant, Airco, the mixed milk hickory smoked cheese from Carr Valley Creamery as the star of today's Marriage Mondays.

Instead of suggesting beverage pairings today for our dear Airco, I thought we would suggest fruit / vegetable contestants, that would lead to a lovely sweet creamy smoky recipe.

Contestant # 1 : The Tomato - Originally native to South America, this omnipresent fruit comes in 7500 different variations. High in natural antioxidants, vitamins A and C, they are known to help prevent cancer as well. Cooked, eaten, and enjoyed the world over, our first contestant transcends language and cultural barriers. Will it have what it takes to win over our Wisconsin star today?

Contestant # 2 : The Eggplant - Considered a berry due its nicotinoid alkaloid rich seeds, our second contestant hails from India. Now cultivated the world over, in many different varieties, colors, shapes, and sizes, it is one of those foods I find people either love or hate, indifference is uncommon. Will the Airco fall in love with our nicotine heavy contestant?

Contestant # 3 : The Mushroom - Our last and final contestant is the right type of fungus, more specifically, the supple meaty flavorful body of a fungus grown at ground level. The many varieties of edible mushrooms are high in dietary fiber, protein, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. Delicate, meaty, earthy, are a few words to describe our dear mushrooms but will the phrase perfect match work with our mushrooms and the Airco?

Stay tuned to find out!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty Two : Carr Valley vs. Keswick Creamery

It's an hour till the kickoff of the XLV Superbowl, a head to head match between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers! So I thought we needed to have a Pennsylvania vs Wisconsin cheese takedown today. For Wisconsin's contestant, I thought we would play Airco, a mixed milk cheese composed of cow, goat, and sheep's milk that has been hickory smoked at Carr Valley Farm. Carr Valley is most well known for its aged cheddars primarily but has been a Wisconsin cheesemaking institution dating back four generations. They sure know their cheese at Carr! Today's contestant is semi firm in texture with a nice hint of sweetness mixed with just the right amount of smoke. Airco adopts the best nuances of sheep's milk cheese with its classically nutty buttery qualities and the citrus grassy tang of goat's milk cheeses and the fabulous round mouth feel of cow's milk cheese. A winner from the midwest! Does it have what it takes to beat out Keswick Creamery's Wallaby? I don't know about that.....but we will see...

Keswick Creamery does not date back for generations, but that doesn't mean it can't tango with the cheeses of Carr Valley. Keswick Creamery is based in Newburg, PA. They have had jersey cows since the mid 1970s, but didn't get into the business of raw cheese production till 2001 and boy have they gone to town in their cheese experimentation, with a full repertoire of fabulous cheeses! Today's contestant is a natural rind aged raw cow's milk cheese known as Wallaby. Why Wallaby? Well it is named in honor of a cow dear to the farm's heart. This semi firm cheese has a hints of earthy mushroomy-ness with a bright crisp finish and creamy lactic overtones. Surely a crowd pleaser, this is a very versatile cheese, designed to please. 

So who will take the prize? The generations old cheese making institution or the newer youngster? The Steelers or the Packers?

We will just have to wait and see won't we?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty One : Petit Frere Spotlight

Petit Frere or little brother is the focus of today's cheese spotlight, crafted by the four Crave Brothers in Waterloo, Wisconsin. It is a pasteurized cow's milk washed rind disk of creamy cheese-y goodness aged with vegetable rennet for at least six to eight weeks. The older this cheese gets, the more intense it gets for all the right reasons. At any age however, it is the perfect marriage of washed rind stink and bloomy rind unctuous creaminess. Crafted in honor of the French - Irish heritage of the cheesemakers, this cheese marries the classic cheese making techniques of each nation and makes it completely its own.

Full of earthy, barnyardy, farm-y notes with a creamy buttery-ness, this cheese walks the right sort of fine line. Perfect with some nice crusty bread and dried fruit and if you're me, a glass of Pinot Gris. However it would also work excellently with a nice beer.

$7.99 at Fairway for an 8 ounce round.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Sixty - Salmon Melt

Last night, I had the most fabulous roasted salmon mango salad and I got to thinking, gosh, why not make a rif on a tuna melt but utilizing a homemade salmon salad and some nutty melty gruyere cheese on top?

So let's get to making that salmon salad. What goes into it?

