Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 568 : Neal's Yard Cheese Post Travel

So are you curious which Neal's Yard Cheese was best after upwards of twelve hours outside of the fridge? It melted in your mouth and its flavor profile just blossomed and expanded on your tongue -- Gorwydd's Caerphilly crafted in Ceredigion in Wales. A traditional Welsh style semi-soft cheese with a history dating back to the early 19th century, this raw cow's milk cheese was an utter delight!

Caerphilly became popular with Welsh miners in the 19th century partially because of the thickness of its rind easing the ingestion of the cheese with grubby mining hands. It also was believed to neutralize certain toxic coal substances. However come the 20th century, Caerphilly production fell greatly and Gorwydd's is part of this cheese's rebirth!

Gorwydd's Caerphilly is covered with nettle leaves during its aging process which imparts the cheese with a fantastic rustic earthy vegetal herbaceous quality that develops a fabulous depth once it has been out for the amount of time it was left out while traveling. Just below the thick rind is somewhat of a creamline that is full of round mushroomy notes and on the interior a citrusy bright paste full of lactic milkiness. As the cheese warms up the marriage of the three distinct flavors of the cheese function in perfect harmony. What a treat after a long day of travel!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 567 : Traveling home via Montreal

No exciting cheese moments really today, however I always have the slight satisfaction of getting through American customs and border patrol with European cheese -- cheeses crafted with raw milk that don't necessarily adhere to the exact American standards of cheese production but are completely legal in Europe...although currently I am writing to you all, my dear Fromagical readers from the airport in Montreal, Canada, I am in fact technically on American soil having gone through customs here. Shortly a flight back to New York City and home to my dog, my small studio and daily life in Manhattan.

No airplane food for me but how about one of Marks and Spencer's 2 for 3 pound salads -- quinoa, peas, carrots, sugar snap peas, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and goat's milk cheese with a spicy Asian soy vinaigrette -- a melange of Asian and Continental notes, the perfect light and delish brunch-ie dish for the travel day.

Tomorrow is back to normal folks, I hope you enjoyed Fromagical's European adventures.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 566 : A trip to Neal's Yard Dairy

After a 20 mile training run traversing London from one end to the other -- a visit to my old flat in West London and a glorious trip through Hyde Park, on through Central London and back out to the East End, we went for brunch at The Breakfast Club. Nope nothing to do with the Molly Ringwald 1980s film but a fun hipster-y brunch joint popular with the East-Ender crowd...Poached eggs, avocado, fresh chili peppers, smoked salmon on multi-grain toast, plenty of protein post run!

Next up a trip to the mecca of British and Irish cheeses in Covent Garden, Neal's Yard Dairy of course! Looking for a good Cheddar or a Stilton or perhaps a Cheshire? You can find it there! Me - I decided on England's answer to my beloved soft-ripened goat's milk cheese crafted by Joe Bennet at Highfields Farm Fairy in Tamworth in the Staffordshire region of England. Unpasteurized goat's milk from Saaen-Toggenburg goats aged and crafted into a thin flat brick of chalky, milky, lactic, citrusy goodness. Round and full bodied but yet light and grassy. A great example of the raw English terroir formed into a unique cheese for England and a great example of British cheesemaking!

After a meander around Covent Garden and a catchup with an old friend, dinner at Byron Burger in Hoxton Square with friends -- a fantastically fresh Nicoise salad with a glass of Malbec was the perfect end to the day and my time in London.

Tomorrow, it is time to return home.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 565 : Day Two in Londontown

Not much cheese, but a whole heck of a lot of good times had today! An early morning coffee and a walk to the Columbia Flower Market -- classic old world London -- vendors yelling about their flowers on a small road closed down to the public on this lovely Sunday morning. Gorgeous flowers surrounded you, you felt as though you had been transported into a garden of lavender plants, roses, lilies, pansies, and more. Made me miss living here, the small town feel yet in a big city, European yet Continental -- London walks an excellent line between many different cultural and societal dynamics, full of energy and full of life!

After a great workout at the gym a lunch of quinoa, lentils, shredded carrots, herbs, squash, roasted tomatoes, and more, we ventured towards Western London to check out Europe's biggest street party the Notting Hill Carnival -- a two day "Mardi-Gras"- esque party full of good times, floats, revelers, and general good cheer that in good weather would have been a blast...

A walk down memory lane of places I used to frequent, we ended up at an early dinner at a fantastic Thai spot on Old Street in Shoreditch composed of spicy Calamari and a tofu spinach dish.

Overall a great day with good friends in a city I love dearly, who could ask for more.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 564 : Londontown

This morning early luckily I flew from Porto to London, no attempt to fly back to the US, Irene surely would have deterred that...Arriving into Stansted this morning, I felt a strong sense of coming home after living here for graduate school five years ago.

After dropping off my bags, we ventured out to get some brunch and ended up at the Luxe in Old Spitalfields Market and luck would have had it there was a fantastic cheese shop across the way, Androuet.  Brunch was fantastic -- a super food salad composed of quinoa, roasted red peppers, squash, arugula, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, and a yogurt raita sauce. Light, healthy, flavorful and the perfect breakfast-lunch-brunch dish.

A walk across the way to the cheese shop also conveniently a wine and cheese bar -- a mixture of European and British cheeses, crackers, confitures and more. Of course I needed to get a British cheese and why not Smoked Poacher -- lightly smoked, nutty, buttery, crumbly, caramelly and faintly cooked milky lactic notes...A delish cheese to pair with a pint at a local pub.

Here's to plenty more adventures in Londontown. I hope all of my Fromagical readers in New York are safe.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 563: Where the Duoro meets the Atlantic

This morning's long run took me to the red and white striped lighthouse where the Duoro meets the Atlantic -- a simple pier leading out to the lighthouse full of fishermen beginning their day on the water. Returning back to pick up my friends after making a breakfast of egg whites and veggies, I decided that we all needed to do the 10 mile trek to the Atlantic and back. A stop for coffees and a stop for lunch. A simple relaxing day of walking, talking, sunning, eating, and drinking. On our return, we stopped to go to the larger supermaket and what was really interesting to me was the fact that 98% of the cheeses in this first large supermarket we had been in here in Portugal where all Portuguese, barely any
imports...unlike other Western European countries and the US.

