Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 804 : North Fork Recap Part One - Croteaux Vineyards

This past weekend we had the pleasure of escaping the hussle and bussle of Manhattan for the quiet tranquility of the North Fork of Long Island, the last weekend before the "season" really starts. Our mini getaway was full of winery and creamery visits, a stop at a brewery, a lunch truck, an artisanal olive oil store open barely a month, a speakeasy, and plenty plenty more. Over the next few days, I'll be covering each place we stopped in depth. So lets get going!

Stop number one was at Croteaux Vineyards in Southold. Croteaux is Long Island's only, and in fact America's only dry rose specific vineyard that utilizes all of their own estate grapes to produce their wines. What does that mean?

It means that the manner in which the grapes are grown and harvested is strictly for the benefit of the production of top of the line rose wines, no whites or reds here. You can taste the love, care, and attention to rose specific wine making techniques in each of their wines - what a difference!

Image courtesy of

So what do they produce?

Three Merlot specific roses utilizing three different types of Merlot grapes from three distinct locations; two sparkling rose blends; and three premium roses.

Merlot 181 Rose utilizes grapes that are a clone of the 181 French Pomerol Merlot grape and is fermented in 100% stainless steel. The lightest in color of any of their roses - think picnics on the beach, lazy summer Sundays by the pool, the perfect companion to fireworks on July 4th -- sun, sand, and summer in a bottle! Crisp and bright, this has the feel of a classic Southern French rose. The most versatile pairing partner of all of the roses, this guy can go with anything!

Merlot 314 Rose utilizes grapes that are a clone of the 314 French St Emilion Merlot grape and also is fermented in 100% stainless steel. This has slightly more weight to it -- with a depth of flavor profile that extends right through the finish. Complex and unique, it stands alone and does so excellently. Great with a simple fresh goat's milk cheese from the local goat dairy, Catapano. You want this wine to have the opportunity to shine!

Merlot 3 Rose utilizes grapes that are a clone of the 3 American UC Davis Merlot grape and is 100% barrel fermented. By far my least favorite of the three Merlot roses - this had more of a weight to it with a robust sweetness and a toasty vanilla finish. I would even pair this with Firefly Farms' Mountain Top Bleu - a surface ripened goat's milk cheese that has been infused with blue mold - tangy, citrusy, bright and grassy goat's milk notes with a nice burst of blue spicy piquant-ness.

And what of their three premium roses?

First up is Sauvage - 100% French Pomerol Merlot grapes fermented with wild yeasts in 100% stainless steel. Think the 181 but with a dialed up flavor profile. Soft and smooth yet mineral forward and alive, this is a wine to serve at your dressed up summer gathering. It will pair wonderfully with Bijou, Vermont Butter and Cheese's ode to Crottin de Chavignol, an aged goat's milk cheese.

Next up is Chloe their only wine blended with white wine and it is a blend of 99.5 % Sauvignon Blanc with .5% Cabernet Franc fermented in 100% stainless steel. Think classic Sauvignon Blanc characteristics mixed with classic Cab Franc notes -- bright, chalky, citrusy, grassy notes with that herbaceous aromatic tang of a Cab. Complex and flavorful in all the right sorts of ways. Pair with a young goat gouda to bring out the chalky brightness of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

And lastly and by far the most unique is Jolie -- a 100% Cab Franc rose fermented in 100% stainless steel. Caramel and nuttiness on the nose but with a medium bodied lightly cherry mouth-feel and a nice bright smooth finish. A real award winner in my book as it really challenges your palate in the most interesting ways. This is not a rose you will find anywhere else! I would enjoy this all on its own.

Moving right along to their Sparklings, of which there were two:

The first was the Croteaux 2011 Cuvee Sparkle crafted in the French charmat style. Delightful, fanciful, light and crisp with a nice dry fruit forward finish. Great for any celebration!

The second was the Cuvee Rouge Sparkling Cab Franc Rose crafted with Cab Franc grapes and more of a medium bodied rose sparkling -- darker in color with deeper berry, chocolate, and toasty notes.

For an avid rose lover, this was paradise. But even more so, what was wonderful about the entire experience was that it truly was a small production vineyard where what was important was their love of the craft, the grapes, the wines produced, the people who created them, the environment that they served them in and more. Unlike many winery tasting rooms that are large, expansive, and impersonal, Croteaux had a small barn upstairs with lively bright colored accents and Carla Bruni playing in the background. For a vineyard whose tagline is "rose with a purpose," I don't think they could have done better.

What an amazing way to start the weekend, I cannot wait to return.

Croteaux Vineyard
1450 South Harbor Road
Southold, NY 11971

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 803: Community

This evening I had the pleasure of accompanying my mother to hear Bill Clinton speak. The crux of his message was two fold: primarily it was about moving forward into the future as a global community, able to tackle any and all obstacles by the power of interpersonal relations. Secondly, it was about the acceptance that everyone can be wrong sometimes, and that through the power of wisdom and intelligence, the acceptance of that fact makes us stronger as a people. Two overarching messages that apply across the board I believe. It got me thinking about how such a movement of bridging the gap of difference and building communities can start from something small. Take the example of Vermont Farmstead that we discussed earlier this week -- a creamery that was built upon the basis of a community in need of agricultural and economical stimulation in a rural area -- they took something small and turned it into something bigger through banding together as a people. What if we were to do that for all of our local farms or strive to at least? Where would we stand? 

