Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 537 : A report on today's New Amsterdam Market

The New Amsterdam Market is one of my favorite markets around town -- it seeks to bring back the markets of a New York City of yesteryear where one knew their butcher, baker, and bread maker. Local produce, local purveyors, stimulating the local economy and bringing the community together over food and drink. Only on Sundays, it surely is the sort of market that is worth trekking to.

Today's market showcased summer's bounty -- there were many stalls teaming with fresh peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, eggplants, herbs, lettuces and more. If you, like me, love fresh produce, then you would have been in heaven!

But there wasn't just fantastic fresh produce -- there were plenty of prepared foods as well -- People's Pops featuring homemade shave ice and ice pops; and Luke's Lobster with homemade lobster rolls to name a few. Along with locally homemade products like the delish and Fromagical favorite, Nordic Breads; Schoolhouse Kitchen with yummy Horseradish Dill mustard and homemade jams; and Pie Corps with homemade savory and sweet pies among many other vendors.

Of course there were your creameries too, ones that you don't find at other Greenmarkets around town -- Painted Goat Farm from Upstate New York offering fresh infused chevres and bloomy rind aged goat's milk cheeses and the Cellars at Jasper Hill from Greensboro, Vermont, offering a few of their artisanal cheeses including their Bayley Hazen Blue (a Fromagical blue cheese fave) and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.

If you're looking for an excellent staycation Sunday late morning / early afternoon idea -- grab your New York Times, head on down to the New Amsterdam Market, get some goodies to nibble on for now and some to save for later, and then head on over to Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club and sit in the sun with your newspaper and a drink and look out at the Brooklyn Bridge and the water and imagine you are thousands of miles away.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 536 : Surprises

Does a cheese or a food in general ever surprise you?

Expect something to taste like apples and it tastes more like pears?

How often does a tomato actually taste like what you envision a ripe juicy summer tomato to taste like? Probably not all together that often, unless you happen to have access to local fresh tomatoes year round.

Isn't interesting to stop and think about one's preconceived notions about food and what one receives for what one expects? We think about our opinions of restaurants that were recommended highly to us or movies or books for that matter but what about the simple things in life -- the ingredients that go into that meal, the pens that one uses to write the manuscript for one's book, the camera one uses to shoot stills to brainstorm for one's movie? How often do we stop and think about that and as human beings, with opinions about everything, is it automatically ingrained our brains that the farmstand tomato will taste better than the organic supermarket tomato that will in turn taste better than the bodega tomato? So we don't even waste a momentary thought on it? Maybe there are moments where that bodega tomato truly surprises you and you think its a farmstand tomato?

Well I had one of those moments with a Cambozola cheese today -- a blend of a French triple cream like a Brie and an Italian Gorgonzola which in my opinion as of late tends to be more miss than hit and today's was just the right amount of creamy roundness with an excellent spicy bold piquant finish -- the right sort of melding of both worlds.

Sometimes its nice to attempt to strip oneself of one's ingrained opinions and be open to the surprise of the unexpected, right?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 535 : What to eat before a 1/2 marathon at the height of NYC summer

Summer-time running is not for everyone that's for sure. It's hot, it's humid, it's muggy, it's soupy, it's everything that makes your body go slower! I know people who spend the worst days of the summer inside in the air conditioning on treadmills because their bodies just simply cannot tolerate this heat. Well, me, I love it! I love it so much that I'm running a half marathon in it tomorrow.

Hot weather running is a totally different ball game than cool or cold weather running and I think that goes hand in hand with the fact that one wants to eat a lighter meal before a warm weather race, sure you want to feel ready but you definitely don't want to overload. I like to go with seasonal produce and for tonight's pre-race meal, I plan to make a quinoa salad. What will be in the quinoa salad:

Quinoa (obviously!)
1 diced up heirloom tomato
1 diced up Persian Cucumber
Medley of sauteed summer squash and zucchini
Diced up Sugar Snaps
Corn
Sunflower Sprout
Some slivered almonds for extra added protein
1/3 diced up yellow pepper
Crumbled fresh goat's milk chevre
Basil
Homemade vinaigrette (EVOO, Balsamic Vinegar, Roasted Butternut Squash oil for a little dialed up nuttiness, and some Maille Dijon Mustard)


Heavy on the veggies, light on the cooking, heavy on the slow release protein high in essential amino acids. A big fresh seasonal salad perfect for a pre race meal.

How to prepare?

Easy - chop up all the veggies, place in bowl. While you are cooking the quinoa, saute diced up summer squash and zucchini with some EVOO and sea salt, go light on the aromatics before a race and plus all the flavors of the fresh veggies will be perfect. Combine quinoa and all of the veggies, top with mache, slivered almonds, some fresh chevre and then your homemade vinaigrette.



Enjoy with a big glass of water and a cup of green tea, staying hydrated is key!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 534 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #25

In the mood for a splurge tonight?


Then head over to Artisanal cheese for Tourmalet.


What is Tourmalet? 


It is a cylinder of raw sheep's milk cheese crafted in the Pyrenees, you might recognize the shape of the cheese from its well-known, more popular distant cousin, Petit Basque. But Tourmalet dials things up a notch -- an elegant blend of flavor nuances that will make anyone fall in love with this fantastic Pyrénées cheese. It is nutty and firm yet silky and buttery with a rustic, farmsteady, meaty twang. It's got herbaceous grassy notes with a round fullness -- best with some age on it. Great with a medium bodied white wine.


And, why is Tourmalet a splurge?


Well because each cylinder is $54 which surely is a nice chunk of change to spend on a cheese.



