Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 690: 2012

In thinking about what to write about to close out the 2011 Fromagical year, I was a bit torn --  I could revisit the great moments of the past year or I could propose a decent celebratory cheese or I could not talk about cheese at all and only talk about the New Year. Before deciding what direction to go in, I revisited what I wrote in 2010 and it was the second option so that was out for me and in 2009 Fromagical was conceived actually as part of a New Year's Eve resolution and would not come into existence till the very beginning of 2010. For this last and final day of 2011, I decided to reflect on the New Year and the year that is drawing to a close this evening.

As one year concludes and we move into the next, I tend to reflect on where I have been since this year began -- have I succeeded at conquering all of the goals and challenges I set out for myself on January 1st? Have I pushed myself to tackle the obstacles that life has delivered? I sure hope so, it hasn't been the easiest year but it sure has been a rewarding one at that. I look forward to welcoming in 2012 with open arms, a sense of positivity and optimism of opportunities to come. The New Year is a time for hope, for promise, and for chance so welcome in 2012 with that mindset my friends and I hope it will bring you an excellent year ahead.

Here's to a New Year of health, happiness, and success for all of my dear readers and a great New Year's Eve party to ring it with!

Day 689 : Recap of Slightly Oliver

A bit late, but better late than never...the other evening I had the pleasure of dining at Slightly Oliver, the newish cocktail driven, Prohibition era inspired gastropub on the Upper West.  Walking into the space, it felt somewhat similar to its previous iteration but with a warmer more rustic welcoming environment. Seated in a booth in the back was just the perfect environment for a good catchup with friends.

The menu is composed of shareable dishes like pizzas and toasts along with riffs on classic American and British comfort pub food. We split their flatbread Neopolitan pizza composed of ricotta, figs, artichokes, and arugula topped with a balsamic reduction. Simple, flavorful and not overly dressed this was a nice starter for everyone to share. We then split a salad composed of caramelized butternut squash, frisee, pears, goat's milk cheese, and spiced pecans. A lovely late fall / early winter dish celebrating the season's vegetable bounty, again not prepared with too heavy a hand.

Overall a nice atmosphere for a drink and a nibble on the Upper West.
Slightly Oliver
511 Amsterdam Avenue

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 688 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #43

Heading to a New Year's Eve party and you're not sure what to bring?

Well I suggest a cave aged Brunet, on sale at Murray's from $19.99 to $14.99. This pasteurized goat's milk disc is silky smooth and decadently rich -- creamy and fabulous, it is the perfect cheese for a glass of Prosecco to ring in 2012! Fresh and milky ice creamy notes are paired with that classic goaty, grassy, citrusy bright tang in this multi dimensional cheese. This is one crowd pleaser for sure! And with the five dollar savings on the cheese, that means you can spend a little bit of extra money on your fantastic New Year's Eve outfit because really who doesn't like getting a little gussied up to ring a brand New Year.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 687 : Feedback

After close to two years of daily Fromagical musings, I turn to you, my dearest readers, to inquire what you would like to see more of -- what you don't like; what you do like; and well why. I'd sincerely appreciate any and all feedback; it will help Fromagical grow. No matter whether you are the sort of reader who follows on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis or occasionally when you're perusing the web, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Why you may ask now rather than at the two year mark? Well that's because coming to the close of 2011, I think it is important to reflect on this year's events -- ups and downs, and take what transpired since this past snowy January and utilize it constructively moving into the new year. This doesn't just apply for me to Fromagical, I have done the same through out my own personal life, and boy has it felt cleansing in a particularly reflective manner. So I suggest of you, my Fromagical readers to do the same -- stop, take stock of where you've been since 01/01/11 and where you want to go before 12/31/2012 and do it.

Stay tuned for the rest of the week to be full of the "best of 2011 Fromagical stories, cheeses, experiences and more."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 686 : Tipsy Parson

Looking for a place to grab a bite in Chelsea after checking out some galleries on a random rainy Tuesday afternoon? Well then I recommend the small welcoming soul food / Southern joint, Tipsy Parson. Great for a coffee with a client, a drink with a friend or a nibble. Although our late lunch didn't include any cheese today, there are plenty of warming rich cheese dishes to choose from like Grafton Cheddar grits, mac n' cheese, cheesburgers, and more. Today's nibble included their Tuscan kale salad composed of caramelized kabocha squash, dried cherries, sauteed mushrooms, almonds, crispy shallots, and a sherry brown butter vinaigrette along with their baby brussel sprouts with sorghum and candied pecans. Each was aromatic, flavorful, herbaceous, and delish. The perfect amount of food for two to split with a glass of Cava to counteract this rainy day. A warm and casual environment where you could sit back and enjoy yourself with friends for a few hours.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 685 : A midday salad

For brunch/lunch today I decided to make a protein packed salad full of all of my favorite things -- simple, satisfying, and filling but bright and aromatic. Made in under fifteen minutes, this was a quick meal.

