Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 629 : A bright orange cheese for Halloween

Looking for a bright orange cheese for Halloween and not in the mood for an orange cheddar? Then you should look to the French aged cow's milk cheese Mimolette of course! Hailing from Lille, this round crater like cheese has a bumpy uneven greyish exterior, due primarily to the mites introduced to the cheese during its aging process. Waxy and crumbly on the interior with nutty, butterscotchy, and caramelly notes, it has that classic aged cheese crystallization. Rich and round with a rustic meatiness to it, this is a cheese that has a nice weight to it. Perfect with a glass of Calvados for a boozy cheesy Halloween treat.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 628 : Brunch at Beauty & Essex

Today I ventured down to Beauty & Essex for brunch. Ever since it opened last year, I had wanted to try Chris Santos' new sleek clubby small plates joint hidden behind the front of a pawn shop on Essex Street between Stanton and Rivington. Why do you recognize the name Chris Santos? That's because he is the executive chef of Stanton Social and a frequent judge on Chopped.

Walking in through the pawn shop into a dark and sultry room, the space stretched as far back as the eye could see and had the feel of a great jazz age cocktail bar replete with the requisite leather couches and dark corners to do dark deeds, granted it was brunch time so one didn't get to witness any of those, but I imagine at night time there would be quite a few.

The menu was a mixture of sweet and savory inventive takes on American classic comfort food both of the brunch, lunch, and dinner sort. The cocktail list looked excellent and very creative as well. There were quite a few things that I thought looked fabulous, definitely a place to come back to. Granted, it was a meat heavy menu, but there were plenty of options for those of us who don't eat meat...We started with a tomato tartare served on a parmesan crisp with a quail's egg and grated parmesan and chives. It was a burst of flavor in your mouth -- refreshing and light with a burst of creaminess from the quail egg and an aromatic finish from the chives.

All served in quite a cute presentation as Santos is known for...

Next up my friend split their three cheese fondue served with duck fat potatoes, apples, pears, strawberries, and croque monsieur squares. A cheesy decadent sharable dish that she thoroughly enjoyed. I had their kale, apple, radicchio, caramelized pecan, and goat's cheese salad, hold the pancetta. A crisp refreshing yet filling salad, perfect for brunch time!

Overall a delish and satisfying meal in a fun atmosphere, a definite place to return to, for brunch, dinner, or cocktails. 

Beauty & Essex
146 Essex Street

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 627 : A roast for a snowy day

It's snowing and it's October! The last time this happened in New York City was 59 years ago, crazy to think right? It's not a common sight to see snow, full trees of leaves, pumpkins, and people dressed up in Halloween costumes, but I guess we have global warming to thank for this rare occurrence.

On a day like today, there's really nothing better than cuddling up inside and reading a book and roasting some veggies -- they will give you that much needed warmth on this unseasonably cold snowy day.

Roasted Cauliflower to me is a classic late Fall / Wintertime food -- filling and rustic, when prepared correctly, it just melts in your mouth. So why not roast some cauliflower with some grated Gruyere and Parmesan with some herbs and spices while you're watching a movie and staying indoors today?

1 head of cauliflower
1 shallot
Crushed Red Pepper flakes
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Break up the cauliflower into floret pieces. Dice up shallot. Toss all together with EVOO, herbs, and spices in a baking dish. Place in the oven for fifteen minutes or until the cauliflower just starts getting golden brown. Pull out and top with a nice amount of grated Parmesan and Gruyere. Cook for another ten to fifteen minutes or until the cheese has gotten a nice golden hue to it as well. Decadent yet satisfying, rustic and homey -- just the right sort of mood for a day like today.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 626 : Opening Alert -- Yet another grilled cheese joint

Grilled cheese -- that classic simple comfort food that when paired down to its most basic is simply two pieces of bread and a hunk of cheese in between but when done right it is heavenly. Grilled cheese has been "hot" for the past year and change. I know you're thinking, really, did she just say that? Grilled cheese? Hot? Hasn't it always been something that we enjoyed? By hot I mean, restaurants, food trucks, carts, pop-ups and more specializing strictly in grilled cheeses. Why have one or two or even three grilled cheese outposts when you can have dozens right?

So I'm writing to tell you all about another grilled cheese place opening next week down on the Lower East Side -- Little Muenster located at 100 Stanton Street.

9 grilled cheese combinations are on their menu now featuring cheeses spanning the gamut from Kraft singles to Stilton and Midnight Moon to name a few. But instead of revealing all of their grilled cheese combinations right here for you, I recommend you check it out yourself next week.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 625: How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 35

It's so rainy and gross out nothing sounds better than a warming glass of red wine and some cheese and for under $15 you can easily get a decent bottle of wine and 1/2 pound of cheese. First stop- venture into Zabar's and pick up a 1/2 pound or however much you want of Doux de Montagne, a French semi-soft cow's milk cheese that is round and buttery with creamy slightly nutty notes and a clean finish. Next stop, West Side Wines to grab a bottle of Cuvee Jean-Paul, a Vacluse Rouge from the Southern Rhone valley for $10.99 a bottle. A medium bodied red wine full of red fruit notes and a smooth finish. Next stop - your apartment to cuddle under a duvet and watch a movie.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 624 : A CSA for Cheese?

Yes you heard it right! Cricket Creek Farm is starting a weekly cheese specific CSA strictly for all you Brooklynites out there.

Traditionally when one thinks of a CSA, one thinks of the boxes of fruit and veggies delivered to your neighborhood on a weekly or biweekly basis -- community supported agriculture.

