Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 505: A trip out to JakeWalk

Located on Smith Street in Brooklyn, the JakeWalk is a fabulous wine and cheese bar with small plates. An excellent place to catch up with friends, indulge in some delictables and enjoy the setting and your company.

Last night while there with a group of girlfriends we had a variety of their small plates and four of their cheese selections which were outstanding. All of their cheeses are sourced from the stellar cheese shop further south on Smith Street -- Stinky Brooklyn.

Last night we had :

Cremont - Vermont Butter and Cheese's hockey puck sized soft ripened goat's milk cheese which was luscious and creamy and just melted in your mouth in all the right sort of ways!

Harpersfield Double Soak - Hailing from the Catskills, this washed rind cheese walks a fine line between sweet and fruity and briny, yeasty, and salty. A veritable taste bud tango of delish flavors.

Abrigo - Crossing the ocean for our third cheese, this firm aged goat's milk cheese is tangy and bright with a nice citrus forward finish.

Nuvola di Pecora - Lastly we ended in Piedmont, Italy with a fantastically stinky, rich and buttery washed rind sheep's milk cheese.

Overall an excellent selection of cheesy goodness, lovely wines, and wonderful conversation -- a great night was had by all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 504 : SCS Version 5.0, Dispatch # 4

For our final Italian - Wisconsin dispatch I thought I would propose two creamy, luscious, unctuous cheeses from each to end with on a bubbly note! Each cheese suggested today will pair perfectly with a glass of bubbly -- so go ahead and choose your favorite Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, Blanc de Blanc and enjoy with either a morsel of Les Freres or a chunk of Robiola Rocchetta?

Les Freres is a semi soft washed rind cheese crafted by Crave Brothers in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Modeled on the great European washed rind cheeses like Tomme de Berger, this Wisconsin stinky creamy round will knock your socks off -- mushroomy, earthy, slightly brine-y in all the right ways. Not for the faint of heart but it sure is an excellent example of the stellar cheeses coming out of Wisconsin. The bubbly will cut and complement the pungence in just the right sort of way and delight!

Image courtesy of

Robiola Rocchetta is a soft ripened mixed milk (goat, sheep and cow's milk) from the Piedmont region of Italy. A bloomy rind exterior covers the semi-soft decadent interior paste that is the most elegant blend of the best qualities of each animal's milk -- the crisp grassy lactic notes of a goat's milk cheese coupled with the round nuttiness of a sheep's milk cheese and the fabulous butteriness of cow's milk. A very versatile pairing partner, this cheese will be gone in a second!

And that folks is all for our SCS version 5.0, stay tuned next week for two new locales.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 503 : New Cheese Discoveries - Shy Brothers' Hannahbells

While at Beecher's cheese shop yesterday I discovered a new cheese and a new cheesemaker -- Shy Brothers Farm's and their Hannahbells. Who are the Shy Brothers? They are four brothers, actually two sets of fraternal twins who are third generation dairy farmers based in Westport Point, Massachusetts.

They produce one cheese -- Hannahbells -- with three different infusions, rosemary, lavender, and shallots and one final plain version. Hannahbells, named for the boys' mother, are thimble sized artisanal cheeses that embody the unique terroir of the Westport River modeled on the French cheese called boutons de coulottes. Each delicate miniature morsel of cheesy goodness is made up of pasteurized cow's milk and two French molds for the exterior of each cheese. One of which dials the buttery, round, richness of the cheese and one which adds an elegant chalky depth.

At Beecher's yesterday I had the pleasure to sample the Shallot Hannahbells which had a fabulous piquant punch from the shallots. Flavor forward, these little guys are not for the faint of heart but I loved them. With a glass of Prosecco and some crackers they would be the most perfect amuse bouche or hors d'oeuvre. I can't wait to try the other Hannahbells as I am sure each is more fantastic than the last!

Image courtesy of

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 502 : A trip to Beecher's

Beecher's Cheese opened in Manhattan on Friday and I knew I had to visit during its first weekend on the East Coast, a big deal for Beecher's and for us! Walking into the 900 Broadway storefront, I primarily noticed that this is the first cheese shop in Manhattan where the consumer does not feel claustrophobic, there's a casual rustic openness here. Entering through the open doors, you are greeted with a warm welcome of fresh homemade cheese curd samples. Directly to your right are two long refrigerated cases and situated in front of you are pre-cut Beecher's cheeses, cured meats, and more. To your left facing the consumer as you enter is a coffee area and a "to-go" cafe counter with their fantastic homemade award winning penne mac n' cheese among the other yummy goodies. Definitely worth at least a sample, if not an indulgence of an entire cup. Also on view, not yet in use, is what I believe to be Manhattan's first cheesemaking facility that is visible to the public. Check back shortly for this added treat. Below the retail shop is a sultry wine bar/restaurant that looks like just the sort of place to enjoy Beecher's decadent cheeses and wines.

I love the fact that a large percentage of the staff is imported from Seattle -- Beecher's knows what works for them, so why not keep to formula, simply across the country?

Looking at their cheese selections, I was primarily impressed about the broad ranging selection they had available of great American artisanal cheeses -- spanning small cheesemakers in Massachusetts to our home state cheese minds to the brilliance behind Zingerman's, Cowgirl Creamery, Lazy Lady Farm, Carr Valley Creamery and much much more. Most importantly, they had an entire case dedicated to their own cheeses. Yes, they are developing a new cheese named for their new neighborhood -- Flatiron. But that has yet to be released to the public, so stay tuned for thoughts on that. But for the meantime, they have their Flagship, their signature cheese first released to the public in 2003. Flagship comes aged for four years; in reserve format; smoked; crafted with raw milk; or infused with two distinct spice combinations resulting in No Woman and Marco Polo. You have to appreciate a cheesemaker who takes one successful cheese and continues and continues to experiment with his or her product till they are able to coax out a variety of distinct cheeses and Beecher's certainly succeeds at that.