So what was in the salad?

1/4 Watermelon Radish - diced finely
French Feta
Sauteed Shallots
Sesame Seeds
1/4 Gala Apple - diced finely
Homemade Vinaigrette -- EVOO, butternut squash seed oil, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, garlic aioli mustard

Toss the spinach into a bowl with a handful of diced watermelon radish, diced gala apple, steamed edamame, and finely diced broccoli florets for crunch. Cut up half of a shallot, toss in a pan with some sea salt and the sesame seeds and saute with EVOO over low heat till golden brown. While this is sauteing, add some cooked salmon to your greens then top with the cooked shallots and sesame seeds. Next up add a dollop of French Feta, creamier and less briney/salty than its Greek cousin, this will be the perfect creamy counterpart to your salad. Then add in your dressing and mix together. Delish, flavorful, light, green and chocked full of protein, how could you go wrong!

Day 684 : Cheeses for a Christmas Dinner

This year I had Christmas dinner at a good friend's and guess what I brought?

You guessed it!

I decided to keep things simple and go with French classics -- one goat's milk, one semi-firm rustic snacking style cheese and one blue. The blue was definitely key since I knew my host adores blue cheese.

So what did I choose?

For the first cheese I went for a Chevre D'Or, a classic soft ripened Loire Valley aged goat's milk cheese. Chalky with a bright ivory interior and milky, grassy, citrusy notes. Great with a glass of bubbly to celebrate the holidays!

For the second cheese I went with Saint-Nectaire, a pressed, uncooked cow's milk cheese from the Auvergne region that has been produced since the 17th century. Dense somewhat springy interior paste with a light tinge of acidity and full of buttery, light hazelnut-y, mushroomy, rustic notes. Did you know this was the first "farmer" style cheese to receive AOC status in France?

For the blue, I went with one of France's oldest blues, dating back to Roman times, not Roquefort, but my favorite blue -- Fourme D'Ambert hailing from the Auvergne region. This AOC pasteurized cow's milk blue is spicy and tangy yet round and buttery with a nice semi-firm texture. Great with homemade cranberry bread as we enjoyed it yesterday.

A nice simple and straight forward cheese selection designed to be approachable yet interesting followed by an excellent meal cooked by my friend, it was a wonderful way to spend Christmas.

Day 683 : Dinner at Boqueria

Apologies for the brief absence folks...lots of catchup to come today. I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas weekend, so let's get going.

Boqueria Flatiron was first opened in 2006 by Seamus Mullen and Yann de Rochefort inspired by Barcelona's tapas bars and the market stalls at the Boqueria market in Barcelona. In 2008, the pair opened their Soho location and in 2010, Seamus Mullen left the partnership. I've dined many a time at both Boqueria locations and love them for their ode to classic Spanish tapas cuisine and for the casual and welcoming atmosphere. But this was the first time I'd dined at Boqueria since Seamus Mullen was no longer the chef. The food was still excellent, inventive, and flavorful.

So what did we all have?

Their flatbread with butternut squash, arugula and goat's cheese topped with a melange of herbs and EVOO. Savory yet light, this was the perfect late autumn/early winter dish. Then we also had their gambas al ajillo, the classic Spanish sauteed garlicky shrimpy dish full of aromatic herbaceous notes with a rustic feel along with their brussel sprouts sauteed in a tomato sauce which just melted in your mouth. And lastly their txipirones -- sauteed squid with frisee, tomato confit, romesco vinaigrette and a crispy scallion. In your face flavorful in all the right sort of ways -- dialed up vegetal notes paired with the bright fishiness of the squid. A refreshing preparation for squid, these little guys were not masked by a layer of breading or a fried exterior, they were on display for all to enjoy.

Overall a delish meal in a fun atmosphere, great for a festive get together or drinks and nibbles with old friends.

171 Spring Street

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 682 : Looking for a last minute gift?

For that friend who just adores blue cheese?

Well then why not get them a nice Stilton Ceramic Pot and a bottle of their favorite port? Both for under $50 and a perfect last minute gift.

One can find the English pungent and spicy blue packed in ceramic containers to preserve freshness. At this time of year a nice nibble of this spicy specimen is excellent with a glass of port and the perfect present for all your foodie friends. 

Right now you can find the ceramic pots of Stilton at Zabar's and Murrays in Manhattan. 