You either sign up for a holiday special that runs from November 14th through December 26th for $80 or you can sign up for a full winter share which starts on November 14th and goes through March 19th for $215. With each you will get 3/4 of a lb of cheese on a weekly basis. However should you decide to sign up for the double share, you would get 1.5 lbs of cheese on a weekly basis.

It's a great way to stimulate the farm's revenue while providing you with a weekly delivery of delish farm fresh artisanal cheese.

Day 623 : SCS Version 9.0, Dispatch # 2

I wanted to take a brief moment to apologize for the blogging delays over the past few weeks, everything will fall back into a rhythm shortly....Needless to say, lets get going with yesterday and today's posts...When figuring out what sort of cheeses to discuss in this week's spotlight, I decided to settle on two fresh spreadable cheeses, the goal was to have two goat's milk cheeses but it seems that Mexico is not necessarily that well known for cheese made with goat's milk. However the cheese I chose today from Mexico is traditionally made with a mixture of cow and goat's milk.

Hailing from Kemah, Texas is CheesyGirl Cheese Company a completely vegetarian cheesemaking farm meaning that the cheese is made with completely vegetarian rennet. They craft five distinct goat's milk cheeses -- Plain Jane (a straightforward chevre); Femme Fatale (infused with their own special blend of herbs); Hottie (infused with jalapenos and cayenne and my personal favorite); Cara Mia (infused with sundried tomatoes, oregano and extra virgin olive oil); and Buff (their one aged goat's milk cheese). Each of their spreadable young goat's milk cheeses are fresh, alive, tangy, citrusy, grassy and all around fantastic -- raw and infused with the local terroir.

And what of our Mexican counterpart?

How about one of the most well known and easily accessible fresh creamy cheeses crafted in the region? Queso Fresco! Yes you see queso fresco crafted in the US as well but it does originate in Mexico. Queso Fresco is traditionally made with a mixture of cow and goat's milk and is young, milky and tangy. There is a greater roundness of mouth feel with the queso fresco than the CheesyGirl's chevres due to the cow's milk. But this simple straightforward fresh cheese is a delight on its own or is a very versatile ingredient to include in a variety of dishes.

The great thing about spreadable soft cheeses is that they can be used in an endless number of ways -- there is never a shortage of ideas when it comes to how to utilize a soft cheese that's for sure!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 622: Fast Easy Fresh Dinners...

At the Cheeses of France tasting on Saturday I had a classic French infused chevre -- Chevre aux Piment d'Espelette and it inspired me to craft this pasta dish -- a celebration of the last heirloom tomatoes available this season. 

So what goes into the pasta dish?

Heirloom tomatoes
Sundried tomatoes
Baby Sweet bell peppers
Chevre aux Piment d'Espelette
Sea Salt / Black Pepper
Raffetto's homemade thin tomato linguine
Optional Capers

Yes you have to head down to West Houston Street to get this fresh homemade linguine but I guarantee it will be worth it, just don't go on a Sunday or Monday, Raffetto's is closed. In case you're unfamiliar with what Raffetto's is, it is an old world NYC Italian institution where they make their own pasta and have a variety of Italian cheeses and other food products. It is just a treat to walk through the door, no pretense, no frills here. Once you've acquired your pasta and have your veggies and cheese you are ready to start cooking.

Preheat the oven to 350 and dice up a few baby sweet bell peppers, toss them with some sundried tomatoes, two chopped up garlic cloves, some oregano, rosemary and thyme, EVOO and sea salt. Roast for twenty minutes or until the peppers are golden brown and smelling cooked. While they are cooking, boil the water for your pasta. Fresh homemade pasta cooks much quicker than the dried store bought kind, so make sure to check the pasta at about half of the time as you would if it was dried. Meanwhile, dice up some of your heirloom tomatoes and toss them with some fresh basil and parsley, sea salt, and EVOO. Once the oven roasted veggies are finished as is your linguine, toss everything together and top with a few basil leaves along with a nice chunk of the Chevre aux Piment d'Espelette which will add a nice lactic creamy yet somewhat spicy tang to the dish. I also like to add a handful of capers to dial up the briny saltiness of the dish but capers surely aren't for everyone so if you don't like their flavor, by all means them out. Enjoy with a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Day 621 : Brunch at Tertulia

Tertulia was one of those restaurants that I was very excited to see open and of course try out. It is Seamus Mullen's (previously of Boqueria) new casual and rustic Basque restaurant. Walking in you feel transported to a rural Spanish town farmhouse restaurant, complete with the classic chimney-like oven traditionally found in Etxebarri in the Basque country outside of Bilbao. The small space has a warm and homey feel.

The menu is a mixture of classic Spanish and more specifically Basque dishes with Mullen's personal twist. At brunch, there is a nice combination of small plates tapas and Spanish comfort food brunch dishes.

We split their Tostas Setas which was their savory brunch bruschetta topped with marinated mushrooms, smoked ricotta, pine nuts and herbs. Herbaceous and rustic with a lightness to it, the flavors melded excellently together. Then we also split their version of a classic tortilla Espanola which I always find is a good way to gauge a Spanish restaurant. The best tortillas melt in your mouth and walk a perfect line between the rich roundness of the eggs, the starchiness of the potatoes and the aromatic notes of the onions. This tortilla surely measured up and made me want to come to try more of the wonderful sounding dishes on the menu.

Just know when you go, that they don't take bookings for parties of under six people. But it is most certainly worth the wait.

