Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 445 : Brunch at Essex

Essex Restaurant is housed in the same building as the Essex Street market and was the predecessor to the boozy, dance-y brunches of Bagatelle and the such in Meatpacking. It used to be $16 for a brunch entree, three cocktails, a packed house, pumping house music and people who had yet to go home from the night before or who dressed to the nines for this daytime weekend meal. Most remains, however the brunch has gone up to $20, the crowd is still the same and the food attempts to adopt the neighborhood's roots of a mixture of American, Jewish, and Mexican cuisines.

When you make a booking, don't plan on being sat for at least forty minutes even if you are early/on time, prepare self and so if it's a nice day, head outside to the street rather than standing the somewhat claustrophobic bar area. Once seated, hopefully you get a seat over looking the ground floor giving you the opportunity to watch the chaos down below. So what did I have?

 I ordered the LEO but made some adjustments -- scrambled egg whites, onions, gravalax, with Swiss cheese, and a bialy. It was accompanied by homemade hash browns and a green salad. Simple straight to the point and satisfying after the wait.

If you're looking for a crowded, boozy, upbeat brunch to people watch this is the place to go.

Essex Restaurant
120 Essex Street, enter at Rivington and Essex.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 444: Quick Spiced Lentil Goat Cheese Dip

The other night I was searching in my fridge for a quick simple dinner and I realized I had some steamed French lentils, goat cheese and some roasted tomatoes. Why not make a delish dip packed full of protein to spread on some Ak mak crackers? And boy was it delish! So I thought I'd share my dip recipe for you all:

1 cup steamed french lentils
1/3 cup oven roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons of herb chevre
Drizzle of EVOO
Crushed Red Pepper flakes
Herbes de provence
Sea Salt
A dollop of dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of water making it thinner and smoother without too much liquid

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Season to taste. Place on top of the Armenian crisp sesame seed flatbread crackers, Ak maks. Top each with some fresh sliced cherry tomatoes and slivers of chives. A quick simple delish dip that is perfect when you aren't feeling like making a very involved dinner.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 443: How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 12

So today I walked over to the Upper East Side supermarket, Grace's Marketplace, aiming to find a cheese to splurge on, had to be over $30, maybe I would find something I knew was cheaper in other shops and then I could write about the difference in cheese pricing depending on zipcode for example or maybe I'd find a completely new cheese that was specific to Grace's that I could write about. Guess what?
I didn't find a single cheese at Grace's for over $26.99 a pound, granted they did have a great selection of cheeses but nothing that fit the bill this week so I thought maybe I'll go to Butterfield's Market on Lexington and 77th, maybe they would have some pricey / splurge worthy cheeses and again I was disappointed, their cheese selection was mediocre at best and there were certainly no cheeses to write about.

Returning to Grace's for a moment, after I was disappointed that they didn't have any $30+ cheeses at the cheese counter, I went to go look at the refrigerated section and my mouth just dropped! Why?

Because they had Pico (a French soft ripened goat cheese) for $4.99 where as at Murray's it's $9.99 and at Fairway $8.99 and a whole wheel of Kunik (a New York state triple cream mixed goat and cow's milk cheese) for $11.99 where as at Murray's it's $17.99. Who knew that nestled on the Upper East Side you could find such deals on cheeses that I love so!? If you haven't had either or both, I recommend them and now you know you can get them more reasonably priced at Grace's.

I set out to make today's post about pricey cheeses in a pricey neighborhood and guess what I discovered, Grace's is the place to go for Pico and Kunik. Sometimes one finds deals in the most unusual of places. So folks today's post surely changed focus but boy was it a delight for me to discover.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 442 : Empellon

Last night I had the pleasure of dining at Empellon which is Alex Stupak's (ex-pastry chef of WD-50) foray into contemporary Mexican cuisine in the old CHOW space on West 4th Street. Walking through the door, I was primarily impressed with the change in decor -- CHOW was dark with black walls and heavy wooden booths and felt somewhat claustrophobic and small where has Empellon feels light, airy, and alive. Bright white walls with a colorful mural behind the bar welcome the restaurant's guests.

Empellon translates to push and that is what Stupak tries to achieve with the menu -- a nice mix of queso fundidos, mariscos or seafood dishes, salads, tacos, and more.

Of course we had to try their guacamole with chips that was accompanied by two fabulous homemade salsas -- a smoked cashew mild salsa and an arbol chile salsa for those of us that like some spicy kick. The chips were crisp, flavorful and not too oily which is always the downfall of the chips served with guacamole if you ask me.

Then we had a few of their smaller dishes to split:

Octopus with parsnip and salsa papanteca (chipotle, sweet spices, piloncillo) marisco which was smoky, creamy, herbaceous and dynamic. It sure took octopus and transformed it into something sweet, savory, spicy, and flavorful. Great on the remaining crunchy tortilla chips from our guacamole. No chance this would be considered chewy as octopus can sometimes be. I would definitely go back just to have this dish again, it was such a unique take on the sea creature.

Then we split their green beans salad with micro greens, cucumber, quail egg and an almendrado or almond based dressing. Crisp, vegetal, and flavorful! I was expecting a lot though as I had reviews that found this salad to be amazing and yes it was good and different than a normal green salad but it sure didn't wow.