Day 681 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 42

Heading to a big family get together this weekend and want to bring a crowd pleasingly delish cheese that's not your normal Manchego/Gruyere/Cheddar route and is under $10 a pound? How about Chaubier? Crafted with a mixture of goat and cow's milks this semi firm cheese is the perfect blend of the rich buttery nutty roundness of an aged cow's milk cheese with the bright, minerally, citrusy, grassy notes of a classic aged goat's milk cheese. At $9.98 a pound at Zabar's, this is a great choice! Kids and adults a like will love it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 680 : Of less sunlight, stonehenge, and mid-Winter feasts

The winter solstice occurs at 12:30 tonight. Technically that means that the Earth's axis is farthest away from the sun causing places north of the Arctic Circle to experience twenty four hours of darkness. It's also considered a day of rebirth, of gathering together and feasting. So on this day, the shortest of the year, what cheese shall we feast on?

How about Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon?

A six month aged goat's milk waxed rinded cheese. Nutty and caramelly, this cheese has that fantastic aged crystallized crunch to it with a light crisp, citrusy, brightness. Perfect for that Midwinter feast you plan on attending.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 679 : Happy Hanukkah!

Over the next few weeks, I plan to look at different food traditions surrounding the holidays -- spanning the globe and across religions. So tonight is the first night of the festival of lights, an eight day Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Holy or Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BCE. In 2011, a Menorah is lit nightly for the eight nights of the holiday, families exchange gifts and come together over each nightly meal and people are meant to feast on fried foods symbolizing the oil utilized to keep the temple alight for those eight days. Apart from your traditional latkes and doughnuts, this is also a time to eat cheese! Why do I say that? Cheese is considered to be a commemoration of Judith and women in general who have greatly impacted the events of Hanukkah. Did you know that back in olden times, people did not eat potato pancakes, they ate cheese pancakes?

So tonight if you plan to eat plain straight forward latkes simply crafted with potatoes why not top them with Salvatore Brooklyn's to die for ricotta cheese? This luscious milky uncutuous young creamster will take your potato pancakes to a whole new level of yumminess. Wanna go one step further? Well then I think mixing in some chives and sea salt and black pepper to your ricotta would make it even better!

But perhaps you wanted to add some cheese into your latkes not just on top? I recommend utilizing a nice Alpine style nutty cheese because it will enhance the flavor profile of the potatoes and meld all of the flavors together excellently. I'd choose Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve hailing from Wisconsin crafted in the Beaufort style this firm aged cheese is great on its own or shredded and melted into your latkes. Nutty, butterscotchy, caramelly, and rustic with a nice buttery roundness and a tinge of grassy barnyardy-ness, this is the perfect addition to your latke to take it to the next level.

Happy Hanukkah folks!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 678 : 'Tis the Season to Give Back.

Looking for a gift for your cheeseloving friend but also want to give back to those less fortunate?

Then I recommend you get Murray's and Heifer International's Cheeses of the World Club. For $150, you receive four cheeses, approx two pounds of cheese, one made with each of the following milks -- buffalo, cow, sheep, and goat. Of the $150, $90 goes to a share in Heifer's Cheeses of the World Club which provides struggling families with a water buffalo, cow, sheep and goat. The idea is that these families will in turn utilize the milk produced by these animals to craft cheese that they can then use to feed their families or to stimulate the family's income. For every ten gifts sold, one family receives all four animals.

You must be curious what cheeses you receive too! Well you get:

Quadrello di Bufala - Think Taleggio's washed rind stink but crafted with water buffalo milk - making for a round, sweet, delicate, stinky and rustic cheese. Great spread on crackers washed down with a nice big Italian red to go along with.

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar - We all know what this yummy guy is from last week's blog but in case you've forgotten -- this aged cow's milk clothbound Cheddar is a partnership between the Cellars at Jasper Hill and Cabot. Nutty, caramelly, rustic, and barnyardy, this would go excellently with a seasonal brew.

Pyrenees Brebis - Classically fabulous Alpine sheep's milk cheese from the Pyrennes. Buttery, nutty, smooth, and all around fabulous, this is excellent with a medium bodied red or an IPA.

Haystack Peak - Hailing from Colorado this is based on the Loire Valley great goat's milk cheeses like Valencay. But Haystack is truly American - bright, fresh, citrusy, and milky, this is excellent with a glass of white wine or perhaps some bubbly.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 677 : New Cheese Discovery - Butternut

Nope this is not a squash that's for sure, this is Willow Hill Farm's raw cow's milk Alpine style cheese. This plank six month aged cheese is produced in four pound rounds. Firm and crumbly in texture with a nice nutty rustic barnyardy bite to it. This would be an excellent wintertime snacking cheese or even grated over some pasta in place of say a Parmesan. An awarding winning cheese this previous year at the 2011 World Cheese Awards, it is most certainly worth a taste.

