Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 1026 : 24 hours in Venice - Part One

Welcome to the city of canals, magic, romance, and wonder. I haven't been here for the better part of two decades, but little has changed. Winding streets, mazes of canals, cobblestones dating back centuries and a biannual bienniale of art, hence my trip.

Arriving at sunset on a Saturday evening, I checked into my hotel and set out for a late dinner on the water, I needed to maximize my time soaking up the city in this quick trip. 

What should have been a quick Vaparetto trip turned into a forty-five minute Vaparetto wait followed by a slow moving boat leaving me with the concern that I would show up after the restaurant closed. But thankfully I arrived at 10:27, with the awareness that the kitchen closed at 10:30, hopefully they would seat me otherwise where I was going to go, I wasn't sure. Seat me they did and what a wonderful meal I had.

Seated facing out on the water with the magical lights in the distance, I started with a glass of Prosecco and a burrata appetizer, quite different from the one I enjoyed just a few days ago in Paris. This was served on two roasted artichoke hearts topped with black truffle shavings and a roasted tomato compote. Helllooooooo Italian Burrata! Wow! Knocks your socks off in a way that no other burrata can, the magical surroundings might have had something to do with it but boy this just melted in your mouth.

I then had a wonderful grilled octopus dish served with a bright fennel herb purée and crisp purple potato garniture. Delectable and rustic yet sumptuous and flavorful - a true Venetian treat! Paired with a local red, it was perfect.

A great start to my Venetian whirlwind at Linea d'Ombra. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 1026 : Root, root, root for the Hometeam - Campbell Cheese & Grocery - Elena Santogade

A new cheese establishment competitor that Fromagical has yet to visit but it is a definite must for the Summer of 2013.

So without further ado, Elena Santogade- 

How did you get into the world of cheese? 

I got into the cheese world through a circuitous route! At heart I am a passionate consumer of cheese, and I suppose that's how I started getting into the business. I had a number of different jobs (all sales-related), and through traveling and frequenting cheese shops here in NYC and around the world I got more and more into the practice of studying and tasting cheese. Eventually I started making cheese in my apartment, and then finally tried out working at the counter. I loved it, I was hooked.

Tell us about your establishment.

I am the Manager/Buyer at Campbell Cheese & Grocery. We are a brand new family-owned business in Williamsburg. We have nearly 100 cheeses and all kinds of provisions - from produce to bulk grains to dried pastas, and a killer chocolate selection!

What round of CMI are you going to rock?

 If I make it to the sign round, I'm going to nail it!

What's your favorite cheese pairing partner?

Favorite cheese pairing partner for me is beer!

What is your cheese of Summer 2013?

Favorite cheese for Summer 2013: 3-Corner Field's Feta (80% sheep milk, 20% cow)

What random fact do you want to share with everything to win them over?

One random fact to win everyone over: after all these years, I still get choked up over the first American cheese that rocked my world - Pleasant Ridge Reserve!

Any lover of Pleasant Ridge is pretty awesome in my book so lets hear it for Elena!

Campbell Cheese and Grocery
502 Lorimer Street

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 1025: Root, root, root for the Hometeam - Kristofer Garrand - Bedford Cheese Shop

Bedford Cheese Shop - Williamsburg's home for cheese -- excellently curated selections from near and far, cured meats, crackers and other yummies. Hailing from this wonderful establishment is Kristofer Garrand, first time CMI competitor but with a long history in cheese.

So without further ado, here is Fromagical's interview with Kristofer:

1. How did you get into the world of cheese?

I've been involved in agriculture since I was young, growing up on a small farm and participating in 4H through most of my youth. I went to college for food science, and concentrated on microbial fermentation and dairy science. The chemistry of milk and cheese fascinates me, so I took my first job out of college on a farm, raising Jersey cows, goats, and sheep. I learned the basics of cheesemaking and affinage there, as well as the important role of hard physical labor in cheesemaking--it opened my eyes to just how detailed the world of cheese gets. I eventually left to move to New York (another lifelong dream) and took a job as a cheesemonger to learn about the variety of cheeses available in the world and how they're distributed from farm to consumer.

2. Tell us a little bit about your establishment.

I currently work for Bedford Cheese Shop on Irving Place in Manhattan. It's an incredible opportunity to work with the wide variety of cheeses we have as well as the aging facilities our new location has. Most valuable of all is my employer, Charlotte Kamin, whose knowledge of cheese is seemingly boundless and whose ethics regarding quality and salesmanship are enlightening and respectable. It's hard work and there's a lot of detail to keep in mind, but working for Bedford is deeply rewarding.

3. Which round of the Cheesemonger Invitational do you think you are going to ace?

I'm definitely going to ace the cutting and wrapping sections--I've been practicing for three years! My cheese sign is pretty awesome as well, not bad for my first foray into graphic design!

4. What's your favorite cheese pairing partner?

Beer, absolutely. It's an amazing beverage as diverse and nuanced as wine that pairs amazingly with cheese. Searching for just the right pairing is my favorite part of connoisseurshuip. There's so much flavor in both cheese and beer--bringing them together can unleash a world of taste delights you never thought possible! Give it a try; get a nice, hearty blue cheese and try it with a chocolate stout. Your mind will be blown.