What did wow was their tetilla (a Spanish young cow's milk cheese), roasted poblano pepper, and steamed cactus leaf queso fundido served with warm homemade soft tortillas. It was Stupak's take on a Mexican fondue and boy did it delight. This was sweet, savory, spicy, creamy, earthy, rustic and fabulous. Next time I go to Empellon, I will have to try their other queso fundidos.

Overall a delish meal, a different take on the Mexican classics in a fun lively atmosphere.

230 West 4th Street

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 441 : SCS Spotlight, Version 3, Dispatch # 3 : Raw Goat's Milk Tomme Style Cheeses

This week with Spring in the air, I thought I would focus on raw goat's milk tomme style cheeses from our big guns -- Vermont and France. But before we get started, in case you don't know, let me explain what a tomme style cheese is:

Tomme is an umbrella term utilized for firm Alpine cheeses traditionally produced in the French Alps and Switzerland but obviously we are seeing an influx of tomme style cheeses being produced in other areas. It is said that the tomme was originally made in the wintertime when there isn't sufficient milk to produce a full bodied cheese or sometimes with the skim milk that is left over after the cream has been utilized for butter or higher  fat content cheeses. Therefore, tommes tend to be lower in fat content however they can range in texture but do have grassy and tangy flavor nuances to them. I find that they are great examples of their terroir.

Location: West Cornwall, Vermont. Twig Farm to precise, twenty acres and twenty-five goats to their name but boy do they craft some fabulous raw goat's milk cheeses. Their cornerstone is their goat tomme, a large cylinder of raw goat's milk that has been aged for about eighty days with a grey natural rind. It has the classic fresh crisp milky appeal of goat's milk, packed full of that great grassy citrusy tang with a Vermonty farmstead barnyardy sort of bent to boot. Perfect with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Small farm, small production, lots of love and care goes into their products and I guarantee it shows in each and every bite.

Image courtesy

It's French counterpart is somewhat more unique, Tomme de la Chataigneraie 'Chestnut grove' crafted in the Auvergne region of France. Why is it called Tomme de la Chataigneraie you might be wondering? Well that's because the goats whose milk is utilize to craft this cheese graze in the chestnut grove providing the cheese with a fabulously nutty taste profile which is dialed up a notch during the aging process as the ten pound wheels of cheese are wrapped in the leaves giving their exterior a yellow-ish hue. The interior paste is gooey and quite round yet with a firm texture and a lovely richness on the tongue. Clean and tangy with nutty barnyardy notes and a peppery finish, this is a unique tomme and definitely one that is worth the try.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 440 : Oma Spotlight

Crafted by the Von Trapp Farmstead (yes of the Von Trapp family) in Vermont, this raw cow's milk washed rind cheese rivals its European counterparts and is an utter delight on the palate. Oma, meaning grandmother is named after Erica von Trapp, the grandmother of the brothers who run the Vermont farmstead. The cheese is crafted by them and then aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm.

What sets Oma apart from other American washed rind cheeses?

Well few apart from Oma are crafted with raw milk providing the cheese with a depth and breadth of flavor nuances not found in its pasteurized milk counterparts. It also has the most fabulously silky smoothness to the interior paste giving the European great washed rind cheeses a run for their money.

Overall -- an earthy barnyardy stinky briney delight with a round buttery warmth to the interior paste. Perfect with a nice Belgian beer.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 439 : Breakfast in Somerville

This morning, a bunch of us went for an early breakfast to the local restaurant -- a Portuguese American joint called the Neighborhood Restaurant. This was not a dressed up, gussied up sort of place but boy was the food fabulous, made with love and care. All of their breakfast specials clock in at $12.99 for a heaping plate of food, coffee, an orange juice and your choice of fruit or cream of wheat. Definitely go for the cream of wheat -- it is homey, comforting and delish, a speciality of the place.

What else did I have?

I had their Garden Omelette with feta, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, and tomatoes. It was accompanied with rice and beans and potatoes. Yes a standard breakfast item but done well, it was just the ticket this morning.  The food was honest, the company was great, and the price was right. If I find myself in Somerville again, I will definitely go back to the Neighborhood Restaurant, but know you have to go early and that you should order off of the daily specials menu.

25 Bow Street
Somerville, MA

Day 438 : Mushrooms and Barbecues

This weekend, I ventured north to Boston for one of my closest and oldest friend's send off party -- a barbecue and a night out on the town. For those of us who do not eat meat, barbecues are always an interesting event. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the notion of bringing people together, spending time outside, and leisurely savoring a variety of home cooked delicacies.

For those of us who are vegetarians, there is the obvious veggie burger option or the portobello mushroom route, corn, zucchini, stuffed peppers, one can go on and on. Yesterday, I chose the mushroom road and it got me thinking about an excellent barbecue vegetarian dish:

Take two portobello mushroom caps and brush each with a mixture of EVOO, oregano, sea salt, pepper, paprika, and crushed red pepper. In between them, place a nice thick slice of Comte -- the nutty, buttery,  fruity, and round aged firm French raw cow's milk cheese. Also place a nice dollop of homemade basil cilantro pesto, made by blending garlic, pine nuts, one cup of basil, half of a cup of cilantro, parmesan, and EVOO in the food processor. Cover the two mushroom caps in tin foil and throw on the grill for a good half hour at least of until the cheese is melted and gooey. Once they are done, grab an ear of corn (always a barbecue standby) and  remove a decent amount of the kernels and place this between your mushrooms with the cheese and pesto. Enjoy with a nice light red wine.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 437 : Fast Easy Fresh Green Meal for Earth Day

Did you do your part to give back to the environment today? I hope so!