Image courtesy of

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 676 : Homecooked Brunch after a cold weather run

After a nice run in Central Park in mid-December, who doesn't want a warm and comforting meal before starting your day?
So what did I make to fill that bill?

How about a sauteed kale, sundried tomato, mushroom, shallot and Parmesan egg white omelet? A simple rustic and flavorful dish. Easy to make so you can enjoy that cup of coffee and the NY Times in the process.

Chop up the kale, sundried tomatoes, portabello mushrooms, and half of a shallot. Toss into a saute pan with a drizzle of EVOO, some sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook over low heat for about eight to ten minutes till the kale cooks down. About five minutes into your veggies cooking, start cooking your egg whites over low heat in another saute pan. Just as the egg whites start going opaque, place your veggies on top. Grate a nice amount of Parmesan cheese over the top and cover and cook the omelet till golden brown. Enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 675 : Valley Shepherd Closing

Last year, I wrote with joy about the opening of Valley Shepherd's first retail outpost in Soho and today I write to inform you it has closed unfortunately. However if you want to visit the only creamery owned small shop, they have opened one in Park Slope at 211 Seventh Avenue. So if you feel like hopping on a train to Park Slope you will be able to discover over twenty different types of homemade sheep's milk cheeses.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 674 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #41

What if a splurge wasn't construed as a monetary concept but more rather something along the lines of a totally and completely decadent cheese, something that you wouldn't necessarily eat all the time but that is a definite special occasion cheese?

Well then I have the ticket for you :

Cowgirl Creamery's seasonal winter cheese -- Devil's Gulch. A fabulous small bloomy roundelle of cheese crafted with Jersey cow's milk and dusted with sweet and spicy red pepper flakes. The interior paste is rich, round, decadent, silky smooth with milky sweetness. The red pepper flakes add just the right amount of kick to this fantastically unctuous cheese. This is the perfect sort of special occasion cheese and it even becomes somewhat festive with its slight reddish exterior.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 673 : Shaved Brussel Sprouts

Last night I had the most fabulously simple preparation of shaved brussel sprouts, aged parmesan and walnuts with some EVOO, sea salt and black pepper. The brussel sprouts truly were the focus of this rustic and seasonal ode to this Fall vegetable so I was inspired to make brussel sprouts the focus of tonight's dinner. I decided to make a warm red quinoa, parsnip, shaved brussel sprouts, and roasted almond salad -- an late autumnal comfort meal as a midweek pause from the hussle and bussle of the holiday season.

While cooking your quinoa, dice up the parsnip and almonds and toss them into a saute pan with some EVOO, sea salt, and black pepper. Then dice up your brussel sprouts so you are able to thin small shavings of brussel sprouts. Toss those into the saute pan as well and cover. Cook over low heat till the parsnip and brussels are golden brown. Once the quinoa is done mix the veggies in and top with a few shavings of Cabot's Clothbound cheddar to dial up the rustic nuttiness of the dish. Enjoy with a glass of Zweigelt.

Day 672 : A recap of last night's Holiday Wine and Cheese

It's the holiday season and I'm sure you are frequenting plenty of holiday parties stocked with the requisite Proseccos, Pinot Grigios, Merlots, Bries, Cheddars and more. In last night's class, we looked at how one could do that with a focus on local products -- Vermont cheeses and New York state wines. So lets get going!

Pairing Number # 1 - Onabay's Blanc de Blancs with Vermont Butter and Cheese's Cremont
A holiday party is not complete without some bubbles in my mind, it just gets you in a festive mood. Blanc de blancs unlike champagne is crafted with 100% Chardonnay grapes whereas champagne is made with a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Onabay's Blanc de blancs is crafted in the traditional style with a second fermentation in the bottle. However folks this is truly a North Fork product, as Onabay hand picks their Chardonnay grapes two to three weeks before the regular harvest so that this bubbly can embody that classic Long Island minerality and light notes of acidity. For under $20 this wine is definitely an affordable and local bubbly. To go with the crisp and refreshing green apple and lemon notes of the bubbly one wants a creamy but not too heavy cheese which is why the mixed milk Cremont from Vermont Butter and Cheese is the obvious choice. This little disc of goat and cow's milk also known as the Cream of Vermont is a soft ripened creamster. Slight nutty notes with a lactic, grassy, and citrusy goaty tang and the roundness of mouthfeel of a cow's milk cheese will be the perfect counterpart to our refreshing and light bubbly.

Think what an upgrade this pairing is to your traditional Brie and Prosecco!