Can we start at home by eating locally and getting to know our farmers, our cheesemakers, our bread bakers, our butchers, our winemakers, and more? 

As Alice Waters said in her book, 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering -- "Eating together was the most important daily ritual in their lives, a crucial and nonnegotiable time when the flavors and smells of roasted chickens and sizzling garlic, the crunch of crusty bread, and the taste of local wine drew out everyone's most passionate ideas and feelings."

By coming together to break bread and enjoy a meal, one is able to break down barriers. So lets start small -- get out there, get to know your local farmers, cheesemakers, bread bakers, butchers, winemakers and more. Create your own local community and lets see where we go. 

Day 802 : Edible Manhattan's Good Dairy at Openhouse Gallery

Good Dairy at Openhouse Gallery was an event I was super looking forward to and one that I publicized on the blog because the idea of promoting local cheeses, milks, butters, ice creams, spirits, wines, and beers is right up Fromagical's alley. A celebration of all things local!

Walking in to Openhouse Gallery a little after 6pm, I was pleased to see that there was a nice crowd of people -- not overcrowded yet -- a mixture of industry people, NYC foodies, randoms, and more.

What was nice was that at the majority of the tables they had prepared little tasting plates so that you could really taste through their offerings. This was not the case across the board but at many places it was.

The first table I saw was VBC -- Vermont Butter and Cheese -- who are one of my favorite Vermont based creameries. They had their award winning line of Cremont, Bijou, Bonne Bouche, Coupole, Chevre and their cultured butter on display with tasting plates set up of each. I'm somewhat partial to their cheeses with Coupole probably being my favorite.

Next to VBC was Saxelby Cheesemongers' table with a huge heaping mound of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Saxelby as many of you know is a big proponent of American artisanal cheeses and although I love Cabot Clothbound, I think it would have been nice to have a selection of their favorite springtime cheeses but I guess they went with a tried and true standby which for a crowded tasting was probably the ideal way to go.

Following Saxelby was Brooklyn Gin with a summery riff on a carbonated Collins cocktail, light on the botanicals, full on the flavor, and with plenty of sparkle.

On the other side of the first space was Nancy's Cultured Dairy and Soy with by far the best cottage cheese I have had in a very long time. There were samples of the Greek yogurt as well which did not wow in the way the cottage cheese did.

Next to them was New Jersey's own Valley Shepherd creamery with a tasting plate of sheep's milk yogurt, a crostini of sheep's milk ricotta topped with honey and lastly a morsel of Melter Skelter, an aged raw Jersey cow's milk snacking cheese. I adore Valley Shepherd's line of aged sheep and cow's milk cheeses and would have liked to see more of those however the young fresh cheeses are quite seasonal.

Moving down the stairs to the main room there was Wolffer wines and Kelso beer along with an Organic Valley yogurt stand complete with granola and chopped fruits. Next to the Organic Valley stand was a Whole Foods table featuring their four cheese bread topped with chive butter -- springy and seasonal.
I did find it unusual that Whole Foods was present at a tasting of this nature as you don't tend to see them at smaller local tastings but they are big supporters of local products so I reckon it makes sense.

Also in this room was the Vanderbilt, a Brooklyn based restaurant that was serving Chocolate Pudding Pops topped with sea salt -- all decadence and richness here! There was also A Chocolate Room table serving Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream from Rockhedge Herb Farms with 72% Belgian Chocolate chunks.

Also in the main room was Stinky Brooklyn with a display of English Farmhouse cheeses and a grilled cheese that unfortunately underwhelmed. However they were the only table to do a grilled cheese which was a nice refreshing change from the other room temperature tastes. Their cheese selection was fantastic.

Next to Stinky Brooklyn was Murray's Cheese - impossible to do a local cheese event without them there! What did they have on display? Salva Cremasco, Caromont Farm's Bloomsbury and Blanc Bleu Tambour -- all from their line of cave aged cheeses sliced and on display to taste. They also had a Currant Custard and  Cherry Tree tonic from White Cow Dairy. A great selection of firm, barnyardy cheeses with a bright citrusy springtime punch.

Moving into the last room with by far my favorite morsel of the evening served by Lucy's Whey which was a baguette crostini topped with Keeley's Cheese Company's washed rind stinker, Across the Pond and two little morsels of pickle. Simple yet elegant, flavorful yet refined, bold and wonderful.

Also in the back room was Momofuko Milk Bar's Cornflake Chocolate chip cookies and cereal milk. Disclaimer - I am not a big milk fan but wow Momofuko's milk tasted exactly like the remnants of cereal -- spot on job guys! Warming and comforting and a definite throwback to simpler days.

Moving on to Orwasher's Bakery and then Five Acre Farms with a selection of their locally produced milks and hand churned butter. Last stop in the back room was Hudson Whiskey's milk punch.

Overall an awesome event showcasing local dairy, wine, beer, spirits and more. A great way for people to become familiar with farmers and cheesemakers! Here's to many more fun local tastings to come!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 801: Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company and my newest cheese crush

Location - South Woodstock, Vermont

Farm details - Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company

Why are they awesome?

Because they were founded as a means to stimulate the community of Southern Woodstock by bringing people together with a shared goal of invigorating the local socio-economical climate through a dairy farm and its cheese production.