I thought in honor of Earth Day we would do a green fast easy fresh meal, of course with some cheese involved. So what goes into our green dish?

Baby Broccoli
Swiss Chard
Slivered roasted almonds

Grab your asparagus and baby broccoli and brush with EVOO, basil, sel de la guerande and throw on a stovetop grill. Get a nice char on each side, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. While that is happening, dice up the swiss chard, ramps, basil, slivered almonds, and kale and toss in a saute pan with EVOO, some fresh rosemary, thyme, sea salt and black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for ten minutes. Take the sauteed greens off and topped with the asparagus and baby broccoli. Grate Parmesan over the top and sprinkle basil leaves and ground some black pepper. Enjoy with a glass of crisp white and the hope that Spring is on the way finally.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 436 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 11

Do you love burrata like I do?

It screams decadence, sumptuousness, silky smoothness, luscious lovely goodness to me. It is such a simple product but it never fails to delight, whether you enjoy it plain or with accoutrements. However, at most cheese shops or supermarkets around town it is around $10 for one ball of creamy cheesy goodness so it could be seen as somewhat of a special occasion sort of cheese.

Not if you go to Trader Joe's where you can get two medium sized balls for $4.99 and enjoy the creamy cheesy goodness on two separate occasions or spread the love around on one occasion.

Get thee to Trader Joe's and get some! I know I just did!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 435 : SCS Version 3.0, Dispatch #2 - Old Stinkies

For this week's French / Vermont spotlight, I thought I would highlight two of the best washed rind cheeses that I know of -- each leading the way forward into stinky pungent fabulous washed rind cheese heaven.

Dorset is the brainchild of Peter Dixon, Angela Miller, Russell Glover and the folks behind Consider Bardwell farm located in West Pawlet, Vermont. Consider Bardwell was actually the first cheesemaking co-op in Vermont, dating back to 1864, now over a century later, the farm is being restored to its cheesemaking glory with Dorset and an excellent cheese repetoire of nine cheeses that are constantly worked on and perfected. Dorset that gets its name from the village of Dorset, Vermont, is a washed rind two and half pound wheel of raw Jersey cow's milk with a semi-firm texture. It has a lovely round buttery creamy mouthfeel with a fabulous pungent washed rind tang -- stinky, farm-y, biting and all around fabulous!

Image courtesy of

And what of its French counterpart? History actually dates it back to the 12th century -- it is said that it was first crafted by monks in the Pays d'Auge in Normandy in France in the Middle Ages. Even if we don't have proof that is definitely the case, we do have proof that it has been crafted in the same style dating back to the 17th century -- still not bad! So what is it? It is Pont l'Eveque -- a washed rind, cow's milk cheese with a classically orange brine-y rind and here unlike the Dorset, a gooey, uncutous interior -- supremely fabulously milky and creamy with salty brine-y notes and crisp spring-y grassy finish. Perfect with a glass of Champagne or Riesling.  

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 434 : Slight Switch / Norwegian Homage

For today's post I felt we needed to move our weekly SCS dosage to tomorrow in order to pay homage to the amazing and awe-inspiring Norwegian marathon runner, Grete Waitz, who passed away at the age of 57 after a long battle with cancer. Waitz won nine New York City marathons (still the record number of wins for this race) starting with her first in 1978; way before women's competitive distance running was even considered an Olympic sport.  She paved the way for generations of women runners to strive to push themselves farther than they had ever done previously -- revolutionizing the sport of running for women. As a runner myself, I have Waitz to thank for the inspiration to go further, try harder, push my limits, and know that with a little determination, I can accomplish anything.

In Waitz's honor, I thought I would recommend Murray's Cheese's only Norwegian cheese selection, a truly unique and unusual cheese product that is said to have fueled generations of Alpine skiers known as Gjetost (goat cheese in Norwegian). Crafted from the whey of a mixture of goat and cow's milks, it surely isn't at all similar to the most well known whey crafted cheese -- ricotta. It is made by boiling milk, cream, and whey till all of the liquid / water evaporates leaving the dense firm block consistency that is characteristic of gjetost. But what makes this cheese a peanut buttery / tannish color you might be wondering? The heat of boiling the milk causes the milk sugars in the gjetost to caramelize instilling the cheese with its characteristic color. So it doesn't look like cheese even though it's made in a cheese like manner, but does it taste like cheese?

Not really but it sure is nutty and barnyardy with a residual sweet quality -- gjetost coats the roof of your mouth that's for sure. Caramelly and butterscotchy with a warming quality, you can understand why this is a preferred food of Alpine skiers! Best enjoyed with a beer or maybe a medium bodied red.