Pairing # 2 : Millbrook's Tocai Friulano and Consider Bardwell's Manchester

Located in the Hudson Valley, Millbrook's Tocai Friulano is an excellent example of an old world wine thriving in new world conditions. A light to medium bodied white with notes of lemon, pineapple, clementine, and pear this wine has a refreshing finish with a nice burst of acidity. Instead of your traditional Pinot Grigio or non-descript white wine, this $15 wine will delight and excite the palate. To go with this how about raw goat's milk tomme from Consider Bardwell in West Pawlet, Vermont. A firm aged goat's milk cheese with a rustic goaty tang this cheese mirrors the citrusy notes of the wine with a nice farmsteady hay finish.

Pairing # 3 : Shinn Estate Red NV and Cabot Clothbound

Shinn holds a place near and dear to my heart because of their sustainable wine practices and diverse varietal production while staying true to their region's roots. Their estate red is a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, and Syrah and is the perfect balance of easy drinking with a depth of flavor. Red berries, slightly oak and a sensual smoothness make this an excellent holiday party choice. Paired with the nutty, butterscotchy, and caramelly ten month aged Cabot Clothbound cheddar aged in Jasper Hill's Cellars. Its firm and dry with a nice biting sharpness to it. Perfect with the juicy smoothness of the wine.

Pairing # 4 : Eve's Cidery's Autumn Gold and Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen Blue

Cider is the new in thing, haven't you heard? Well if you haven't get thee to your local wine and spirits shop or farmer's market. This semi-sweet sparkling cider is rustic and yeasty with a roundness of mouth feel. Great with the spicy punch of our Bayley Hazen Blue. An aged cow's milk blue that is a delight for those of you who like blue cheese.

Overall a lovely time was had by all. Thank you to everyone who helped out putting last night together. Happy Holidays all!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 671 : Jasper Hill Farm

 On to our last and final cheese stop on this trip and definitely the most remote. I arrived in Greensboro, Vermont to recognize that whoops I had only written down the PO Box address of Jasper Hill, not the actual address of the creamery, great planning on my part. After some attempts at googling where I needed to go, a nice woman drove up next to my little Chevy and inquired if I needed help. Thank god, I thought! After following this woman down a series of icy snow covered dirt roads definitely not the sort I could have navigated on my own, I arrived at an unmarked set of buildings which my friends was Jasper Hill Creamery.

Jasper Hill Farm was purchased by Andy and Mateo Kehler in the late 1990s but it wasn’t till 2002 that they decided to turn the land into a full fledged dairy farm.  This is a story of two brothers looking to make a living off of the land in a part of the world that was near and dear to their hearts. Could they stimulate this rural region of Vermont by giving back to the community through their cheesemaking and also support both of their families?

The Greensboro area when the Kehler brothers began to toy with the idea of building a creamery had only seven dairy farms and had recently witnessed the sale of 30% of the town’s cows. In 2002, the Kehler brothers bought fifteen cows to the region which was a huge improvement for the area’s agricultural economic growth.

2002 saw the construction of their original creamery building with space for aging cheeses in the basement. On May 16, 2003, they made their first batch of cheese. Today they make Constant Bliss, Bayley Hazen Blue, Harbison, Moses Sleeper and Winnimere. What is interesting about their operation is that instead of starting with one cheese and going from there, the brothers started manufacturing a few different cheeses at once to maximize their revenue and stimulate their profits.

In 2006, their next big break came when they received a call from Cabot, would Jasper Hill be interested in aging some of Cabot’s artisan cheddar to help introduce a higher end product to the market place? Of course they would! This phone call changed Jasper Hill forever. Now because of that initial call and their partnership with Cabot on this one cheese, Jasper Hill has a state of the art cellars area, unrivaled in the region.

In 2008, as told to me by Andy Kehler, the brothers went out and raised $400,000 to blow a hole into the ground across from their current cheesemaking facilities and then they approached the banks to receive the necessary approximately 3 million dollars to build their seven cheese aging caves or cellars that are each individually temperature stabilized depending on the cheeses that will live in the space. Currently they are at 30% occupancy and that is with hundreds of their cheeses and the cheeses of Cabot and eight other smaller farms that simply do not have the resources of facilities to age. The caves are designed to hold up to close to 5,000 cheeses per room.

Walking into the first cellar that was lined with rows upon rows of approximately 35 pound wheels of Cabot Clothbound, I was blown away. This was aging unlike anything I had seen in this country, let alone on the East Coast and in such a small town like Greensboro. It was in that moment I realized that I was witnessing the dream of two brothers, two families, and a community come true and they aren’t stopping there.