Have they been successful?

YES! And they are expanding to a new cheese facility, aging caves, and retail shop in July 2012.

They currently craft two Cheddars, one washed in ale; their version of a classic English Wensleydale called Windsordale; a fenugreek infused Edam; a soft ripened Brie style cheese; and my favorite -- the Brickhaus Tilsit.

What is the Tilsit?

Well it is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese that is a washed curd cheese giving it a more sumptuous round mouthfeel and a nice density. Buttery, milky and warming, this is a cheese that will win over many hearts as will the creamery who produces it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 800 : Pera Soho

Last night was not necessarily the evening to go out to dinner -- it was raining cats and dogs but when going out to dinner with family, it's always nice.

Pera Soho is the newer downtown sibling of the midtown Turkish restaurant standby located on Thompson Street in Soho. Sleek yet rustic with a warm and inviting feel and what looks like an excellent outdoor space to be enjoyed on non-rainy Sunday evenings.

So what did we have?

We decided to really explore their mezze offerings and try a melange of dishes. Hummus and a smoked eggplant dip with a garlic yogurt served with paper thin pita chips were both quite the hit, each flavorful and delectable -- classic Middle Eastern dips with their own personal flair. We also had their roasted beets with goat's cheese and raisins and a vegetable stuffed roasted pepper. The beets were coated with just the right amount of goat's milk cheese so that there was the perfect balance of earthy punch from the beets, crisp bright creaminess from the goat's milk cheese and a nice sweet finish from the raisins. The roasted pepper was warming and full of rustic vegetal flavors, excellent on a rainy cold Sunday evening. Then we had their tuna tartar served with sundried tomatoes and basil and a nice spicy kick along with a chicken 'adana' cut roll and a lentil 'adana' cut roll. The tuna tartar was big and bold bursting with in your face flavors in just the right ways. I am sure you are wondering what an 'Adana' roll is right? Well it is kind of like imagining a chicken or lentil meatball patty that is laid on top of thin Turkish bread -- a classic Turkish preparation. We also had their Pera Soho salad which was mixed greens topped with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped onions, parsley, and peeled walnuts in pomegranate with a tangy lemon dressing.

Overall, spot on food in a nice comfortable atmosphere great for a group of friends or for an intimate dinner one on one. A nice addition to the Soho restaurant scene, I will definitely be going back to enjoy some al fresco dining as the weather improves.

Pera Soho
54 Thompson Street

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 799 : Freeman's

Confession - I love Freeman's for their outstandingly inventive cocktails, rustic barnyardy decor, laid back / lowkey vibe, locavore focused cuisine and their artichoke dip. The artichoke dip is heavy on the artichoke, light on the round creaminess and just the perfect blend of lightness and heaviness. What I do not love about Freeman's is unfortunately their cheese plate -- served on too large of a round wood cutting board with four pieces of over toasted multigrain bread and a half of a granny smith apple and two American cheese selections. The first of which was Sofia from Capriole Farms in Indiana and is an ash ripened goat's milk cheese inspired by the Loire Valley ash ripened goat's milk cheeses. The second of which was Consider Bardwell's Italian style toma, Pawlet -- a friendly approachable snacking cheese with buttery, nutty, earthy notes. Sounds great right?

Well not so fast...not only did the server call the Consider Bardwell selection by its farm and not know the cheese's name -- the apple and bread that were supposed to complement the cheese somewhat overpowered the delicate nuances of the cheese -- it became about the somewhat burned flavors of the bread rather than the cheese's flavor notes. On top of which, I tend to believe that a daily cheese selection should have three different cheese varieties to span the gamut of cheese styles. Lastly, if you are going to serve only two cheeses, serve them on a smaller cutting board, one that isn't meant for four to five cheeses. That being said, unfortunately I could not take a photograph of the cheese board to show you because they do not allow food photography within the restaurant.

Don't get me wrong I still adore Freeman's and will continue to go back often, but maybe will steer away from ordering the cheese plate in the future.


End of Freeman's Alley off of Rivington

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 798 : The Rumor Mill...Murray's?

I couldn't resist spreading the word because it is super exciting if you ask me!

Rumor has it Murray's Cheese is opening up a bricks and mortar dining establishment in the West Village -- strictly a wine and cheese bar brought to you from some of the city's top cheese aficionados.

Stay tuned for updates over the next few weeks!

Image courtesy of

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day 797 : Coach Farm's New Goat's Milk Cheeses

Coach Farm has recently rolled out a line of fresh chevres that are infused with either fig or pear in the center of the goat's milk cheese instead of being rolled in herbs or spices on the exterior. Surrounded on both sides by a chalky, grassy, citrusy, milky, goaty, paste, the concentrated fig or pear center really stands out and shines. It does not get mixed up and melded in with the other fresh cheese flavors. Perfect with a bright glass of medium bodied white wine on a spring time day!

Image courtesy of

If you are in the New York City area and a Fresh Direct customer, they are currently on sale. 2 little logs for $6 instead of $4.49 a piece.

Day 796 : Weekday Breakfasts

After a good run in this cloudy dreary day, I decided I wanted a warming egg breakfast, a riff on Eggs in Purgatory perhaps? Something I could put on the stove to cook while getting ready? Why not?