Image courtesy of www.artisanalcheese.com









Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 533: Cheese and other yummy-ies at Avoce Columbus

Yesterday afternoon after the office, I decided to have a glass of rose and a selection of three cheeses with a friend at Avoce Columbus. Centrally located in the Time Warner Center with a nice crowd without it being too loud that you could not hear your companion and with a sufficient amount of room to sit. A great place to catch up on a warm summer afternoon.

A quartino of Provencal rose, check!

Their homemade semolina sea salt breadsticks were just the ticket in this warm weather, that's for sure.



And a selection of three Italian cheeses, each served with its own individual accompaniment:

Brunet - From Piedmont, this bloomy rind goat's milk cheese that is utterly decadent, somewhat sweet, and perfectly milky. It was served with a homemade cherry mostarda that dialed up the sweetness of the cheese in the perfect ways.

Sottocenere - From Veneto, this cow's milk cheese is infused with truffles in an understated elegant manner, just like Avoce Columbus is designed. It was paired with a golden raisin grappa puree to coax out the earthy, rustic, and farmsteady notes of the cheese.

Pecorino Marzolino - A sheep's milk cheese from Tuscany was round, nutty, buttery, and caramelly and when paired with the roasted balsamic onions offered, the cheese became more rustic and vegetal. A delight to the senses.



Overall a fantastic selection of three cheeses for $14 and a nice glass of rose and great company in a beautiful setting, how could you go wrong?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 532 : SCS Version 6.0, Dispatch # 4 - Sheep's Milk Jewels

For our final Connecticut / Swiss post I thought I would choose a decadent sheep's milk cheese from each locale.

A few facts about sheep's milk and sheep's milk cheeses before we get started:

1. Sheep's milk contains even more lactose than cow's milk so for those of you who are lactose intolerant, sheep's milk cheese is not a better option, unfortunately.
2. It has a higher percentage of fats, minerals, and solids than cow or goat's milk, but not as much as water buffalo milk.
3. Unlike both goat and cow's milk, sheep's milk is not traditionally utilized for "drinking" purposes.
4. Sheep produce a significantly less amount of milk than cows. But was that a really shocking fact? Of course not, sheep are significantly smaller than cows and therefore produce less milk.
5. Cheeses made with sheep's milk tend to be richer, rounder, and more full bodied.

So let's get going folks!

From Connecticut, we turn to Beaver Brook Farm, the state's largest sheep farm located in Lyme. The 175 acre farm was purchased in 1917 for $2,000 by the current owner's grandfather. Can you believe being able to buy land for that cost nowadays? Wouldn't that be a miracle! For the first portion of its life, the farm functioned as a beef and hay farm and in 1984, when the current owners took over the farm, they slowly transitioned it to a primarily sheep farm. Today, Beaver Brook produces eight different artisanal farmstead cheeses utilizing cow and sheep's milk, yogurts, and a wide variety of wool products. For today's cheese, I chose their Sheep's milk Herbes de Provence cheese -- a small seasonal hockey puck sized cheese infused their own special blend of herbes de provence and lavender. Decadent, creamy, and unctuous interior paste is coated with the most fantastic vegetal and herbaceous exterior profile providing for a fantastic dichotomy of flavor nuances.



And what of our Swiss counterpart?

How's about Schaf Reblochon?

Classic Swiss Reblochon cheese is crafted here with sheep's milk instead of the normal cow's milk. What changes with the milk switch up? Classic sheep's milk flavors are very prominent -- round, buttery, farmsteady, and rustic notes with the most fabulous melt in your mouth textures. This small gooey soft roundelle coats every crevice of your mouth for all the right reasons. Enjoy this with a nice dark beer, something that can stand up to the cheese. Definitely considered a splurge, clocking in at $48 a pound at Artisanal Cheese.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 531 : Vermont Cheese-cation Post # 3 - The Visual Tour

Wish you could have gone to the Vermont Cheesemakers Fest but just couldn't fit it into your busy summer travel schedule? Well folks don't worry, I'm here to provide you with the visuals and reviews to boot! Cheeses to check out, new developments, local Vermont produce and more!! Unfortunately I didn't get great shots of everything, but if I didn't get a shot of something that I think should be mentioned, just check at the bottom for my reviews. 



Spring Brook Farm's new cheese known as Reading. Semi-soft and pliable, great for melting purposes. Made with the same equipment utilized to make their award winning Tarentaise, one of my favorites. Reading, unlike Tarentaise is aged for approximately three months. It is creamy, almost sweet, with lightly toasted nutty notes. I imagine it would be great in pastas or grilled cheeses or served with some dried fruit and marcona almonds and a glass of light red wine. A must try if you like Tarentaise or Alpine Style cheeses.



Grafton Village Cheese's spread



And their new exciting release!!! Their first Raw Milk cheese aged at least sixty days known as Bismark. They also manufacture a truffle infused Bismark. This was the first time it was available for public consumption and boy was it wonderful! Nutty and caramelly with an excellent depth of flavor profile. This my friends is a sophisticated cheese and one most certainly worth seeking out. A Fromagical top pick!



Castleton Crackers - Handcrafted artisanal Vermont made flatbread crackers. They come in Middlebury Maple, Rutland Rye, Windham Wheat, Putney Pumpkin, and Richmond Rosemary. A great cracker for cheese -- flavorful and delish!



Vermont Butter and Cheese's spread -- one of the festival sponsors and a must try if you haven't ever had their Coupole, Cremont, Bijou, or Bonne Bouche. They also make a decadent butter and a soft spreadable creamy goat's milk cheese. We all know, Coupole is near and dear to my heart.



Baguettes anyone for your cheese?



Shelburne Farms Cheeses - the hosts of the fest at Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms. They had a tasting of their 1 year old, 2 year old, and 3 year old farmstead Cheddars -- a great way to educate people about the distinctions in flavor profile that develop from the aging process.