Flagship walks an elegantly fine line between an aged cheddar and a classically nutty Alpine style cheese. Semi hard with a round buttery full flavor with a crisp nutty finish. It is American artisanal cheese done right! If you have not yet had the opportunity to sample Flagship, get thee to Beecher's and ask the lovely staff for a sample.

I am sure you are wondering what No Woman and Marco Polo are. Each starts with the extremely successful base of Flagship. No Woman adds a secret blend of Jamaican spices to produce a warm and delightfully unique cheese with nutty and spicy Caribbean notes. Stimulating in all the right sort of ways, enjoy with a glass of off-dry Riesling. Quite unlike any cheese I have ever had the pleasure to try and don't get me wrong, I have tried a few cheeses in my time.

Marco Polo is Beecher's homage to the European greats, specifically the Spanish stallions. Marco Polo itself is infused with milled green and black peppercorns to produce a piquant and dynamically spicy cheese with creamy richness round notes. I find it it tough to get the right proportion of peppercorn infusion in cheeses traditionally; take for example Pecorino Pepato, way too much peppercorn there, but this cheese succeeds with flying colors.

Overall - a much needed and fabulous addition to our Manhattan cheese shop options -- a place for sampling, purchasing, watching, enjoying, and cooking. How much better could one get?

Stay tuned for a report soon about the restaurant and other Beecher's offerings.
In the meantime, take yourself to Beecher's and enjoy!!!

900 Broadway (@20th street)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 501 : Fast, Easy Fresh Dinners for One

Last night after a long week I planned on a nice relaxing night at home -- a homecooked meal, a glass of my favorite rose wine, the Yankees game, my book, and of course cuddling with my dog.

You know those nights where you are in the mood to make something elaborate and intricate in the kitchen, spending hours slaving by the stove making sure each element of the meal comes out perfectly? Well last night was not one of them for me-- I wanted to make something simple and delish.

I decided to make a quinoa, mâché, avocado salad with fresh asparagus and peas, topped with homemade vinaigrette and shaved Italian Piave. Quick and easy. Quinoa is cooked like rice but cooks much quicker, I find. So while the quinoa is cooking, chop up a quarter of an avocado and a few asparagus. Combine these in a bowl with your English peas which will add a nice crunch to the dish. Add in the mâché, a delicate French green that is slightly sweet with a nice green vegetal herbaceousness. Once the quinoa is finished, combine with your greens in the salad bowl. Next up combine some EVOO, basil olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Maille Dijon mustard, a drop of soy sauce and a tiny bit of sherry vinegar. Mix the dressing into the salad and then top with a nice amount of shaved Piave. I think that larger shavings of cheese as opposed to smaller grated pieces will dial the salad up a notch -- adding a rustic, barnyardy, nutty, butterscotchy cheesy component to your green quinoa salad. A meal prepared in less than thirty minutes giving one the opportunity to relax and unwind without too much time in the kitchen.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 500 : In honor of H & H

First off - I'd like to take a moment to thank all of my faithful readers who have supported me and tuned in to my musings on a daily basis for the past five hundred days, gosh that is an exciting moment isn't it? In honor of our five-hundredth day I thought we would honor a Manhattan institution that has been around for thirty nine years and closed its doors this week -- H & H Bagels on 80th and Broadway. I will also suggest a riff on the classic bagel with cream cheese and lox, not straying too far from the original inspiration however.

H & H Bagels was one of those quintessential Manhattan joints -- steeped in the hussle and bussle of this great city I call home. It was no fuss, no frills, just bagels, schmear, and lox. Their success wasn't steeped in elaborate offerings and fancy choices but just good honest bagels. Whenever you walked by their storefront, the comforting wafts of freshly baked bagels poured out onto the street, begging you to go in. H & H was a star in its own right, having been featured in everything from "Sex and the City" to "Manhattan Murder Mystery" to "Seinfeld" to "You've Got Mail" to "Entourage," and plenty more movies and television shows. There was just something so special and simple about a good H & H bagel, a cup of coffee, and the New York Times on a Sunday morning.

So this Sunday morning when you're having a bagel dilemma and curious what to do, why not try something new to top your bagel -

How about Massachusetts based Westfield Farm's Wasabi Capri? A spreadable fresh, lactic, and milky goat's milk cheese that is infused with fresh wasabi root and chives. At $4.99 for 5 ounces it is a little more expensive than a nice cream cheese but it is totally worth it. It will awaken your senses and be the perfect counterpart to a few slices of fresh Gravlax -- salt, sugar, and dill cured smoked salmon. Delicate, flavorful, and aromatic, the perfect smoked salmon choice for this cheese. What else? How about a few thin slices of cucumber and some ground pink peppercorns? An excellently elevated version of your bagel with lox and schmear.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 499 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #20

People always ask me where my favorite places to buy cheese are in Manhattan and today I got to thinking about splurge worthy cheese shops in Brooklyn! For those of you who live in Brooklyn, far away from Murray's Cheese, Lucy's Whey, Saxelby Cheese and more, you want cheeseshops in your neighborhood as well, right?
If Williamsburg is the neighborhood you call home, then you should take yourself to Bedford Cheese Shop on its namesake avenue, Bedford Avenue at number 229. It's got a broad range of cheeses -- the classics, hard to find European cheeses, local greats, and more. An extensive selection that gives you the opportunity to spend lots of your hard earned dollars on yummy creamy delicacies.