A simple preparation starts with chopping up a handful of cherry tomatoes, half of red pepper, a scallion and some fresh basil. Toss into a pan with some EVOO, sel de la guerande, herbes de Provence, and crushed red pepper. Cook over low heat for approx fifteen minutes till the flavors have melded together. Then crack three eggs into your sauce, I like to utilize just the egg whites but it is completely your decision. Cover and cook for a few more minutes till the eggs go opaque. Then uncover and grate a generous amount of Tarentaise over the egg and skillet tomato pepper sauce. Cook for another few minutes and remove and top with a few extra basil leaves. Enjoy with a cup of coffee to get your day started off right!

Image courtesy of

Tarentaise is an organic aged cow's milk cheese hailing from Vermont. Aged for at least six months, this firm, nutty, buttery, and butterscotchy cheese with rustic grassy hay notes is modeled on the classic French alpage style cheese Abondance. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day 795 : Nibbles at the Smith

The Smith, well the original version located on 3rd avenue between 10th and 11th street, was an immediate scene when it opened a few years back. A casual yet sleek gastro pub buzzing with life, it's a great place to grab a drink and / or a bite before going to a show at Webster Hall or a movie at a nearby cinema.

Last night we split a few of their appetizers while waiting for our concert at Webster Hall.

So what did we have?

Their burrata with roasted tomatoes, basil, and sourdough panzanella salad. Classic, delish, flavorful and burrata is always a Fromagical favorite. We also had their baked pretzel with honey mustard. Warm and gooey and comforting in the right sort of ways -- the perfect partner for a nice Pilsner. We also had their artichoke flatbread with black olives, parmesan, ricotta, and roasted sweet onions. Savory, simple, rustic, and just the right touch of aromatic flair. It was great with my glass of Channing Daughter Rosato di Merlot. We also had a side order of their brussel sprouts that fell flat unfortunately but overall great drinks, company, and nibbles.

The Smith
55 Third Avenue


956 Second Avenue

or...coming soon...

1900 Broadway

Day 794 : New arrivals in the Saxelby Cheese caves!

I always get excited when new cheeses get introduced to the New York City market -- opening up consumers' palates and expanding their options. So it is exciting to report that one of my favorite NYC cheesemongers, Saxelby Cheese has two new Northeast cheeses -- Berleberg and Shepsog. What names right?

Berleberg is an aged washed raw cow's milk cheese hailing from Berle Farms in Hoosick, New York. Stinky, buttery, and barnyardy with a rustic roundness and a slight hay nutty finish, this is a dense firm snacking cheese. Complex yet approachable -- it is great with an IPA.

Shepsog meaning sheep in Native American Algonquin is a mixed raw sheep and cow's milk cheese from one of my favorite Vermont producers -- Grafton Village Cheese. Its got the perfect mixture of round, rich, and buttery with a nice nutty, butterscotchy, caramelly finish. This is a big cheese perfect for a nice glass of red wine.
The entire New cave aged vintage cheese selection from Grafton Village Cheese -

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Day 793 : Smorgasburg

It's outdoor market season in New York City and Fromagical is excited! Last week we visited Dekalb Market and this week we visited Smorgasburg. Smorgasburg is in its second season in Williamsburg and is located at North 6th and the East River in a converted parking lot like space. Full of local food and drink purveyors some with storefront shops, some based out of trucks, and some food startups.

With vendors ranging from Butter + Love who make their own homemade lavender honey shortbread to Vegan Kale Chips to Bluemarble ice cream to Nordic Sushi to Milk Truck Grilled Cheeses to People's Pops, they truly have something for everyone. With a group of us there yesterday we were able to explore a wide variety of different vendors and here are the ones that we recommend:

Definitely do not miss the Raspberry Basil popsicle at People's Pops or the classic grilled cheese topped with sauteed mushrooms or the quinoa falafels crafted by "Saucy by Nature" or the massive doughnuts crafted by Dough with flavors like Hibiscus Porchetta's sliders. The nice thing is that there is plenty more try so there's something to look forward to the next time we go.

A great way to spend a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and once May rolls around they will also have alcohol vendors too.

Day 792 : Friday Happy Hour Chez Moi

Gosh it is already Sunday afternoon and I have had a great weekend enjoying the warm weather but there has not been much time in front of the computer so I reckon it's catchup time! Friday was one of those days where a glass of wine, specifically rose sounded so fabulous! So a good friend and I decided to have a springtime happy hour in at my apartment.

What were we drinking?

We started with a crisp Provencal rose with light red berry notes and hints of peach.

And foodwise?

A homemade burrata, cherry tomato, strawberry, basil and EVOO salad topped with a Southern French herb blend served with homemade whole wheat crostini.

Olives of course and some roasted almonds.

And for the sweet and savory melange marriage --Stilton and Red Jacket Orchards Apple Butter.

A perfect way to ring in the weekend!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day 791 : Grilled Cheese wrap up

Yesterday was National Grilled Cheese Day! My friend threw a fantastic grilled cheese party in honor of the momentous occasion and each sandwich was more delish than the last. It was such a fun way to celebrate! How did you celebrate!?

It's hard to not love a grilled cheese sandwich, right? Two pieces of bread with ooey gooey cheese sandwiched between -- it harkens back to simpler days, childhood memories and a sense of warmth and comfort.

So in our catch up mode here, I thought I'd share with you all a grilled cheese recipe in honor of National Grilled Cheese Day -- perhaps you can make it over the weekend or the next time you are in the mood for one.