1 6 oz salmon fillet
Fresh Ricotta
Dijon Mustard

Saute the salmon fillet with olive oil and a diced up shallot over medium to high heat for about three to five minutes per side or until it is flaky and cooked through. While you are cooking the salmon, dice up one zucchini and saute briefly with garlic, sea salt, and EVOO. You want to make sure to maintain the crunch of the zucchini so saute for four to five minutes. Place into a bowl combine with two tablespoons of ricotta, a small teaspoon of mustard, a drizzle of lemon juice and of olive oil. Add chopped up chives and fresh dill, sea salt and black pepper. Mix together. Add one chopped up Persian cucumber and the zucchini. Place your salmon salad on top of Ciabatta bread and top with a generous helping of gruyere and heat in the oven as this should be an open faced sandwich, too much bread will get in the way. Enjoy with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Have a great weekend folks!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty Nine - Spotlight on Raschera

The other evening I strolled into the little gem of a neighborhood cheese store, Cheese on 62nd, looking to pick up one or two cheeses that would be nice with some prosecco and crackers. I knew I wanted some Gorgonzola Dolce to pair with my mixed berry oatcakes, but I wasn't sure of the other cheese selection I planned on getting. After a few tastes, I settled on the Piedmontese cheese -- Raschera. Raschera has a cousin, known as Alpine Raschera which is only crafted with milk from cow's at pasture above 900m above sea level (obviously this is not a year round cheese due to the weather conditions). A semi firm semi fat, pressed cow's milk cheese crafted in one of two shapes -- either a cylinder or a square block-ish style. Aged for at least one month, the interior has a nice ivory paste-y look to it with an ashen exterior. It has some small irregularly placed holes scattered throughout the cheese. Earthy yet with a slightly sweet creamy milky-ness, this nutty cheese is great for every sort of palate -- very versatile when it comes to pairing partners and can easily be featured with some crackers and / or bread in a simple preparation or utilized in cooking scenarios.

Raschera is not an overly exciting cheese but it sure is a delight on the tongue and a great go-to cheese, affordable, dynamic, and overall yummy! A nice straightforward and satisfying cheese investment.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty Eight - A hearty salad for a cold evening

Taking inspiration from my lunch-time salad, I thought we would make a bright legume centric salad featuring French green lentils -- high in fiber and protein, low in calories and fat, and if prepared correctly, utterly fabulous! Peppery, herbaceous, and crunchy -- a great base for a salad! An added bonus is that unlike other dried legumes, lentils are actually much more time efficient to cook.

How shall we prepare these lentils today?

First cook the lentils through. Then place in a pan with EVOO, white wine for cooking, and shallots over very low heat, to infuse a nice aromatic bent to the legumes. While they are cooking, let's roast some butternut squash and carrots with garlic, rosemary, and thyme to toss in with the lentils -- providing a nice brightness to the salad. Cube the butternut squash and chop up carrots. Place in a roasting pan with some EVOO, a diced up garlic clove, fresh rosemary, thyme, and sea salt. Roast at 300 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden brown and the carrots feel tender and caramelized. Combine your roasted veggies with lentils, some roasted walnuts for a crunch, and chop up some chives, toss those in the bowl as well. Then add some nice crumbles of French feta cheese -- the perfect creamy lactic tangy brine-y counterpoint to the roasted veggies and aromatically infused legumes. A simple mixture of good, honest, fresh ingredients that will be a satisfying midweek salad chock full of protein and fiber!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day Three Hundred and Fifty Seven - Pickle Results

Happy February!  Shall we get straight to those pickle results?

Let's first discuss the cheese that totally missed the boat, can you guess which one it was? Our second contestant, Rogue River's Smokey Blue. I threw that fabulous cheese in the mix because I thought the idea of a smoked cheese could present an interesting conundrum for those of you meat eaters out there who like faint smokey-ness in a sandwich setting but unfortunately this cheese is just too fantastic for our pickles. It will surely take control of the pickle's spotlight and the pairing will become all about the classic blue piquant punch and the woodsy smoke, not only overshadowing but also not really even having the opportunity to possibly create an interesting pairing -- a bit like oil and water.

That leaves the Fol Epi and Edwin's Munster, which will be the more unique and dynamic pairing partner? Although the Fol Epi is super versatile and an easy to please sort of a cheese, it will not challenge the pickle to allow it to coax out hidden flavor nuances. It will take a back seat to the pickle and just kind of blend in to its surroundings. That's not what you want in a pairing is it? No way! Fol Epi is a great snacking, go-to, every day sort of cheese, smooth, classic and delish but not dynamic enough for our dear pickles!

That leaves the washed rind king, Edwin's Munster as today's winner! These two actually have a lot in common -- they are both washed in brine, infusing each with a unique salty, brine-y, vinegar-y tang. The difference in that tang will bring each closer together -- it will be a marriage of brine and its effects on cheese and vegetable flavors. The gooey creaminess of the cheese will play off that nice crisp crunch of a classic pickle and the barnyardy farmy-ness of the cheese will be an excellent counter part to the vegetal herbaceousness of the pickles.

Enjoy a nice piece of Munster on a fluffy onion poppy seed roll with a dollop of honey mustard and a few interesting flavor combination, definitely one that is in your face, but one that will bring to life that pickle who is this week's star.

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