Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 720: Parsnips galore

I've recently been having quite a love affair with the parsnip, that white winter root vegetable that is the more nutritious cousin of a carrot. Yes I've always been a fan of eating accordingly to what vegetables are in season but in other winters, parsnips have made guest appearances, not been a staple. Why this winter have they become a staple?

Well they are high in potassium which is good for those of us distance runners out there as it helps to prevent cramping, stimulates muscle activity and movement, and helps to balance the fluid and electrolytes in the body. Yes folks, potassium is key for runners and well athletes and people in general. Where else can you find potassium in case you're not into parsnips? The most obvious and common place is bananas. Ok what other key ingredients are present in the parsnip? They are very high in dietary fiber.

Now that I've told you some of the vitamin and nutrient benefits of parsnips, how do I like to prepare this crunchy, slightly sweet, butterscotchy, slightly herbaceously cardamom-my veggie? How about roasted with some EVOO, herbs, and a nice grating of the nutty fabulous Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve? This aged raw cow's milk cheese from Wisconsin is modeled on the great Alpine cheeses like Beaufort and Gruyere but is totally its own unique entity of American artisanal cheesemaking greatness. Round and roasty, nutty, buttery and butterscotchy, with a nice light rustic farmsteady finish this is the perfect cheesy companion for my winter root vegetable of choice. Grated over the top of parsnips while roasting in the oven, the combination will be warming and delish. I like to top the cheesy roasted parnsips with a small arugula slivered almond salad for a bright spicy vegetal kick. A great vegetarian simple meal for one. Excellent with a nice glass of red Bordeaux.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 719: The newest cheese crush...

Located in Southwestern Wisconsin, in what's known as the "Driftless region" is Hidden Springs Creamery run by Brenda Jensen and her husband.

What is the significance of the Driftless region you might be wondering?  It is a part of Wisconsin that seemingly was overlooked by the glaciers present in that part of the world during the ice age. No salt, sand, rocks, etc (drift) here -- this area is full of rolling hills and valleys excellent for sheep grazing.

Now Jensen and her husband produce five different cheeses - a feta, a blue, a creamy sheep's milk spreadable cheese (think chevre style), and two firmer cheeses. One of which is my new cheese crush -- Ocooch Mountain. Named for the nearby mountain range which derived its name from a small Indian tribe known as the Ocooch, this is a wonderfully dynamic and flavorful raw sheep's milk Alpine style cheese infused with the local terroir. Aged for anywhere between three and four months, this is a dense grassy, nutty, butterscotchy, round cheese with light barnyardy hay notes and that classic aged crystallization and crumbly-ness. This is an honest, humble, and delightful cheese that is the product of lots of love and care. An excellent example of American artisanal cheesemaking at its finest. Definitely worth heading over to Murray's Cheese to pick up a morsel.

Image courtesy of

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 718 : On Relaxing, Grilled cheeses & more...

It feels like a day for grilled cheese doesn't it? Something comforting and simple for a relaxing Saturday. There is something to be said for melted cheese sandwiched between two pieces of bread that just warms you from the inside out, it envelopes you in the sort of way that brings a smile to your face. It triggers a return to simpler times, simpler pleasures and good honest food.

So let's keep this sandwich ingredient driven without too much fuss and with a focus on good honest local elements.

I think that the Pullman bread from Grandaisy Bakery is the most excellent grilled cheese showcasing bread, so grab a loaf of that. Next up grab some of Vermont Butter & Cheese's cultured butter to place on either side of the bread. The secret to a decadently fabulous grilled cheese is good butter.
Next up grab some of Beecher's Flagship Reserve. I like to dial up the flavor profile a bit by adding some sundried tomato paste, along with some freshly sliced Roma tomatoes, a few sprigs of mesclun lettuce to add a vegetal green side, some fresh oregano and some ground black pepper.

So grab your Pullman bread and slice two thick slices, lather each with butter, and a nice amount of the sundried tomato spread. Place one thick slice of Beecher's Flagship Reserve on either side of the bread. Next up layer your freshly sliced Roma tomatoes drizzled with EVOO and sea salt then top with mesclun lettuce and some fresh oregano. It's time to cook this sandwich!

Warming, homey, comforting and flavorful. Great for a Saturday night movie night in!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 717 : TGIF Pairing

Thrilled that the week is over?

In the mood for a nice Guinness? Something with weight and body to it after the long week?  The dark and fantastically thick beer full of coffee, chocolate, rustic smokey flavors is the perfect drink on this grey rainy day I think.

What to pair with it?

It is tough to pair with stouts and porters because their flavor profiles are so in your face that you don't actually want to go the big bold cheese route, in fact you want to go the creamy, slightly sweet, round route.

So why not one of my favorite Vermont cheeses?


A mixture of goat's milk, cow's milk and fresh Vermont cream, this cheese melts in your mouth in all the right sorts of ways. Bright and milky with a light grassy citrusy sweet finish, it is the perfect yet unsuspecting pairing partner! This mixed milk creamster will cut through the weightiness of the beer in all the right sort of ways and with a handful of walnuts and some rye bread you are set for a nice beginning to your evening.