Overall a fantastic few days in Portugal's second city with some of my closest friends... Stay tuned for the next days in London.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 562: Port, Porto, Oporto

Day Two in Portugal's second largest city started with you guessed it, a run! Post run, what was on the agenda? How about some port houses and port tastings? Just as we found in Champagne, once you did one or two tours of the caves, you didn't really need to do more, you just kind of wanted to taste what was available.

So we all walked across the Duoro to Porto's neighboring city and central port house locale, Vila Nova de Gaia. Our first tour was at the house of Sandeman, the port that started my ongoing and constant love of white port. After our tour and tastings there we continued on to C. Da Silva port house. Da Silva does not export to even all of the countries in the European Union and certainly not the United States. Their ports were wonderful and they even had homemade macaroons with different port style infused interiors -- not too sweet but definitely fantastically decadent and an excellent alternative for the utilization of port wine. We continued down the row of port houses to find many closed for lunch so we sat and while my friends had lunch I decided to try another port --- Cruz pink, nope this wasn't white or ruby or tawny port it was pink. Served in a martini glass with ice, mint, and an orange sliver, this sure tasted more like fortified grenadine than what it was supposed to be... But hey, when in Rome, right?

Moving along after lunch we visited Quinta de Noval, another small regional port house, not available for export but with quite the selection of white ports -- dry, semi-dry, and sweet, among other styles. It's very rare to see a port house craft three varying levels of sweetness in their white ports, however I wasn't totally impressed. While in Quinta de Noval it had started to rain so what better to do then get a nice affordable bottle of red wine from the Duoro winemaking region and go back to play some cards and read? Of course we needed cheese to go with! How about the small roundelle of Quieijo de Azeitao? A washed rind cheese washed with local olive brine hence "Azeitao." Somewhat similar in texture to a tomme du Berger in that it had that stinky briny rind with a semi soft malleable elastic-y interior. Scents of rustic barnyard, bright citrusy hay notes, hints of milky lactic-ness, this was a raw, intense, flavorful, and fantastic cheese -- rough around the edges just in the way the country it was produced in is. A delight!

An afternoon of relaxing, wine drinking, talking, cheese enjoying has been quite the luxurious treat for those of us who aren't particularly good at unwinding. Tomorrow hopefully a boat tour down the Duoro and exploring more of what this town has to offer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 560 : Adventures in Language Gaps

Arrival in Porto, Portugal circa 8 in the morning. Grabbed a coffee, cheapest large European coffee I have had in recent memory clocking in at one whole euro. After a brief wait for friends at the airport, we all traveled to downtown Porto on the metro. Getting off the train, Portugal's second city walked a fine line between feeling abandoned and run down. After dropping our bags off in our vacation rental apartment in the old town which since 1996 has been a UNESCO world heritage site, a run along the Duoro River revealed the magical majestic beauty this city has to offer with six awe-inspiring bridges traversing the river designed by Gustave Eiffel. After a shower it was time to all explore....

Lunch first, we walked down to a row of cafes situated on the river, very much European beach town-ish. We all split a Portuguese mixed cow, goat & sheep milk cheese shaped like a crottin de chavignol, this was a milk semi-firm cheese, delish with the homemade olive paste accompanying it. I had a Portuguese gazpacho -- no pureed tomatoes here, a simple clear onion and herb broth with slivers of fresh tomatoes and onions, definitely different but very refreshing! After lunch we decided it was time to provision our apartment with food for the next few days, let's find the authentic local market! After a feeble attempt at communicating with the waiter whose grasp of the English language was lacking almost as much as all of our lack of the Portuguese language, we were referred to "El Corte Ingles," definitely not what we were looking for.... A little while longer, we got directed to the stall market for locals...

So we walked up and down the hills of Porto to reach the market and discovered a half open market teeming with gorgeous produce, less than a third of the price of the same produce in France! Most fun was our attempts to communicate with the sweet older Portuguese people selling all of the goods, tremendously helpful and warm but not a word of English -- we all employed the universal language of pointing and counting on our fingers. How nice to find a place so untouched by English speaking tourists. We procured enough veggies, fruits, bread, nuts, olives, wine, port, cheese and more for meals for three days for three people for under 50 euros, quite good for a Western European country if you ask me.

Most of the cheeses that we purchased were mild mixed milk cheeses, nothing I've ever heard of or that is exported to the US. My favorite that we tried during our aperitifs tonight was called Regional, a mixed milk cow and goat cheese, semi firm with a bright citrusy grassy-ness and a full roundness of flavor.

Dinner has yet to come, but stayed tuned! A great first day exploring, too bad we didn't have a tape recorder and a video camera, today's interactions would have been excellent YouTube material..

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 560 : Meandering the streets of Paris

My last day in Paris already, gosh I cannot believe it! These few days have flown by! Today after a long run and a trip to the supermarché to provision for dinner, I set off in search of something I had seen in a shop window in St Germain des Pres the other day, a trip across the river via the Rue du Buci with its quaint cafes and fresh produce stalls and gorgeous flower market led me to St Germain and then back via the same route to grab one of Paul's (a French bakery chain) delectable mini baguettes or sticks of bread baked with grated gruyere and comte -- salty, savory, and all around satisfying. Best enjoyed when warm with a glass of wine or even a nice Kronenbourg 1664 beer. Continuing on via the Ile de la Cite to the Ile St Louis, no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to my favorite Fromager Affineur -- Christian Le Lann with three locales throughout Paris, one is bound to discover fantastic cheese!

The window of the Ile St Louis shop is always overflowing with cheese-y delicacies but on this Tuesday at the end of August, their selections looked quite meager and one of three of their refrigerated cases wasn't even full of cheese unfortunately! But what was available, was definitely worth tasting. An ample selection of soft ripened / natural rind goat's milk cheeses from Loire Valley called my name; there were firm tomme du brebis and tomme du chevre au muscat and gruyeres and other alpine style cheeses; Roqueforts and Fourme d'Amberts; washed rind cheeses, Bries, Chaources, and more...So much for the eye to process at once! 