But maybe you live in Boerum Hill or nearby? Then you must get yourself to Stinky Brooklyn, 261 Smith Street -- perhaps you should stop on by on Sunday when there is 2011 Stinkfest, a cheese eating contest of epic proportions! Stinky Brooklyn to me has a small town feel - a great selection of European and American classics. Stinky's selection is smaller than Bedford's but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth making the trek to both, even if you live in Manhattan.

Each boasts plenty of splurge worthy cheeses -- one geared towards the hipsters of Williamsburg and one to the young professionals and families of Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill/etc. I must find out about the cheese shops of Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island for our next How to Save/How to Splurge dispatch!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 498 : Developments in the NYC Cheese world

Two big things are happening this week -- one good and one bad!

Let's get the bad news over with first :

The New York State Department of Agriculture has decreed that cheesemakers are no longer allowed to cut individual pieces of cheese at Greenmarkets because the process of cutting the cheese has been categorized as a form of "processing" the cheese. This means that for cheesemakers like Cato Corner Farm and 3 Corner Field Farm they have to pre-cut all their cheese before arriving at the market which means they have to predict how much cheese consumers will purchase -- do you want to overshoot sales? Or undershoot sales? For cheesemakers like Ardith Mae who primarily have small cheeses already sold individually, it is less of a big deal. The question therefore becomes -- what will this new law do to cheesemakers at New York City Greenmarkets? Will it cause them to completely renovate their business? Will they stop coming to greenmakets because of the new regulations? We can only hope that won't be the case.

In my opinion I think the new ruling is completely ridiculous, part of the fun of going to a cheesemaker at a greenmarket is your conversation with them, trying their cheese, learning about their passion for their cheese and consequently procuring the amount that you would like that is not necessarily measured out to a quarter, a third, a half of a pound or more.

Now onto the good news, West Coast cheese giant, Beecher's Cheese, is opening their first cheesemaking facility/cheese shop/restaurant on Broadway and 20th Street. Beecher's Cheese has been an institution for seven years at Pike Place Market in Seattle but we all in the New York cheese community are excited to welcome them to the East Coast! Beecher's opens Friday June 24th so stay tuned for my reviews later this week.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 497 : SCS Version 5.0, Dispatch #3 - Truffle Cheeses

Truffles are the ultimate in decadence when it comes to a cheese infusion in my mind -- the "black tie" ingredient that's for sure! Cheeses infused with truffles are traditionally meant to be enjoyed with a nice glass of bubbly or a smooth red wine. Truffles tend to provide a cheese with an earthy rustic umami quality -- a great punch of flavor but nothing too overwhelming.

For today's foray into truffle infused cheeses I actually chose a Wisconsin crafted cheese that is modeled on the Italian greats so you could see a direct correlation of old world cheese making influencing new world cheese making. Granted for the old world cheese, I chose something unique...

Black Sheep Truffle crafted by Carr Valley Cheese in La Valle, WI is a sheep's milk cheese that has been aged for at least six months that is infused with black truffle flakes and is rubbed in black truffle olive oil. Sweet and buttery ivory interior paste is peppered with black truffle flecks infusing the cheese with excellently earthy notes. The truffle oil that is applied on the exterior dials up the truffle quotient and dresses the cheese up. Great with a nice medium bodied red wine or even a glass of bubbly.

And what of its Italian counterpart?

I chose what I thought was the most unique Italian truffle cheese crafted in Sardinia -- Pecorino Moliterno al Tartufo. It is a raw sheep's milk cheese in which the truffles are injected into the cheese once it has been aged for five months so that the cheese's unique flavors are able to develop pre-truffle. During its five month aging process, the cheese is rubbed with local olive oils and vinegar to coax out the raw sheep's milk flavor profile. You might be wondering, what's injected exactly? A black truffle paste. What happens when the black truffle paste is injected to the Pecorino cheese? Deep and thick black-ish veins populate the cheese almost like one would see in certain blue cheeses. Also due to the injection, instead of the interior paste being ivory white like our Wisconsin cheese or even another Italian truffle cheese like Sottocenere, it is darker and more ominous looking. Don't get me wrong, the cheese is a burst of truffle flavor with a nice salty, savory, creamy, cheesy counterpart. Heaven in cheese form -- enjoy with a glass of red wine.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 496 : Corn Bruschetta

Following in the footsteps of last week's summertime crostini, I thought it'd be nice to continue with the theme and utilize a few more ingredients that are fresh and fabulous at this time of year!

How about a fresh grilled corn, basil, roasted tomato, sauteed shallot and baby zucchini bruschetta with Young Goat Gouda? A great celebration of summer's bounty. Sure there's a little bit of prep time involved but its worth it!

Let's start with the roasted tomatoes first since they take the longest. Grab 1/2 cup of roasted tomatoes, drizzle with EVOO, top with some sel de la guerande, oregano and marjoram and place in an oven safe dish for about 30 minutes at 300 degrees or until golden brown and somewhat shriveled. While the tomatoes are cooking, dice up a few baby zucchini and a shallot and place in a skillet with EVOO, a little bit of diced fresh basil and oregano and cover. Cook over low heat for approximately eight minutes till the zucchini is cooked through. Baby zucchini cooks much more rapidly than its larger cousins so make sure to not overcook. Next up grab your stove top grill and rub some EVOO on two ears of corn, grill till you get a nice char on the corn. Also on the stove top grill, grab some baguette to toast as well. Once the corn is done make sure to shave off all the kernels, combine with zucchini and roasted tomatoes, add a little bit extra sel de la guerande and a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper for a nice kick. Stir together so all of the veggie juices combine. Now it's time to assemble the bruschetta -- take your Young Goat Gouda which I find to be fresh, crisp, lactic, creamy, with the perfect lightness to it and slice. Place the piece of Goat gouda on top of the toasted baguette and top with your grilled corn salad. Enjoy this with a California Sauvignon Blanc.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 495: Father's Day at Boulud Sud

Boulud Sud has definitely become a family favorite in the short amount of time it has been open -- it's got a creative and constantly evolving menu with plenty of refined touches; an elegant dining room where even when packed to the gills you can still hear all of your dining companions; and it is good value for the quality of food, service, and ambiance. Sure it's not cheap but it doesn't break the bank as a good number of restaurants in our fair town might.