Image courtesy of

Day 716 : A Wintry Burrata Salad

Burrata is one of those special occasion cheeses for me -- it melts in your mouth in the most sensual sort of manner that each time I have it, I find it to be such a treat. Perfect with a glass of champagne -- it is such a fabulous creamy delight. In the summer it barely needs the dressing of EVOO, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper; but you can find it paired in the traditional caprese manner with tomatoes, heirloom, or other, and basil. My personal favorite summertime burrata pairing involves fresh mango and basil. But it's winter now and therefore I think burrata would be fabulous with sauteed brussel sprout leaves and roasted walnuts. A simple rustic preparation for this decadent cheese.

To prepare the brussel sprout leaves, keep it simple -- peel the leaves off of your brussel sprouts and saute over low heat with some EVOO, a diced shallot, sea salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Toss in those roasted walnuts to infuse them with the aromatic vegetal flavors of your brussel sprout leaves. Cover and cook till the leaves are golden brown. Top a morsel of burrata with your cooked leaves and roasted walnuts, drizzle some EVOO and sprinkle some sea salt and black pepper. Rustic yet light, comforting yet dresse d up. Enjoy with a glass of The Chook Sparkling Shiraz, a medium bodied bubbly red, the perfect wintry drink to go with this cold weather burrata combination.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 715 : A Vertical Drumm tasting

Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse is one of my favorite New Jersey creameries as you know already -- we recently covered their fabulous new DBA cheese pickup program.  But today I thought we would briefly look at their Drumm cheese. A fantastically stinky and funky aged semi-firm cow's milk cheese crafted in medium sized rounds with the exterior edges bowing in like a drum, hence its name.

Last week I had the opportunity to try three different Drumms at three different points of aging and I thought I'd share my observations with you all.

Drumm # 1 : Crafted at the beginning of November, aged for a month and a half - oozy, gooey, uncutous, royally stinky, this very soft Drumm was not for the faint of heart. But for those of us who like a fantastically stinky cheese -- this was that! Barnyardy, farmsteady and in your face in all the right sort of ways.

Drumm # 2 : Crafted mid October, this Drumm was somewhat firmer with significantly less of that barnyardy stink present in the youngster Drumm. It still had that fabulous farmsteady-ness to it but unlike the young Drumm, you couldn't smell this cheese coming.

Drumm # 3 : Crafted at the beginning of October and aged for two and half months, this was a semi-firm approachable round and buttery cheese with hints of washed rind stink and light notes of hay and a faint farmsteady barnyardy finish.

An interesting window into the aging process of cheese and of Drumm in particular. Makes one think about the trajectory cheese takes from creation to production to aging to enjoyment.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 714 : Girls Night In

Close girlfriend coming over?

What to make?

Nothing too heavy right?

How about a celebration of winter vegetable bounty?

A warm kale salad with roasted parsnip, butternut squash, smoked tofu, herbs, and Parmesan?

Easy and quick!

Chop up the parsnip, butternut squash and tofu. Place in a saute pan with EVOO, herbs, and sea salt. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes or until the veggies are lightly golden brown and melded together. In a soup pot, boil water and flash steam the leaves of kale. Remove, rinse with cold water. Place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, and Parmesan. Combine with the veggies and top with extra Parmesan, sea salt, and crushed red pepper. Enjoy with a nice glass of H&M Hofer's Zweigelt.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 713 : Beehive Cheese

Location : Uintah, Utah.

Who are the masterminds behind some of the most inventive American artisanal cheese out there?

Brothers-in-law and childhood friends, Tim Welsh and Pat Ford who both decided to eschew the "rat-race" for a simpler life of cheesemaking in 2005. Their goal was to focus on the stimulation of the local community and economy through the growth and establishment of a local creamery that would not only benefit the surrounding farmers but also the residents of the town and drive tourism to the region as well.

Beehive is one of the only artisanal creameries in Utah.

What's special about making cheese in Utah you might wonder?

Well Utah has a pretty unique ecosystem, especially in the specific place where Beehive is located -- at the entry to Weber Canyon in a valley between Wasatch Mountains known in their winter months for skiing and their summer months for the lush plentiful wildflowers.  The team behind Beehive try to infuse their cheeses with notes of the high desert climate along with the four season ecosystem. But that is not the only thing their cheeses are infused with.

Barely Buzzed, their superstar award winning cheese is rubbed with crushed lavender and coffee grounds from Tim's brother's coffee shop in Colorado. Creamy, nutty, lightly smoky and buttery yet aromatic and flavorful, this is a memorable cheese. Not in the mood for a coffee rubbed cheese? What about a tea rubbed one?

Their newest development is TeaHive, perhaps my favorite of their cheeses I have tried. It is rubbed with bergamot oil and black tea leaves. A little more in your face than Barely Buzzed in all the right sort of ways if you ask me! Tangy, floral, herbaceous, warming, comforting and aromatic, this round cheese is perfect with a light to medium bodied floral Sancerre.