I settled on a small aged Crottin de Chavignol, a simple classic French aged goat's milk cheese that holds a special place in my heart. Perfect with a glass of rose, some crunchy crackers, smoked salmon and tomatoes for a picnic along the Seine. I continued on meander the streets of the Marais and the Beaubourg and along the Rue de Rivoli, what a fantastic city! Always something new to discover, always a reason to return, and always a restaurant or bar or shop to come back and visit.

Tomorrow bright and early, we are off to Porto for Fromagical's first experience in Portugal!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 559: Le Pause Café

Think Schiller's, but move it to Paris, and add that classic French "je ne sais quoi" and you will be left with Le Pause Café on the Rue du Charonne in the Bastille. Perfectly Bo-bo in all the right sorts of ways -- classic French bistro food elevated by the chef's magical touch, fun people watching, a decent and affordable wine list, a quirky interior with emerging artists' prints hung artfully on the tiled walls, and of course ample sidewalk seating for watching the world pass you by.

The chef's interpretation of a Salade Grecque and a glass of Vin Gris was lunch for what was the chef's take? Strip away the lettuce, add a medley of slivered peppers --red, orange, yellow, and green, some fennel, some slivers of onion, large juicy black French olives, heirloom tomatoes, a homemade basil pesto olive oil and large slivers of French feta topped with homemade black olive tapenade and more of the basil pesto olive oil. Yes a lot of the classic Greek salad elements were there but differently prepared and the melange of all of the fresh summer produce along with the salty briny cheese and the aromatic herbaceousness of the basil pesto was a delight on this balmy summer Monday. 

Well executed food in a fun, no frills, lively atmosphere, a truly Bo-bo artsy neighborhood joint. Just want to stop in for an afternoon aperitif to people watch, you can; a weekday breakfast meeting; a late lunch, you name it -- it promises to be a delight. 

A great find for future trips to Paris!

Le Pause Café
41, Rue du Charonne, 75011 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 558 : Paris in August

"La Chaleur, La Chaleur!" a constant refrain heard around Paris on this hot and humid Sunday at the end of August...but the heat and humidity doesn't bother me, I actually find it somewhat invigorating, call me weird but I enjoy it! An early morning run along the Seine and through the Tuileries, allowed me the opportunity to catch the city of lights before it came to life...The next time I stepped foot onto the streets of Paris around half past ten in the morning, the city was full of life, at least for a Sunday morning that it is. 

The idea of an afternoon picnic with rose, fresh French bread and a delectable selection of cheeses beckoned but instead I had to make a trip to the suburbs to visit one of my oldest friends who has recently given birth to her first child...a little anecdote from our chat about Fromagical and my love of cheese, wine, food, locavorism, and decreasing the distance food and beverages have to travel to reach your plate...My friend who has lived all of her life in France, granted has been to North and South America, all around Europe and to South Africa, asked me, does America actually make cheese? Or is all of it imported? 

Of course to which I answered that although America may be centuries behind the French, English, Italians, and others, there are plenty of very delicious cheeses in a plethora of styles crafted by American cheesemakers...yes we maybe have catching up to do, and we may not have the seven plus centuries of history of a cheese like Pont L'Eveque, but we sure are experimenting and constantly creating new cheeses, perfecting our current recipes, drawing on inspiration from the French and more. So out with the cans of Cheez-whiz and Kraft singles that parts of the world imagine Americans to enjoy and in with the farmstead artisanal cheeses. 

Don't get me wrong -- there is absolutely nothing in the world like a perfectly aged goat's milk cheese from the Loire Valley with a glass of Sancerre and some fresh crusty French bread, but that doesn't mean when you are in the US, you have to settle for strictly imported cheeses. Cheese in France knocks your socks off that's for sure!

Moving along from our cheese conversation to a perfectly simple dinner at one of my favorite small neighborhoody cafes in the Marais. There is really nothing quite like enjoying a glass of wine or an aperitif and people watching on a Parisian corner. It is the height of relaxation -- watching the world go by and at dinner tonight, I did just that. Here's to more Parisian adventures to come...bonne nuit! 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 557 : Traveling to the big city...

After a marvelous five days in the French country-side of Normandy and of Champagne as you have read, today I travelled to Paris, a city that holds a special place in my heart, where I feel at home walking the streets, taking the metro, sitting in the cafes, frequenting my favorite restaurants, walking into the markets, museums, shops, and more. Even when it is overrun with tourists, Paris is pure elegance, romance, history, and enchantment all rolled into one for me.

This was my first opportunity to witness and experience Paris Plages, an month long event occurring each summer from mid July through mid August for the previous decade. Sand is carted into Paris and placed alongside the right bank of the Seine; concerts and other events are organized; restaurants and bars set up shop along the water for this month long summertime celebration. And tonight, the second to last evening of Paris Plages, it was a treat to see all the Parisians and tourists out enjoying their crepes, picnics, beers, wines, concerts, and more. Too bad New York doesn't have anything that rivals this -- Water Taxi Beach, maybe? Summer Streets, maybe? But nope, not really!

A dinner at a small creperie on the Ile St Louis was just the ticket after a long day of travel -- a homemade savory crepe, light as a feather filled with smoked salmon and crottin de Chavignol accompanied by a side salad which I added to the crepe and a glass of Cotes de Provence Rose.  Simple, paired down, and delish food -- the creamy citrusy brightness of the cheese playing excellently off of the aromatic smokiness of the salmon on the backdrop of a warm crepe. A post dinner stroll through Paris in the nighttime, what could be better?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 556 : Excursions around the Calvados region, Normandy, France

First things first, the dinner last night at our Auberge with a specially created menu by the resident chef was fantastic! It started off with a melon apple summer soup that was light, airy, flavorful, and almost creamy, although there was not one ounce of cream in it. The perfect thing to begin the meal. It was then followed by the local and in season vegetables that had been roasted with a homemade basil oil -- rustic and farmsteady with an refined simple elegance. Next up was a simple cheese plate composed of local Camembert, Pont L'Eveque, and Livarot, all of which were crafted in the region. This was paired with homemade fresh breads and a simple salad. To finish was a vacherin mont d'or with fresh local strawberries -- light, not too sweet, and the perfect way to end our creative simple country repast.