The Cellars at Jasper Hill -- cheese trading cards? Is this the way forward? Yes folks, it is their new thing! Small cards describing each of the cheeses in their lineup. Imagine what would happen if all the American artisanal farms had cheese trading cards, I'll trade you "Red Hawk" for "Piper's Pyramid"...



Cabot's 3 year reserve cheddar



The layout at Provisions International -- a wholesale purveyor of cheeses and other gourmet foods located in White River Junction. They ship up and down the East Coast and don't just have cheese but other fantastic edibles as well.



One of a view chocolatiers at the event -- chocolate and cheese, have you tried it? It's worth the shot if you haven't! Wondering how to pair it? Try a spicy dark chocolate with an aged goat's milk cheese or gingery-fruity chocolate with an aged nutty Alpine style cheese. Shoot me an email if you'd like more tips!



One of many local breweries present.



Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, MA - One of my top non-Vermont cheese picks! Their wasabi chevre is to die for! Spicy, tangy, citrusy, and everything wonderful. Also somewhat new to their lineup and definitely worth the indulgence is their calabrini which is a fresh creamy chevre infused with sundried tomato, basil, garlic, and olive oil. A classic combo done well, you cannot go wrong here. I like the boldness of cheese infusion choice on their part -- trying something a little different than the norm makes you stand out!





Homemade local artisanal dips and spreads...





Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company -- a newbie! They first started making cheese in January and released their first cheeses in June and they are already "tango-ing" with the big guns! Of my favorite cheeses they had on offer was their WindsorDale, made in the style of a traditional English farmhouse Wensleydale. Creamy and semi-soft with notes of green apples and honey and a bright herbaceous finish. Definitely a top pick especially because they felt like they had been around forever but were and are just getting their cheese "sea-legs."




Fat Toad Farm -- infused chevres, yes they are fantastic chevres but impossible to find to visit. 




And they also make homemade caramel...





One of the many local artisans...infused vinaigrettes made by "It's Arthur's Fault."





Putney Winery -- Vermont's fruit winery -- they infuse blueberries, rhubarb, cassis, cranberries and more into their wines. If you go the sweet route with wines, definitely check them out, you won't be disappointed!




Root Cellar Preserves -- pickles and more! A Fromagical pick is their cranberry beets! The tartness of the cranberries is combined with the earthy, vegetal alive qualities of the beets on the backdrop of the brine-y qualities of pickling. Root Cellars served them with Fat Toad Farm's Chevre on a mini toast -- yum! Ever thought of pairing pickles with cheese? If not, you should try, a sweet and spicy pickle with an aged cheddar, you will be surprised!







Boston Post Dairy's Goudas -- Looking for a simple, crowd pleasing cheese, good for the five year olds, sixty five year olds, and the thirty-something foodies? Well then grab their Goat's Milk Sharp Tomme, I guarantee it will delight each and everyone of your guests. Another Fromagical pick for a great straightforward and simple cheese choice! 



The local jams, fresh fruit preserved into jars, can't go wrong here with some fresh chevre and a nice French Baguette.


Perhaps like this one?




Really Fromagical? This doesn't look too exciting! But fret not, it is Champlain Valley Creamery's first release of their own homemade queso fresco. What is Queso Fresco you might be wondering? As per the translation, it is a fresh cheese that tends to be white, creamy, soft, milk, and lactic. Traditionally found in Spain, Central and South America. It is easy to make and what better time for Champlain Valley to debut their new queso fresco than the cheesemakers fest? 



Bonnieview Farm's Mossend Blue -- Fromagical's blue cheese pick for the day; granted I love Bayley Hazen Blue from the Cellars at Jasper Hill but Mossend has a raw piquance that just delights! One hundred percent sheep's milk cheese aged for two years -- it can convert the blue cheese nay-sayers. 



Another Vermont winery on display, unfortunately the line was too long, to taste, but hopefully when I go on my Vermont winery weekend, I will. I love the fact that Vermont wineries utilized American soil specific cold weather grapes developed in Minnesota...stay tuned later in the week for a longer explanation of this...and a reveal of my favorite Vermont winery.



Narragansett Creamery -- another non-Vermont creamery but boy do they make the best Mozzarella in Rhode Island in my opinion -- it just melts in your mouth. Their Atwell's Gold, a firm aged cow's milk cheese is totally crave-able too. A huge crowd lingered around their stand -- showing that they were a true crowd pleaser!



Vermont Ice Wines -- remember that statement about cold weather grapes a little while back? Doesn't it make sense that we find a proliferation of ice wines. A treat if you like the sweet route :)





Olivia's Croutons -- looking for homemade croutons? Look no further!




Tarentaise, previously mentioned, and utterly fantastic. I especially admire farms that work with children and the folks behind the Tarentaise production, Thistle Hill and Spring Brook, most certainly do! Why not help underprivileged and developmentally challenged children through the issues by teaching them how to live off the land and work with their hands, right?





A view of the entry tent

 And now a few other top picks, yes Fromagical loved a lot of cheeses documented with pictures as her top picks but here are three others I think you should know about:

1. Willow Hill's Summer Tomme - Bloomy rind sheep's milk cheese that has been coated with the farm's own personal mix of herbs to provide the consumer with the perfect balance of milky creamy unctuousness and the fresh, green vegetal herbaceous-ness. Sometimes cheeses coated in herbs become either too much about the cheese or too much about the herbs and here it is the perfect happy medium!

2. Blue Ledge Farm Crottina -- looking for a great and straight-forward bloomy rind goat's milk cheese imbued with the terroir of its origin? Then Blue Ledge's Crottina is a great choice!

3. Sage Farm Goat Dairy's Sterling -- Valencay cheesemaking styles meet the down to earth innovation of Vermont cheesemaking, a definite must!

Overall a great way to learn about new cheese developments; see where cheesemakers have been in the past year; and well make good cheese-y connections! A great time was had by all!