Here's to Grete Waitz,  a woman who changed the world of running -- a true hero.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 433 : Matzo and Cheese?

Matzo is one of the key symbolic foods of the Passover holiday -- a holiday in which Jews do not eat bread or anything with leavening in commemoration of the freeing of the Jews from ancient Egypt.  So if you are planning on eating matzo for the next eight days or just for tonight, I thought you might want a suggestion of a cheese that could work excellently with the crispy crunchy Matzo...Yes they could be construed as kind of a blank canvas but I like to think that something spreadable would be ideal here, something lactic, young and milky might be nice. How about a nice Dill Ronnybrook Farmer's cheese? Infused with the bitter herbs that are essential to the Seder plate symbolizing the bitterness and harshness that the Jews experienced while being enslaved in Egypt. You can spread the farmer's cheese over a piece of matzo and top with a few pieces of parsley and sprinkle a little bit of sel de la guerande over the top. A nice savory, green, and fresh way to enjoy the matzo.

Yes you could feel free to place other types of cheese on the matzo but I like the youth and vibrancy of a fresh cheese here.

Happy Passover.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 432 : A tip for those in search of the Loire Valley Goats

Are you like a huge fan of Loire Valley goat's milk cheeses like I am? Want to find a large selection at a good price? Tired of paying fifteen dollars for a small roundelle of cheese when you know you should be paying less? And want a broader selection?

Head to Zabar's on Broadway between 80th and 81st streets. You will find a nice selection of Crottins, Chevrots, and more. All of which will be at a better price than anywhere else in town and trust me you will find a larger selection. The selection is both behind the counter and the refrigerated areas so plan to investigate both and be pleased.

What did I get?

I got a Chevre d'or (literally translated as the Golden chevre)  -- a hockey puck sized round of naturally ripened aged goat's milk cheese -- tangy, grassy, citrusy, lactic and milky in all the ways that a classic Loire Valley goat delights!

Image courtesy of

So next time you are looking to wow your friends with your extensive French goat's milk cheese knowledge or want to find an obscure cheese of this sort, head to Zabar's, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 431 : Ramps

The first signs of Spring at the Greenmarket come in the form of onion-y stalks or wild leeks known as ramps. They are in your face aromatic, green, vegetal and almost even a little over the top for all the right reasons if you like that sort of thing as I do. So today, I thought I'd provide you with a simple tartine recipe you could make with ramps to combat this positively winter like day we are experiencing.

I like ramps best with a nice char from a stove top grill. So marinade them with some EVOO, fresh ground black pepper, and sel de la guerande. Throw them on a stove top grill till they are browned and charred. Grab some nice thick slices of ciabatta bread and brush this with EVOO and grill just as you've grilled the ramps. Next up grab some of Salvatore Brooklyn's ricotta and place a nice spoonful of the ricotta your grilled bread. Top with some fresh arugula and your grilled ramps. Drizzle a tiny bit of EVOO over the top and grate some black pepper and enjoy. A simple delish nod to the beginnings of spring, which should have begun months ago.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 430: Cheese for an early Passover dinner

Tonight I will have the pleasure of being part of an early Passover dinner before my folks leave town for the holiday and for vacation. Who knows what culinary creations my mother will come up with, but that adventure will unfold in the coming hours. What I do know are the three cheeses I got to go with the dinner. The cheeses will be served with charoset (a traditional Passover food composed of dried fruits and nuts meant to symbolize the mortar Jews utilized to adhere bricks to one another when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt) and a strawberry, tomato, balsamic confiture. So what cheeses did I choose?

I decided for Passover cheese, I had to go to the old school Upper West Side standby -- Zabar's of course. Yes they do have a fantastic cheese selection and even have a variety of kosher cheeses. Don't fret folks I was not planning on getting kosher cheeses for tonight, I was aiming to get three cheeses from three different regions of America each symbolizing the distinct cheesemaking processes across the nation.

East Coast cheese - Vermont Butter and Cheese's (VBC) Cremont - a mixed goat and cow's milk cheese with a dollop of fresh Vermont cream added in. It embodies Vermont terroir in a nutshell and is the perfect melding of the superstars of VBC's cheese and dairy repertoire -- Bonne Bouche plus their Bijou plus their creme fraiche all rolled into one distinct cheese. It is luscious, unctuous and decadent and will go wonderfully with both accompaniments.

Midwest (ish) cheese - Haystack Mountain's Queso de Mano - A firm goat's milk cheese crafted near Boulder, Colorado. Queso de Mano is Haystack's first experiment with a raw milk cheese aged for four months -- it is fresh, crisp, floral, grassy, crisp and truly characteristic of the Colorado terroir. A very versatile pairing partner, it will become significantly more rustic when served with the charoset and daintier and lighter with the strawberry basil confiture.

West Coast cheese - Point Reyes Blue - Hailing from Point Reyes Station, CA where my mother and I visited a few years ago, this is farmstead cow's milk blue cheese done right. Cheese is crafted hours after milking the cows and then consequently aged for six months producing a round full bodied creamy blue with hints of that classic piquant spiciness and a depth of flavor.