Down the road a bit, into Hardwick, the Kehler brothers are helping create the Food Venture Center, a food incubator. By that I mean, a shared space where small food companies can rent out kitchen or baking space to get their company off the ground. There are services to help you with your business plan and to help you design your business cards and more. The Kehlers plan to start producing some of their cheese in this space and then aging it back at the farm. In fact today was their first day of cheesemaking there. In the future they hope to begin to craft an Alpine style cheese at the Food Venture Center as well, a departure from their current cheese line. Also on their calendar is the introduction of goats on their currently all cow farm. But that’s a bit down the road.

Overall my visit to Jasper Hill was totally awe-inspiring. This is really what it looks like when you follow your dreams and you are able to succeed. In their own little corner of the world, the Kehler brothers are stimulating the agricultural economy to its fullest and encouraging their community to think outside of the box when it comes to food and wine production and ultimately work towards the end goal of having Vermonters eat and produce local as much as possible.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 670 : Next Stop Cabot.

Did you know that the name Cabot comes from a Revolutionary Era romance? Yes folks, a man named the town of Cabot after his wife, if that isn't the most grandiose of gestures right?

Yes Cabot Cheese is named after the town of its birth place in 1919 when 94 farmers joined together to form the cheese co-op. Now, almost a century later, Cabot has close to 1300 farmers in its co-op with on average 75 cows each. Now, Cabot has three retail outposts in Vermont along with a production plant in Cabot, in Middlebury and then plants in Massachusetts and New York. This is a big time operation folks with with a focus on the farmers, sustainability, giving back to the economy, and of course producing their award winning fabulous Cheddar cheeses.  I find it is always a good sign of a company when its employees have been there forever and a large percentage of their employees have been there for decades.

Cabot as we all know is well known for its Cheddars crafting close to thirty different varieties from 75 % reduced fat to smoky bacon to five year aged ones to even spreadable cheddar cheese. Apart from their Cheddars, they make a few types of Monterey Jack, Muenster, butter, Greek yogurt, a variety of dips, cottage and cream cheese, whip cream, and cheddar powder. In 2006, Cabot teamed up with Jasper Hill to craft an artisanal clothbound cheddar that is aged in Jasper Hill's cellars for ten months and then is sold both by Cabot and Jasper Hill. Elegant and smooth, this is a refined cheddar.

I'll leave you with two fun Cabot facts:

Did you know that their Cheddars are completely lactose free?

And that they hold the world record for the largest Mac N' Cheese?

Day 669 : Vermont Excursions Part One

Last time I was in Vermont, the temperatures were warm, the grass was green and the leaves were plentiful, it was late July and time for the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. In the following months, Vermont witnessed one of the worst storms in the state's history leaving to this day many roads closed, businesses shuttered and life completely changed. Coming up this weekend I knew that I'd be arriving to a changed state, not simply because there would be snow on the ground obviously. I had three creamery visits lined up along with a mini sojourn in Killington followed finally by a winery stop. Each creamery visit will be covered in a separate blog, so lets get going in chronological order. All of my photos will come this week.

Visit number one was Vermont Butter and Cheese in Websterville founded in 1984 by Allison Hooper and Bob Reese. Now twenty seven years later, VBC is working to open a fully operational goat dairy farm in Randolph along with renovating their cheese production spaces in Websterville with a pretty sizable staff of forty-two.  VBC currently sources its milk from seventeen different farms throughout the state and Ontario. Once the milk arrives at VBC, the magic starts to happen. What's made with all that milk? They make: the best cultured butter stateside, excellent creme fraiche, fresh chevre, fromage blanc, mascarpone, feta, and a line of aged cheeses -- Coupole, Bijou, Bonne Bouche, and Cremont. Over half of their profits come from that fabulous creme fraiche, with a pretty decent percentage from the chevre and butter as well. Although you hear me talk primarily about my love of their aged cheeses, they by no means are their money maker yet. One day definitely but for the moment they are some of the best aged goat's milk cheeses crafted on this side of the pond.

So lets break down a few fun facts learned yesterday :

1. Did you know that up until two years ago they used to churn all their butter by hand? Not wanting to compromise the butter's quality, they stuck to the old fashioned method of production. When it no longer made sense to hand churn all of their butter, where did they go? They sourced and custom designed a butter producing machine from France and a butter packaging machine from Italy. In fact their packaging machine was the first of its kind in the US made by this company. Did their butter suffer? Not at all! It is still fantastic and the best of its kind here.

2. It takes 100 pounds of milk to make 14 pounds of cheese and goat's milk which is what the majority of VBC's cheeses are composed of is the most susceptible to seasonality. So how do you deal with that as a cheesemaker so your product maintains a consistency of flavor profile? Not only do you adjust the conditions of the cheese aging room, you also change the scale of the cheese molds utilized to craft some of their cheeses. In case you were curious, yes they are beyond successful!