So what did we have in honor of Father's Day this evening? A nice Provencal red, slightly chilled but a very versatile food pairing wine with a nice bouquet on the nose and tongue.

For starters we split:

The Octopus a la plancha served with marcona almonds and a marcona almond puree, arugula, and a sherry vinegar. Crisp, flavorful, and alive -- this is octopus that delights across the board, no hints of that awful chewy-ness traditionally associated with the sea creature.

Then we had their chickpea and eggplant duo with homemade falafel, babaganoush, and a fresh hummus. Each element was vegetal and herbaceous with the right amount of savory kick without being too overwhelming -- every ingredient sung to the beat of its own drum but blended together for all right reasons.

And lastly as an appetizer we had their sheep's milk cheese with yogurt which was a trio of whipped manouri, a duo of green and black olive pastes and grilled manouri with tomato confit. Manouri is a semi-firm cheese that is crafted from the left-over whey of feta production. Firmer than feta and less brine-y, it has slight hints of sweetness and a milky creaminess. Great in this inventive appetizer.

For my main I had their appetizer duo of tabouleh which is the classic Greek style salad and then the cauliflower version with golden raisins, herbs, and nuts. A delish riff on a cultural classic done well.

Also with the mains we split crispy artichokes and a roasted beets side with pistachio yogurt that was out of this world. Gave me the idea to start experimenting in infusing flavors into the open backdrop of plain yogurt, hmmm...where can I go with this one?

Overall a fantastic meal enjoyed by all and a lovely celebration. What a treat it is to have a restaurant of this nature so close to home.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 494 : City Winery

City Winery is a fabulous addition to New York's live music scene -- envisioned and created by the man behind the Knitting Factory, Michael Dorf, to combine his two passions -- music and wine.  An intimate and rustic space allowing one to enjoy the concert from any area of the room or simply grab a glass of wine at the bar and catch up.

Last night I had the pleasure of taking advantage of a Gilt City offer to go to a concert there complete with a carafe of wine, a cheese plate, two tickets, and a signed CD. The cheese plate was courtesy of Murray's cheese and came with the creamy luscious Italian Brunet, the stinky pungent Von Trapp Oma from Vermont and the middle of the road, always satisfying Italian Piave. A nice cheese selection that was certainly much better than any other music venue you could ever imagine.

The wine actually was part of their "on tap" wines - "freshly drawn, straight from the barrel, low or no sulfites added." What a unique treat to be able to enjoy! The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and little, with a nice minerality and a lightly floral bouquet.

On top of our cheese plate we also ordered the Seasonal Wild Mushroom flatbread with sage and goat cheese bechamel. The crust is actually made from real wine lees from barrels in the winery. Simple, fresh, delish, rustic, and it provided each ingredient the opportunity to shine. This was share-able food that made one want to enjoy a glass of wine with.

Overall a definite must return location -- Dorf's vision of combining music and wine surely was a success.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 493 : New cheese discoveries

This past week, I went back to Tarallucci E Vino and split a plate of three of their cheese offerings with the goal of exploring cheeses I might not have had before. It's tough to stump me when it comes to a cheese, in case you couldn't guess....But Tarallucci E Vino introduced me to a fabulous new Spanish goat's milk cheese - Vare. A firm, crisp, citrusy, and grassy goat's milk cheese from Asturias. Unlike a large percentage of firm goat's milk cheeses, I feel that this cheese would be able to stand up to some medium bodied earthy red wines. It is quietly mild but with a presence that lingers.

The second cheese we had was Miticana de Cabra from Spain's Murcia region - a mixed milk sheep and goat bloomy rind log cheese -- think Bucheron meets Cana de Cabra but with sheep's milk. Chalky and pasty with a roundness of flavor that similar cheeses crafted with simply goat's milk are lacking. This is the sort of cheese that coats your mouth in the most fabulous manner and leaves you wanting more. Definitely needs to be enjoyed with a glass of bubbly!

Lastly we had the Blu di Bufala from Lombardia. Blue cheese made with buffalo's milk! Rich and round with a rustic farmsteady quality. It packs a nice earthy punch and is perfect with a glass of Moscato d'Asti.

Overall a great selection of three cheeses that delighted!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 492 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #19

Don't pause, don't think twice, get thee to Zabars!

Well because they have fabulous Crottin de Chavignol's available for $1.98 an unheard price around town!


Compare it to $4.99 at Murray's.

Enjoy it with a Loire Valley Sancerre.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 491 : A Summertime Crostini

Today is one of those beautiful June days where it's not too hot, not too cold, sunny and not too humid. So in honor of today's glorious weather, I thought I would propose a recipe for a summertime crostini to be paired with a crisp, mineral forward white wine.

In honor of summer's fruit and vegetable bounty, for today's crostini, grab a nice ripe peach. Slice in half and brush with a bit of EVOO and sprinkle some sel de la guerande over the top. Next up place your peach on a stove top grill to get a nice char to it. Grab a nice French baguette and slice a few thick slices and place those on the stove top grill. Next up grab some Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta and fresh rosemary, EVOO, and a drop more sel de la guerande. Whip the herbs, EVOO, and salt into the ricotta. The last element to your crostini is a purple basil leaf.