Perhaps you are not in the mood for tea or coffee?

Well then your next best bet would be SeaHive which is rubbed in wildflower honey and local Redmond RealSalt. Delicate and nuanced this is an approachable yet dynamic and buttery delish snacking cheese.

Apart from these three rind rubbed cheeses, Beehive makes eight other cheeses all infused with their own unique viewpoint. That is what I love most about Beehive is that they really push the envelope of cheesemaking -- they experiment, they break out of the mold, they innovate, and inspire. Who knows where they will go next but I am excited to see! I am sure it will be somewhere great.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 712: Dinner at Beauty & Essex

Beauty & Essex - Chris Santos' followup to the immensely popular Stanton Social. Stanton Social is now a Lower East Side fixture and one of the first restaurants that really got on the small plates and curated cocktails bandwagon. Beauty & Essex opened to great fanfare a little over a year ago with the same sort of concept.

Entering through a pawn shop, one walks into a dark, decadent, and sensual dining area. I'd been once prior for a not so satisfying brunch but we had wanted to try it at dinner time, check out the scene, the cocktails, and dinner menu. 

The cocktails were somewhat inventive and priced pretty much on par with the wines, making it the obvious choice, especially for the environment. What about in terms of food? You guessed it -- a variety of small plates. However, unfortunately for us non-meat eaters, the menu was pretty meat heavy.

We split their pan con tomate with burrata -- a simple preparation again that I found was somewhat lacking in punch and flavor -- burrata is so decadent that you should get that voluptuous roundness in each morsel, not here...  

Santos, I think is most successful when he sticks to his interpretations of American comfort foods -- like his grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings and lobster mac n' cheese. The dumplings hit just the right note of inventive and cozy comfort food for a snowy Saturday evening. The lobster mac n' cheese was flavorful and aromatic but dynamic and delish, not too heavy. 

Overall a great place for groups for a fun Saturday evening out on the LES. I'm glad we went for dinner and there are plenty of other places I'd try before going back.  Perhaps I'd go for the cocktails and the upstairs lounge at a later date. 

Beauty & Essex
146 Essex Street

Day 711 : St. Pete's Blue and the Caves of Faribault

Location : Faribault, MN 
In the small town of Faribault, Minnesota are caves that are remnants from the last glacial age, crafted from St. Peter's Sandstone -- a rare geological phenomena found in a greater quantity in this little corner of the world but pretty rare elsewhere. Originally utilized by Fleckenstein Brewing company from the 1850s until Prohibition to craft, store, and chill beer. With the end of Prohibition, the caves were discovered by the cheesemaker Felix Fredericksen and suddenly there was a new usage for them -- cheesemaking. In fact, Fredericksen was the first cheesemaker to craft blue cheese in the United States. Prior to the 1930s, all the blue cheese consumed in this country was imported, but Fredericksen put a stop to that!
Fredericksen and his company Treasure Cave, Inc operated out of the caves of Fairbault till the end of the 20th Century when they moved their operation to Wisconsin. But fret not, in 2001, the Fairbault Dairy Company was founded to bring life back to these sandstone caves steeped in history. Now they craft a variety of blue cheeses, St. Pete's Select being my favorite. Creamy yet spicy and punchy, this three month aged blue is infused with the sandstone terroir in the most excellent of manners... Great with a pint of Ommegang's Abbey Ale and some raisin walnut bread. A true example of small scale American artisanal cheesemaking!

Image courtesy of

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 710 : Firefly Farms

Location - Accident, Maryland.
Firefly Farms was founded in 2000 by a group of close friends who decided they wanted to get into the goat cheese business. At first, they maintained their own goats and crafted cheese with the milk from those goats however in 2006, they decided to focus solely on the cheese end of things, no more goats in the future. So they now source milk from local farms giving back to the region's goat milk farms. In 2011, Firefly opened Firefly Farms Creamery & Market showcasing their cheeses and other local products. A proponent of American artisanal cheesemaking, Firefly is sure making its mark on the Allegheny Plateau's region.

Currently Firefly crafts eight different cheeses -- ranging from a soft creamy chevre to a bloomy rind to a hard snacking and a blue to name a few. In last night's cheese trotting, we tasted their Merry Goat Round, a goat's milk bloomy rinded homage to brie and camembert style cheeses. Delicate and decadent without being heavy, this cheese embodied the classic grassy citrusy chalky goaty notes with an eloquent elegance and clean crisp finish. Great with a crisp mineral forward white wine, some dried cherries and a baguette.

I sometimes find brie and camembert style cheeses to be somewhat heavy handed but this was the exact opposite -- light yet full of presence.

Day 709 : Cheese Trotting Unpacked...

Last night we did a "Where in the World Cheese" tasting -- a globe trotting, cheese trotting evening of cheeses from nine different locales. Each person had four different cheeses, but no one had the exact same cheeses making for a more interactive evening. Less about pairing with specific beverages and more about getting to know the people present in the room.

You must be thinking, why did she choose nine cheeses?