I'm hoping to get a list of cheeses offered at the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival that you can also find in New York city for my interested and curious Fromagical readers as I know you might not want to order a cheese online and wait for its arrival, you might just want the instant gratification. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 530 : Vermont Cheese-cation Post #2

Instead of giving you the whole run-down tonight of my picks for top cheeses, top wines, new producers, and more, let me first give you an overview of what the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is and tomorrow you will get the behind the scenes picks, tips, pics, and more.

So what's the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival?

It is a festival planned by the fantastic team behind Vermont Butter and Cheese and Shelburne Farms hosted for the third year in a row at Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont.

Who participates?

Over forty different creameries mostly from Vermont with one or two from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York. Close to thirty artisanal food purveyors spanning the gamut from Vermont Soy to Castleton Crackers to Vermont Pickle to Laughing Moon Chocolates and more. Approximately twenty different local Vermont wineries and breweries. As one of them said to me, "Within five years, you will see people coming up to Vermont for wine tasting weekends just like they do for the Finger Lakes."

What's available?

Samples of cheeses, wines, beers, food, and more. New cheeses, new producers, new developments abound. Discover your love of wasabi infused chevre or smoked bacon infused cheddars and more!

How many people attend?

Close to 1700 plus volunteers, press, and retail/trade people.

It is the highlight of the summer -- a great way to learn about cheese if you don't know that much about American artisanal cheese; to acquaint oneself with the producers if you're looking to know more; to just have a day in the country tasting local and regional delicacies; or whatever you may want it to be.

Although it is a lot of driving from New York City in the span of 36 hours, it is most certainly worth it. So stay tuned tomorrow for the full run down on hits, misses, surprises, disappointments, and news!

Day 529: Vermont Cheese-cation Post #1

So after 15 hours of driving over the course of 36 hours, I apologize we are playing catchup but isn't that what Sunday nights are for? So folks, get ready for the first of a few catchup Vermont posts, lots of cheese developments, adventures, experiences, mishaps, and more!

Let's start at the beginning of the weekend at 7am Saturday morning when I picked up the car...four hours later, with some traffic interruptions, we arrived at the Brattleboro Farmers Market, less than five minutes off the highway and totally worth the stop. One little note, it is only there Wednesday and Saturday mornings.  Fantastic produce, homemade pies, homemade breads, cheeses, local homemade products, and a variety of to-go foods, spanning the gamut from Thai to artisanal pizzas to vegetarian cuisine and more... Looking for borage? An herb with bright blue flowers that enhances any and salad or omelet or pasta dish one might want to make? You can find it here! Maybe you want some heirloom tomatoes, or a variety of summer squash? That's also here!!

After a successful visit to the Brattleboro Farmer's Market we got back into the car and went to the New England Barbecue Championships at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont. Always a scene, drawing crowds from near and far with a strongman competition to boot! Unfortunately no cheese to report back here....

From there, we had planned on three farm stops and each of the three was either closed or the directions provided to us, did not lead us to the correct destination. Can we say disappointment much? Well, we made the best of the situation and powered on through to our hotel in Colchester.

After a check-in and freshen up, we headed over to the Vermont Butter and Cheese kickoff cocktail party for this cheese-y weekend at the Burlington Boathouse overlooking Lake Champlain. Gorgeous scenery, a nice selection of wines and local beers, a fantastic cheese spread courtesy of Vermont Butter and Cheese (which we all know makes one of my all time favorite cheeses, Coupole), delicious Israeli couscous, roasted veggies and a salmon and lamb slider option. The stress and frustration of the earlier portion of the day melted away quickly -- we were in Vermont, able to step away from the fast pace of New York City life, enjoy a glass of wine and some cheese and unwind.

From there, after a leisurely stroll around Burlington and a stop at a small French bistro for a glass of wine, we decided to order from the local and artisanal flatbread joint -- American Flatbread. Known for utilizing regional produce, with a simple, clean, and fresh approach, this was the perfect food to bring back to our hotel to enjoy with some wine.

So what did we get?

Their summer "veg special" -- a flatbread pizza with two types of local and organic summer squash, arugula and herb pesto, Vermont Butter and Cheese's chevre, red peppers and fresh garlic. We also split a small "evolution salad" which was composed of organically grown sweet leaf and mesclun greens, carrots, celery, arame seaweed, sesame seeds and a fresh ginger tamari vinaigrette.


Please excuse the to-go containers, I know not the most aesthetic, but still it gives you an idea...

The pizza was unique, fresh, vegetal, herbaceous, light, flavorful and just what we wanted after a long day. It truly sung the praises of the local farmstead produce and delighted! The salad -- classic and crisp with their own inventive twist. Overall a great meal after a long day in and out of the car. If you are ever looking for a simple, straightforward joint in Burlington, I recommend checking it out.

American Flatbread
115 St Paul Street
Burlington, Vermont

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 528 : Cheese-y Salad for a 100+ day

Currently in Manhattan it is 103 degrees and feels like 112! Now that is hot, there are no two ways about that! And even though I adore the heat, it is pretty steamy out there, don't get me wrong.

So on days like today, you probably aren't thinking about eating heavy foods that's for sure! When one sweats so much simply from being outside, you want to dial up your salt intake, just a little, I'm not saying go crazy, but salt is good for you when it is so hot! You know where you can get that salt from? Feta! I like to opt for French Feta as it is creamier than the Greek or Bulgarian versions, but feel free to get whatever brine-y goodness you want.

So what should go with that feta?