Once the bread and peaches are done, take each crostini and place a grilled peach sliver on top of the bread, topped with a dollop of your herbaceous ricotta and one purple basil leaf. Enjoy your colorful appetizer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 490 : SCS Version 5.0, Dispatch #2

This week's SCS dispatch will focus on two cheeses that are quintessentially Italian and classically Wisconsin in their taste and flavor profiles. So shall we get going? Each of today's cheeses is not necessarily produced strictly by one farm, sometimes you will see multiple cheesemakers creating each of these two cheeses and leaving their particular mark on the cheese.

Brick is a classically Wisconsin cheese and dare I say, even a Wisconsin invention dating back to the late  1800s. It is reminiscent of say a German beer washed rind cheese, but yet not at all necessarily similar, shaped almost in the form of a brick hence its name. Made in three distinct styles, young, aged and washed rind. Young Brick style cheeses tend to be luscious, herbal, fruity, soft and creamy. With age, Brick tends to open up -- drier yet more dynamic, full of stinky barnyardy pungence for all the right reasons! The color in turn ranges from bright white and ivory to darker paler yellows. A true American invention, more specifically a moment of Wisconsin glory.

And what of its Italian counterpart?

We have all heard of Pecorino but have you heard of Pecorino Marzolino? A classic raw sheep's milk cheese is washed or more rather rubbed with the quintessential Italian tomatoes -- San Marzano -- giving the cheese a reddish tomato-y exterior color and a juicy, farmsteady, herbaceous and vegetal taste and aroma. And what of the white ivory interior? Silky smooth with buttery milky notes, round in taste, coating every ounce of one's mouth. The tomatoes impart a light finish that takes a rich cheese and turns into something more fanciful and playful. Enjoy with a glass of a light to medium bodied red, full of red fruit notes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 489 : Rubiners and Red Dawn

Another Berkshire dispatch today!

After leaving Berkshire Blue yesterday, we drove into downtown Great Barrington to visit the Berkshire cheese shop institution I had heard about -- Rubiner's. Located in an old bank building on Main Street in this quaint little town, Rubiner's impressed with their selections of cheese, crackers, breads, pastas, cured meats and more. Trust me folks, the selection and the layout of this shop rivals cheese shops one would see in any big city. I thought it was lovely how they provided tastes of a variety of cheeses already out for you to sample. Granted most cheese shops have one or two samples, at Rubiner's there were three different cheeses in two different areas for the consumer to indulge in a taste of. Also - a nice touch was the fact that near the register there was a little sign indicating that if you were a farmer, you would receive a 20% discount on anything you purchased.

At Rubiner's, I discovered Red Dawn, a smoked paprika rubbed soft goat's milk round that has been aged for about three weeks. Red Dawn is crafted by Prairie Fruits Farm which is Illinois' first artisanal and farmstead cheesemaking facility. Luscious and creamy with grassy and citrusy notes and overtones of spice and smokiness from the paprika. An excellent marriage of distinct flavors packed into one small cheesy disc.
I want to explore the remainder of their cheese repertoire at a later date, that's for sure!

Overall a great trip to the Berkshires.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 488 : A Trip to Berkshire Blue

This morning after an eventful surprise party last night in Lenox, Massachusetts, I had the great pleasure of going to visit Ira Grable at Berkshire Blue and getting an in depth tour of his cheesemaking facilities in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Ira came to cheesemaking later in life after a series of different careers and it sure seems like he has found his passion. After a move from Long Island to Massachusetts about five years ago, Ira was at a crossroads in terms of what to do with himself career wise. By a stroke of luck, he apprenticed under the founder of Berkshire Blue and former publisher of the Berkshire Eagle newspaper, Michael Miller. Working on increasing the distribution of the unique, quintessentially American and utterly fabulous blue for approximately a year, Ira learned that Michael was considering closing up shop for good as he was getting older. This gave Ira an opportunity of a lifetime -- he bought the business from Michael. To this day though Michael is still involved -- transporting the Jersey Cow's milk to the cheesemaking facilities yet the business is now distinctly Ira's.

Ira was asked by a member of our group if he had any experience in cheesemaking previously and what he said which I thought was so poignant is that "He loved how it tasted.." And that's why and how he gave the cheese business a shot. Talking to Ira, you can feel his passion for this blue and his cheese business and it is just incredibly inspiring. Look at what one man can do!

Three rooms of cheesemaking facilities are the space that Berkshire Blue currently calls home. Room One has three vats that house anywhere from sixty to eighty gallons of milk. As the milk is cooked there are three starter molds and two different blues added to the process. This is the room where the cheeses are made. Room Two is the drainage room and the third room is the brining and aging room. In these three rooms, Ira makes anywhere from 175 to 300 pounds of cheese weekly with the help of just one assistant.

The cheese is crafted with unpasteurized Jersey cow's milk and aged for exactly sixty days. In the third aging room one could see the different batches of cheeses and how far along in their aging process they were.

Everything at Berkshire Blue is done by Ira and the taste and flavor of the cheese reflects the love and care that goes into each and every round created. Truly handmade, this cheese does Massachusetts proud. If you have not had the opportunity to sample Berkshire Blue, I highly recommend going to Saxelby Cheese or Murray's or even some of the Whole Foods around town to get a morsel.

The cheese itself is creamy and luscious with a nice blue spicy bite -- the perfect marriage of milky creaminess, blue-ness, and saltiness. Great served alone with a glass of Riesling or a port or in salads, melted on top of eggs -- this is one versatile cheese!