Overall my visit to Vermont Butter and Cheese was both educational and informative but fun and exciting, allowing me to learn more about one of my favorite Vermont creameries and get an in depth look behind the scenes. 2012 will be a very exciting year for them with the grand opening of their farm and with their facilities renovations they will greatly increase their efficiency of cheese production allowing them to churn more of their delish cheeses.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 668 : Healthy Living

Destination - Burlington, Vermont's largest independently owned natural and organic supermarket. Not to compare, but think Whole Foods but owned by one family focused solely on the best and healthiest foods possible with a goal of stimulating and giving back to the local economy. This feels like the ultimate in a community supermarket -- the local apples and pears were calling my name as was their entire gluten free section; a well-stocked row of wines and beers; prepared tofus and salads; a selection of locally baked goods, you name it, you could find it here! But what I loved most was something that you rarely see at any of our highly stocked, over crowded New York City supermarkets -- miniature individual samples of cheeses. Hey you could grab tastes of five different artisanal cheeses and barely spend five dollars.

Yes their cheese selection was excellent as well -- an ode to Vermont cheeses, hard to find local favorites were the name of the game here.

This is the sort of place I could spend hours wandering around and easily walk out with bags upon bags of things that just caught my eye or struck my fancy. But for this evening, a small bite of Tarentaise and a prepared quinoa and black bean salad and some maple ginger Vermont soy tofu.

Healthy Living
222 Dorset Street
South Burlington, VT

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 667 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 40

The holiday season can get to be expensive, that's for sure! So why not save on a sale of one of my all-time favorite cheeses at Murray's? Coupole!

Coupole is made by Allison Hooper and the wonderful folks at Vermont Butter and Cheese who I will have the pleasure of visiting this weekend. An aged pasteurized goat's milk cheese with a natural and crinkly soft rind and an ivory chalky lactic interior modeled on the great Loire Valley goats but with that Vermont "je ne sais quoi." Creamy and milky with a nice burst of citrusy grassy fabulousness, great paired with a light white wine or with a nice glass of bubbly if you're feeling especially festive today!

Coupole is currently marked down from $15.99 to $10.99 at Murray's making it quite the deal!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 666 : SCS Version 10.0, Dispatch #4 - Smoked Cheeses

For our last and final Maine and Greece dispatch, I thought we would focus on smoked cheeses from each locale. Smoked cheeses are excellent with darker beers and bigger red wines as the temperatures begin to drop.

Hailing from Silvery Moon Creamery in Westbrook, Maine is their Applewood Smoked Mozzarella. Their mozzarella is crafted in the traditional manner and here it is cold smoked with applewood from the cheesemaker's grandfather's orchard. Cold smoking simply means that the cheese has been smoked at temperatures ranging from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit infusing the cheese in this case with lightly smoked flavors and a residual apple-y sweetness. Combined with the luscious creaminess of a fresh mozzarella cheese, the smokiness will add a dynamic depth of flavor to the cheese. Great enjoyed on a baguette with a nice IPA or cooked into a rustic decadent mac n' cheese paired with a medium bodied red wine.

And what of our Greek counterpart? How about Metsovone?

Hailing from the Metsovo region in Northwestern Greece, this smoked pasta filata or stretched curd cheese is traditionally crafted with cow's milk. Occasionally it is produced with a combination of goat and cow's milk but most often you find it crafted with cow's milk. The cheese is crafted into rolls and hung from the ceiling to help develop the sharp biting flavors that bring the cheese to life. Semi firm with a nice buttery feel and a smoky fermented rustic finish, this cheese is great served as part of a Greek meze with a nice glass of red wine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 665 : Cheese plate at the Lambs Club

The Lambs Club is the chic, retro influenced restaurant and lounge area in the Chatwal Hotel on 44th Street between 6th and 7th avenues named for the actors' club that once occupied the same space. In case you aren't familiar, the original namesake Lambs Club considered itself America's first professional theatrical club. The restaurant and the lounge area sure do have that feel of old Hollywood glamour, harkening back to the era of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

Upstairs is a comfortable lounge area with excellent cocktails and a nice bar snacks menu. Last night while sipping on a Belvedere dirty martini I had the pleasure of sampling their warm roasted rosemary dusted nuts and their cheese plate and at $13 for three cheeses, this was a pretty good deal. The nuts were the perfect blend of salty and savory with a nice herbaceous aromatic finish, great with a cocktail. The cheese selections seem to change depending on the mood and last night featured a Morbier, a Manchego, and a Roquefort with toasted baguette slices and a homemade fig compote. A simple straight forward cheese plate done well and a nice accompaniment.