Well that's because each cheese represented the geographical origin of each of the nine teams present -- part cheese tasting, part networking, part team building, part socializing, all rolled into one. What a great way to bring people together over delish cheeses and wines. A great concept for friends, companies, networking groups, you name brings people together over good cheeses, breaking bread, wines and beers that in turn creates a shared bond and a shared experience that will stimulate conversation and growth.

Over the next few days, we will delve in depth into a variety of the cheeses that were featured in the tasting and focus on a variety of different creameries that kindly provided us with cheese for the event.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 708 : Chinese Cheese?

In preparation for tonight's cheese trotting tasting, I had to find a Chinese cheese. You might ask me, why? Well that's because there was meant to be a cheese from nine different groups' points of origin, more on that later, but for the moment let's get back to this whole Chinese cheese thing.

Is there cheese in China?

Yes there is!

It is not prevalent in traditional cuisine partially because of the fact that the domestication of cows in China is a recent development. But it surely isn't as simple as that. The cultural and societal constructs within China do not breed an interest and a love of cheese in the same manner that Western society does.

There are indigenous cheeses present in different regions of China, not that many that's for sure, but for example in the Fujian province, there is a cheese called Nguri. It is ping pong ball sized and is crafted with milk and vinegar and then consequently bathed in brine -- salty and bright on your tongue or so I have heard. Nguri and other indigenous Chinese cheeses do not tend to be imported into the US nor would they fall under the same sort of taste and flavor profiles as Western style cheeses.

That was until Marc de Ruiter opened Yellow Valley Cheese outside of Shanghai. De Ruiter crafts Dutch style Goudas utilizing milk from Chinese farmers -- attempting to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cheese customs. But again, these are not imported to the US!

So what was I going to do for my Chinese cheese for tonight's class?

Step One: Call Pearl River Market downtown
Step Two: Spend an hour on the phone explaining what I needed
Step Three: Trek down to the Chinese supermarket that was recommended to me by the fourth nice woman on the phone at Pearl River.
Step Four: Walk around supermarket for thirty minutes
Step Five: Talk to five different people till I was able to explain what I was looking for.
Step Six: End up being directed to the Fermented Bean Curd jars which I was informed is a form of Chinese cheese.

You must be thinking did she just tell me that Fermented Bean Curd is considered a cheese like product in China?

Yes! You would be right. Utilized as a condiment on a variety of dishes, it takes on the form of a cheese like substance in Chinese culture.

This fermented bean curd even has a similar mouthfeel to certain dairy products because of the breakdown of proteins over the course of the bean curd's air drying and fermentation. Granted the flavor profile is distinctly different from cheese but it is easily malleable and blends with a variety of different tastes.

Even resembles feta from a distance right?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 707 : Interconnectivity

Day two of our 2012 Fromagical changes has arrived! 

What does today bring my friends? 

Fromagical is now on Twitter and on Facebook! 

As a Fromagical lover and follower who maybe doesn't have the time to read some of my longer ramblings, I hope you will think about following me on Twitter @fromagical or looking me up on Facebook under Fromagical. Our new web of interconnectivity will allow you all my readers to participate on a greater scale and provide me with constant feedback hopefully opening up a whole new world of opportunities!

Exciting developments on the cheese horizon as well! Surprises await..

Stay tuned for plenty of in-depth tastings as the week goes on and private views into American Artisanal cheeses.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 706: Cheese Convo #1 - Doug Ginn

Moving towards the beginning of Fromagical's third year in existence, albeit we aren't there yet, I wanted to introduce a new 2012 tradition of cheese convos. Recaps of one on one conversations I have with cheesemakers, cheesemongers, cheese producers, cheese importers, cheese heads, cheese chefs, you name it, anyone in the business of cheese to give you a window into the inner workings of the cheese industry.

Our first chat was with Doug Ginn, the head cheesemaker/production manager at Beecher's that opened its NYC doors to the public mid 2011. A true proponent of the American artisan cheese movement, he was inspiration and a kindred soul to talk to. Prior to Beecher's Doug worked in cheesemaking operations nation and worldwide but most recently and closest to his heart is the Pampered Cow. The Pampered Cow is part farm, part cheesemaking incubator, part distributor and part Hudson Valley food and cheese promoter. Pampered Cow crafts the fabulous Hudson Red cheese -- a washed rind beauty that walks the most excellent line between "Alsatian Muenster and Taleggio," as Doug states. Looking to be in the city more full time, Doug ended up connecting with Beecher's prior to their opening and the rest is history.

Beecher's is truly unique in New York City in that they are making cheese in the heart of a big city. This is not a practice one finds occurring often here or elsewhere for that manner making it quite the exciting operation.

So how does that work?