Overall a nice selection of American cheeses for a very special dinner.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 429 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 10

How to Splurge:

One of the lucky few who didn't have to pay any money to the US Government in time for income tax day tomorrow? Maybe you even got a nice sizeable refund and if you did, I have just the cheese for you to splurge on!

Imported from the infamous British cheese retailer, Neal's Yard Dairy, Ticklemore is our splurge this week clocking in at $42.99 a pound at Murray's Cheese. Crafted in Devon, England, by Sharpham Creamery in the footsteps and style of Robin Congdon's original recipe. Congdon's Ticklemore farm's cheesemaking business expanded beyond his means so Debbie Mumford and Mark Sharman of neighboring Sharpham creamery assumed the task and boy have they been successful! Ticklemore is made with pasteurized goat's milk and is completely vegetarian. Due to the two to three month aging process, it has a nice gooey uncutous cream line between the bloomy rind exterior and the chalky crumbly interior paste. 

So what is the flavor profile of that interior paste?

Floral, citrusy, bright, and grassy yet with a slightly sweet milky, clean, crisp finish! Light in body but rich and dynamically developed in flavor. The perfect sort of cheese to indulge on for the springy day we are lucky enough to enjoy today.

What to drink with it?

A bubbly or a light white wine would do the trick!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 428 : Fast, Easy, Fresh Meals

With all this rainy grey weather, don't you want a comforting one pot meal that will delight and warm you from the inside out maybe with a glass of red wine, perhaps a Cotes du Rhone to accompany it.

How about an Orzo dish? I much prefer utilizing orzo to cook with as opposed to longer shaped pastas -- I feel that veggies, cheese, and other yummies coat the orzo shape in a light and dainty manner making one feel less full after having eaten a bowl of orzo as opposed to after having eaten a bowl of pasta. So what will you prepare with the orzo?

1/4 head of Cauliflower
Cup of Heirloom cherry tomatoes (found at Trader Joe's)
Cup of Diced Carrots
1 shallot diced
Drizzle of cooking white wine
Pureed roasted red pepper sauce -- take three red peppers and roast for thirty five minutes, blend with EVOO, goat's cheese, parsley, sea salt and pepper

Chop up all of your veggies and place in a big skillet with a decent amount of EVOO and white wine. Add some herbes de Provence, some sel de la guerande, crushed red pepper flakes, a dash of paprika, and some basil. Cover and cook over very low heat for about twenty five to thirty minutes till the veggies have melded together and you get a nice rustic brightness. While the veggies are cooking, cook orzo as you would a pasta. Once all of the cooking water is absorbed, add a nice amount of parmesan and some herbes de Provence and stir over lowheat to get a cheesy gooey thick consistency. As you finish the veggies, toss the orzo into the pan and mix over low heat for another few minutes. Serve into bowls and top with a fresh basil leaf or two and some freshly grated Parmesan. It will be homey, warm and satisfying especially when served with a nice glass of red wine!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 427 : SCS Version 3.0, Dispatch # 1, The Big Guns

Our third SCS Dispatch will feature as I have decided to lovingly call them, the Big Guns -- when you think European cheesemaking what country do you think? France? And when you think American cheesemaking, where do you think? Vermont? Both have a long history of being pioneers in the cheesemaking industry here and abroad, influencing their neighboring states and countries and the world over even. So I thought why not for version 3.0, pull out the big guns!?!?!

For our first dispatch, I thought I'd introduce you to some of the biggest guns of our two big guns. Actually the Vermontster cheese was influenced by the French cheese. I always think it is interesting to taste two cheeses simultaneously in which the flavor profile of one cheese played a part in the creative inspiration of the other.

Our Green Mountain cheese today is Tarentaise crafted by Thistle Hill Farm in North Pomfret. It is an organic raw cow's milk cheese aged for at least six months. Crafted in traditional copper vats the whey utilized to make this cheese is concocted from previous cheesemaking. This organic process of whey creation imbues the cheese with a depth of flavor otherwise impossible. Over the course of its aging process, wheels of Tarentaise are washed and turned coaxing out the characteristic gorgeously golden buttterscotch hues to a wheel of this cheese. Tarentaise exemplifies its terroir -- it's quintessential Vermont cheese done right! Grassy with hints of hay and barnyardy-ness, slightly nutty and butterscotchy with a roundness of flavor and nuanced depth. It is herbaceous and vegetal yet delicate and refined. Great with a glass of Pinot Noir.

And what of its French counterpart? Well, Tarentaise was acutally modeled on two of the firm French Haute Savoie cheeses -- Abondance and Beaufort. The main difference between the two cheeses is actually the breed of cow's milk utilized to craft the cheese -- Abondance is made with the milk of Abondance cows whereas Beaufort is made with the milk of Tarentaise cows. For our purposes today, I chose Beaufort which many people consider the king of cheeses. A firm raw cow's milk cheese that is immediately recognizable by its enormous wheels and the curvature in of the sides of the cheese. It is also smear ripened which helps to intensify the flavor profile of the cheese creating that biting sharpness of a great aged Alpage style cheese.  Unlike other cheeses made in the Alps like say Gruyere or Appenzeller, Beaufort does not develop any holes in its aging process of at least a year to a year and a half. Nutty and brown buttery, with a rustic roundness, floral and savory, with a barnyardy and unique finish. It will show you the finesse of quality Alpine French cheesemaking. Great with red and white wines alike!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 426 : The most unusual end to a lunchtime meal

This afternoon I had the pleasure of returning to Park Avenue Spring for a fabulous lunch but I think the best part about the lunch, apart from the company, was our palate cleanser / cheese course / dessert. It was one of Pastry Chef, Richard Leach's, signature spring creations.
Entitled the Goat Cheese Progression, it was composed of:

Fresh : Goat's milk cheese was utilized as the base of a mango yogurt lassi. Full of flavor, life, and dynamic fruity notes this was part smoothie - part melted sorbet - part lassi - part incredibly unique creation!