Cantalope
Fresh Mint
Basil Oil
Fresh Lime Juice
Fresh green Scallions
1-2 Persian Cucumbers
Hint of Ginger
Sea salt
EVOO

Dice up two cups of cantalope, place in bowl with some finely diced mint and green scallions, grate some fresh ginger for a nice refreshing bite. Top with lime juice, some Basil Oil and a small drizzle of EVOO. Let marinate in the fridge for twenty to thirty minutes. Pull out and add diced Persian cucumbers and depending on how much you plan to make, 2/3 of a cup of French feta. Mix all together. Enjoy with a glass of dry and refreshing Vinho Verde.

Stay cool out there and stay tuned for a weekend full of cheese activities in Vermont.

Day 527 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 24

Whoops, I was so tired last night that I fell asleep with the computer on my lap, oh well, there is plenty of time to catch up on a steamy Friday like today....so let's get right to it!

Restaurant Week?

Heard of it? It is when a variety of New York City's nice restaurants create affordable prix-fixe menus, key word in that statement is affordable! Clocking in at $24.07 for a lunch of three courses or $30 with a glass of wine it is quite a bargain...espeically when some of the dishes available clock in at $15 or $18 or $28 a piece...

So if you still want to enjoy a nice splurge but on a small budget, head over to one of New York's participating restaurants. Yesterday I had the pleasure of dining with a few friends at Park Avenue Summer for lunch, some of us participated in the restaurant week lunch menu and some of us just ordered one appetizer, this weather does not make one famished, that's for sure. We all split two different appetizers, included in the restaurant week menu:

Roasted Baby Beets, Ginger & Labne Yogurt and their Burrata Caprese, Buckwheat Noodle Salad. However the Burrata was also on the regular menu clocking in at $15 just on its own and here it was part of a three course prix fixe for less than ten dollars more!

Next up - two of us got the Mediterranean Bronzino with a Sauce Vierge included in the prix fixe menu and two of us ordered separately, I got the Salmon Tartar with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, basil, and a yogurt coulis underneath and the last person got a tomato and watermelon gazpacho with an avocado spring roll.


Each item was extremely fresh, crisp, and refreshing! What was somewhat of a revelation for me was the idea of a burrata caprese with buckwheat noodles -- cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, basil, pea shoots, buckwheat noodles or soba topped with a ball of burrata (mozzarella exterior, filled with cream, it is probably one of the most decadent fresh cheeses I can think of out there.) Burrata is perfect for a special occasion, prepared simply like a caprese pairing or my summertime favorite, paired with strawberries, basil, and sea salt.

Ok back to the end of the meal....because two people ordered the restaurant week menus, we also had the pleasure of splitting two desserts: Peach Panna Cotta with Basil Foam and Lemon Cakes and a Pistachio Finacier with a strawberry coulis.




Definitely more food than one person needed for lunch with the restaurant week menu if you ask me but everything was delish and a celebration of the produce in season. So take advantage of this managable splurge, your wallet won't feel nearly as bad as if you had dined there without the restaurant week menu.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 526 : SCS Version 6.0, Dispatch 3.0 - Cheeses that date back Centuries..

Cheese production dates back to ancient times, actually before recorded history. Where did cheesemaking first originate? Unfortunately that is not a question that Fromagical can definitely answer for you, but it was widespread in Europe in pre-Roman times. Literature points to the origin of cheese production probably with Middle Eastern societies and the domestication of sheep, circa 8000 BCE. Curious about the first direct archeological documentation of cheesemaking, well then look towards certain Egyptian tomb murals, dating to 2000 BCE. Since the first produced cheese, society and cheesemaking in turn has come a very long way, there is no disputing that. However there are certain cheeses that are steeped in centuries old practices. Today, we will learn about Rustling Wind Creamery's Chesire and Glarner Schabziger's Sap Sago.

Rustling Wind Creamery is located in Fall Village, Connecticut and was started by two good friends, one American and one British in 1998. However after the business was started, the British friend had to leave the US but her cheesemaking practices are continued to this day. They make six pasteurized pressed Jersey Cow's milk cheeses and two pressed goat's milk cheeses, one blue and one spreadable creamy cheese. Rustling Wind's Chesire is made in the style of a traditional British Chesire -- Britain's oldest cheese, dating back to the days of Roman Britain. Crafted with Jersey Cow's milk, aged for at least sixty days, it is semi-firm with a milky softness and a lightly nutty and bright finish. A crowd pleaser of a cheese, no wonder cheesemakers have been making this cheese for centuries.


Image courtesy of http://rustlingwind.com/

And now what of Sap Sago which is actually the name under which Schabziger is sold in the US. I guess Sap Sago is easier to pronounce, not sure what the distinction is. It has been produced in the Canton of Glarus region of Switzerland since the 8th century by the Monks of Glarus. The cheese's recipe was written down in 1463 and it received protection of origin at the time. So how is it made? It is crafted with skimmed cow's milk and the extra special addition of blue fenugreek, a member of the clover family, which provides the cheese with a light green hue and an herbaceous and sage-y flavor. Once the cheese curd is formed, the cheese is pressed into cones to drain and then consequently aged for anywhere between four and twelve weeks. Then, the cheese is ground into a powder, mixed with salt and then aged for an additional eight months. At which point, the blue fenugreek is added. The last step is to place this mixture into cone shaped molds. Not the most common cheesemaking approach to deliver quite the esoteric but fantastically unique cheese. You can see how this cheese dates back to another era, when tastebuds were different and life was simpler.


Image courtesy of http://culturecheesemag.com/

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 525 : A Change Up for a "Whey-cation"

I know you are all thinking it's Tuesday where is our weekly dosage of State-Country spotlight? Well today I want to alert to anyone in the New York area or nearby of Murray's Cheese's fantastic Whey-cation deal and tomorrow we will resume with what should be today's State-Country spotlight.