What do you need for this grilled cheese?

Grandaisy Bakery's Sesamo loaf 
Consider Bardwell's Manchester - Vermont crafted artisanal raw goat's milk cheese crafted in rustic farmsteady Alpine manner. Firm and bright with light citrusy and grassy notes and a hazenut-y, hay, earthy finish.
Homemade Basil Fennel Pesto - basil, EVOO, diced fennel, pine nuts, Parmesan, sea salt, and black pepper
Sauteed Spinach medley  - saute spinach with EVOO, a drizzle of white wine, and some roasted slivered almonds and a little bit of crushed red pepper for a nice kick.
Vermont Butter & Cheese's Cultured Butter

Place a nice amount of your homemade basil fennel pesto on one side of the bread then top the other side with a nice amount of sliced Manchester and then your sauteed spinach. Coat the exterior of each piece of bread with your butter and place in an already warm skillet. Leave on each side for approx two minutes. Enjoy with a Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 790 : It's Ramp Season! Who is psyched?

Every spring those of us who enjoy frequenting the green markets on the East Coast, consider themselves foodies, love to cook, or are professional chefs get excited about ramps. What is all the fuss about?

Ramps are one of the first green vegetables that we see at our local green markets signifying that yes it is springtime and that the local fruit and vegetable bounty is about to blossom in full force. They have a very short growing season, so make sure to find them while you can!

So what exactly is a ramp?

They fall under the umbrella of the wild leek / wild onion / wild garlic family with large flat green leaves and a small white-ish / purple-ish bulb. Aromatic and slightly pungent with a nice vegetal sweetness, they're rough around the edges in just the right sort of way to awaken your senses.

Image courtesy of

So what shall we do with them?

I especially like them grilled so why not grill them with some nice asparagus on your stove top grill? Toss a handful of asparagus and ramps with some EVOO and sea salt on the stove top grill. Cook till there's a nice char on the ramps allowing for a smoky aromatic sweet flavor to develop and a nice vegetal brightness from the asparagus. Top with a poached egg and some shavings of Parmesan to add a nice creamy unctuous cheesy component to your springtime vegetable medley and turn it into a nice meal. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day 789 : Angel Food?

Nope not the light and airy cake that is deeply ingrained in American food culture dating back to Pennsylvania in the 1800s. This Angel Food is a bloomy rinded goat's milk cheese hailing from Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign, Illinois. A ladled curd cheese that is aged for approximately two weeks, this youngster is decadently creamy and luscious but light and fluffy with a nice chalky, citrusy, tangy bright bent. An extremely thin rind protects the interior paste until you delve in. Great with a mineral forward, crisp, bright young white wine.

Image courtesy of

The perfect springtime cheese on this kind of dreary day to fill you with sunshine and warmth!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Day 788 : Coach Farm's Goat Milk Ricotta

Most ricotta you tend to find on supermarket shelves or homemade behind cheese counters tends to be crafted with cow's milk giving you a rich, creamy, round mouthfeel -- decadent and indulgent but light and airy because of its youth. Today I had the pleasure of getting some of Coach Farm's goat's milk ricotta which was light as a feather, tangy and bright with a clean milky chalky-ness. Yes inherently the same cheesemaking process but this tasted like a totally different cheese and had a slightly more clumpy appearance than its cow milk cousin.

After an evening run I decided that I wanted to showcase my new ricotta so I made an openfaced tartine -- a simple quick nutritious meal. First off I combined some EVOO, chives, sugar snap peas, fennel, sea salt, and black pepper with the ricotta and toasted two pieces of ciabatta. Then I topped each side with my ricotta mixture and some smoked salmon and finally a few sprigs of arugula and then a dash of lemon juice for a bright citrusy tang. Bam - dinner was done in less than ten minutes and perfect after a long day.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Day 787 : Edi and the Wolf

Disclaimer - I rarely venture down to Alphabet City, granted it used to be my old stomping grounds but these days I just simply don't tend to get that far east unless there is a specific reason and Edi & the Wolf is definitely a reason to make the trek. An Austrian themed wine bar and restaurant with a warm and cozy vibe, it's a great place to have a drink and a nibble with friends. Lively and inviting yet not too loud and overwelming -- the perfect blend for a Saturday eve.

Being a big fan of Austrian wines, it's been on my radar since it opened. Last night a bunch of us stopped in for a glass of Zweigelt and a bite. Standing in the dark bar area, you definitely felt as though you were in a small European town at the popular local restaurant, not on Avenue C in Manhattan.

What did we have with the beverages?

How about their Alsatian flatbread? Very very thin crust topped with farmer's cheese, gruyere, parmesan, cippolinis and spinach was light, flavorful, and perfect with a glass of Zweigelt.

Next time I will have to try more of their food, but this was a good start! Definitely worth going in for a drink and some food.

Edi & The Wolf
102 Avenue C

Day 786 : Dekalb Market's Opening Weekend

Live music? Check! Drinks flowing? Check! Locally sourced eats? Check! One of a kind artisanal jewelry, crafts, clothing and more? Check! The absolute perfect spring weather for a day spent outside with a good friend? Check! Where did we manage to accomplish all of these you might be wondering right?

