Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 977 : Ayers Brook Goat Dairy

Location:  Randolph, Vermont.

Just at the intersection of Route 12, sits what used to be known as the Hodgdon Farm. For over forty years, Carol and Perry Hodgdon operated a dairy farm in the site now known as Ayers Brook Goat Dairy but to any local, this dairy farm will always be the Hodgdon Farm. In 2001, the Hodgdons' retired from the dairy business but kept their farm functioning on the production and consequent supply of hay and corn for surrounding local farms. Fast-forward to 2012, the Hodgdons' had decided to fully get out of the agriculture business.

So what happened to Hodgdon Farm?
It was sold to Evergreen Conservation Partners, L3C. Working with Evergreen Conservation, Vermont Butter and Cheese is working to develop a model goat dairy and "goat farm incubator," and is now known as Ayers Brook Goat Dairy.  What do I mean by that you might be wondering?

Over the course of the next decade, the goal is to help create a genetically superior herd of goats that will in turn be utilized as an educational outlet for onsite training in goat farming and agricultural practices. The aim is to have an enclave of education, inspiration, growth, and production surrounding goat's milk and goat's milk cheeses to stimulate the next generation of Vermont goat farmers.

I had originally heard of this project when it was just a topic of conversation, it was so exciting to visit Ayers Brook Goat Dairy this weekend. Having spent the good portion of the last six to eight months searching and sourcing the best goats nationwide, Ayers Brook Goat Dairy is now home to over two hundred goats that will hopefully all be impregnated and reproduce and consequently start milking by September. Construction of new buildings are in progress and this awesome idea about continuing the legacy of Vermont goat's milk farming is in the works.

It is so exciting to see how Vermont farmers and creameries are really finding new and innovative ways to expand their businesses and grow with increasing demand! Stay tuned for updates into the world of Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company tomorrow!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 976 : There's things a brewing up north...

Fromagical just returned from an awesome weekend up in Vermont, full of renewed energy and with tons to report on but before we get to all the individual reports as I'm pretty tired, I wanted to just mention how exciting the trip was! Why you may ask? No it wasn't carrying my dog in a backpack while snowshoeing but it was hearing all about the new developments of my favorite creameries, expanding and coming up with new ways to capture the market, to reinforce the importance of eating locally and patronizing your local farmers! There were new cheese developments to try, new creamery expansions to see, and much much more! For someone who is such a proponent of local farms and how important it is for one's community to support the agriculture around them, it is so inspiring to see my farmer and creamery friends realize their dreams and ideas they have been discussing for weeks and months and years!

Before we get into the nitty gritty experiences tomorrow, lets start with something light and fluffy today, guess what I tried for the first time ever?

Vermont spirits vodka crafted with whey -- an ingenious concept using the leftovers from the cheesemaking process to make a spirit, inspired by the Tuvan drink Araka crafted with fermented mare's milk. Whey, the byproduct of cheesemaking, tends to be fed to pigs or even utilized to craft a wood varnish but being an ingredient in vodka is a new one, that's for sure!

And for someone who does not like vodka, this triple distilled vodka crafted with whey was smooth and milky, flavorful and something that I could even imagine enjoying drinking.

Stay tuned for all of the exciting Fromagical cheese adventures in snowy Vermont over the course of the rest of the week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 975 : My new cheese crush

Where was my newest cheese crush discovered you might be wondering?

It was discovered at the counter at BKLYN Larder, a cheese and provisions shop on Flatbush Ave between Park Slope and Prospect Heights, just off the 2/3 Bergen Street shop and close to Barclay's Center. Selling prepared foods, cheeses and cured meats, local provisions, beer and more, BKLYN Larder is a stand alone shop of its kind in its neighborhood. Their cheese selection is a nice mixture of local American greats with some hard to find European stallions. If I lived closer to this shop, I would definitely be in there more often because there is a new treasure nestled in every nook here!

This past Sunday I decided it was a necessity to try something I hadn't had, something new and different, preferably an Alpine style cheese with a nice firmness and round nutty depth to it. There's something about running a ten mile race in the freezing windy cold that takes my mind to the warming qualities of that sort of cheese.

So what did I discover?

How about WildSpitz Bio?

Hailing from the foothills of the Swiss Alps, this 95% organic raw cow's milk and 5% organic raw goat's milk cheese was just the ticket! The milk utilized to craft WildSpitz Bio hails from grass fed animals and you can taste that rustic, earthy, grassy, fabulous tang of truly mountain fed animals!
The cheese itself is firm and biting with a nice round richness and a sweet grassy herbaceous bright tang. This cheese has a fabulously unique dynamic depth to it but with a nice lightness. It wasn't going to weigh you down but surely would brighten your day!