So are you looking to be spontaneous? Plan something last minute? Try some fantastic cheese from over forty different cheese producers? Escape to the idyllic paradise of Vermont? Feeling like its too hot in NYC? Then you should definitely jump on this fantastic opportunity and if you do so by the end of the day then you save 25 % of $399, just use code 11VERMONT. 



So what's included?   

-A farm tour at Spring Brook Farm, makers of Tarentaise and Raclette (they also run the innovative Farm for City Kids Foundation that provides urban youth with agricultural learning experiences!)

-Dinner at Bluebird Tavern with Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery

-Tickets to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival at Shelburne Farm, a day full of tasting cheese, beer, wine and other local treats

-Plus round-trip bus travel from NYC and a night in a local hotel

The entire itinerary is here: http://www.murrayscheese.com/VCF2011.asp


The Vermont Cheesemakers fest is a must visit if you love cheese so if you didn't get around to getting your tickets yet, jump on this Murray's opportunity as individual tickets to the fest are already sold out!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 524 : Costa Rica Day Four

It's our last and final day here and I started writing to all of you my dear Fromagical followers from the Quepos airport where instead of receiving the plastic laminated boarding passes today, they simply call your name when they are ready for you. Arriving two hours early? That surely is not necessary! Planes show up forty-five minutes late without any concern so make sure to have enough time to walk from the "domestic" terminal / parking lot at the San Jose airport around the corner to the international terminal, all ten gates that service the few flights leaving the country on a daily basis.

Yesterday was a day of sun, fun, hikes, waterfalls, running, and exploring. The property we were all staying on boasted three waterfalls, each accessed by a hike through the rain forest. Monkeys? Check! Huge brightly colored butterflies? Check! Neon colored frogs? Check! Breath-taking views of nature? Check! Ever been so close to a waterfall that you feel the wind radiating off of the strength of the water coming down? Up until yesterday I hadn't had the chance, but wow is it cool!

After a morning of hikes, runs, and swims, we ventured to Playa Dominical to explore -- ended up at the restaurant in town recommended to us -- Tortilla Flats. Nope, no association to the New York restaurant with the same name, but still an extensive menu of salads, sandwiches, Costa Rican specialties and more!  Homemade fresh guacamole and chips, check! Freshly homemade margaritas were just the ticket. Heeping portions of food -- my half cold veggie sandwich was larger than many full sandwiches and with enough hot sauce, it was just the ticket! Avocados, tomatoes, onions, two types of cheese, lettuce, and cucumbers -- all of which were perfectly fresh and just the ticket.

Day 523 : Costa Rica Day Three

Again a little late, but better late than never....internet was down yesterday at the end of the world, not a surprise right? It sure is nice to disconnect from the technology that we all are so attached to on a daily basis....not my strong suit, but I sure did try on this trip!

To rewind back to Saturday and the wedding that was the reason for coming down to Costa Rica in the first place...

Saturday was a day of rain and relaxation, not the sort of rain that bothers but the sort of rain that one powers through because you are in one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Remember that little film, Jurassic Park? Yes it sure feels like that lush green tropical paradise, except minus the digital dinosaurs that's for sure.

A hike down the hill, a run on the black sand beach and then a home cooked breakfast of egg whites, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, scallions and a "nameless cheese" crafted here in Costa Rica. Cow's milk, cooked and pressed, mild and milky and firm, a great melting cheese. Definitely only found here, this is a straight forward and satisfying authentic cheese perfect with your eggs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 522: Costa Rica Day Two

An early morning change of plans from going snorkeling and diving at Cano Island due to visibility allowed for more relaxation and a long hike down the hill followed by a run on a black stone beach, completely and utterly breathtaking. Next up was a drive to a small town, Osa, for brunch and a mangroves tour. Brunch consisted of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions and cheese, a simple Monterey Jack style creamy cheese, but it hit the spot after the run and hike.

Mangroves are trees in a swamp-y sort of environment with plenty of opportunities to see monkeys, birds, and other wildlife. A slow boat ride followed by a rapid wet delivered us really to the end of the world, a small stretch of beach maybe a kilometer long surrounded on all sides by water --the Pacific and the river we had traveled through to get there.

Post mangroves tour a trip to the supermarket -- a peek into the cheese fridge to discover Costa Rican versions of the big guns -- Cheddars, monterey jacks, goudas, parmesans and the such...Plenty of fresh food and don't worry if you want alcohol, you can buy everything in the same place, you can even get your shampoos and all as well.

As of now, I've tried the Monterey Jack and it sure is creamy and punchy -- delish and straight forward.

Day 521 : Costa Rica Day One

A little late, but better late than never! I'm currently writing to all of you my dear Fromagical followers from a porch of a villa overlooking the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean outside of Dominical, Costa Rica. We are totally off the grid here and it's pretty fantastic!

A little less cheese and a little more adventure for the next few days but don't worry, next weekend will be fulltime cheese with an excursion to Vermont for the Vermont Cheesemakers Fest.

Thursday was a day of travel - taxis, trains at 4am, cars, one big plane and one small plane which for the first time in my life, I had the pleasure of being put on a scale with my luggage to determine the appropriate weights for the plane. A 20 minute flight and a just recently paved runway later I had arrived at the Quepos airport, if you can call it that. Quepos itself was the biggest town it seems I will have the pleasure of encountering on this trip, except for of course the San Jose airport but that doesn't really count.

After some driving around we stopped for lunch and a drink poolside overlooking the rainforest. A fresh homemade gazpacho with a plate of fixings -- sweet peppers, jalapenos, cucumbers, onions, and sour cream. A fresh, crisp and wonderful touch to this soup.

Fast forwarding to the evening -- the next meal....what to do for over a dozen people in a villa up a very steep hill for at least ten minutes driving without any exterior lighting -- pizza it seemed.