Young: Next up was a small tuille that had been filled with a mixture of whipped mascarpone and goat's cheese and was served with a mango beet salad. Crunchy yet creamy, the tiny diced squares of mango and beet sent this middle taste over the top. Mango and beets? Really? Interesting combo!

Aged : Lastly was a small little demi-tasse filled of aged goat's cheese topped with a warm egg yolk and a homemade almond crumble. Such a simple concept but who would have thought to combine these three ingredients together and boy was it a success beyond belief.

Each morsel walked a perfectly fine line between sweet and savory -- the most unusual invention on the part of the pastry chef. If you go to Park Avenue Spring just to try their goat cheese progression, you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 425 : Brunch at Avoce Columbus

Avoce Columbus is one of two restaurants helmed by executive chef Missy Robbins here in Manhattan. Each has a focus on fresh local ingredients with a classic Italian twist in a sleek, sophisticated environment. Today after running the Scotland Run 10K in Central Park, I had the pleasure of having a delectable brunch at Avoce Columbus.

One of the best things about Avoce Columbus is their homemade ricotta with sea salt, crushed red pepper, basil, and mint that is served with homemade foccacia and arrives at each and every diner's table. To-die for, melt in your mouth bread is paired with a milky lactic sumptuous ricotta. A great start to the meal!

So what did I have?

I had their "Uova in Purgatorio" which was two poached eggs placed simply on a plate with a light and delish san marzano tomatoes puree, rosemary, and a nice topping of pecorino. Dainty yet filling, herbaceous yet creamy -- a classic dish done with an updated contemporary flair, overall a perfect post race meal. We also split two of their verdure : cauliflower with almonds and golden raisins and their mushrooms with garlic and rosemary.

A tip to all of you looking for wine bargains, if you spend time going through their wine list you are guaranteed to find a few under $25 bottles of wine. For example today we had a lovely Italian white, Terre dei Grillo that was $23 and walked a perfect line between a crisp light white and a medium bodied white.

Overall a delightful meal in a great setting with lovely company.

Avoce Columbus
10 Columbus Circle, 3rd floor

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 424 : Little Cheese Pub

The brainchild of Klee Brasserie's chef, Daniel Angerer, Little Cheese Pub is a casual, rustic, warm and small resto on West 23rd. Dedicated to Angerer's love of cheese, this joint features a selection of thirty national and international cheeses; fondues; a variety of mac n' cheeses; a few grilled cheeses; some salads; and a variety of dips, nuts, and veggies. With the large long tables and the plenty of share-able dishes, this is a place that's great for groups.

What did we have?

We had two of the dips --

The green dip with sauteed spinach and edamame and the red wine and cranberry beans dip with red pepper flakes and cloves. Served with lightly toasted bread rubbed with olive oil and herbs this was a great start to the meal. Each dip was full of flavor, unique, inventive and dynamic. Inspired me to explore some new dip combinations at home!

Then I had their feta cheese salad which was composed of iceberg lettuce, pickled onions, chick peas, and olives topped with a light mint dressing. A simple, stripped down version of a Greek salad, allowing the cheese to shine.

Overall a nice addition to the Chelsea dining scene and a good place to go when you're with a group of friends and want some wine / beer and cheese. Casual, easy, and reliable.

Little Cheese Pub
362 1/2 West 23rd Street

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 423 : Kinderhook Creek

I'm a huge fan of Ewe's Blue and Nancy's Camembert so when I heard about the fact that Old Chatham Sheepherding Company was coming out with a new cheese, I knew I had to try it. Named after the stream that runs across their Hudson Valley Farm, this is the only American crafted cheese that is one hundred percent sheep's milk and a bloomy rind cheese -- what a rare find, right?

It is just dreamy. Unctuous, luscious, and silky smooth with a milky roundness. This my friends is American artisanal cheese done right! Inventive, unique, distinct, experimental and a fabulous finished product.

Where can you acquire this delish round of cheese and feel like you are one of the lucky ones to know about this cheese?

It is only for sale at Murray's Cheese where the wheels are actually aged for an additional two to four weeks in the store's cheese caves. A full round clocks in at just under $30, however you can also buy a half round. Great for any occasion -- it is a very versatile cheese both in terms of serving and pairing options. It is delish served by itself with crackers but one could also put it in salads or cook with it. What to drink with it? Crisp light white, a nice North Fork red, or even a bubbly would work here.

This weekend, stop into one of the two Murray's locations in town and pick up some Kinderhook Creek, it will make your day.