What to have with it?

Either a nice fruity and jammy red or a crisp Alsatian Pinot Gris.

Thrilled to discover this cheese and to pay a visit to one of my favorite Brooklyn cheese gems, I couldn't have asked for more!

BKLYN Larder
228 Flatbush Ave

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day 974 : What to get right now at Lucy's Whey

Known for its extensive selection of American artisanal cheeses, Lucy's Whey is tucked away in a quiet little corner of Chelsea Market. Originally founded out in East Hampton, a branch was opened in Chelsea Market approximately three years ago boasting a lovely curated selection of American cheeses, cured meats, crackers, preserves, caramels, and more.

This evening I stopped in to explore their offerings and discovered a cheese hailing from Washington State that I had not had which I found perfect for this wintery evening.

Named after the Greek god of rain, Pluvius, as it rains more than 70 inches a year in Doty, Washington where Willapa Hills Creamery is based, this cow's milk cheese is crafted like a blue cheese but without the classic blue mold. Rustic and earthy with a biting milky creaminess and a bright slightly piquant tang, this cheese has a totally unique dynamic depth to it. In its younger days, your mind might go to the semi-firm consistency of a Caerphilly with that round buttery sweetness but as it gets older, it develops its completely individual persona -- mushroomy and musty but creamy and decadent, one really starts to notice the creamline with age.

What a different cheese and one definitely not to missed!

Found at Lucy's Whey for $24 a pound.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 973 : Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to one and all!

How to celebrate Valentine's Day cheesewise?

How about purchasing Murray's Cheese Mast Brothers Valentine's Day collaborative package?

Murray's Cheese has partnered with the Brooklyn chocolatier, Mast Brothers, to craft this creamy decadent layered special cheese gift. Starting with the cow's milk triple cream crafted by Champlain Valley Creamery, Murray's Cheese infuses three layers of bitter sweet chocolate crafted by the Mast Brothers. Creamy, milky, unctuous mouth coating cheesy paste is paired with that craveable "je ne sais quoi" of the chocolate. The perfect morsel of Valentine's Day decadence is delivered to you with a black cherry confiture and Mast Brothers' Black Truffle Chocolates.

Image courtesy of www.murrayscheese.com

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 972 : Cheese at Swine

Swine, inspired by the name given to pigs, hogs, and boars, otherwise known as the family Suidae, is a neighborhoody restaurant and bar located on Hudson between Charles and West 10th streets. Lowkey and laidback, Swine's bar area has somewhat of a tuned down rock n' roll vibe, populated with posters from bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and an old school arcade game -- it walks the perfect line between chill and comfortable yet with a refined polished air. 

Sure there's a definite focus on charcuterie and pig related dishes hence the name of the joint but apart from your swine offerings. there's a large selection of small production wines, beers, and spirits and a wide offering of local small purveyors' delectables. Cheeses, pickles, small plates, toasts, snacks, and much more. It was nice to see that they made a wide variety of their offerings in house -- from their Ricotta to their Gravlax to Merguez sausage and much more. 

Their cheese selection is curated by Murray's Cheese and tends to change seasonally. At any given time they tend to have five distinct cheeses each served with their own accompaniment or preserve including their house made Ricotta which was a must try! 

So what did we have apart from the Ricotta? 

Twin Maple Farm's Hudson Red which was served with brandied cherries. Hailing from upstate New York, Ghent to be exact, this is a washed rind raw cow's milk cheese that has been aged for anywhere between two and four months. A semi-soft consistency and a yellowy interior with a classic washed rind orange exterior hue, this is an excellent washed rind cheese for those who love that classic stink and those who maybe aren't completely sold on it. It is buttery and round with an earthy, rustic, funky, meaty richness to it. Served at just the right temperature, this was perfect with a glass of Zweigelt. 

We also had Ram Hill Farm's Dante hailing from Wisconsin which was served with Anarchy in a Jar's Strawberry Balsamic Jam. Crafted utilizing milk from the Wisconsin Dairy Cooperative, this firm pasteurized sheep's milk cheese is rustic and nutty with hints of grassy, hay notes. Crumbly and with slight nuances of that classic aged crumbly cheese caramelization, Dante, is a wonderful snacking cheese. 

And what of the homemade ricotta?

Bright, crisp, milky, fresh, chalky, and everything a ricotta should be, dense in a lovely manner, this was ricotta done right.