359 6th Avenue

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day 620 : Cheeses of France Pop-Up

The Cheeses of France hosted a pop up at Openhouse Gallery today at 201 Mulberry and boy was it an ode to French cheese and wine. It was an opportunity for the general public to discover French cheeses that you might not know, a chance to procure all the great French cheeses at an extremely affordable price on American soil and even discover a few obscure French cheeses for those of us in the now. 

Upon walking in, you were greeted with a wall of cheese cases and tons of cheeses available for the tasting, if you didn't see a cheese you wanted to taste, you could easily ask the very nice people behind the counter to unwrap a cheese for you to try.

After tasting through those cheeses, you could walk down a flight of stairs to watch Ash from Top Chef do a variety of demos. You also could have the opportunity to taste a variety of "American foods crafted with a French twist utilizing the cheeses featured as you walked in." So there was grilled cheese, frittatas, mac n' cheese, a Saint Andre cheese based dip for veggies and more along with Cotes du Rhone red wine, and lemonade and other sparkling sodas. 

Overall it was a totally fun way to spotlight to the NYC masses the fantastic and fabulous world of French cheese. If you didn't get to stop by, I at least recommend checking out their website so you can get an idea more of what the Cheeses of France council does --

Day 619 : Aria

Nope there's nothing music related about it, except perhaps the volume of everyone's voices chattering away having a good time at this rustic and routinely crowded West Village wine bar. Located off Hudson on Perry Street, one feels like they are walking into a cellar wine bar in Venice. The wine list is predominately Italian with affordably priced bottles and small glasses for $6 and $7. There is an extensive list of cichetti or Italian small plates to choose from -- easily sharable and perfect to enjoy with a glass of wine. There is also a nice selection of cheeses and cured meats. Each cheese is $5 which for West Village wine bars is a good price. 

We had two of their local cheese selections -- Lively Run's Cayuga Blue and Nancy's Camembert. Lively Run is one of my all time favorite blue cheeses as it is a goat's milk blue, not the most common cheese to discover. It's got all those great goaty notes of crisp lactic citrusy grassiness but with the spicy piquance of a classic blue. And you can't ever go wrong with the Hudson Valley camembert -- decadent, creamy, and with a round mouth feel, it is exactly what you want in a camembert.

A great place for a fun Friday night with friends.
117 Perry Street

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 618 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #34

Coming to you all a little late, I apologize...

Under our :"how to save" umbrella, I sometimes like to recommend cheeses that are on sale, cheeses that you wouldn't necessarily get at another time because they are just a little more pricey than you may want but that now that they are slightly cheaper, you can splurge on a small budget.

So this afternoon, in looking through a variety of cheese purveyours' sites, I found it interesting that Murray's Cheese is one of the only sites that has a "sale" section, somewhat like an online apparel outfitter. You might automatically think well maybe that's because they have such a large "by mail" clientele, and yes you would be right on that note but so does Artisanal and they don't have the same...curious right?

Right now featured in Murray's sale section is the delectably delicious yet epically stinky Limburger. This washed rind cheese is of Belgian - German origin and is a brick of pasteurized cow's milk. It is semi soft with a creamy roundness of flavor to it. Don't be scared that the smell is somewhat in your face, the taste surely isn't the same -- yes it has a nice briny tang but that actually balances out the unctuous creamy interior paste. Great with a glass of Riesling and for under $10 for this little brick of cheesy goodness, you simply cannot go wrong.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 617 : A Rainy Day Grilled Cheese to get you through the week

Grey rainy days make you feel sluggish don't they? Not up for traipsing about from one corner of the city to the other? Don't you kinda just want to be home under the covers cozy watching a movie with a glass of red wine and something warming to eat? How about a grilled cheese? Homey and delish - and tonight's will be absolutely perfect with a nice glass of Cabernet Franc, perhaps from the North Fork, Lieb's Cab Franc would be a wise choice.

What goes into today's grilled cheese?

Eli's Multigrain Health Loaf
Rogue River Creamery's Smokey Blue - The stunning smoked blue from the award winning Oregon based creamery, Rogue is cold smoked over hazelnut shells for sixteen hours. In return, on top of the classic blue flavors you get a smokey and rustic caramelly sweetness with somewhat nutty notes.
Portobello Mushrooms
Sweet Baby Bell Peppers
Balsamic Vinegar
Dijon Mustard
Soy Sauce
Sel de la Guerande
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

How to prepare this smokey grilled cheese?

I like to brush the portobello mushroom with a mixture of EVOO, balsamic, mustard, soy sauce, some salt and pepper and perhaps a little bit of rosemary and crushed red pepper flakes. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes or until the mushroom seems to be dark brown. While your mushroom is roasting, chop up two baby sweet bell peppers and half of a shallot and toss them with some rosemary and EVOO and lightly saute till golden brown. Grab your health loaf and slice two thick pieces, brush each side with some EVOO and place your cooked portobello on top with a nice piece of Rogue's Smokey blue and your sauteed peppers and toast away. It will be a satisfying and filling grilled cheese, perfect on a gloomy night like this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 616: SCS Version 9.0, Dispatch #1

Texas and Mexico - two countries separated by a border rife with drama and violence will be the focus of our ninth state SCS spotlight. With overlapping yet unique cheesemaking styles it will be an interesting look at two places that might not always receive excess amounts of attention for their cheeses.

For today's cheeses I decided to choose a cheese from each locale that is what my mind goes to when I think of either Texas or Mexican cheesemaking -- one is significantly more well known that the other but it surely is worth knowing both!