A few people volunteered to go grab pizzas and salads for all of us from "town" -- surprisingly the caprese was incredibly fresh with thin crust and juicy tomatoes and lovely creamy mozzarella. Who knew at the end of the world you would get good thin crust pizza?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 520: How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #23

In the mood for that fantastic Vermont Butter and Cheese Coupole I wrote about a few days ago? Well then you need to go to Murray's cheese where it is currently on sale for $10.99! More than 20% less than it's normal retail price! That gives you the opportunity to splurge on the wine you choose to pair with it!

Enjoy folks!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 519 : A healthy pasta dish for a long run

After a fantastic long run with a good friend this morning I got to thinking about meals to eat before runs. I tend to always eat quinoa with a variety of vegetables, tofu, spices, herbs, and a bit of a cheese. However I know that not everyone likes qunioa so today I thought I would suggest a summer-y pasta dish that would be delish and fantastic for energy for a long run the next day.

What goes into this simple, delish pasta dish?

Fusili shaped pasta
Fresh Dill
Persian cucumbers
Grilled Corn
Grilled Zucchini
1/2 sauteed shallot
Basil olive oil
Sel de la Guerande
EVOO
Black Pepper
Grated Parmesan / Pleasant Ridge Reserve if you want to go the American route in honor of the US Women's Soccer team making the Women's World Cup for the first time in twelve years.

A quick preparation. Cook pasta in salted water. While pasta is cooking, grill zucchini cubes and corn on a stove top grill to give the veggies that charred, grill flavoring. At the same time, saute half of a shallot with some EVOO, sel de la guerande, and fresh ground pepper. Once pasta is done, mix with a drizzle of Basil Olive Oil, splash of white wine, dill, and sel de la guerande. Toss in one diced Persian cucumber and the grilled veggies. Top with a nice grating of the Pleasant Ridge Reserve to dial up the rustic nuttiness of the dish. Combine together and top with a few fresh basil leaves.

Enjoy before a long run or whenever you feel.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 518 : SCS Version 6.0, Dispatch # 2 - Washed Rinds

This week for our SCS spotlight dispatch I decided we would do new world vs old world washed rind cheeses. Our new world cheese is directly modeled on our old world style cheeses but done completely differently and with a distinct feel.

Dairyere hails from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT. A mother-son partnership since the late 1990s, this family knows how to make cheese! Dairyere is one of their newer raw cow's milk washed rind cheeses crafted with vegetarian marzyme rennet and aged for anywhere between eight and twelve months. Firm, tangy, sharp, biting, nutty, caramel-ly, butterscotchy, with hay notes and all around fantastic, this is a cheese that delights!

And what of its Swiss counterpart?

How about Andeerer Schmuggler? Named for both the farm that produces the cheese, Andeer Dairy, and a German friend who used to smuggle the cheese across the border to Germany on his routine visits. Again we see the use of raw cow's milk to craft this cheese, this time around it's only aged for about six months with routine washings, it develops a sweet and nutty flavor with cocoa and rustic woodsy notes. Round on the tongue, full in body with a fantastic finish.

Each of our two washed rind cheeses will have that traditional piquant style kick but with the friendly approachable-ness of Gruyere or a Comte with unique flavor nuances depending on where it was crafted and the technique. It's worth buying both and tasting them side by side to compare and contrast.

Stay cool out there folks!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 517: Coupole Crostini

Vermont Butter and Cheese makes the most fantastic Loire Valley style soft-ripened goat's milk cheese known as Coupole, named for its shape in French -- snow covered dome. Dense and cakey with a lactic bright citrus-y interior paste, this cheese surely coats every crevice of your mouth in just the right sort of way. Fantastic with a glass of Sancerre but today I thought we would make a simple summertime crostini with the Coupole as the star.



So what will our crostini be composed of?


Whole wheat Miche Bread from Pain Quotidien
Asian Pear
Lavender Blossom Honey
Sel de la Guerande
And of course a nice thick sliver of Coupole!

Toast a nice thick slice of miche bread. Top with a few slices of asian pear, a thick piece of Coupole. Drizzle some lavender blossom honey over the top and sprinkle some sel de la guerande. Enjoy this bright, fresh, simple and delish crostini on this balmy summer day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 516 : What to buy at Murray's Bleecker Street Right Now

Ever go into a cheese store and you're not sure what to get? What's in season now? What's best on that particular day? Well that's why you have the expert cheesemongers behind the counter or you can turn to your favorite cheese blog, Fromagical, for a few ideas.

If you are in the neighborhood of Murray's on Bleecker Street, I recommend getting:

1. Monte Enebro - The Spanish goat's milk cheese with an ashen and blue mold based rind, a fantastically luscious indulgent and cake-y cream line and a crisp bright milky interior paste. Right now Monte Enebro is at its best -- creamy, flavorful, and alive. The cream line is dialed up a notch right and the cheese just is clicking perfectly.

2. Casatica di Bufala - This pasteurized water buffalo milk based Italian cheese is soft ripened with a decadent bloomy rind. Unctuous in all the right sort of ways with a pillowy-like mouth feel. Rich and round, full of flavor, it is the sort of cheese that delights anyone and everyone.

So grab these two cheeses, a nice bottle of Sancerre, some crackers, and call it a day.


Day 515 : Farmer's Market Updates

A few weeks ago, I posted a sad change in the regulations surrounding cheese purchasing at Greenmarkets, but I am happy to report that this past week, the new regulations have been over turned -- so one can go to any of the city's many Greenmarkets and purchase exactly how much cheese you want. No more pre-cut cheeses, no more left over cheese at the end of a day, things are back to the way they should be!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 514: Anfora

Anfora is a casual neighborhoody wine bar located on 8th avenue in the West Village, owned by the team behind Dell'Anima and L'Artusi. Opened in the Spring of 2010, it is named for the ancient clay urns utilized for wine transport in ancient Greco Roman times.