Well that's simple! At Dekalb Market located at 138 Willoughby Street in Brooklyn. It was Smorgasburg meets the Brooklyn Flea meets Water Taxi Beach with its own flair. Walking up to the constructed space the first thing that crossed my mind was the fact that this was the second time I had seen shipping containers utilized so intelligently, the first time being the "Ashes and Snow" exhibition in 2005 along the Hudson.

Here the shipping containers were utilized as individual storefronts with occupants ranging from Etsy curated spaces to vintage sunglass retailers to retro bathing suits designers and more. Apart from the retail opportunities there was an excellent selection of local restaurants / start-up food companies / neighborhood eats and more. We split an artichoke bruschetta with Parmesan, herbs, and goat's milk cheese along with a portobello panini with mozzarella and homemade pesto and beefsteak tomatoes. Simple straight forward food that was easy to eat with your hands -- important in an environment like the market.

Classic rock n' roll mixed with some funk was being played on the loud speakers with a dance floor should you feel the desire to get down and boogie. Not interested in dancing, food, shopping or booze? Fret not, today there was a mini petting zoo!

Maybe that wasn't your cup of tea? They had arts and crafts and other workshops and what looked like the beginnings of a community garden planted to the hilt with fruits and veggies.

There truly was something for everyone -- a great way to spend an Easter Sunday afternoon and an excellent addition to the NYC outdoor market scene. I look forward to returning many times this spring and summer! Go early before it gets too crowded however, no body likes to have to fight their way through a crowd on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

Dekalb Market
138 Willoughby Street (right off the B, Q, R Dekalb Stop)
Open 7 days a week 8am - 6pm

Happy Easter my Fromagical friends!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 785 : Kosher Cheese you say?

This morning at the office we got into a conversation about what makes a cheese kosher and how that is determined and so naturally I thought it would be an excellent Fromagical topic of conversation on this Good Friday and first eve of Passover heading into Easter weekend.

So what makes a cheese kosher?

As the question was posed to me this morning in the office, I truly did not know where to begin but obviously you begin at the beginning by doing some research. My research presented me with a series biblical terms, Jewish dietary restrictions and intricate ancient rules. But for our purposes here, I chose to explain this to you all in plain English without getting too involved in kashrut (the body of Jewish law that designates what foods can and cannot be eaten, when, and what foods have to separated due to a set of biblical dietary restrictions.)

So, a cheese is considered kosher if the milk utilized to make the cheese comes from a kosher animal and obviously is produced under rabbinical supervision. Ok seems somewhat simple right? It unfortunately isn't nearly as simple as it sounds, designating a cheese as kosher is actually one of the hardest products to determine. Why you might ask? Well that's because of the fact that cheese is made utilizing rennet -- the cheese's starter product which causes the formation of cheese curds. Rennet can be either animal or vegetable based, both have chymosin, the necessary enzyme for cheese production.  Vegetable rennet comes from a type of mold known as mucur miehei but there is no mold in the final vegetable rennet product. On the other hand animal rennet is an enzyme from the stomach of calves, lambs or goats prior to the animal consuming anything but milk. Here in lies the problem with kosher cheeses -- you need to ensure that not only the milk utilized to craft the cheese is from a kosher animal but also that the rennet is. Otherwise, you utilize vegetable rennet for kosher cheeses.

Interesting to think about the process that goes into crafting a specifically kosher cheese versus a non-kosher cheese and yes if you were curious, I do believe that they tend to have different flavor profiles, but that my friends is for another time.

On that note, Fromagical would like to wish you a Happy Passover, Good Friday, and Easter weekend. Stay tuned for Fromagical's Easter cheese recommendations tomorrow as well. But for the moment, I'd leave you all with a nice quote on honor of the Passover holiday : "Passover has a message for the conscience and the heart of all mankind. For what does it commemorate? It commemorates the deliverance of a people from degrading slavery, from most foul and cruel tyranny. And so, it is Israel's - nay, God's protest again unrighteousness, whether individual or national." - Morris Joseph

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day 784 : Jacob's Pickles

A completely weird name for a restaurant that's for sure! Until you learn that the owner is named Jacob and then everything makes sense. Walking into the space it is warm and inviting with a rustic rough around the edges sort of feel, reminiscent of a place you might find in Dumbo or Long Island City, but certainly not on the Upper West. Southern influenced, locally sourced, with an extensive beer and cocktail list, homemade pickles, biscuits, and preserves and of course a food menu, it is an excellent place for a group of friends to sit down and catch up or to grab a drink at the bar, you name it, this is a welcome addition to the Upper West.

They had a cocktail on the menu that was completely after my heart -- a Lavender Gin Fizz which was Farmer's Organic Gin, Housemade Lavender Syrup and house lavender bitters. Smooth yet aromatic, flavorful yet tangy, and definitely not too sweet or too sour. I was already in heaven.

We started with some of their hot sour pickles which were fresh and briny and all around fabulous and their homemade biscuits with "fixings." Fixings were housemade raspberry preserves, orange marmalade, honey and butter. These were comforting and just what you want in a biscuit -- not too heavy and not too light so the entire thing crumbles to pieces. We also had their house smoked salmon with creme fraiche, capers and scallions -- an excellent pairing partner for my aromatic herbaceous cocktail. Being a big smoked fish fan, I always think its an interesting gauge of a restaurant to see how their smoked salmon is, maybe not very adventurous but it allows you to judge the kitchen's skills based on other restaurants with their own house smoked salmon. We also had their mushroom mac n' cheese with shittakes, king oysters, and portabella mushrooms which was decadent, unctuous, creamy, and fantastic. The mushrooms added an excellent rustic earthy feel to the dish so that it wasn't just pasta and cheese and more pasta and more cheese.