What a great visit!
Thank you Ira for taking the time on a Sunday morning to show us all around.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 487: Cheeses for a Car Ride

Planning on going on any road trips this summer? Getting in your car to get out of town to the beach, the mountains, to visit friends or family, or even just a little jaunt out of town?

Wondering what sort of cheeses are the best to bring on long car rides?
Forget those stinky washed rind cheeses like Epoisses or Taleggio's, those will perfume the car to the point of unpleasantness. Don't get me wrong, I love washed rind cheeses but certainly not on long car rides.

Also not the best are soft, young creamy cheeses. Granted they will be delish, they will not only be hard to eat and enjoy but they will be quite a mess and have the potentiality to smell as well because of their youth.

I recommend a nice firm cow or goat's milk cheese, one that has been aged for at least a few months to a year, maybe like Midnight Moon or a Tomme de Chevre for example. As these cheeses warm up and are in your bag in the car, their flavor profiles open up and distinct nuances come to the forefront.

You might be wondering why I didn't suggest a sheep's milk cheese is because it too has the propensity to start smell when out of the fridge.

So next time you plan on hopping in the car, grab a nice aged cow or goat's milk firm cheese. It will be good out of the fridge for eight hours at least.

Enjoy your next car trip!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 486 : A Riff on Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

This past week I was in my local Trader Joe's and discovered that they have baby zucchini. Yum I thought!
What to make with them?

I decided to do a riff on ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms -- why not stuff the zucchini and then place the stuffed zucchini inside of a zucchini blossom -- decadent, flavorful, a treat inside of a treat inside of a treat. So let's going! What goes into the stuffing?

1/2 lb Salvatore Brooklyn Ricotta
Chopped Chives
2 chopped asparagus
Sel de la guerande
Fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all of the filling ingredients and whip. Next up cut the zucchini length wise and scoop a small amount of your filling into the interior of the zucchini and take a long garlic chive, tie a little bow around the zucchini to keep your precious filling on the inside and then place your zucchini inside of its blossom. Brush the blossoms with a nice light coating of EVOO. Place in the oven on a roasting pan for fifteen to eighteen minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy this with a nice white wine, how's about Lieb Cellars Pinot Blanc from the North Fork of Long Island?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 485 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 18

It's pretty balmy out there isn't it? I'm sure you probably want to be safely inside enjoying a nice crisp glass of Rose wine and what better place to do that at than the new-ish Tarallucci e Vino on Columbus and 83rd street where you can splurge on any number of their dozen cheeses, perhaps a small plate or two, some cured meats if that strikes your fancy and of course a glass or two of wine. What I love about the wine list at Taralucci e Vino is that they focus on smaller production wineries with a more natural approach to wine making. Also notable is that the wine list is strictly European -- Italian wines, of course! But also French, Austrian and Spanish selections. There are frugal choices and a fair share of more indulgent ones as well. On the cheese end of things, you can select from a choice of one cheese for $6, or three cheeses for $14 and five for $20 which is actually a pretty good deal when it comes to ordering cheese in a restaurant situation.

So head on over to Tarallucci e Vino and splurge in a manageable setting and have the opportunity to do plenty of people watching!

475 Columbus Avenue, NYC

Stay tuned next week at a look into my picks for Summer "save" cheeses followed by Summer "splurge" cheeses.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 484 : A new Loire Valley Goat - La Bonde D'Antan

As many of you know I have a very soft spot in my heart for soft ripened goat's milk cheeses, especially those Loire Valley goats...and today I discovered one I hadn't had before -- La Bonde D'Antan.

Smaller than a Chevrot but bigger than a Crottin with that classic goaty tang. When it is young, it is soft, luscious, clean, sweet and creamy but with age, it firms up with a deepening of flavor profile turning it into a more advanced cheese -- piquant, grassy, spicy, with notes of green pepper and citrus. A great summer afternoon cheese with a glass of rose and a crunchy baguette!

As a new portion of my website, when I review cheeses I will give them a letter grade for my particular taste buds, I know that you might not agree with me, but at least you can get an idea of where I might place them.

For La Bonde D'Antan, I give it an A-.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 483 : SCS Version 5.0, Dispatch #1

For my next round of State Country spotlight, I went back and looked at the States and Countries I have focused on and decided that this month we should focus on Wisconsin and Italy - two cheesemaking meccas!

Did you know the Wisconsin cheesemakers association was founded in 1891? The New York Cheesemakers Association was founded in 2003 just to give you an example of how far back cheesemaking goes in Wisconsin. For today, I thought I would introduce you to my favorite Wisconsin cheese -- Buttermilk Blue crafted by Roth Kase in Monroe, WI. Roth Kase has its roots in Switzerland in the 1860s with a cheesemaker by the name of Oswald Roth who exported Emmental cheese. So how did we go from Switzerland to Wisconsin? Well in 1911, Otto Roth, one of Roth's six children starts a Swiss cheese importing agency in New York. 1936 -- the Roth family in the US starts manufacturing their own cheese.  In the 1980s they were bought by General Foods and in the 1990s settled into their Wisconsin home. So what is Buttermilk Blue?

Buttermilk Blue is crafted with raw milk from Jersey and Holstein cows crafted in a traditional style and aged for approximately sixty days -- it is grassy and mild but with a tangy blue punch and a smooth finish. This is a blue cheese that surely will be a crowd pleaser -- intellectual and unique yet approachable and friendly. You can't go wrong here! Serve with a nice glass of White Port.