Hailing from the Mozzarella Company in Dallas is Hoja Santa crafted by the fabulously fantastic cheesemaker Paula Lambert. Each young goat's milk cheese is aged and wrapped in the local leaf, Hoja Santa (piper auritum) hence its name. What do we get from the leaf you might be wondering? Herbaceousness in one word. But if you want me to break it down that would be aromatic notes of anise, mint, and pepperiness. The creamy, citrusy, lactic, grassy interior paste is accentuated by these dramatically flavorful notes to awaken your senses. Great with a glass of dry white wine or a beer.

And from Mexico - you guessed it right, one of the oldest cheeses crafted in the region, Cotija. A firm raw cow's milk cheese produced nationwide. But the artisanal producers are those that craft the cheese with raw milk and not pasteurized milk. It is a crumbly, bright white cheese with a denseness to the paste. Salt is at the forefront here which is good for the Mexican summertime climate when salt is excessively important if you are sweating all day. Milky and lactic but round and fabulous -- think ricotta salata with an edge. A very versatile cheese excellent for everything from omelets to tacos to salads and much more; it is even great on its own.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 615 : A response to Serious Eats Top 13 Cheese List

In case you aren't familiar, Serious Eats is a fabulous food site/blog/community with city specific food news, along with news focused on pizza, drinks, burgers, and more with featured featured stories. It's educated, well informed, fun, and accessible the way a good food site should be. So when they released their opinions of the top thirteen cheeses everyone should know about, I was kind of excited to see what they would come up with and also curious to see if I'd agree. Here's their list:
1. Roquefort
2. Camembert
3. Cotija
4. Chevre
5. Feta
6. Mozzarella
7. Emmental
8. Cheddar
9. Gouda
10. Taleggio
11. Parmigiano-Reggiano
12. Manchego
13. Monterey Jack

Before you read what my list is, think about what your list would be. 13 cheeses that are must haves -- straightforward cheeses/cult cheeses or well just things you fell in love with that you feel you like everyone would as well -- the perfect balance of the well-known and the obscure.

So here is my list of must haves/starting points/blockbusters, some will overlap but few:

(It is organized by whether responses to the cheese chosen by Serious Eats.)

1. Roquefort - Although I might have wanted to name Fourme D'Ambert or Bleu d'Auvergne, Roquefort is the king of blue cheeses so I couldn't have not named it.
2. Brie - The classic bloomy rind cheese that is the starting point for some fabulous double and triple creams. Even though I may not love the classic Brie, I know that the cheese has allowed for the development of some of my favorite cheeses so I had to choose it.
3. Ricotta - Fresh, lactic and unctuous -- this is the classic creamy building block. Dressed up, it can attend a black tie event, casually adorned, it's perfect for a football Sunday get-together.
4. Chevre - Just like Roquefort is the starting point for blues, a straightforward chevre is the same for the goat cheeses.
5. Feta - see description #5.
6. Burrata - Decadence in cheese form -- mozzarella curd hides the center creamy lusciousness  -- a melt in your mouth ball of cheesy goodness.
7. Comte - Classic Alpine style cheese done excellently.
8. Cheddar - Yes it is one of the most common cheese styles world wide -- think Grafton cheese in Vermont, yumtastic!
9. Young Goat Gouda - We all know what Gouda is but this California specimen takes the definition to a whole new level.
10. Epoisses -- Washed rind. Cow's milk. High level of stink, this round disc is the godfather of washed rind cheeses.
11. Parmesan - Ok you simply cannot not have this on your list. Yes it is one of the most common and most versatile but a necessity!
12. Manchego - I spent a long debating this but it is again a building block -- aged sheep's milk cheese done right -- it has been the inspiration for many a cheese worldwide.
13. Pepato - For all those infused cheeses whether its with spices, peppercorns, alcohol, or other flavors -- an Asiago infused with black peppercorns is one of the classic infused cheeses. You cannot go wrong here - great for a cheese plate, cooked into a mac n' cheese, heated in a grilled cheese, you name it. Just like a good infused cheese, it will awaken your senses.

I noticed in making my list, the majority of the cheeses are actually "cheese umbrella" terms -- cheeses that lead to hundreds of other cheeses -- the building blocks of the cheese industry -- without understanding these guys, it is tough to imagine that one could understand those small production inventive artisanal cheeses that I write about all the time...

Stay tuned later this week, for my listing of 13 random obscure cheeses that for me are my thirteen all time favorites!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 614: Brunch at Nook

Nook. No it's not Barnes & Noble's answer to the Kindle nor is it a small corner of a room, it is a small gem of a neighborhoody restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. More precisely it is maybe a twelve table restaurant  located on 9th avenue between 50th and 51st streets with quite the following for its reasonable prices, fabulous brunch, delish dinners, and BYOB status. Don't even think about attempting to book beforehand, they don't take reservations, so be prepared to potentially wait for a bit. Oh and don't forget to bring some cash as it is cash only.

This morning, we were able to get in before the 11am crowds and boy was it worth it. We split a toasted baguette with farmer's cheese and raspberry jam -- creamy, sweet, and crunchy, it was a great way to start the morning. I find it somewhat rare to see farmer's cheese featured on a menu and I think it is such a delectable fresh cheese that it should be featured more often. Then I had one of their egg scrambles -- egg whites, cream cheese, chives, and smoked salmon served with a mesclun salad and homemade roasted pepper paprika mashed potatoes. A straight forward sort of egg dish done excellently and just the right sort of portion. I find that a lot of times you will go to brunch and get served too much food because it's a weekend and it's brunch and all.