Overall a really welcome addition to the Upper West Side whether its just for dinner or for dinner and drinks or simply drinks. I will definitely be back soon.

Jacob's Pickles
509 Amsterdam Avenue

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day 783 : A Springtime Salad

The days are longer, the flowers are blooming, ramps are in season, and its time for rose wine!

At this time of year I get very excited about everything green and fresh and just can't get enough of it! So I thought I would utilize some of my fresh greens to craft an herbaceous, flavorful and alive salad to go with that glass of Rose wine that just works perfectly at this time of year.

What's in this simple salad?

Sugar snap peas
Perisan Cucumber
Fennel branches
Asparagus tips
The Amazing Real Live's Stella Vallis Tomme
Butternut Squash seed oil
A dollop of mustard
Sea Salt

Dice up a quarter of a fennel bulb, some of the branches, one Persian cucumber and then a big handful of sugar snaps really small. Place these in the bowl with the arugula. Lightly saute a handful of diced asparagus tips with some EVOO, Maille Dijon Mustard, and sea salt for about five to six minutes so that the asparagus is still crunchy and flavorful. While your asparagus is cooking crumble a nice handful of Stella Vallis Tomme into the salad. Top with your asparagus and a small drizzle of EVOO and an even small drizzle of Butternut Squash seed oil. Mix together and you are ready to go with your rose and your salad.

Day 782 : Final Stop - The Amazing Real Live Food Company

Driving further into the Hudson Valley, we arrived at our final stop in Pine Plains, the Amazing Real Live Food Company which I covered on the blog on Day 770 but I had never been to visit their awesome operation so I thought why not.

A small operation that is really the passion project of Rory and his partner, it was so exciting to see a creamery that was still in the developing and expanding phases. They sell their cheeses primarily at Farmer's Markets in and around the Hudson Valley. For those of us in NYC, you can find them on FreshDirect and they are working at getting placement in other retail operations here.

They craft probiotic fresh farmer's cheeses and queso blancos along with a tomme style cheese, a chaource style (an ash ripened goat's milk cheese), and finally their signature camembert.

Each cheese has an honest raw quality to it -- the love and care and time that has gone into making the cheeses shines through. I loved how the probiotic farmer's cheese infused with basil and garlic is so light and airy yet creamy and flavorful! But the Moonlight Chaource is probably my favorite -- creamy and bright with a chalky milky finish, this is a perfect springtime cheese!

Day 781 : Next stop on our Hudson Valley - Sprout Creek Farm

Sprout Creek Farm located in Poughkeepsie came to life in an interesting and unusual but truly fabulous manner. Their story starts in the mid 1980s when three Connecticut high school teachers decided that they were dissatisfied with the manner in which their students saw their future --whether this was a strict function of the educational system or more of the socio-economical climate, they were not sure. But they knew how they wanted to change it and that was by creating an educational and working farm to educate the future generations of America. In 2011, Sprout Creek Farm became a 501 c 3 incorporated not for profit corporation. Today Sprout Creek hosts weekend classes for children and adults along with an overnight and day summer camp program. Not only do you learn how to care for and milk goats and cows you also learn about vegetables, plants. But ultimately it is their goal to : "To teach both children and adults to love our fragile earth, to understand our connectedness to it, and thus to develop a passion for protecting its integrity."

Sprout Creek Farm primarily produces goat and cow's milk cheeses and since this is kidding season, we had the pleasure of seeing lots of little baby goats and young calves.

With the milk from their animals, Sprout Creek produces an extensive selection of cheeses. Each unique and stunning in their own way, you can have a tasting of some of their cheeses at the farm's retail market. 

Under each dome was a selection of cheeses with somewhat of the same theme -- whether it was goat's milk, cow's milk, washed rind, their cheesemaker's choice or aged and smoked cheeses. 

So what were my favorites?

Madeleine - This is their only raw goat's milk cheese and is aged for anywhere between five and nine months that is firm and slightly crumbly. Light and citrusy with herbaceous notes and crisp slightly nutty finish. Great as a snacking cheese, grated over salads, and melted into sandwiches. Elegant yet approachable.

The Cheesemaker's Choice Washed Rind Eden - This washed rind semi soft raw cow's milk cheese was just everything that you want in an ooey-gooey stinker. Washed in local Brooklyn beer and aged for three to five months, it is rustic and briny yet round and flavorful with a nice kick. Great with a nice IPA.

Overall a great visit to such an inspiring farm that really is trying to have an impact on their community not just by the same artisanal production cheeses they craft but in terms of their educational opportunities. I'll leave you with what the person who showed me around said about the farm and what it is about: 

"Animals. Plants. People."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 780 : Stop 2 - Warwick Winery + Distillery and A surprise tasting with Edgwick Farms

Leaving Bellvale Farms, we headed to the other side of Warwick to go to Warwick Winery & Distillery. Here they craft five white wines, one blush wine and three red wines on top of hard ciders, a port, gin, and fruit infused brandies. In fact, in 2001, they received a grant to develop New York States first fruit infused brandies. The property boasts sixty acres of orchards and farmlands with over twenty different types of apples and pears.  