Whoops sorry about the fabulous reddish tint here, the resto didn't have the best lighting unfortunately...

Overall a nice cheese selection at a new fun place that I'd definitely return to for drinks and nibbles.

531 Hudson Street

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 971 : Rana

Opened under the radar in the fall of 2012, located in Chelsea Market behind a corner near the 9th avenue entrance sits Rana. Giovanni Rana's first American restaurant outpost of his renowned fresh pasta outfit hailing from near Verona in Northern Italy. With a 50 year history, this company specializes in filled pastas and at Rana, one has the opportunity to dine in and enjoy their homemade pastas in the space or to take away some of their fresh pastas to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. 

Should you choose to dine in, one walks into a rustic and warm open room full of long wooden tables and chairs with "chandeliers" of old school copper pots and pans that those of us who love cooking would find totally crave-able.

Sure the menu was focused on pastas but there was also a selection of small shareable plates, salads, mains and contorni. So what did we have?

We started with their salad of spinach, raddichio, topinambur, Vacche Rosse Parmigiano, and walnuts. A simple ode to fresh, crisp greens with the refined rustic nuttiness of the cheese and the lovely crunch of the walnuts. We also started with their pane Carasau topped with burrata, ricotta, black olives, hazelnuts, thinly shredded slices of beets, and spinach. A very thin flatbread pizza teeming with this vegetable and cheese melange on top. The mixture of the decadent roundness of the burrata and the bright vegetal crispness of the beets and the spinach plus the crunch of the hazelnuts and the Mediterranean brine moment of the black olives was delightful. One could have been satisfied with just these shareable plates as they were larger than expected. 

And what of the rest of the meal, I split their cod with rice beans, fingerling potatoes and rosemary along with their side of swiss chard topped with Asiago cheese and their winter vegetable caponata. The fish itself was prepared excellently -- melting in your mouth with a nice rustic yet light finish. The winter vegetable caponata was flavorful and warming with an earthy cozy bent -- this felt like homecooking that's for sure. And really how can you go wrong with swiss chard sauteed with olive oil and topped with cheese? It's hard to! Of those I dined with who explored their pastas, each enjoyed the rustic homemade melt in your mouth quality of each morsel.

Overall a lovely meal was had by all. For those looking for fresh pastas to make at home, this is a great stop and for those looking for a non-pretentious simple yet delish resto in Chelsea / Meatpacking, Rana is a good choice.

75 Ninth Avenue

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 970 : Wine Wednesdays Pairing

What to do on a Wednesday evening? How about wine and cheese at home with a close friend?
Sounds like the perfect midweek evening right? We thought so!

So what did we have?

How's about a morsel of Pave du Nord with a glass of Malbec?

Pave du Nord is a raw cow's milk cheese hailing from France and is named after the classic French cobblestones the cheese's shape resembles. Bright orange on the interior, due to the annatto coloring, and ashen grey on the exterior -- the interior coloring immediately sends your mind to thoughts of Mimolette and other brightly hued cheeses but no, Pave du Nord is different. Firm, flaky, and dense with a creamy, salty, rich, nuttiness to it, this is a rustic, savory, and approachable yet dynamic and distinct cheese.

Image courtesy of www.unfromage.com

With a sip of the Mapema Malbec, this is the perfect pairing!

Dark red notes abound here, think cherries and plums or even marinated slightly sweet cooked fruit nuances. Warming and soft, this is both rustic and approachable yet dynamic and developed! Similar characteristics to our cheese which allows for the perfect Wine Wednesdays pairing!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 969 : Epicerie Boulud Cheeses!

I can't believe it's taken me so long to make it to checking out the Saxelby curated cheese counter at Epicerie Boulud considering as it is less than a 5 minute walk from my apartment. Tsk, tsk, tsk!

But yesterday afternoon I stopped in to grab some cheeses for a family dinner. The selection as I knew was a mixture of small production local American cheese wonders and certain select French greats.

Looking for Pave du Nord? Or perhaps a Herve Mons aged ash ripened goat's milk cheese? Then definitely grab Ovalie Cendree. This long oval shaped cheese is just the cats' meow -- classic flavors of chalky, bright, milky, grassy citrus abound but with a warm earthy rusticness and hints of mushroomy ash. Sure your mind goes to cheeses like Valencay but don't let it stop there, Ovalie Cendree has the most unique depth to it. Looking for a straight forward morsel of 2 year aged Comte or an ooey gooey bite of Brilliat Savarin, you can find it here!
And what of our American selections? There's one of my favorite winter-time cheeses crafted by Spring Brook Farm, Reading Raclette. Rustic and earthy yet buttery and rich, perfection with a nice warming ale or medium bodied red. Staying in the firm cheese arena, there was Grafton Village's Shepsog, a cow and sheep's milk firm Vermonter of a cheese or Cumberland from Tennessee, a newish discovery for me. Maybe you are more in a washed rind mood, well then definitely pick up a morsel of Hudson Red, my favorite Hudson Valley washed rind fellow.