Overall a wonderful meal that put a smile on my face -- I'd go back again for brunch and for dinner. No attitude, no pomp and circumstance, just good straightforward food in a city full of pomp and circumstance.

746 Ninth Avenue

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 613 : What to buy right now at the Tucker Square Greenmarket -- Malbec Towers

Every Thursday and Saturday, Tucker Square, the miniature public outdoor seating area / greenspace near Lincoln Center on 66th and Broadway, has a Greenmarket stocked with farms selling their fruit, vegetable, and floral produce, bakeries selling their breads and sweet baked goods, fish and meat, wine, and of course cheese. The cheese purveyour who is typically there is Bobolink Dairy from Milford, NJ.

Today Bobolink had their seasonal Fall cheese -- Malbec Towers. Each Fall, Bobolink follows in a centuries' old tradition of burying and consequently curing the exterior of smaller cheeses in wine must. What is wine must you might be wondering? Well it's the leftovers that are left after the juice is sucked out of Malbec wine grapes. Thus you get an aged cow's milk cheese that has been infused with and bathed in Malbec wine must.

Musty, rustic, and farmsteady, this is one supremely funky cheese. Creamy round cheesy paste is masked with a lightly alcoholic, fruity, tannic, barnyardy sweetness. Bobolink only made one hundred of these cheeses so be sure to rush out and get one before you've missed your chance. When they run out, you'll have to wait till next Fall.

Day 612 : A salad for inspiration

After a long week, sometimes there's nothing like a warm homecooked meal and a nice glass of red wine to put a smile on my face. So while thinking about what to make for dinner last night, I decided to draw inspiration from a salad I had Thursday at a close friend's family's for dinner. Don't get me wrong, everything else was wonderful as well, but I wanted to focus on this salad as my jumping off point.

So what was in the salad?

Mesclun greens, avocado, toasted slivered almonds, avocado, caramelized onions, feta cheese, cucumbers, and a homemade vinaigrette. A delish fresh crisp green celebration in a dish.

So what did I decide to make for dinner?

How about roasted pumpkin with arugula, feta, caramelized onions and toasted slivered almonds? You can only really get local sugar pumpkins from mid-October to (if you're lucky), Thanksgiving, and I absolutely love them so I figured why not start off pumpkin roasting season with this rustic autumnal salad. 

What is in the salad?

1/4 sugar pumpkin
Toasted slivered almonds
Greek Feta
1/2 onion
1/2 shallot
Rosemary, Oregano, Sage, Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then cut pumpkin down into cubes, toss it with EVOO, oregano, a hint of sage, sea salt, and one chopped up garlic clove. Put it in the oven in an oven safe roasting pan for twenty five to thirty minutes or until golden brown. On another roasting pan, place the slivered almonds to toast with some EVOO, rosemary, and sea salt till golden brown or for about eight to ten minutes. While the pumpkin and almonds are in the oven, chop up 1/2 of  an onion and 1/2 of a shallot. Cook these in a saute pan with some EVOO over low heat till golden brown. When everything is done, place it all into a bowl with arugula and top with crumbled Greek Feta and homemade aged balsamic vinaigrette (butternut squash seed oil, EVOO, aged balsamic, Maille Dijon mustard, a drop of soy sauce). Enjoy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 611 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 33

Feeling like a big spender on this Thursday afternoon?

Well if so, I recommend you try some Stanser Rotelli a new arrival in the Artisanal cheese caves clocking in at $48 a pound. Specially chosen by the Artisanal team of affineurs, this Swiss washed rind cow's milk cheese is just decadence in each and every morsel. Sensual and silky, smooth and milky yet with an assertive pungence. That washed rind brininess is totally in your face and awakens all your senses. Don't let the smell scare you because that interior creamy runny paste just is to die for.

So if you're feeling like you want to treat yourself, grab a morsel and pair it with a nice medium bodied fruit forward white wine to cut through the creamy brininess of the cheese.

Day 610 : Ditch Plains UWS

Ditch Plains originated as Marc Murphy's casual seafood spot on Bedford Street in the West Village, inspired by Murphy's days out at the well-known surf spot, Ditch Plains in Montauk. About a year ago, Murphy opened an uptown location of his beloved downtown joint on the Upper West Side. Larger and more airy than its downtown sibling, it truly has the Upper West Side neighborhoody sort of feel.

The menu is a mixture of comfort food staples, classic seafood dishes with Murphy's twist, salads, and more. In the drink department there are plenty of inventive cocktails, a large selection of beers on tap and wines by the half and full bottle. For those of us who don't eat meat, I thought it was refreshingly nice that there were plenty of opportunities for tofu substitutions in dishes like soft tacos and hot dogs and wings if you were in the mood for those sorts of things.

After inquiring a bit further as to what the smoked tofu "wings" were we decided to try them because really when do you see that on a menu --  my curiousity was definitely peaked. What were they you might be wondering? Pieces of tofu shaped into wings and cooked in barbecue sauce? Well not exactly, they were strips of tofu grilled and sauteed with a "spicy" sauce and served with the classic carrots and celery accompaniments. Savory and delish for those of us tofu lovers.

So what about the cheese portion of the evening?

We decided to try their smoked mozzarella and ricotta fritters served with spicy tomato sauce. Now, I don't like fried things but the interior taste of the smoked mozzarella and ricotta with a light herbaceous seasoning was truly lovely and the exterior was a simple homemade dough. A riff on a classic American appetizer -- mozzarella sticks which are breaded and fried -- done well.