Go for a cocktail and to relieve that old world glamour that we don't get enough of these days and stay for some food.

The Lambs Club
132 West 44th Street

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 664: Happy Repeal Day!

Repeal Day in case you didn't know was the day 77 years ago when Prohibition was overturned. This day changed the American world of liquor -- from wine to beer to cider to harder beverages, innovation on the alcohol side was about to restart. And look at where we are today......

Let's just imagine what would have happened if the same thing had happened with cheese...well in a way it somewhat is to this day, right? Think about the regulations surrounding young American raw milk cheeses available for sale.

But instead of going into depth about that, on Repeal Day, I recommend you get a nice chunk of Roquefort, a French cheese that has always struggled with American cheese regulations and celebrate your freedom of being able to purchase this decadently creamy and spicy blue cheese. With your Roquefort, don't forget to grab your favorite alcoholic beverage and celebrate Repeal Day! Sure you could go to the 1920s party at Employees Only if you were feeling like it as well.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 663: Last catchup for the unlikely place for Parmesan

This afternoon I decided to play a little experiment that I think worked out quite excellently, a bit unusual but delish. I was in the mood to bake a savory pumpkin bread but decided that I simply did not want this bread to be sweet as I feel the tendency is for pumpkin breads to be sweet so why not add some Greek Yogurt for that tangy citrusy creamy bent but without the sweetness of say Ricotta or Mascarpone but what about a bit of the melted cheese "je ne sais quoi" decadence - I'll add some grated Parmesan to dial up the caramelly nutty notes of the bread which will work excellently with the pumpkin, perhaps I'll add some rosemary for a nice herbal aromatic side of the bread. Yes it sounds a tad bit unusual but it turned out really well. So here's what was utilized:

1 can of canned pumpkin
2 cups of brown rice flour
1/3 cup of Greek Yogurt
Pinch of Baking Soda & Baking Powder
3 egg whites
1 full egg
Sea Salt
1/3 cup of buttermilk
1 cup of grated Parmesan with extra to sprinkle on top
Fresh Rosemary
Black Pepper
1 diced up clove of garlic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the wet ingredients into one bowl, whisk together. In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Combine both together, whisk till nicely mixed. Coat your bread baking pan with EVOO and pour mixture into the pan, top with extra grated cheese, sea salt and rosemary. Bake for approximately thirty minutes or until golden brown. Pull out and enjoy with a nice glass of Pear Cider. Yum!

Day 662: Sunday Grilled Cheese

Wanting to relax on this Sunday and have a simple grilled cheese to go with a nice dark beer, perhaps like a pint of Brooklyn Brown Ale?

Grab a nice Sullivan Street Ciabatta, a hunk of Consider Bardwell's Dorset, some red seedless grapes, and a red onion. Dorset is a fabulous raw cow's milk washed rind cheese with a round creamy mouthfeel and a fantastic washed rind stink.

Slice two thick slices of ciabatta, in between place a hunk of Dorset and a few sliced red seedless grapes and a few slivers of red onion for an aromatic kick. The carbonation of the beer will cut right through the weightiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the grapes will find its bitterness in the beer. The rustic farmsteady-ness of the cheese will find its partner in the earthy malty notes of the beer. A sensory awakening grilled cheese for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 661 : Harbison

Slowly playing catch up -- been a long week folks and I catch up today and two tomorrow....

From the people who brought you Constant Bliss, here is Harbison from Jasper Hill in Greensboro Vermont. A bark wrapped, bloomy rind semi-aged cow's milk cheese that is wonderfully creamy and round. A truly local product -- even the bark is sourced from the trees on Jasper Hill's property. Milky and buttery yet rustic and farmsteady with those classic bloomy rind nice mushroomy notes. You cannot go wrong bringing this cheese as a hostess gift over the holiday season, it's festive, unique, and delish. You can even throw in a bottle of Prosecco or another bubbly if you're feeling like it.

Image courtesy of

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 660 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #39

Looking for a fabulous cheese to splurge on to pair with a nice bottle of bubbly to ring in the holiday season?
Well look no further than the Swiss shining star of the season -- Vacherin Mont d'Or -- only available from October till April. Crafted in the Jura Valley with winter cow's milk, this soft cheese is wrapped in a round of local spruce. The usage of winter milk means that the cows are only allowed to eat straw and indoor food, nothing from grazing in the mountains at or above 2,297 feet. Soft and running with nutty, hay notes and a warmth and roundness of flavor that makes this cheese a special holiday treat that you can't resist. At $39.99 a round at Murray's, this sure is a seasonable splurge that you won't be disappointed you indulged in!

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