Albeit small, the selections are excellently curated and affordable - you cannot go wrong with any choice you make here. However, I will caution, you should know what you are looking for when you approach the cheese counter as surprisingly so, the knowledge of the cheesemongers was not very apparent nor was their usage of the right cheese knives or wrapping procedures. It is a shame as the selection is awesome but that won't stop me as I know what I want. I look forward to returning to explore other cheeses and their ever changing selection.

Epicerie Boulud
1900 Broadway

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 968 : The Marrow

Location : The old Paris Commune space on Bank Street.

What : Harold Dieterle's new joint that plays homage to his roots -- a blend of his father's Germanic background and his mother's Italian heritage.

Walking into the space this past Saturday, the restaurant was crowded, full of groups of friends enjoying lively conversation and couples on dates. Although definitely still the skeleton of the old Paris Commune space, the front room had been transformed by a move of the bar, warm and rustic wood paneling and patterned wallpaper.

The menu surely had a meat centric focus with plenty of people raving about the restaurant's namesake dish, the Bone Marrow, but there were plenty of other items for those of us non-carnivores to choose from. For those carnivores out there, this is a restaurant with your name written all over it! Rabbit leg or foie gras or pork or baby chicken or well a plethora of other meat options are on offer. So what did we have?

We started with their Baby red oak and lady apple salad topped with Cambozola blue cheese and spiced pumpkin seed vinaigrette. A simple and rustic yet crisp and bright salad perfect for a cold winter's night with a glass of Blaufränkisch. Next up was their cured Arctic Char served with roasted baby beets, horseradish cream, pistachios, and baby arugula. The beets were roasted to perfection here and I'm not even the world's biggest fan of beets but these were sweet and earthy and bright.

Next up we split their whole roasted hen of the woods mushroom with cardoon creamed kale, frisee salad, and truffled mushroom jus. Earthy, rustic and warming, this was a bold dish as a main and it turned out well. We also split their side of grilled baby romaine topped with pecorino and warm lemon-anchovy vinaigrette. This felt like their riff on a Caesar salad but warm and without a unifying flavor element.

The Marrow is probably best for the meat eaters of us but I was pleased to have tried Dieterle's new joint. It was refreshing to see the unique European cheese selections on their cheese menu which brought a smile to my face.

Go for a drink, for the scene, or for a meat centric dish. I applaud Dieterle for being able to so seamlessly move from contemporary American to Thai to German-Italian restaurants.

The Marrow
99 Bank Street

Friday, February 1, 2013

Day 967 : Fast, Easy Scambles

It's been a whirlwind of a week my friends, walking to the subway this morning, suddenly it occurred to me that it was Friday already, wow.

A change of my day to day activities has brought with it new and exciting opportunities, challenges, and energy but in getting used to everything this week I have fallen slightly behind in my Fromagical musings but fret not, it's catch up time!

And to ring in catch up time, what better way to start than with the simple recipe for my warming, rustic egg white scramble that has been my daily breakfast all week.

So what goes into this scramble you might be wondering?

Egg whites of course (if you are less of an egg white fan than I, feel free to utilize the yokes as well.
Sundried Tomatoes
Citrus Cauliflower - it's in season now and absolutely fabulous. In case you're not sure what makes it citrus cauliflower, it is the cauliflower with the  yellowish-orange hue not with a citrus flavor.
1/4 onion
Fresh Thyme
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Sel de la Guerande
Aged Parmesan / Toma Piedmontese

Your first step is to sauté the onions in a sauté pan till golden brown. Then throw in your sundried tomatoes and broken down citrus cauliflower florets. Add in your herbs and cook over low heat until the cauliflower is golden brown or approximately twelve to fifteen minutes. Next in a bowl whip together your egg whites to give them a nice fluffiness. Pour them into the pan and cook over low heat till they become opaque and then add in your grated cheese. Combine all together and leave this on the stove for an additional few minutes. Once finished, this is the perfect warming rustic and healthy dish to start your morning off right.

Happy Friday.

Blog Archive