We also split a side of their sauteed zucchini which was simple, clean, and delish. They had quite an extensive list of sides which is nice if you wanted to supplement your meal.
Funnily enough, even though we went to a seafood restaurant, we had a completely vegetarian meal. But I would most certainly go back to try some of their fish dishes or even just for a drink at their bar, such a nice atmosphere.

Ditch Plains
100 West 82nd Street

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 609 : SCS Version 8.0, Dispatch #4

Washed Rind Cheeses -- Stinky, Pungent, and all around fantastic. They tend not to be for the faint of heart, that's for sure. But boy they will knock your socks off in all the right sorts of ways.

From Oregon, we have River's Edge Chevre, you might remember them from our Rosh Hashanah cheese plate with the cheese, Mayor of Nye Beach. But for our purposes today I thought I'd introduce you to Astraea -- a raw goat's milk cheese aged for four months. It has been washed with Vietnamese cinnamon, dried chipotle peppers, and white pepper giving the cheese a rustic smoky, piquant, rich smoothness on the exterior with a bright white milky lactic interior. An excellent collision of flavor profiles that functions in perfect harmony -- that's what washed rind cheeses are all about folks!

Image courtesy of

And what of it's Canadian counterpart?

Also a firm goat's milk cheese, Cape Vessey is crafted by Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company in Picton, Ontario. It has been washed with the local Prince Edward County cider and aged for three to four months. No spice meeting milkiness here folks! It's all about the floral, fruity sweetness of the cider mixed with that classic washed brine-y farmsteady-ness on the exterior and a round creamy lactic interior. Perfect with a glass of fruit forward light red wine like a nice Cotes du Rhone.

My favorite part about washed rind cheeses is how you tend to receive such an interesting collision of flavors between the interior and the exterior of the cheese that it really awakens the senses and gives your taste buds a jolt.

Stay tuned next week for Version 9.0 of our SCS spotlights folks!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 608 : Tres Blanc pairing

For our pre-Yom Kippur meal, Peter chose an excellent wine produced by his close friends in Paso Robles to be paired with my mother's meal -- Tres Blanc crafted by Per Cazo wines. It is a blend of three classic Rhone white grape varietals -- Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier. As they say, "it is a white wine for red wine drinkers."

At first sip, I thought maybe it was somewhat heavy for me who doesn't particularly like medium to heavier white wines but once I had it with the food my mind totally changed -- the wine blossomed into something fantastic. It was floral and aromatic, yet smooth and lightly buttery, with an excellent citrusy crispness and a light peachy apricot-y finish. In that moment, Per Cazo's statement about it being a white wine for red wine drinkers completely clicked for me.

So I got to thinking about what the correct cheese pairings for this wine would be. You wouldn't go with the classic aged goat's milk cheeses like a Chevrot or the ash ripened cheeses like Valencay nor would you go with a straight forward chevre. This wine needed a bigger flavor to go with it -- yet it needed to be smooth with a slight nuttiness to it.

How about Bellwether Farms' San Andreas crafted in Sonoma County? An aged raw sheep's milk cheese that is light yet heavy. You might be thinking, what does she mean by that? By that I mean it has that nice nutty buttery roundness of a classic sheep's milk cheese but it has not been aged for more than two to four months, so it still has a light, bright, citrusy side to it while still being somewhat farmsteady, slightly gamey, and most certainly rustic.

I think these two together would work wonders. Please feel free to check out Per Cazo's website, they ship nationwide: and most certainly grab a morsel of San Andreas at Murray's. Thank you Peter for sharing the bottle and allowing this little pairing exploration.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 607 : Fast, Easy, Fresh Suppers for One

Ever get home hungry and just wish you had something warm and cooked and ready to go? Sure you could make something quick from the variety of ingredients in your fridge, but what about a one pot saute dish you can throw on and then take care of other items around your apartment and by the time you're done, your food is ready? Sounds good, right? Cleaning, organizing, and cooking all at the same time!

So for tonight's one pot meal I decided to utilize a lot of the bounty I purchased yesterday at the farmer's market in Union Square. So what was in the dish?

Rainbow Kale
Sundried tomatoes
Fairy tale Eggplant (miniature eggplants)
Sriracha (a Thai hot sauce that blends into dishes really well)
Butternut squash seed oil
Aioli Garlic Mustard

This is a very simple preparation -- dice up all the veggies and tofu, thrown in a saute pan with the EVOO, Sriracha, Butternut Squash seed oil, mustard, salt, herbes de Provence and a garlic clove. Cover and cook over low heat for eight to ten minutes. When the kale has cooked down and the eggplant is golden brown, uncover and let cook over low heat for five more minutes. Grate some Piave over the top for a nutty creamy twist. Once the cheese has melted and is mixed in with your veggies, serve and enjoy with a glass of Cotes du Rhone.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 606: Cheeses for a Break Fast

Well I told you all about the cheeses and the pre fast meal, so maybe I should tell you about the cheeses I brought to our family friend's for the break fast celebration. First off, let me tell you about the other items there : a homemade egg salad and noodle kuggle, whitefish salad, herring, smoked salmon, bagels, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, a homemade carrot salad, a bulgar dish, a chopped Israeli style salad, a raisin challah, and of course the cheeses! And a whole table of desserts...

For the cheese selection, I chose three American artisanal cheeses that I thought would walk the line between comfortable and known and different and unique, also necessary was that they would be easily sharable for the seventeen guests attending the break fast.