After a peaceful sleep and a run through the countryside, we started out on our day's journey. The first stop was the General Eisenhower Memorial Museum in Caen, a museum dedicated to chronicling the D-Day offensive. Next up were visits, with a stop or two, in between to four out of five of the Normandy beaches that were part of Operation Overlord, the Allied offensive that was the beginning of the end of World War II. At our first stop at Omaha Beach where the Allied troops hit land on June 6th, 1944, the weather was appropriately somber -- overcast, quite chilly, and grey for mid August. It was a chilling experience looking out into the ocean where all those brave men stormed the French shores in the hopes of tackling and overcoming the German troops. Moving along, we next stopped at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, one of fourteen permanent American World War II military cemeteries on foreign soil with 9,387 headstones and commemorating 1,557 soldiers who died missing in action. Situated looking right out at the English Channel, the cemetery was one of the most simple and moving tributes to the men who fought and died for America -- a modest marble cross or a star of david was utilized as a headstone for each. It seemed as though the field of crosses and occasional stars of david went on forever. A time to reflect for being alive and savoring the gift of life we are all given -- to think back on those that are no longer with us and those that currently make our lives great.

From this amazingly beautiful and peaceful tribute to a stop at a local cidery for tastes of their cider, pommeau, calvados, and saporange (a liqueur crafted with Eau de Vie, apple juice and orange nectar). Each more delish than the last! We also purchased some of the local Camembert which was the perfect snack with some roasted and salted almonds while continuing our drive. We both remarked that Camembert was one of our least preferred cheeses in the US, but here, this Camembert was remarkable. Maybe it was because we were hungry or maybe it was because it was made with raw milk or maybe it was because the commute from production to plate was so small, who knows, but it surely was fantastic.

From our fabulous Camembert to the next three landing beaches -- Gold, Juno, and Sword. Each had a monument erected to the men who had fought and died but each beach didn't feel like the sort of beach you would want to actually sun yourself and consequently swim at, these were haunting memories of history that one as an observer felt lucky to have had the opportunity to visit. Apart from the beaches, we also got to see the remains of the mulberries (or artificial ports) the Allied troops built in order to begin their offensive. These were incredible relics of an amazing moment in history.

Overall today was a day to be thankful to be alive, to look back on the incredible feats of the generations that have come before, and to feel lucky to be able to participate in these acts of remembrance.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 555 : Traveling to the North

This morning after an early morning run, we set out to drive from Etoges in the Champagne region via Paris to Normandy where we would spend the next two and a half days touring around -- of course seeing the well-known beach sites of the battles of World War II, the seaside towns, and more.

Our first stop was the small town of Pont L'Eveque, where you guessed it, they have made since the 13th century, a washed rind cheese of the same name. Creamy and luscious on the interior with a light orange washed rind exterior. It is rustic and barnyardy and at least in the US, extremely pungent and definitely not one of my favorites. However the cheese we got today in Pont L'Eveque was out of this world -- artisanal, farmsteady, flavorful and all around fantastic. If you had put the Pont L'Eveque you get in the US next to this cheese, you would not think that they were the same cheese, that's for sure!

After Pont L'Eveque, we went for what was supposed to be a "gourmande" lunch at the Ferme San Simeon overlooking Honfleur, one of Normandy's seaside resort-y towns. The lunch was at a Relais Chateaux hotel with what promised to be a wonderful restaurant. Yes the view was wonderful, but that is where it stopped. 90 euros for a prix-fixe lunch that offered nothing really for vegetarians and if you ordered a la carte the only dish you could order was heirloom tomatoes prepared three ways for 59 euros, really? No matter how amazing those tomatoes were this just simply was ridiculous. So we inquired about having two salads which we received, however in a land of fresh produce and at the height of the produce season, these were the most uninspired salads, they were fine but boy they didn't stand out. And for what they cost, I could have gone out and bought ingredients myself and created a salad that was worlds better and even bought a bottle of wine to boot! Oh well, you live and you learn while traveling, right?

Moving right along, we drove to Deauville and Trouville, two French seaside resort towns that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and unfortunately the charm and lovely qualities of the towns has faded. Nice to see but nicer to imagine what they might once have been.

Gosh the beginning of this trip to Normandy sounds not very exciting, well it definitely went way up hill from there! On our way back from Deauville and Trouville, we stopped into the Manoir d'Apreval, a local cidery where they make three of their own alcoholic ciders, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, calvados (the liqueur of the region, an apple brandy) and pommeau (a mixture of apple juice and calvados). After a tasting through all they had to offer, I settled on a fantastic bottle of demi-sec cider that was the height of delish! A truly local product made right there on the farm where we purchased it with the seventeen different apple varieties they grow on their twenty-five acres.

From our cider stop to our petit auberge, a gorgeous old world French farm house hotel set back from the seaside towns and in the country side, this was the height of French country relaxation that's for sure. Nothing too over the top and extravagant, just simple and beautiful! Stay tuned for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's trips to the World War II beaches.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 554 - Our last day in Etoges

Before I fill you all in on the day's adventures and explorations, let's first revisit a petit stop we had yesterday in the pedestrian area of Epernay at a century old cheese shop - La Cloche Aux Fromages. The cheese case was strictly filled with all artisanal French cheeses -- each cheese labeled with it's region of origin. In case you were curious, the Champagne region is most known for the bloomy rinded, decadenly creamy cow's milk cheese known as Chaource. The bubbles and lightness in a glass of champagne will cut right through the richness of the cheese while simultaneously revealing hidden nuances in taste in both the cheese and the champagne. Other cheese specialities of the region are the washed rind creamy stinkers -- Langres and Livarot. These cheeses are not for the cheese novice as they are the epitome of rustic barnyardy stink! Creamy with that fantastic melt in your mouth sort of feel, of course! Perfect with a glass of Blanc de Blanc, (100% Chardonnay grapes) light and airy and the exact beverage to cut the pungency and weight of the cheeses. There are a few other regional specialities -- cheeses infused with champagne and the such but the ones mentioned above, one can find outside of the region as well.

Back to our excursions -- last night's dinner was also had at the restaurant at our hotel -- a homemade tomato tarte garnished with sautéed white onions and fresh basil oil was light, flavorful and an ode to the in-season produce. That was followed, keeping to the vegetarian menu, by an egg white omelet with mushrooms and tarragon. Then of course the cheeses -- specialities of the region as mentioned above, an aged natural rinded Chevre and of course some Roquefort. A delish meal in a congenial environment in very close proximity to our hotel rooms..