Image courtesy of

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 422 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #9

How to Save:

Tonight's post will be short and sweet, I apologize folks. Ever walk into a normal not too exciting, just run of the mill supermarket and wonder what to buy? Sometimes I do the same -- most affordable / most appealing cheees are on offer but what can I find?  Something fabulous and unique? Yes you find your cheddars, your goudas, your blue cheeses, your mozzarellas, your goat's cheeses, but which one of these if you were in that situation would you buy and know that although it wasn't a lot of money, it would still be an investment in taste? Which would be across the board reliable and dynamically delish?

Traditionally a lot of supermarket cheeses are just all around terrible, either too plastic-y, not at all similar to their original intention but there is an exception to the rule -- young goat's milk cheeses . Yes they are well known and un-exciting, but they across the board deliver. Every supermarket will have a log of chevre and whether or not it seems interesting and unique, you can buy that cheese for $5 at most probably depending on the scale and turn into a plethora or other opportunities. This cheese can be utilized to create dips, sauces, and spreads or can be infused with veggies, herbs, fruits and spices, or for drinks and linking relations, you name it, this is your special sauce.

So when you've got no money in your wallet, a fresh goat cheese is the way to go, it has that artisanal je' ne  c'est quoi to it while still maintaining a fabulous versatility! Grab a log and infuse it with herbs, oils, veggies, and more and I promise this will be the most affordable, accessible cheese canvas.

Tomorrow I will recommend a variety of go-to affordable cheeses that fall under this umbrella however they are easy to uncover at your local grocer.

Good night folks!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 421 : Prosecco and cheese

If you know me, you probably know that I adore any and all bubbles -- Cava, Prosecco, Moscato d'Asti, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs, you name it, I'm probably a fan! I even had a brief obsession with Sofia Coppola's Champagne in a can. But today I thought we'd focus on the Italian bubbly, Prosecco.

Prosecco is both a wine and a grape -- an affordable and delish alternative to Champagne. It is low in alcohol content, clocking at 11 to 12 percent. It is produced in the Veneto and Fruili Venezia Giulia regions of Italy. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco does not ferment and age in its bottle. Therefore it should be drank within two to at most seven years of bottling. Unlike Champagne that has a complex and dynamic flavor profile, Prosecco tends to be light, crisp, and dry with subtle citrus and green apple aromas -- the quintessential easy drinking bubbly.

So what sort of cheeses would I suggest serving with a nice glass of Prosecco?

Many of the same cheeses that one might think to serve with champagne but I would focus on Italian cheeses that would bring out the harmony of Italian terroir.

1. La Tur : Bloomy, uncutuous, luscious, and decadent are the best words to describe this mixed goat, cow, and sheep's milk cheese from the Piedmont region. The light fanciful qualities of the Prosecco will be the perfect counterpart to the creamy richness of the cheese.

Image courtesy of

2. Robiola Bosina : Also from the Piedmont region, this pillowy mixed cow and sheep's milk cheese is silky smooth and melts in your mouth in just the right sort of way. It walks a fine line between sweetness and saltiness with a milky creamy ivory paste.
3. Pecorino Foglie di Noce - A bold Tuscan sheep's milk shining star! Firm wheels of pressed sheep's milk cheese are wrapped in walnut leaves and then bathed in olive oil. Unique in flavor profile, scent, and appearance this rustic cheese will delight! The crisp freshness of the Prosecco will be the perfect counterpart to the lightly nutty, smokey, farmsteady buttery qualities of the cheese.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 420 : SCS Version 2.0, Dispatch #4 - Firm Cow's Milk Cheeses

Looking back at the past month of our California Spain SCS, I realized we had yet to do a straight-forward, crowd pleasing cheese from each so I thought for our final post we would do a firm cow's milk cheese from each. Why specifically cow's milk? Because cow's milk cheeses are somewhat rare in Spain so why not highlight one of the few.

Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar is our Californian today, hailing from Modesto and crafted by Mariano Gonzalez (previously of Shelburne Farms in Vermont) and his team of cheese-makers. It is considered one of the only raw-milk American crafted cheddars that can really stand up to the English greats -- a superstar award winning cheese. Crafted in sixty pound wheels that have been bound and aged in cheese cloth for approximately eighteen months if not more. Firm with a light hay / straw color, it is nutty, buttery, rustic, farmy, and barnyardy, with light smokey notes, hints of crystallization and a classic cow's milk round full mouth feel. It is a very versatile pairing partner -- bigger red wines such as Cabernet work wonderfully as do sweet wines or even a nice big beer.

And what of our Spaniard this week? 

How about  Mahon? Hailing from the Spanish island of Menorca, this six month aged cow's milk cheese delights! Biting and forceful for all the right reasons, this is a cheese that is farmsteady and barnyardy yet silky and very smooth, crumbly, nutty and fantastic, this  cheese can tango with its European siblings , that's for sure.

Stay tuned for a recap next week.
Good night all~

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 419 : Burrata salad crostini and NCAA Finals Cheeses

Want to make something quick but tasty and special? Maybe to serve while you watch the NCAA Finals game tonight? Granted burrata isn't from Connecticut or Indiana but it surely will be delish....