Beecher's sources milk from two different farms upstate, one that is strictly Holstein cow's milk and one that is strictly Jersey cow's milk. Currently they receive a delivery of milk every other day as they produce two vats of cheese everyday and each milk delivery produces four vats of cheese. Currently approximately six to seven months into their NYC based cheesemaking operations they are making cheese six days a week which is up from three days when they first started and then consequently five days a week of cheesemaking. To do this, they have a staff of eight cheesemakers, a few of which are hoop breakers. In another year, they plan to be making cheese seven days a week and then half a year afterwards, they plan to be making four vats of cheese daily. After cheese production, the cheeses stay on premises for approximately a week and then they get wrapped and transported to a large refrigerated facility in New Jersey where they will remain for the duration of their aging.

What sort of cheeses are being made at their Flatiron location?

Fresh cheese curds which you can sample when you stop at their retail counter. The other two cheeses--Flagship and Flatiron have not yet been released. Yes, you can purchase their Flagship cheese produced at Beecher's Seattle, but not yet the cheese from Beecher's New York. You won't be able to purchase that till the end of the year because it requires at least eighteen months of aging before sale. In terms of Flatiron, this is a washed rind cheese that the cheesemaking team is still working at perfecting. Check back in three to four months and it should be available for sale.

One thing that really stuck out to me in my conversation with Doug was his passionate and inspiring descriptions about the cheesemaking team. They hail from all walks of life -- some have a lot of cheese experience, some have none, some were chefs, some were cheesemongers, some are just out of college -- the team spans the gamut of experience and expertise. They all share a love and innate curiosity into the business and art of cheesemaking, the key to a successful enterprise. As Doug envisions, the cheesemaking positions will be an excellent way to launch your career; get your feet wet; gain your chops to go open your own farm; a lifelong profession; kind of like a "cheesemaking incubator program."

It was such a treat for me to chat with Doug about where Beecher's has been and where they are going. It sure is an exciting time for them -- rapid expansion, growth, and the true development of their East Coast business through the experience of their Seattle based team and the ingenuity and gumption of their NYC team. They really are at the forefront of their industry when it comes to urban cheesemaking -- bringing back a sense of locavorism to the hustle and bustle of our city.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 705 : Grey Owl @ Murray's

While at Murray's yesterday purchasing cheese for various and sundry occasions, I happened to notice a new ash ripened goat's milk cheese called Grey Owl hailing from Quebec. This large disc of semi soft goaty goodness crafted with the milk of a single herd of goats was such a wonderfully fabulous new discovery. Cakey, paste-y and gooey on the interior with that classic citrusy bright tang and the most fantastic oozy cream line, this cheese walked an excellently fabulous line between lightness and heaviness. Perfection with a glass of Prosecco or Moscato d'Asti I reckon.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 704 : My new cheese crush....

I just discovered the most fantastic cheese -- Grassias. It is crafted by Paula Lambert's Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas whose Hoja Santa cheese I adore but this was new territory for me! This lemongrass leaf wrapped young cheese totally blew me away! A combination of goat and cow's milk, a semi soft creamy cheese that is decadent, divine, and delicate. The perfect blend of that crisp grassy citrusy tangy tartness of a classic goat's milk cheese with the buttery milky roundness of mouthfeel of a cow's milk cheese. With the added herbaceous qualities of the lemongrass leaf, it is a truly unique cheese. Great with a glass of mineral forward white wine or a blond beer.

Where can you find my new cheese crush?

At Artisanal where you can buy a roundelle for $9.75.

Image courtesy of

Day 703 : Bobolink's Absence at Lincoln Square Markets

Bobolink, one of my favorite New Jersey creameries traditionally found at my local Greenmarket on Thursdays and Saturdays plans to absent at least through the end of the month, if not some of February. Why you might wonder?

Well that's because of the freezing temperatures. But don't worry, they have come up with a backup option if you don't want to live with out their fabulously stinky cheeses, home baked breads and meats!

It's called their NYC Buying Club and it started this week! You can place an order on their website, before Wednesday at midnight and then Friday between 4 and 7pm, you can pick up your goodies at either DBA in Manhattan on 1st avenue between 1st and 2nd streets or in Williamsburg on North 7th between Berry and Wythe. And you don't even have to pay for UPS shipping, you just pay for the cost of your goodies and then of course you get to enjoy them and no one ends up standing out in the freezing cold for an entire day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 702 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 45

For me there's something about the spicy kick of a morsel of blue cheese in the winter months  - it wakes up my senses in all the right sort of ways and tends to go really excellently with one of those wintery warming beverages like port or cognac or even perhaps a deep dark beer or a big red wine.

Right now if you're interested in saving, Roquefort Papillion Black Label is on sale from $29.99 to $19.99 at Murray's Cheese! That's over a third of savings!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 701 : Over and Over and Over Again.

I just opened a bottle of Channing Daughters Over and Over red wine crafted utilizing a mixture of a ripasso method and a solera system of blending. Where did this wine begin?