And what of our third day on Champagne?

We decided to have a lowkey morning, a long run for me. Long runs in the champagne region mean running a small rural highways in wine and farm country with occasional tiny towns every few kilometers. Funny to think that on today's run I was on five different highways (definitely nothing like the American version of a highway, these were barely large enough for one car to go in either direction!)

A car ride down to Epernay for another fabulous lunch at a local joint and a stroll through town. We decided to take it easy today as the next few days will be action packed! An excursion to Normandy to see the World War II beaches, Deauville, Trouville, Honfleur and more! So stay tuned!

Overall thus far in Champagne, I've had the pleasure of trying eight different small production, local champagnes, not available for export or found pretty much anywhere besides in close proximity to the region. Some have been home runs, some hits and some definite strike outs but boy has it been a treat!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 553: Day 2 in Etoges

Fromagical's European vacation means a break in our weekly traditions which I hope my dear readers are all ok let's get straight to day two! Well, first off we need to give a brief recap of last night's dinner at our hotel, Chateau d'Etoges, primarily a prix fixe of "menu" sort of restaurant. For those of us who didn't want meat, they had a fabulous vegetarian menu offering the choice of a tomato tart, crispy vegetable spring rolls, salad, scrambled eggs, a Spelt dish, an omelet and a simply prepared pasta. One had the option to choose two of the above and then have cheese and dessert and without going to in-depth into last night's cheeses, let me just tell you that the fresh goat's milk Chevre with mustard seed was to die for as was the camembert aux calvados. Cheeses in this region of France, as in most other regions was excellent but the experimentative options enforced the creativity present.

After a good night's sleep and a run in the vines, we headed out to Reims, where all of the
French kings got crowned and one of the Champagne region's hot spots. Full of champagne houses, restaurants and life. In Reims, we visited the oldest Chamagne house in the region -- Ruinart. Caves that were over 50 meters deep, an engaging tour guide who obviously was passionate about the process and the consequential wine produced. It was the sort of tour that dwarfed you because of the history, depth of the chalk caves and the constant striving for greatness.

After Ruinart, a drive to Epernay for lunch at Le Brasserie de la Banque, located on one of Epernay's many roundabouts, at least this one isn't under construction. Good simple food -- crisp refreshing salads, farm fresh fruit and an excellent of selection of local foods and cheeses, you couldn't go wrong with anything here.

The day was finished up with a visit to Moet & Chandon and a relaxing glass of
Champagne on our hotel's gorgeous property before dinner. Stay tuned tomorrow for an in-depth review of tonight's dinner, tomorrow's adventures and more!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 552 : Welcome to Etoges

After two flights and some quality waiting time at Charles De Gaulle airport, we set out on the first leg of our journey. Don't be fooled, just because France's highway system is worlds better and more advanced than the rural roads of Corsica, that doesn't mean there were not multiple occasions for us to get lost today -- whether it was the faulty gaps in Google Maps' directions or the lack of signage indicating which direction certain small country roads went, we managed to go in quite a few circles, but fret not, we made it! We passed through a variety of towns that if you blinked, you might miss, and maybe because it's a holiday or maybe because these towns were so small, we just simply did not come across many people, restaurants, markets, shops, etc over the course of our drive. Picturesque quintessential French landscape that was a definite!

When we did finally stop for lunch, it was at this small auberge hotel with a restaurant called Le Cheval Blanc. Notable aspects of the town -- it is where the roads divide -- one way takes you to Etoges, the tiny village where we are staying in and the other way towards Epernay, easily the biggest town we passed through after leaving Paris. Sitting down to lunch, we each ordered their house salad consisting of lettuce, haricots vert, white asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs and some smoked salmon. A fresh, delectable and satisfyingly simple lunch after a long night and morning of travel. We had to split their cheese plate didn't we?! After all, it was our first lunch in France, why not dive in head first?! And at this small country restaurant, we got an excellently broad selection of cheeses -- livarot, Chevre, a classic washed rind tomme, a stinky blue, chaource, a Brie with a home nut infusion in the center, a Camembert style cheese, a semi-firm cow's milk cheese and homemade fig paste. This cheese plate had something for every palate, that's for sure! Gosh, cheese in France just awakens the senses and brings you to life!

Moving right along from lunch to our first and only stop of the day at a small champagne house that does not export to the US, located on the Route de Champagne in Epernay -- A Bergere. A welcoming modern chateau with an elegantly simple tasting room, small and cozy with a warm environment, this was not a place where you felt like you were just another tourist. We tasted three of their champagnes -- their Brut (50% Chardonnay grapes, 50% Pinot Noir), their Blanc de Blanc (100% chardonnay grapes) and their Rose brut (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir). Each champagne had an excellent depth of flavor and elegant nuances in each sip. Welcome to Champagne Fromagical readers! Stay tuned for more bubbly adventures. My run this afternoon even took me through the local vines.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 551: Fromagical heads to Europe

Over the next few weeks, I'll be heading to Champagne, Normandy, Paris, Porto & London with stops through the Frankfurt & Montreal airports courtesy of my mileage ticket. Lots of European cheese adventures to come!

And right now from JFK Airport, on this dreary rainy Sunday, the hope of sunny days, new adventures and sights, relaxation and more sounds excellent!

I always find it interesting to look at the menus at airport bars and restaurants... Will they have something different and unique or just more of the same?

Sitting at Terminal 1 at JFK, I find it nice to see that there's a Turkish cafe, found here and in Istanbul. That's definitely a different option than the norm...

But at the grab n' go section there seems to be a lot of normal offerings -- meat & cheese sandwiches, cheese & veggie sandwiches, that tend to be mozzarella, tomato & basil. You can't ever go wrong there can you? It's quintessential American airport to go food, something Europe as a whole has always done better and fresher. So here's to many days of Fromagical's European vacation! If you're heading on vacation yourself over these dog days of summer, enjoy yourself and safe travels!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 550: Drinks, Nibbles and the such at Columbus Tavern

Living in New York City as the years go by, restaurants come and go, just as the people who frequent them do -- an ever changing social and cultural landscape of one of the world's greatest metropolitan melting pots.  For the past fifteen years, City Grill was the Upper West Side neighborhoody joint to go to for burgers, beers, and a relaxed time and then at the end of 2010, the management announced that it would reopen as Columbus Tavern. 