Since we've proposed a Wisconsin blue, I figure I might as well go with an Italian blue as well. We all know of Gorgonzola and it sure is Italy's claim to blue fame and from yesterday's blog we know of Gorgonzola Dolce or Gorgonzola Cremificato but do we all know Gorgonzola Piccante? And what exactly is the difference? Well Gorgonzola Cremificato with its ivory interior is the younger, creamier, more luscious cousin to the spicier, firmer, aged Gorgonzola Piccante which is washed in brine and aged for approximately a year producing a brick reddish rind and a lightly yellow interior. Buttery notes are off set with an excellent spicy earthy, and farmsteady barnyardy finish. This is not a cheese for the faint of heart but boy is it fabulous! Enjoy this with a nice dessert wine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 482: Gottino's Gorgonzola Dolce

Last week, I had the pleasure of going to Gottino, the brainchild of Jody Williams previously of Morandi. It is part wine bar, part small plates joint, part rustic resto, part an overall great place to meet friends, and as Williams calls it gastroteca. The menu is a mixture of cheeses, cured meats, small plates, and more...

If you go though, you must have their Gorgonzola dolce served in a small ramekin, it is placed on a dish with some honey and crisp crostini -- decadent, spicy, creamy, sumptuous and all around fabulous. Although traditionally I adore Gorgonzola Dolce, theirs is dialed up a notch in just the right sort of way, walking the most excellently fine line between sweet and savory, it is a must if you visit Gottino.

Also noteworthy is their homemade baccala served in a small glass pot, it is salty, savory and great on crostini with a glass of crisp white wine.

Overall a lovely place in a convenient neighborhood, it's worth the trip. Go early and enjoy their backyard on a day like today, you surely can't go wrong!

52 Greenwich Street

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 481 : A frozen inspiration

This afternoon I went to the first New Amsterdam Market of the season and had a People's Pop in a Rhubarb Chamomile flavor so I got the inspiration for a fabulously sweet and savory dessert based on my pop:

It requires two cups of brewed chamomile tea, save the tea bags, and utilize a small amount of the tea water to combine with 8 ounces of fresh ricotta and also place tea bags in the bowl with the ricotta for half an hour to infuse the chamomile flavor in to the fresh cheese. Now dice up a few fresh strawberries and fresh tarragon to top the ricotta. Next up, take some fresh rhubarb and grill lightly on the stove top grill giving it a nice char and softening it up a bit. Place the rhubarb on top with a tiny drizzle of EVOO, raw honey, and sel de la guerande. Enjoy with the crostini of your choosing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 480 : A visit to my grandmother's

My grandmother is truly an inspiration to anyone who has the opportunity and the pleasure to meet her and at 94 years of age, she is awe-inspiring that's for sure! Today, I went out to visit her and brought her lunch.

What did I make?

A baby spinach salad with lightly sauteed asparagus and English peas along with Persian cucumbers, a little bit of diced fennel for that aromatic punch and slivered dry roasted almonds along with some freshly grated Parmesan. The salad was topped with a homemade dressing composed of EVOO, a drizzle of butternut squash seed oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and a dollop of Maille rich country dijon mustard. The salad was meant to be an ode and in turn welcoming to my favorite produce season of the year -- summer when everything is crisp, fresh, and local!

Along with the salad we had homemade crostini with Old Chatham Sheepherding Ewe's Blue served on toasted whole grain sprouted cinnamon raisin bread. We also had a chevre d'or, a French soft ripened goat's milk cheese. Meaning the golden goat cheese, it is one of France's most popular goat cheeses and was a perfect accompaniment to our lovely meal. I served it with Zabar's mini multi-grain loaf.

Overall the meal was a delight and the company was truly special. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing grandmother and cherish each and every moment spent with her.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 479: Balaboosta and other adventures

I'd been wanting to try Balaboosta since it opened last year and just never made it. Balaboosta is Einat Admony of Taim falafel joint's larger Middle Eastern / Israeli casual resto and seeing as I love Middle Eastern food, I thought great, this place will be for me!

Walking into the restaurant, one is greeted with a rustic, warm, and friendly small space, packed pretty full in the middle of the week. The menu is a mixture of small plates, appetizers, and entrees with Admony's twist on classic Middle Eastern dishes. What did we all order? Not much cheese but I will share some of the meal.

Crispy cauliflower with currants and pine nuts which was savory, distinct, and satisfying. The cauliflower seemed to have been roasted and sauteed with EVOO and balsamic vinegar giving the exterior a nice toasted crunch and the interior a nice luscious vegetal melt in your mouth feel. Not your average cauliflower small plate but boy was it a delight. Made me want to go out and buy some cauliflower to try to replicate it.

Next up was Dave's Grilled Pizza topped with carrot puree, caramelized onions, goat's cheese, and cilantro. The crust was the wrong sort of consistency for a flat bread pizza and the topping underwhelmed, it felt like carrot puree on top of cardboard with insufficient seasoning.

We also had their smoked eggplant bruschetta with an herb and citrus salad. This was not a success either, the eggplant flavor was masked by the salad and there was no sense of it having been smoked. It felt as though there were too many ingredients combined without a sense of harmony and the bread that they were served on was not the right vehicle for the salad either.

There were a few other items ordered at the table as well but none, except for the cauliflower were a huge success, they had the glimmers of hope of being great but fell unfortunately quite flat. The atmosphere was a lot of fun and their rose sangria was delish, but I'm not sure I need to go back. I'm glad I went once and will always love Taim but I don't feel like Balaboosta has itself figured out yet.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the opening for David LaChapelle's newest installation at Lever House which was just the right sort of Thursday evening people watching -- art world bigwigs, infamous names, dealers, finance types, and those just coming for a free glass of wine on Park Avenue. At the beginning of the event, they had small hors d'oeuvres passed by Casa Lever -- a mixture of vegetarian and meat options. Although it was very straightforward, the fresh classic pairing of a sliced cigelini with basil and cherry tomato on a spork was a satisfying delight paired with a glass of Prosecco. Sometimes something simple is perfect, especially when the art and the crowd added the right amount of spice and sizzle to the evening.