1. Julianna - A bloomy rinded goat's milk cheese from Indiana rubbed with a blend of herbs, loosely based on say a Fleur du Maquis but here raw goat's milk is utilized. The product is a happy marriage of crisp grassy lactic goaty notes and floral, herbaceous, nutty, woodsy and rustic moments. Light yet heavy all at once.

2. Great Hill Blue - A spunky, spicy, and piquant blue modeled on the classic Roquefort, this Massachusetts born cheese delights. Hints of grass and citrus with a milky buttery finish. A great ode to American artisanal cheesemaking!

3. Merlot Bellavitano Reserve Cheese -- Modeled on the great drunken Italian cheese, Ubricao, this Wisconsin crafted cheese is rich and nutty, somewhat caramelly and crumbly with a fruity winey finish. Great with a glass of red wine and some walnuts or just as a snacking cheese -- it sure is easily approachable with an excellent depth of flavor.

Overall an excellent break fast meal with interesting company -- a great time was had by all. Thank you to our hosts and to everyone who participated in bringing the different dishes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 605 : Pre Yom Kippur Meal

Before the ritual fast in observance of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, my family and I sat down to a lovely meal prepared beautifully by my mother.

And to keep it short and sweet, a quick little recap of what we enjoyed, each morsel more delish than the last. There was quinoa with asparagus and peas and a spinach puree along with spice crusted Arctic Char served with red wine sauteed mushrooms. To accompany the quinoa and the fish was homemade hummus and homemade challah and rice bread. Then we had a green salad and homemade fig paste with two cheeses. Each cheese was chosen for its distinctly different cheese style than those we had at Rosh Hashanah.

The first cheese I brought was Terra from Redwood Hill Farm in Sonoma, CA. Terra is a soft ripened, aged goat's milk cheese that the classic natural aged goat cheese rind and a bright white interior paste with a slight creamline. Earthy and tangy with lactic citrusy notes, this chalky cheese was a fantastic example of small production Californian artisanal cheesemaking. And the other cheese was Point Reyes Blue from Point Reyes, CA. A cow's milk aged blue cheese that packs the spicy piquant punch in just the right sort of way with a creamy buttery finish that is perfect with the homemade fig paste and a great way to wake up the senses.

Overall a fabulously delightful meal with my family before fasting. If you are fasting, all the best wishes for an easy fast and a nice time of atonement and reflection on the past year.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 604 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #32

I feel lucky to live in a neighborhood with a plethora of wine bars seeing as I sure do enjoy sharing a glass of wine and some cheese with friends. Two of my favorite wine bars in the neighborhood are within two blocks of one another and are owned and operated by the same management; they are definite Upper West Side institutions -- Bin 71 and Barcibo Enoteca. Barcibo is more Italian focused, both in their wine and food selections whereas Bin has a broader range of wines and nibbles. Each has offerings of cheese -- Bin has three cheeses for $17 where as Barcibo has three cheeses for $18. But which is the bigger and better bargain?

You may think, gosh this is a no-brainer, obviously its the place that has three cheeses for $17! Well you would be mistaken. For your $17 at Bin 71, you get three small morsels of cheese, decent for two to share. However your $18 at Barcibo goes much further, you get close to two times the amount of each cheese than you do at Bin. Sure, there are fewer cheeses to choose from at Barcibo but you get so much more cheesy goodness for your money, that it's totally worth it.

So I guess sometimes spending that extra dollar goes a lot further than you would expect. Granted, in the long run, spending the same amount you and your friends could get wine and cheese for less and end up at someone's apartment but should that not be the mood you are in, you now know where to order cheese to maximize the quantity you receive for the cost.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 603 : A commentary on Affinage

In today's New York Times Dining section, Jeff Gordinier takes a look at the aging process of artisanal cheeses and the city's authorities on the subject and their differing opinions. If you haven't read it, please feel free:  After receiving a variety of emails from Fromagical readers about the article, I thought I'd comment on what was said and give you my opinion.

You may wonder apart from writing on cheese why would I remotely have the ability to comment on this topic?

Well that's easy folks, I apprenticed under the affineur at Murray's close to four years ago when affinage was an even more obscure word on the lips of New Yorkers.

So what is affinage?

It is simply put, the process of aging cheese. It is an age-old art and profession in France and throughout Europe in fact. There are a great number of cheese purveyours who double as affineurs meaning that they take charge of the conditions necessary for a cheese to age to perfection -- whether its the correct amount of humidity present in a room, the temperature, the washing techniques necessary, the patting down movements, you name it. It is a science, an art, and most certainly an educated process.

Why has it taken so long to really make a splash on American soil?

Because of the fact that American artisanal cheesemaking is a years old endeavor, not a centuries old endeavor like our cheesemaking friends across the pond.

Where can you find cheese aging caves in the city?

Murray's, Artisanal, and Saxelby Cheesemongers.

So what are my thoughts?

Although I respect Steven Jenkins, a leading pioneer in cheese and a cheesemonger at Fairway's opinion, I think it is utterly ridiculous for someone who cares so much about cheese not to see the benefits and necessities of affinage. I know for a fact that the times I've gone into Fairway, there are cheeses that are on display that most certainly should not be sold in their conditions -- they will taste off, piercing, pungent, and mostly just not what one expects when one purchases them. That does not mean that across the board you should not buy cheese at Fairway; I actually think Jenkins does an excellent job at cheese curating. But I would inquire sometimes if a cheese looks a little iffy how long they have had the cheese and the same goes for the majority of supermarkets across town. You might not expect to get the highest of high qualities unless you go to a specialist which is where places like Murray's and Artisanal and Saxelby and Lucy's Whey come into play.