Well it began at the beginning of course with four barriques of 2004 Merlot that were removed and re-passed over the newer and fresher 2006 Merlot and Dornfelder grapes. Next came a primary fermentation of this new combination that was then racked to barriques where it underwent a malo-lactic fermentation. Next step -- half of the wine was aged in oak for ten months and then bottled creating Variation Number One. The other half stayed in its barrel till the 2007 harvest when it was re-passed over the Merlot, Syrah and Dornfelder grapes again and the process began again. Out of which Variation Number Two was developed and over and over again with the grapes from the 2008 and 2009 harvests developing Numbers Three and Four. The bottle of Over and Over I am currently drinking is Variation Number Five. They don't plan to stop here that's for sure, they plan to continue this cycle over and over again. This is a complex wine -- a blend of new and old, full of dark cherry and raspberry notes with hints of black pepper and spice, and an earthy rustic finish -- dynamic, deep, and delicious. Rarely does one get a wine with such a process involved but the blend of intellect and whimsy makes this a special treat!

Image courtesy of

So what sort of cheese would I recommend with such a superstar of a wine?

The wine begs for a cheese with a rustic aged nutty quality to it -- something with a history to it as well, some added oomph. How about a caramelly butterscotchy morsel of four year aged Dutch Gouda. Full of that classic aged crystallization and crumbly-ness. Smooth and creamy yet spicy and biting, this cheese will hold up to the wine and enhance it.

Image courtesy of

A great pairing for a Wednesday evening.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 700 : Curds. Snap. Crackle. Pop.

After reading the Wall Street Journal's article on Sid Cook and Wisconsin's Carr Valley Cheese Company, and learning that they distribute over 3,000 pounds of cheese curds a day, I got to thinking it might be fun to examine these noisy little buggers that are a classic Midwestern football snack.

Ever bite into a cheese curd and jump back a few feet because it squeaks? Wonder why it squeaks?

Well that's because as cheese coagulates, curd is formed that can be separated into little morsels before the cheese is pressed into blocks-- young little bites of newly formed cheese. Trapped within each bite of the springy porous cheese is air which when one bites into it causes that classic squeak. The squeak however is only present when the curds are very young, no more than a day or two old. As curds get older, they dry out and loose their inherent moisture and crispness. Younger curds are mild in flavor profile with a light salty side yet somewhat smooth and creamy -- satisfying little morsels of cheesy goodness. Curds are traditionally crafted with the by-products of cheddar cheese production, but you can find mozzarella, colby, and monterey jack curds as well.

So what do you do with the curds? Besides eat them and enjoy their squeak?

If you live in Wisconsin or other areas of the Midwest, you probably beer batter and deep fry them and serve them with a cold beer during a football game. If you live in Quebec, you might recognize them in the classic Canadian dish, poutine -- french fries topped with cheese curds, brown gravy, and occasionally a melange of other ingredients. Or you can always go the simple straight forward route and just serve them plain or perhaps dusted with herbs as an hors d'oeuvre.

You can find them in Manhattan definitely at Beecher's Cheese and Saxelby Cheesemongers, however I reckon if you inquire at other cheese purveyours, you will discover that they have them available.

Curious about the article on Sid Cook and Carr Valley Cheese, here's a link:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 699 : Mac N Cheese

There's something totally and completely fabulous about mac n cheese in the winter time -- its warming, filling, comforting, satisfying and all around delish. It is the perfect meal for a January evening, isn't it?

Why not play up the root vegetables that are in season and go with a roasted parsnip, turnip, and butternut squash mac n' cheese this evening?

What goes into this dish? A whole heck of a lot of ingredients but it's not that complicated!

Whole Wheat Penne
1 Parsnip - cubed
1 Purple Top Turnip - cubed
1/2 Butternut Squash - cubed
1 cup of Comte cheese grated
1 cup of Gruyere cheese grated
1/2 cup of Parmesan grated
Vermont Butter and Cheese's Cultured Butter - 1 large stick
1 cup Buttermilk
2 eggs
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

This is a few step process of a dish. Preheat the oven to 350, once warm, place the cubed root vegetables, tossed with EVOO, sea salt and a drizzle of the herbs in an oven safe dish to roast for approximately fifteen minutes or until they are just starting to get lightly golden brown. While the veggies are cooking, boil the water for the pasta and cook till al dente. Melt the butter in a separate skillet. Next up combine the pasta, buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and the majority of the cheese with the penne pasta. Then mix in the root vegetables and place in the oven safe pan you plan to cook the dish in. Top with extra cheese and a drizzle of EVOO, a sprinkle of each of the herbs, some sea salt and black pepper and place in the oven for twenty five to thirty minutes till the top is golden brown. Pull out and enjoy! It sure will warm you from the inside and out.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 698 : An evening on Mulberry...

Yesterday evening a friend and I decided we had to check out the Pop-Up Park in Nolita -- yes that is exactly what it sounds like -- fake grass, picnic blankets, food vendors, and general merriment. Open through February 15th from 12 to 8pm on a daily basis, this truly is the next level of pop-up space. First there were pop-up shops then pop-up restaurants and bars and now pop-up parks?

What do you do after you've played in an indoor pop up park? 

Why not stop into Tartinery right next door for a bite and a drink. Loosely inspired by modern French bistros, this sleek eatery offers a variety of tartines (open faced sandwiches served on the classic French Polaine bread), salads, a few mains and appetizers along with an excellent wine list. Walking through the door, one is immediately hit with warming wafts of baking and toasting bread, a true French comfort sort of scent. 