Grab a tub of burrata from Trader Joe's clocking in at $4.99 instead of the standard $9.99 / $10.99 at other places. Burrata is a fabulously fresh decadent Italian cheese -- mozzarella curd is filled with cream -- the perfect melt in your mouth moment! So once you have your burrata what else do you need?

Basil leaves
Basil Oil
Watermelon Radish
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Grill / toast a few thin slices of ciabatta bread and brush with EVOO. Place burrata in a bowl with some diced strawberries, basil leaves, a tiny drizzle of basil oil and paper thin slices of watermelon radish. Sprinkle a little bit of fresh ground black pepper and pink sea salt over the top. Let sit for twenty minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Then mix and top your bread with the burrata salad. Serve with a crisp mineral forward white.

Should you be curious in procuring a cheese duel between Connecticut (UCONN) and Indiana (Butler) produced cheeses for tonight's game, I suggest:

Connecticut : Dairyere from Cato Corner Farm -- Connecticut's answer to a firm washed rind Alpine style cheese, such as a Comte or a Gruyere but this baby is quintessentially American and imbued with that Northeastern terroir. Aged for at least eight months, this cow's milk cheese is nutty, buttery, butterscotchy, and all around fabulous with a slight piquant kick. A guaranteed favorite! Enjoy with a nice Pilsner.

Indiana : Crocodile Tear from Capriole Farms -- A truly inventive cheese creation from Greenville, Indiana! This is a small cone / bell / teardrop shaped goat's milk cheese lightly coated with paprika and a natural white mold rind. A firm cheese with those classic lactic, chalky, milky qualities of aged goat's milk cheeses yet here it is paired with the zing and tang of punchy paprika. This is definitely a wine sort of cheese, perhaps a nice glass of Sancerre.

So who do you think will win out?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 418 : Ronnybrook

For those of us living in NYC, Ronnybrook is somewhat of a household name -- the Hudson Valley producer of organic and probiotic milks, yogurts, yogurt drinks, ice creams, butters, and some cheeses. Ronnybrook surely was ahead of its time -- focusing on organic dairy farming practices, the best freshest ingredients and a focus on keeping the business local and trying to give back yet stimulating the economy simultaneously. Ronnybrook is now being run by its third generation and surely going strong.

Being a huge fan of their yogurts, I decided I needed to try their probiotic farmer cheese as I hadn't before. This fresh cheese comes in a variety of flavors -- infused with garlic, dill, herbs, and more...What's farmer cheese, you might be wondering?

Basically it is a fresh young cheese that is crafted by using rennet and a starter culture to acidify milk. When the milk coagulates, the whey is drained off and one is left with the dense milk curd which is further drained creating farmer cheese. Bright white and crumbly, it is great to spread on toast or to utilize in baking or as a base for tartines / open-faced sandwiches -- a very versatile cheese product.

Yesterday I was able to get the last one the Ronnybrook stand had at the farmer's market which was a garlic infused probiotic farmer's cheese. This morning I had it on a toasted multigrain english muffin with some fresh ground black pepper and grey salt, a few sundried tomatoes, a few pieces of broccoli and some fresh basil leaves -- it hit the spot! The cheese was creamy, fresh, alive, and aromatic and the vegetables were the perfect accompaniment. I'll have to try Ronnybrook's other cheeses now!

Ronnybrook can be found at many of the greenmarkets around town or at their own retail outpost at Chelsea Market.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 417 : Brooklyn Flea outdoor weekend #1

The Brooklyn Flea is one of those only in New York experiences -- part fabulous indie designer market, part home antiques offerings, part vintage clothing treasure-trove, part homemade jewelry market, part food market and part fabulous food vendors. It is a great meeting place of unique inventiveness sprouting up all around town. Salvatore Brooklyn, my favorite ricotta purveyors were there; the Red Hook Lobster Pound; People's Pops, you name it...this was the place to go, especially on the first really Spring-y day we have had in a while.

We tried the pizza from Pizzamoto which I'd heard about for a while -- pop-up pizza crafted in a wood burning pizza oven on wheels, who would have thought? They had a few pies on offer that you could order and watch being cooked in the school yard of Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School at 176 Lafayette Avenue where the Brooklyn Flea was being held.

We split their white pizza which was a thin flatbread crust topped with ricotta, Parmesan, smoked mozzarella, herbs, garlic, and olive oil. Aromatic, creamy, flavorful, and utterly fabulous especially having been crafted in a pizza oven on wheels! If you haven't been to the Brooklyn Flea, I recommend going and grabbing a pie at Pizzamoto, you won't be disappointed. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 416 : Springy salad

After a long week, sometimes a simple quick and fresh dinner, a nice glass of white wine, and a movie whipped up in minutes, it will be nutritious and satisfying!

What goes into it?

Mixed Greens
Fresh Basil
Crunchy sprouts
Pea shoots
1 Persian Cucumber
Sugar snap peas
Herb Chevre
Slivered Raw Almonds
Homemade vinaigrette -- EVOO, Aioli Garlic Mustard, Sauteed shallot and Balsamic vinegar.

Simple quick and delish. Just the ticket after such a long week, clean and fresh and springy unlike the weather outdoors.

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