Earlier this year, Columbus Tavern reopened with a new American menu -- dressed up pubbish food, a relaxed atmosphere, and classic cocktails -- the 21st century version of City Grill, same sort of feel but new.

The other night, I ended up there later in the evening with a few friends for some cocktails and nibbles, a quiet place where we could all hear one another talk in NYC can sometimes be tough.

So what did we all split?

Their grilled flatbread with grilled zucchini, artichokes, caramelized onions, arugula and goat's cheese. Summery, light, flavorful, and perfect with the cocktails. And at $9, it was a pretty good deal!

We also had their crispy artichoke salad with Parmesan and arugula, a riff on the classic Italian carcofi style dishes you find on all menus in Italy. These were crisp, dainty artichokes, not overly fried so that you didn't feel the fry grease.

Lastly we had a classic shrimp cocktail -- the shrimp were fresh and delish.

Overall just some snackies to go with drinks with old friends. A nice place to be able to hear one another chat without any fuss!

Columbus Tavern
269 Columbus Avenue

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 549 : Triple Cream Recommendations

This past week I got asked for recommendations for triple creams -- think decadence, silky smoothness, richness, creaminess -- ice-cream like cheeses, the sort of cheeses that melt in your mouth and coat each and every crevice. So I thought I'd provide you all with my top three recommendations for American artisanal triple cream cheeses.

Just for your edification purposes:

What makes a cheese a double cream cheese?

It has to be at least 60% butterfat (butter is 100% butterfat.)

What makes a cheese a triple cream cheese?

It has to be at least 75% butterfat.

These sorts of cheeses tend to go best with a bubbly to cut the richness of the cheese and open their flavor nuances up.

So what are the three cheeses I recommend?

1. Nettle Meadow Kunik -
Crafted in upstate New York, this is a truly unique triple cream made with 75% goat's milk and 25% Jersey cow's cream. Kunik has the classic bloomy white exterior with mushroomy, straw-y, and earthy notes and an unctuous smooth and silky interior. Rich and round with a citrus-y grassy lightness from the goat's milk. The perfect blend of weighty decadence and fanciful lightness.
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2. Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam -
Cowgirl Creamery's signature cheese, named for a mountain right outside of San Francisco. It is a hockey puck sized roundelle of pasteurized organic cow's milk with a white bloomy rind. Elegant, buttery and creamy with that those classic earthy, rustic, mushroomy notes from the bloomy exterior. This triple cream is not nearly as soft as the others but it is just as delish. Perfect with a Napa Valley sparkling.

3. Champlain Valley, Triple Cream -

Hailing from Vergennes, Vermont, this pasteurized organic cow's milk cheese is an award winner! Cultured whole milk and cream are aged in crottin style molds for ten days and then consequently aged further to develop a fantastically bloomy rind. Dense, creamy, and buttery with mushroomy and farmsteady notes and a fluffy cloud-like exterior, this cheese needs a glass of Prosecco to cut the richness and boy does that bubbly do exactly what its supposed to -- it elevates and exposes the fabulous nuances of these winning Vermont cheese.

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Day 548 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #27

Gosh this last week before vacation has totally turned my blogging schedule upside and down and for that I apologize!

So last week we looked at how you could save at Murray's, so here's how you could splurge at Murray's:

Why not indulge in a morsel of Abbaye de Tamie clocking in at $35.99 a pound? A washed rind raw cow's milk cheese from the Savoie region of France aged for two months. You might think this cheese is somewhat reminiscent of the great washed rind stinker, Reblochon, but this has a firmer interior paste that's for sure. The cheese itself is rich and creamy with slightly bright, sweet, fruity and straw-y hay notes. A washed rind home run! Enjoy with semi-sweet wines.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 547 : A breakfast-y crostini

Are you like me in that you love to make jams and sauces with summer's bounty so that come the dark dreary days of winter you can enjoy the juicy blueberries and luscious tomatoes of August? Well I recently made a simple delish blueberry basil sea salt jam and I thought it would be perfect for breakfast this morning on a toasted English muffin with a dollop of Nettle Meadow Farm's Honey Lavender goat's milk fromage blanc and a few leaves of basil to reinforce the hints of basil in my jam? Perhaps with a nice cup of Green Tea to get going this morning? Aromatic, full of flavor nuances to awake your senses first thing in the morning!

How to make my blueberry jam:

No pectin here nor sugar, just blueberries, water, basil, and sea salt. The fresh blueberries have enough residual sugars so that as you cook them, the sugars will release making the jam sweet enough. Note to self -- making jam requires patience. It is not something that happens in an hour, it takes multiple hours of cooking over low heat. I like to take the jam off the heat, cover, and cool overnight at least one night, if not two, it allows the flavors to develop with an increased depth. Add a pinch of sea salt when you start the jam and again as you see it thickening up. Wait till jam is thickening to add diced up basil, definitely once basil is added, let jam sit overnight. Add two rounds of diced basil to dial up the herbaceous aromatic quotient somewhat. Enjoy!

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Day 546 : SCS Dispatch Version 7.0, Dispatch #2

Better late than never...yesterday seemed to get away from me what with internet issues, torrential downpours and well life in general. So let's get right back at it this morning and have our second dosage of Virginia and Ireland's SCS. Each of today's cheeses has been perfected over the years, their ratios and recipes developed and changed for well over a decade. These are cheeses that have been tested time and time again till the cheesemakers who produce them reached the appropriate level of satisfaction and pride with their product.

Twelve years of work at Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, Virginia, surely has perfected their Appalachian -- a cooked and pressed curd cow's milk cheese aged for a minimum of two months with a penicillium mold exterior and light hay hued interior. Smooth, silky, and buttery with bright citrus notes and an excellently earthy farmsteady finish. Supple and semi-firm, it is reminiscent of a French style tomme cheese.  Great served as part of a cheese plate or melted in a sandwich or a pasta dish. Enjoy with a glass of Pinot Grigio!

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And what of its Irish counterpart?