Perhaps an appetizer of burrata and a glass of Pinot Noir to fulfill the appetite you developed while playing next door? The sensual decadence of a morsel of burrata is the perfect nibble if you ask me. Mozzarella curd stretched and filled with cream into a bright white ball of creamy cheesy heaven. Rarely does it need anything besides some EVOO, sea salt and black pepper, perhaps some herbs. But that's it. 
It will always put a smile on your face. It is one of those cheeses that I adore but rarely buy at home because it is meant to be shared. 

A great way to spend a winter afternoon or evening -- good food, good times, good friends, and good adventures.

Pop Up Park Here @ Openhouse Gallery
201 Mulberry Street

209 Mulberry Street

Day 697 : Riposo 72

The Upper West surely isn't want for wine bars -- there are wine bars every few blocks, if not closer to one another. Riposo 72 is tucked away on 72nd street between Central Park West and Columbus and seems to traditionally be easier to snag a table at, perhaps because its off the avenue. A laid back and warm spacious interior welcomes you as you enter.

Their food menu is a mixture of flatbreads, paninis, salads, cheese, cured meats, and well the classic wine bar food. Although their cheese selection is not anything to write home about: marinated Feta, Parmesan, Manchego, Piave, Gorgonzola Dolce, Port Salut, and Smoked Gouda, there is a little perk about it that we picked up on yesterday. According to their menu, one cheese is $9 where as the chef's selection of cheeses is $19. Obviously a better deal, right? It doesn't just stop there -- you get four cheeses and our waitress even let us choose our selection instead of the chef's selection. So in the long run, we ended up with four cheeses that we wanted to have for barely more than the price of two individual morsels. The cheese arrived with soaked dried fruit, some fresh fruit, toast and some walnuts, a simple preparation but perfect for a girls afternoon in January with glasses of Prosecco.

Go for a casual drink between 4 and 6 during the week and get 20% off bottles of wine and flatbreads, that is if you're able to escape from the office at such an early hour.

A good option that is eminently more affordable than its neighborhood counterparts with a pleasant atmosphere.

Riposo 72
50 West 72nd Street

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 696 : An Italian Cheese Tasting

In honor of my friend's love of all things Italian, another friend and I planned a bubbly and cheese girls night in for her. Two bottles of Prosecco, check! And a selection of three Italian cheeses, check!

What were the three cheeses?

1. La Tur - The most fantastic melange of cow, goat, and sheep's milk crafted into a disc of luscious creamy cheesy goodness. A melt in your mouth Italian stallion that delights across the board. Perfect with a glass of Prosecco to cut through the dense ice creamy like quality of the cheese.

2. Quadrello di Bufala - A washed rind pasteurized water buffalo milk semi firm cheese. Think along the lines of that classic ooey gooey stink of a Taleggio but rounder, milkier and sweeter due to the higher fat content of water buffalo milk. Decadent and indulgent with a rustic rough around the edges sort of feel -- great with a glass of Barbera.

3. Gorgonzola Dolce - A classic three month aged cow's milk Italian blue. What differentiates this blue from say a regular Gorgonzola or those known as Piccante? The amount of aging. With only three months of cave aging and frequent brine baths, this is one of the most friendly and approachable blues out there. Soft, faintly sweet, and creamy, it coats every crevice of your mouth while still possessing a nice amount of spicy stinky blue pungence.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 695 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 44

So after reading yesterday's blog, did you decide that you needed to have a Raclette night for you and your friends this weekend or sometime soon?

Well I suggest doing it soon because right now, Raclette, is on sale for $6.98 a pound at Zabar's compared to say $14.99 a pound at Murray's meaning you can get more than two pounds for the price of one! A great way to start the New Year off saving, right?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 694 : Cheese for Hibernation?

It's officially winter. December missed the memo, but don't worry January received it loud and clear. This morning while I was running the official temperature was 12 degrees but realistically with the wind chill, it was 3 degrees. Now I wouldn't be mentioning this if it hadn't been 50 degrees less than five days ago. The drastic shift is causing lots of Theraflu, Emergen-C, Ricolas and the shared desire of most Manhattanites to hibernate. When in hibernation you probably want lots of roasted vegetables, baked mac n' cheese dishes, dark ales, red wines, you name it, we all have our favorite tummy and soul warming dishes.

Most people think fondue when you think of that sort of comfort warming dish, right? Well what about Raclette?

Raclette is both a cheese, a grill, and refers directly to the manner in which that cheese is melted over different foods. Raclette is derived from the French word, racler meaning "to scrape," which is what French cowboys used to do with large wheels of this cheese once melted over a fire with bread and potatoes to land on.

So what sort of cheese is Raclette?

It is a traditionally French and Swiss alpine style semi-soft washed rind cheese that is routinely softer than its other alpine cheese cousins like Appenzeller and Comte. Smooth, silky, milky and buttery with a rustic barnyardy finish and light nutty hay notes, it is excellent for the wintertime because of its inherently warming qualities.