Have a lovely weekend folks!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 478 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 17

Craving cheese fondue after yesterday's post on Artisanal but don't want to break the bank making it?

Most cheese fondues utilize a mixture of mountain cheeses and/or Cheddars, some add white wine, some add cornstarch, flour, milk, cider, and more. By adding in a mixture of cheeses, you can cut down the expense of strictly utilizing a lot of say Gruyere or Comte and create a more dynamic flavor profile.

1/3 lb of Cantal cheese (grated) -- France's answer to cheddar, tangy, buttery, and creamy. Traditionally found for around $10 a pound, it is a great way to dial up the cheesy punch in your melted deliciousness.

1/2 lb of Emmental cheese (grated) -- Swiss style cheese that is young, nutty, and easily "blendable." Traditionally found for about $7-8 a pound, it will add a cheesy weight to the fondue and bring the other elements of the fondue together.

1/4 lb of Tarentaise (grated) -- Vermont's answer to the French/Swiss Alpine cheeses. I always like to add a local cheese to represent the local terroir and create a more unique fondue profile.

1/4 lb of Gruyere (grated) -- I always like to add a bit of nice aged Gruyere to a fondue, but not that much, just enough to give your fondue that nice classic punch.

To liquefy the fondue, you either need to add white wine or milk, I find adding milk masks the taste of cheeses so I like to add a cup to a cup and a half of white wine. You could go with a South African Chenin Blanc for example which you can find for $8 a bottle. Add a dollop of cornstarch in as well because that will keep the wine and cheese together when they melt.

I also like to add some coarsely ground black pepper and some sea salt. Depending on my mood, adding some oregano, rosemary, thyme, and tarragon could be a nice herbal infusion. It is nice to go either the dried herb route or add in a diced clove of garlic or a shallot.

Yes there are a lot of ingredients involved in my fondue but I guarantee they function in excellent harmony. So next time you are in the mood for a fondue, try this mixture.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 477 : Artisanal

Most people who find out that I write a cheese blog ask whether I know Artisanal and what I think of the joint. When Artisanal opened in 2001, it changed the way New York perceived cheese -- cheese became a delicacy. People started to understand what the European fuss was all about, it really was one of the first restos that gave cheese the time of day.
Now, a decade later, Artisanal is common parlance and has a loyal following. The menu is definitely cheese-centric with classic French bistro style dishes. Last night, I had a boston bibb salad with herbs and a parmesan black pepper dressing topped with the special addition of a poached egg. The salad was delectable -- fresh, crisp, flavorful and the perfect sort of salad to go with a nice light Rose wine on a warm summer evening. Great wine list and cocktails always enhances a dining experience, especially a cheese centric one.
Following the salad, we split one of their fondues, composed of a blend of Alpine style cheeses such as Gruyere, Appenzeller, Emmental, and more. As a few of the people I dined with mentioned, sometimes they tend to skimp on the amount of cheese provided for the amount of money and for the number of diners indicated on the menu. Last night they did a pretty good job with quantity and we all enjoyed the nutty, creamy, luscious melted cheese with cubes of bread, apples, crudités, and some of us, with kielbasa. If you want to share in the cheese-y pleasure but don’t feel like coming all the way to the restaurant, you can always order the fondue mixture online from as well.

Overall it was a wonderful meal at an always reliable place that has gone from being trend-setting to a mainstay.

2 Park Avenue

Day 476 : SCS Version 4.0, Dispatch #4

First off - I apologize folks we are playing catch up today with back to back blogs, sometimes the day just gets away from me and I don't want to compromise on my blogs so I'd rather be later than un-interesting with my posts...

We are reaching the end of our Massachusetts and Portuguese cheese spotlight and to be honest, I'm kind of relieved...this has been a tough month, Portuguese cheeses tend to fit the raw sheep's milk, vegetarian rennet, firm cheese profile and yes albeit there are exceptions but you do not tend to find a wide variety of other cheese styles from Portugal imported here to the US. Massachusetts cheese makers on the other hand, experiment more with their cheeses, so what do we have on the docket this week?

Lea’s Great Meadow hailing from Carlisle Farmstead Cheese in Hardwick, Massachusetts. I think Carlisle is a great example of the new creameries coming out of Massachusetts -- they have been producing cheese for sale since 2005 and with each cheese, they constantly try to push the cheese envelope, in all the right ways. For today's cheese or more rather what should have been yesterday's cheese, I chose Lea's Great Meadow because I think it proves my point with their cheesemaking point of view excellently. A bloomy rind goat's milk semi-soft tomme style cheese that is infused with herbs (fennel, thyme, rosemary, and lavender) in the center -- think of Humboldt Fog and replace the central ashen line with a line of herbs, how fabulous does that sound? Herbal, grassy, vegetal, fragrant is entertwined with classically creamy, lightly lactic, citrusy chalky interior paste. The perfect cheese for a glass of Sancerre.

And today's Portuguese cheese is Castelo Branco crafted in the center of Portugal, in the cheese's namesake region of Castelo Branco. It is crafted with raw sheep's milk aged for at least 45 days delivering a semi-soft interior with a yellow-ish exterior full of savory salty notes. As the cheeses ages, its firmness develops and its flavor profile grows more dynamic. A classically Portuguese cheese and it promises to be herbal and vegetal with hints of tangy spice.

That about wraps up our Massachusettes / Portugal exploration. Should you have any specific places you would like me to focus on over the course of the next month, please let me know by next Tuesday...

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