How about Gleann Oir hailing from County Tipperary? A six month aged pasteurized goat's milk cheese with a natural rind. A fantastic example of an Irish original farmstead cheese crafted by a family that has tended to their farm land for four generations and have been making Gleann Oir and perfecting this cheese since the 1980s. Firm with an bright ivory interior and a gray-ish natural exterior, Gleann Oir has those classic lactic goat-y moments of citrusy grassy lightness with a rustic barnyardy feel from its aging process in the farm's caves. 

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Wouldn't it be interesting to have had the opportunity to taste each of these cheeses in each stage of their development? See where the cheesemakers started and where they ended up?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 545 : A lovely lunch at Cafe Boulud

Cafe Boulud is one of those Upper East Side dining institutions with food that just melts in your mouth and with an old world sort of austere propriety that is traditionally found in European fine dining restaurants. However, Cafe Boulud makes itself approachable to those who might not always think of dining there by offering a summer-long Restaurant Week menu - three courses at lunch, $24.07. Today, it seemed that ordering two of the appetizers and a dessert from the restaurant week menu, instead of an appetizer, entree, and dessert, only cost $19 instead of $24.07. For the quality and caliber of the food, that was an exceptional deal!

Well we started with their amuse bouche of a risotto ball filled with mozzarella and fennel. Oozy and gooey in all the right sort of ways, with a nice aromatic wake-me-up from the fennel. An interesting combination of flavors that I wouldn't have necessarily thought should go together, especially in the summer-time, but it worked.

Then I had their cucumber gazpacho that was garnished with a chive chantilly and smoked trout. Crisp, fresh, refreshing, and delish. An ode to the flavor nuances of the cucumber and a brilliant one at that! The perfect sort of chilled soup for a hot and humid summer day.

Next up I had their salmon tartar with mango and basil with thin slivers of cucumber and a chili mustard black sesame coulis. Light and flavorful, an excellent melding of tastes!

Overall, it was a wonderful meal with great company and quite the treat for an August Monday afternoon.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 544 : Fig Salad

Last night I had a friend over for wine and nibbles and had purchased some small Spanish figs from Fairway, among other goodies, but these figs inspired a simple salad idea that I will have to make this week. I adore figs and definitely think they are under utilized in savory dishes, yes you see them often on a cheese plate, but rarely do you see them in other savory dishes, sometimes in salads with the classic goat cheese, arugula pairing. I think that they are a fantastic way to add a savory sweetness to a variety of dishes.

Let me preface -- these were Spanish figs that are small and dainty but packed full of flavor, not too sweet, but with a nice rustic finish. So what are we going to do with them?

Grab a small carton of heirloom cherry tomatoes which are actually around the same size as the figs. Take about 2/3 of a cup of each and dice in half. Combine with a half of a cucumber diced very finely, great for crunch. Add one clove of finely diced garlic for an aromatic boost and a tablespoon of sauteed shallots. Next up, add some sea salt and drizzle lightly with EVOO. Now top with very thin shavings of Prince de Claverolle otherwise known as Pyrenees Ossau Vielle, a firm aged raw sheep's milk cheese from the Pyrenees. The cheese is nutty, brown buttery, and butterscotchy with a nice rustic, farmsteady finish. Top with a few basil leaves for a vegetal, herbaceous touch. A great simple melange of ingredients that will allow you to taste and savor each element of this salad.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 543 : A Review of Brooklyn Star

A little less cheese and a little more critical reviews today...Ever go to a restaurant where you felt like you could execute the food better, faster, and more eloquently than the place you were dining? Or a bar where the drink you ordered was made far worse than the same cocktail you might make in the comfort of your own home? At brunch today, criticisms were flowing left and right at our table of eight folks.

Brooklyn Star, located on Lorimer Street, right north of Metropolitan Avenue, in Williamsburg, is a comfort food, Southern cuisine sort of joint. There are plenty of fried items on the menu and actually only one option for those of us who do not eat meat. The menu clearly states, "no modifications, no substitutions," so that ruled out me ordering anything besides the yogurt with fresh berries and homemade granola.  I know quite a few Southern / comfort joints around town that have at least one hot (aka eggs) and one cold (aka yogurt) vegetarian dish, apparently Brooklyn Star wasn't one of them. The lack of vegetarian options was not even the worst compliant -- half hour plus waits for food when there were maybe a total of a dozen other people in the restaurant was close to the top, if not at the top, of everyone's list. The kitchen staff kept basically pacing through the dining room, casual yes, but slightly unprofessional and completely frustrating. To add to our issue list was my absolute favorite -- they simply did not have mustard for a friend when she asked for some to add to her sandwich. What sort of restaurant does not have mustard? It is not like my friend was asking for vegemite or an obscure condiment, it was mustard!

Ok, so don't get me wrong not everything was bad about Brooklyn Star -- they did have some inventive brunch drinks that were made quite well and if I was in the neighborhood, I would most certainly go back to have a drink at the bar. The food portion, I think I could do without in the future. But I'd heard quite a bit about the restaurant so I am glad I tried it.  Worth the trip for a cocktail for sure, and if you're into that whole fried chicken and waffles sort of cuisine, you might have a greater fondness for the food than I did. My yogurt was completely fine, the berries fresh, and the granola done well, but surely nothing to write home about.

Brooklyn Star
593 Lorimer Street

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 542 : Cheeses for TGIF

TGIF! Thank god it's Friday and boy is a perfect day for a glass of rose in Central Park  so let's keep things short and sweet today and bring back a GCF, grilled cheese Friday recipe, a tradition in the first year of Fromagical.

Let's use Willow Hill's to die for Summertomme - a small bloomy rinded round disc of sheep's milk cheese that is coated in the farm's own special mixture of herbs and spices. Creamy, buttery, unctuous on the interior with an alive exterior full of  vegetal, herbaceous, and grassy notes.

Put a few nice slices of the Summertomme on a ciabatta style bread, top with some sea salt, EVOO, arugula for a nice kick and basil for aromatic boost and a few slices of fresh cucumber and you are ready to go for a great green GCF.

Enjoy the glorious weather folks!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 541 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 26

A note to all of you French cheese lovers out there -- Murray's Cheese is having a fantastic sale on eleven different French cheeses just through the month of August. The cheeses are each slashed by at least $3 and all the way up to $10 off per pound of cheese. You don't have to just be in New York City to enjoy this deal, Murray's ships nationwide.