If you're feeling old fashioned, you can go out and buy a half wheel and lightly heat it so you can scrape (racler) the gooey morsels onto the starchy surface of your choice or since it is the 21st century, you can go out and buy a raclette grill and have this little machine do all of your work for you!

Either way -- I guarantee some of this cheese heated to perfection is just the ticket on this cold winter evening. Perhaps with a nice big glass of red wine or a deep dark ale or even a tippler of mulled wine if you're feeling spicy. Stay warm folks.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 693 : Corkbuzz

This evening I stopped into Corkbuzz, the new wine bar south of Union Square by the world's youngest master sommelier, a woman at that! With a philosophy about bringing together wine appreciators and lovers to enjoy and educate about wine, I'd been excited about trying this place since I heard about it in the first place. Corkbuzz's mission was to be a warm and welcoming place to meet for a drink, a place to dine or to take classes at, and to be open to everyone. I love this concept and think it is something that the Union Square area could use along with just being a great idea.

However when I walked in this evening, I was a little bit disappointed -- although the wine list was great, I felt that it priced out a lot of its prime clientele -- with the majority of wines by the glass more expensive than other wine bars around town. With the mission of educating about wine, the bartenders/waiters did not really take the time to explain the wines you were drinking. Perhaps you didn't want that which is completely understandable but the offer would have been nice. The menu looked wonderful and was meant to pair with the wines, but yet again more expensive than I was expecting.

What was maybe the most interesting for me was that the majority of the clientele were business folk from the neighborhood stopping in for a drink before heading home, maybe that has to do with the time I was there or that it has not become popular yet, but I expected this to be a place for wine lovers to commune and chat about new wine trends, food fads, cheese developments and more.

It is such an excellent concept with what looks like a wonderfully delish food menu and a warm and inviting atmosphere, I hope it is successful as it grows into itself. It sure has the promise and I am sure with the lack of wine bars in the immediate neighborhood it will take off!

13 East 13th Street

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 692 : An ode to French Roquefort

My folks returned from France this past weekend with some delish French cheese in tow that I was lucky enough to be able to partake in the enjoyment of -- some goat's milk cheese, Gorgonzola and Roquefort. The Roquefort just struck the most fantastic cord with me on this cold evening taking me on a journey to the covered market in Antibes where I reckon they purchased this spicy punchy classic French blue. You might think couldn't she get this same Roquefort at a variety of locales around town?

You'd unfortunately be incorrect there my friends, there is a "je ne sais quoi" about this Roquefort that seems to be lost when transported for retail consumption purposes. There are countless reasons for this but it sure got me thinking about food having a sense of place. To me it feels much more like an old world societal and cultural convention than a concept present in the melting pot of the new world. Just take a moment to think about it, what do you think of when you think of Barcelona? Paris? London? Rome? Munich? Or perhaps you took a trip to Istanbul and your memory is strongest when it comes to that one meal you had overlooking the Bosphorus? Isn't it interesting to stop and think about what places, people, things, and memories are triggered when enjoying a morsel of cheese or of food in general?

This morsel of Roquefort took me back to the dog days of summer -- as previously mentioned the covered markets of Antibes; Campari and soda at sunset; black stone beaches; fraise des bois and bouquets of mache among the other fabulously fresh offerings available at that marche; chilled glasses white port listening to fireworks in the background and the distant notes of French jazz. What a treat it was!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 691 : Cheeses for New Year's Eve

Happy New Year! I hope that you all had fabulous celebrations to ring in the New Year!

New Year's Eve for me was primarily spent at one of my closest friends apartment where she cooked a "Southern Fried New Year's." Home fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens, cheese grits, black eyed peas, scallops, pecan pie and more. A decadent feast to ring in the New Year! A great time was had by all!

I brought cheeses, home roasted almonds and some dried apricots -- excellent for our cocktail hour before dinner. The cheeses I brought were primarily requested, I brought two Cremont, the lovely mixed goat and cow's milk and cream disc of unctuous milky silky smoothness produced by Vermont Butter and Cheese; along with two types of blue cheese. I know you are probably thinking gosh that doesn't seem like a pretty inventive selection but it worked perfectly for our cocktail hour purposes. For the blue cheeses, I brought Rogue River's Smokey Blue and Great Hill Blue. The Oregon born and produced smokey blue is cold smoked over hazelnut shells for sixteen hours giving this spicy piquant punchy blue a fabulous nutty rustic barnyardy smokey kick -- excellent for our Southern Fried New Year's party, right? The Great Hill Blue is a non-homogenized raw cow's milk blue hailing from Massachusetts -- creamy, milky with hints of nutty sweetness with a light blue kick, an approachable and crowd pleasing blue, which surely isn't always the easiest task. Everyone loved the cheese but last night wasn't about the cheese, it was about the fabulous meal prepared by my friend and boy did she out do herself.

Here's to an outstanding 2012 full of good times, adventures, good laughs, good health, and lots of success!

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