Anfora boasts a dynamic and diverse wine list, a nice selection of local and international beers, and an inventive cocktail menu. To go along with your beverages, there are cured meats, cheeses, salads, crostini, and sandwiches.

What cheese should you get with your wine?

Definitely their house made ricotta! Crafted in house with milk from Meadow Brooks Dairy in upstate New York, it is fresh, milky, creamy, and just the right sort of decadence to go with a glass of wine on a balmy summer evening. Served with crusty bread, honey, raisin chutney, and mustard, you can't go wrong here. The ricotta itself has a fantastic grassy lactic tang with a bright citrus-y finish and a roundness of flavor and mouth feel.

A warm and welcoming neighborhoody joint great for happy hour cocktails and/or wines with a group of friends; a glass of wine before dinner next door; a casual rendez-vous with that special someone; you name it.

Anfora
34 8th Avenue (near Jane Street)
NYC

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 513 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch 22

People always ask me what sort of cheeses are the best bargain with the best taste profile at Trader Joe's as one can get a pretty good buy there. The cheeses are hit or miss, but here are a few of my picks:

Apart from the Chevre Log with Honey ($3.99 for an 8 ounce log), that we all know is my absolute favorite, here are a few others:

1. Trader Joe's version of Young Goat Gouda clocking in at $8.99 a pound it is cheaper than its counterparts yet just as fantastically milky, chalky, and creamy.

2. Trader Joe's Cave Aged Blue clocking in at $6.99 it is cheaper than its counterparts just like the Young Goat Gouda but piquant, tangy, creamy and full flavored.

3. Trader Joe's Burrata clocking in at $4.99 for two balls of this cheesy goodness, it's half the price of other burrata around town but still with spot on flavor!


Stay away from their Swiss style cheeses and their Spanish style cheeses, think Trader Joe's Iberico and Gruyeres. Not everybody can do everything right.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 512 : The Cellar at Beecher's

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting down to a glass of wine and some nibbles in the cellar wine bar of Beecher's new NYC outpost. The first totally bizarre thing I noticed was someone standing at the entrance looking at people's IDs, apparently it is strictly 21 and over. I understand not wanting to have underage drinking or lots of children running around at night but I felt that having someone standing there gives what is actually a romantic yet casual, chill, rustic lovely joint a buttoned up snooty feel -- definitely a disconnect.

The menu itself was a nice mixture of small plates, cheeses, cured meats, their mac n' cheese of course, and nibbles.

We ordered their mac n' cheese which is fantastic and quite a large portion for the $13 price tag. Savory, nutty, and creamy, this was the perfect comfort food dish for a winter-y evening, maybe less so on a balmy summer evening but still delish! It walks the perfect line between restaurant cuisine and the relaxed feel of home cooking. I would definitely go back for their mac n' cheese and potentially try a few of their other mac n' cheese dishes -- there's one with crab, one with balsamic mushrooms and fennel and a few other options.

We also had their scallops and prawns dish which was served with a homemade corn and tomato succotash. Cooked well but nothing too stand-out-ish, this also has that rustic homecooked feel but done well. Granted I think best to stick to cheeses and small plates with cheese or their mac n'cheese, it is what they know best.

Lastly we had the Beecher's cheese selection which was their Flagship, Flagsheep, and an aged Flagship. The Flagship was paired with pickled haricots verts, the flagsheep with a mustard, raisin, wine chutney, and the aged flagship with a lovely honey. Interestingly enough the cheeses were not served with bread or crackers, one had to inquire to have those available. When ordering cheese at a restaurant/wine bar/cheese bar, you should definitely have crackers or bread on hand.

The Flagship is Beecher's first homemade cheese -- a semi-firm cow's milk cheese with a round buttery nutty flavor. As it ages it becomes crumbly, butterscotchy, and caramelly. The flagsheep is a richer, more dynamic, cheese, still nutty, but with a nice grassy bent to it.

Overall it was lovely evening, a nice new addition to the neighborhood. Worth the visit for some cheese, wine, and maybe even the indulgence of an order of mac n' cheese.

The Cellar at Beecher's
900 Broadway

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 511 : SCS Version 6.0, Dispatch # 1

This month I've decided to focus on Connecticut and Switzerland for our SCS features. Looking back over the past five months of SCS spotlights, I felt that both these locales were the obvious next steps in our cheese geography. For today's entree into each place, I decided to start with a cheese that could hypothetically start each cheese plate off right. Each has dialed up grassy, fresh, citrusy notes and are excellent beginnings to our CT / Swiss month.

Lebanon, Connecticut is home to Beltane Farm named after the ancient Pagan Celtic May Day celebrations where it was routine to feast on dairy products in honor of kidding season and the renewed promise of increased availability of milk. Beltane Farm makes the freshest, milky, lactic chevre that I have tasted outside of France. It will put those plastic wrapped goat cheese logs one finds at the supermarket to shame. Their chevre just melts in your mouth -- grassy, bright, and paste-y in all the right sort of ways! Fantastic with a glass of Sancerre or even a minerally Pinot Gris.


Hanging chevre courtesy of http://www.beltanefarm.com/

And what of its Swiss counterpart?

How about Tomme Vaudoise?

Crafted in Western Switzerland in the Vaud region, this a bloomy rind young cow's milk cheese. Fresh bright ivory paste is masked by a slight bloomy rind that is clean, soft, and creamy. Although it manages to bring to life the characteristics of a young bloomy rind cheese, it also has some of the classic tomme moments -- rustic, earthy, and slightly nutty. Buttery notes are offset with grassy, earthy nuances. It is an excellent cheese with an off-dry Riesling or a nice Gewürztraminer. This is springtime or early summertime in a cheese.


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