The nice thing about this sale is that it is on eleven French cheeses that are less well known to the general American public so not only does it allow you the opportunity to learn about new French cheeses but you can do that without spending as much money, always a bonus!

So check out Murray's either in Grand Central Station or the original on Bleecker Street. If you're not in NYC, go online and discover the French cheeses in season and on sale.

My top three picks of the eleven cheeses that Murray's has on sale are:

1. Colombier des Pigeons - A large cone shaped soft ripened goat's milk cheese from the Rhone Alps region  that is chalky, firm, and milky for all the right reasons. Slightly earthy with aromatic floral and grassy vegetal notes. On sale from $39.99 to $34.99 a pound.

2. Saulnois - Hailing from the Lorraine region, this raw cow's milk cheese is washed wine and aged for between four and six months. Semi-firm with mushroomy, rustic, and grassy notes and a fantastically floral and fruity finish due to the wine. You can't go wrong here! On sale from $27.99 to $24.99 a pound.

3. Bleu de Brebis - Looking for an alternative to Roquefort? This raw sheep's milk blue from the Aveyrons is punchy, spicy, creamy, and full bodied. It sure awakens the senses and is perfect with a glass of dessert wine or white port. On sale from $29.99 to $24.99 a pound.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 540 : Fast Easy Fresh Dinners for One

The rain outside caused a change in my plans and I ended up having the opportunity to use some of my fresh produce for a yummy summer Farro salad.

Curious as to what Farro is?

It is a centuries old Italian spelt grain that like quinoa has recently regained popularity, it's nutty, somewhat crunchy, with a subtle round flavor. It is a great substitute for rice, couscous, quinoa, and pasta dishes. Good for you and filling, but not too heavy that it will weigh you down on a summer evening.

Easy to prepare, cook for approximately ten minutes with boiling salted water in a big sauce pot.

So what goes with this farro?

How about some fresh ripe diced heirloom tomatoes, Nicoise black olives, roasted salted almonds, fresh diced haricot verts, and some yellow pepper? Keeping everything raw here except of course the olives and almonds,  because it is so fresh you want to taste the intricate flavor nuances of each veggie. Top with your homemade dressing, a simple EVOO-Balsamic-Dijon Mustard combo and then some cheese. I think some grated Midnight Moon would be perfect over the top of this.

Midnight Moon is a six month aged firm goat's milk cheese crafted by Cypress Grove out in California. It is nutty and buttery with a crisp cleanness to it due to the goat's milk. A perfect summertime grating cheese and it's also delish on it's own, so don't finish the entire piece before you put some in your farro salad.

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Enjoy folks!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 539 : SCS Spotlight Version 7.0, Dispatch #1

It seems as the year goes on and we accumulate more and more months of State - Country spotlights, I have to go back and see where we have been and where we should a summary, here's where we've been in the past six months of state-country spotlights:

1. New York & England
2. California & Spain
3. Vermont & France
4. Massachusetts & Portugal
5. Wisconsin & Italy
6. Connecticut & Switzerland

and where to next?

How about Virginia and Ireland? Let's continue checking off states and countries and get right to it!
This week we will feature washed rind cheeses from both locales!

Ever heard of a farm started because of a dog? Well Everona Dairy in Rapidan, Virginia was. How you might ask? In the 1990s, the future owner and cheesemaker of Everona Dairy got a border collie and then in time decided that the dog needed some company. So what did she get? Sheep. As she started doing her due diligence, she quickly discovered that sheep's milk could produce some of the best cheese...and the rest is history. Now, Everona has over one hundred sheep and has been producing cheese for thirteen years. Today, let's focus on their cheese known as Pride of Bacchus, a red wine washed and soaked unpasteurized aged sheep's milk cheese. After the cheese's brining, it receives a wine bath and then a washing with a local red wine, Rivanna Red, from Burnley Vineyards in Gordonsville, Virginia. The interior paste is round, rustic, farmsteady, barnyardy, nutty, and butterscotchy with that fantastic granular quality of an aged cheese but the exterior is all fruity sweetness. A satisfying blend of distinct flavors packaged in the form of Pride of Bacchus.

And what of its Irish counterpart?

Instead of being washed and bathed in local red wine, our Irish counterpart is washed and bathed in local salt water -- Ardrahan hails from West Cork, a region known for its washed rind cheeses because of its temperate, damp and moist climate. Produced with pasteurized cow's milk and vegetarian rennet with between two and four months of aging, this washed rind cheese shows you what the Irish can do! Classic orange-y washed rind exterior hues and the pungence on the nose one expects with a good washed rind cheese with an interior semi-soft ivory paste full of little holes, not Swiss cheese sized, smaller. The cheese itself is smooth and creamy with a smoky, earthy, mushroomy, meaty-ness to it.

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Washed rind cheeses are the best example of the expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover," aren't they?

Day 538 : Sunday Night Supper at Fishtag

As my dedicated Fromagical readers might know by now, Fishtag is one of my go-to neighborhood joints -- sleek, modern design, delish food, an extensive wine list, a cheese and appetizing service, and just a nice atmosphere.

Sunday night, after a lovely staycation summer day, I had some wine and nibbles at Fishtag. Had two of my favorites -- their smoked tuna served with grilled bread, fennel, French breakfast radishes, greek yogurt, and pickled veggies and Nicoise olives. Such a fantastic and unique preparation for tuna -- one really gets to experience the fish in a different way than a tartare, or a sushi, or seared, or a ceviche. Savory, sensual, and sublime!

And we had their chopped chicory and bulgar salad which is a melange of medjool dates, pomegranate seeds, green olives, French breakfast radishes, pistachios, peppers, grilled onions and smoked almonds. A complex and ingredient heavy salad that is light, flavorful, refreshing, and summery.

And lastly we tried their new Ratatouille, roasted tomato, and kefaloteri (a Greek sheep's milk cheese) bruschetta which was although a little difficult to eat, a fantastic celebration of vegetables -- walking an excellently fine line between the classic French ratatouille and a Middle-Eastern vegetable tagine.

Overall, always a great meal!
I apologize you didn't receive this last night folks, apparently I forgot to press publish yesterday, whoops!

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