Moving on to the specific topic of affinage -- I am a huge supporter of affinage and the art that goes into the perfection and aging of a cheese. Don't you want to drink a wine at its best age? Don't you want to eat a piece of fish or meat cooked at the ideal temperature to the correct amount of done-ness? Don't you want to eat a peach that is exactly soft and ripe enough? Well why wouldn't you want to eat a piece of cheese that is aged to the exact moment of ideal consumption? In my opinion, affinage affords one the opportunity to showcase all of a cheese's best qualities. So why wouldn't you want to make sure that a cheese is aged in the right conditions to produce the best flavor profile? If you have the facilities, it is a no-brainer if you ask me. That does not necessarily mean that affinage under the watchful eye of the cheese purveyor, it could most certainly also occur at a creamery or farm or say in the caves of an affineur like the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont.

By bringing the process of affinage to the forefront, the American artisanal cheese movement is taking the logical next step. Without it, we would be at a standstill, it's time to move forward folks.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 602 : SCS Version 8.0, Dispatch # 3

Cheddar. We all know it, some of us can't live without it, some of us can't live with it. Some of us find the flavor profile boring, maybe that's because the plastic-y manufactured white and orange cheddars mass produced or maybe it's because that's what we think all cheddar is. Well folks that is most certainly not the case.

For a cheese to be considered a cheddar, it has go through a process called cheddaring where after the curd is heated/cooked, it is kneaded with salt and then cut into cubes and stacked and turned and re-stacked and turned to help drain the excess whey hence making a cheddar cheese very dense.

So for this week, I chose a cheddar from Oregon and from Canada.

From Oregon, I chose Tillamook County Creamery because well they have been making cheddars with the same recipe for over one hundred years. Tillamook crafts quite the extensive list of cheddars, young, old, orange, white, and more. My favorite by far is their 3 year vintage extra sharp cheddar which is biting and tangy yet creamy and smooth. Crumbly with the classic crystallization -- this is the sort of cheese that can be dressed up and served on a cheese plate or dressed down and combined with pasta to make mac n'cheese or heated and grilled between two pieces of bread to make a yummy grilled cheese.

And from Canada, I chose the Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar aged for a minimum of three to four years. Crafted with heat treated cow's milk meaning that it is partially, not fully pasteurized, giving the cheese that raw bite that is characteristic of raw milk cheeses. Classic, clean, crisp, cheddar flavors present in the white creamy paste. It has that fantastic butterscotchy-ness that develops in an aged crumbly, crunchy cheese. Overall, a great cheddar from Quebec with a powerful tang that surely will awaken your taste buds in all the right sorts of ways.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 601 : Yummies to go with a Chevre

So we all know the classic fig walnut cakes and jams that are meant to pair with cheeses right? Yesterday I discovered a white fig, bay leaf and raisin spread crafted by Les Folies Fromages in the Pyrenees that to me really stood out from the jams to be served with cheese crowd.

Somewhat sweet yet herbaceous and aromatic, this was light yet flavorful, didn't overwhelm the cheese, but certainly asserted its presence. When paired with our Humboldt Fog, it was a moment of cheese and jam perfection.

Apparently they make spreads/jams for other types of cheese as this one was geared specifically to chevres...I will have to try them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 600: Granted the Yankees lost...but

I sure did have a great time watching them do so....Why you might wonder?

Well I made the trek over the river to my best friend's new apartment in Hoboken and we picked up goodies for the game, no folks that doesn't mean fried this and beer that..we had a nice bottle of Prosecco and cheese and crackers from the Hoboken Cheese Shop. Maybe not the Sunday sports watching food the majority of America goes for but for us it was absolutely perfect.

Tucked away on a cute little back street in Hoboken, the Hoboken Cheese Shop not only ages a variety of their own cheeses, they also have pretty decent selection of American and European cheeses to choose from and at decent prices to boot!

So what all did we get?

Humboldt Fog -- The classic California bloomy rind goat's milk cheese split in two by its vegetable ash center. Crumbly, creamy, lactic, tangy, and all around fabulous.

Garroxta -- The firm aged Spanish raw goat's milk cheese whose rind is coated in mold allowing the exterior to develop the most fantastic funk. But the interior is all milky ivory citrusy grassy paste.

And a repeat appearance from Old Man Highlander which I was shocked to see this shop had and we just had to get some of.

With some nice crackers, dates, and a white fig raisin confiture, it was totally excellent. A great afternoon for me and those I was with, maybe less so the New York Yankees but here's to hoping for a great game tomorrow.

Hoboken Cheese Shop
720 Monroe Street
Hoboken, NJ

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Day 599 : Sometimes there's just nothing better...

Than a glass of nice red wine, some roasted walnuts, some fresh figs, and a morsel of Valley Shepherd Creamery's Bababloo on a rainy Saturday evening.

What's Bababloo?

Well first off, it is one great name for a blue cheese that's for sure. And second off it is the New Jersey crafted mixed milk aged blue cheese that is the cornerstone of Valley Shepherd's blue cheese offerings. It's firm and fabulous with that spicy kick you crave from a blue. The cheese's piquant notes awaken all your senses in all the right sorts of ways.

Image courtesy of

A simple classic pairing but gosh it sure delights after a half marathon and a busy day.

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