We walked inside to the rustic quaint tasting room to discover that we had lucked out -- we had shown up on a day when they were doing a Hudson Valley Fresh event with new Cornwall based creamery, Edgwick Farms. $10 for an extensive wine and cheese tasting? Don't mind if I do!

But before we get to the recap of the tasting, I think what was most exciting for me was the fact that we stumbled upon this new creamery -- Edgwick Farms! They have only been in operation for six weeks and are producing strictly goat's milk cheeses. If you haven't heard of them, definitely check them out! Currently you can find them on Facebook but they are working on developing their web presence over the next few weeks.

Back to the tasting :

Pairing Number #1 - Warwick Valley Winery Chardonnay and Sackett Ridge - A nice round Chardonnay, not overly oaky with the classic hints of vanilla, peach and other stone fruits, butter, and a light toasty roasty-ness. Paired with this was Edgwick's goat cheddar, Sackett Ridge. Bright, tangy and round this dense goat's milk cheddar cut right through the oaky notes of the wine. A great way to begin the tasting.

Pairing Number #2 - Warwick Valley Winery Riesling and Canterbury - A sweeter Riesling with Asian pear and light acidity notes, this wine went excellently with Edgwick Farm's soft spreadable goat's milk cheese, Canterbury. Fresh, chalky, and milky - the youth and tang of the cheese cut through the wine's sweet notes to provide you with an excellent pairing.

Pairing Number # 3 - Warwick Valley Winery Pinot Noir and Marinated Canterbury - A very light Pinot Noir with light earthy red berry notes and a warm finish. This Canterbury was marinated in herbs and garlic and further aged so that the soft creamy paste is infused with a fantastic aromatic herbaceous bent! The red berry notes of the wine find a nice pairing partner in the dialed up and dynamic cheese.

Pairing Number #4 - Warwick Valley Winery Black Dirt Red and Two types of Moodna - My favorite of the wines we tried, this was a smooth silky medium bodied red made from a French hybrid grape known as Baco Noir. This was paired with two types of Moodna -- an American style and a Greek style feta. I am sure your first thought is what is the difference? The American feta was less aged and less sharp overall and was aged in a different sort of brine. The Greek style was firm, briny and crumbly, fantastic for salads and omelets and just the right amount of sharp piquant notes. The wine was able to stand up to the big cheese notes and enhance them.

Pairing Number # 5 - Doc's Hard Apple Cider and Dill Trestle  - Bright, crisp, yeasty, and somewhat refreshing, this cider is made with ten different apples and blended with Champagne yeast. This was paired with their dill trestle cheese crafted with whole milk ricotta that is then molded into a wheel making it a slice-able cheese. Classic milky ricotta notes with hints of aromatic vegetal notes from the dill. An accessible yet fun pairing.

Pairing Number #6 - Doc's Hard Pear Cider and Basil and Garlic Trestle - 60 percent apples, 40 percent pears make up this stunning pear cider. Dry, crisp, and totally refreshing, this is easy drinking cidery bubbles. It was paired with a much more dialed up in flavor profile trestle infused with basil and garlic. An excellent springtime pairing!

Pairing Number #7 - Doc's Hard Raspberry Cider and Rosemary and Black Pepper Trestle - 80 percent apples, twenty percent raspberries make up this dry raspberry cider, not nearly as sweet as say a Framboise Lambic and light and flavorful. Paired with the last of the infused trestles, this was rosemary all the way my friends -- dynamic and herbaceous it went perfectly with the red berry notes in the cider.

Overall a fantastic selection of Hudson Valley wines, ciders, and cheeses and a treat to be able to encounter Edgwick Farms! Good luck to you guys and I look forward to seeing you and the folks at Warwick Winery and Distillery very soon.

We left feeling truly inspired by people who absolutely love what they do and pour their passion into every ounce of their product.

Stay tuned for the other two stops in the next day or so!

Day 779 : Hudson Valley Roadtrip Part I - Bellvale Creamery

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of getting out of town and up to the Hudson Valley. Now, playing catch up on this brisk Springtime afternoon with all of the events and visits in separate blog posts for each stop on my Saturday Hudson Valley tour, so let's get going!

My first stop was at Bellvale Farms in Warwick, New York, a little over an hour outside of the city. Since 1819, Bellvale has been in the dairy business and for the past decade their main focus has been on an artisanal ice cream shop. They do still maintain a large number of milking cows whose milk is utilized for their ice creams. This was my first visit to an artisanal ice creamery and boy was it fun! Run by a husband and wife team with one employee who makes their ice cream cakes and a rotating staff of seasonal high school kids, this is small town local production done right! With over fifty flavors in their rotation and a vanilla and chocolate self serve, each and every flavor is made with love and care and that shows -- fresh, creamy, milky and truly infused with the local Hudson Valley terroir.

Tim filling up containers of ice cream to go into the blast freezer. 

Old fashioned, high quality, locally sourced ice cream from the Hudson Valley -- you just cannot go wrong here. They are only open from April 1st through the end of October. Sunday nights are their busiest nights so prepare for a long wait if you happen to be in Warwick on a Sunday.

Bellvale Farms
1390 Route 17A
Warwick, NY 10990

Blog Archive