5. What's your favorite cheese for Summer 2013?

 I'm addicted to a few different gems right now. Terschelling Sheep Gouda from the Netherlands is one of my favorites; it has a complex, caramelly flavor with plenty of notes of tropical fruit and roasted nuts. It's like pineapple upside-down cake: the cheese. Poul Price from Consider Bardwell farm up in Vermont recently sent us a batch of his cow's milk Dorset that he washed in homemade dandelion wine. It gives an already amazing cheese so many light floral and honey notes--I can't stop eating it!

6. Tell us one random fact that will win over the crowds.

Did you know that archaeologists have found depictions of what seems to be ancient Egyptians making cheese have been found in tombs dating back to 2000 BCE? It seems like everyone's favorite food has been around a lot longer than we thought...

Lets hear it for Kristofer and Bedford Cheese Shop!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 1024 : Cafe Charlot

Looking for that neighborhoody joint in the Marais with reliable food, fun people watching, an excellent wine list and delectable simple eats? Why not try Cafe Charlot?

For those of you New Yorkers, think Schillers meets Balthazar but truly French - white tiled walls, old wooden bar, funky seating options, French jazz in the background, what could be better?

How about a glass of Rosé from Provence with a burrata salad? A beautiful fresh burrata sat atop a melange of plum and cherry tomatoes with fresh basil, balsamic vinaigrette and extra virgin olive oil. The perfect answer after a long day of meetings in Paris.

Cafe Charlot
38 Rue de Bretagne
Paris 75003

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 1023 : La Coop

La Coop otherwise known as the Cooperative Laitiere du Beaufortain located right off of the Jardins du Luxeumbourg in Paris is new to the cheese scene, open for just four months. Indicated by its name, this fantastic little shop specializes in Beaufort, the king of French Alpine cheeses and other products of the Savoie region. 

Beckoning from the street are two large wheels of Beaufort -- one crafted with summer milk and one with winter milk. The summer milk cheese is much sweeter, younger and more delicate. Honest, raw and pure -- this my friends is out of this world cheese. Its older cousin is denser, more caramelly and full of crystallization. Maybe more of a wintertime choice, I envision glasses of red wine and a wood burning fire with this cheese.

What else besides Beaufort?

How about an extensive selection of goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheeses from the region. 

Not in a cheese mood, you can find beers, wines, cured meats, preserves and more available in this bright little shop with such an excellent regional focus.

What a fantastic discovery and perfect for provisioning before a picnic in the Jardins du Luxembourg!

La Coop
9, rue Corneille
75906 Paris

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 1022 : What to buy right now at Epicerie Boulud

Looking for some perfect picnic cheeses? Why not stop into Epicerie Boulud to grab an excellently curated selection. Epicerie Boulud's cheese selection features unique offerings mixing both French and American greats chosen by Anne Saxelby and highlighting the great Herve Mons cheeses.

So what to get right now?

How about Vermont's Lazy Lady Farm's Sweet Emotion? A small bloomy rinded goat's milk disc full of unctuous, decadent, and creamy notes. Cut into this cheese and watch it ooze! Perfection with a glass of bubbles on a warm summer day.

Next up how about Meule de Savoie? Hailing from the Savoie region of France, this is a somewhat new Herve Mons cheese - think like Beaufort's cousin. Raw cow's milk aged for approximately ten months giving way to a fabulous firm Alpine style cheese that opens up as it warms up. Nutty, caramelly and buttery with hints of warm round sweetness and a rustic, grassy hay finish. A versatile pairing partner that's for sure! 

So grab your cheeses, bread, fruit, nuts and your favorite summertime beverages and enjoy a picnic in the park!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 1021 : Root, Root, Root for the Hometeam Part Two - Gizella Otterson and Bklyn Larder

Up next, our second contestant -- Gizella Otterson of Bklyn Larder, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year's CMI. Bklyn Larder is one of those shops that you want to travel to -- living on the Upper West Side, it is definitely worth the trip to Flatbush Avenue to provision or well snag some tickets to an upcoming concert at Barclay's Center and stop there for a nibble before or after. A well curated selection of hard to find cheese delights; decadent cheese pairing selections from breads to crackers, pickles, jams, spreads and more; along with a wonderful assortment of prepared foods and a little counter in front at which to enjoy your nibbles. 

So without further ado, here's Fromagical's chat with Gizella:

1.    How did you get into the cheese world?
I got into cheese through an ex-, actually.  she worked in food and always wanted me to taste new things. I liked cheese as much as the next person, but i remember having this cheese plate at 'inoteca on the lower east side. I was absolutely floored at the variance of flavors in a single piece of cheese. a single piece! I wasn't tied to my desk job & she got me an interview at a shop. turns out that i was good at it. I never looked back.

2.     Tell us a little bit about your place of work/ establishment.
Bklyn Larder is a high end food shop in Prospect Heights/Park Slope, Brooklyn. We sell unique grocery items, make sandwiches to order, and have a service cheese counter.  We also have two kitchens full of professional cooks & chefs that handle pastry, savory, and also catering. We're the offshoot store of franny's, a top-notch Italian inspired restaurant in Park Slope.  Highlights of my store include: gelato & sorbetto, beer, cheese, charcuterie, sandwiches, prepared foods, hard-to-find sundries. 

3.     Which round of the Cheesemonger Invitational do you think you are going to ace?
Plate the slate

4.     What’s your favorite cheese pairing partner?

5.     What is your favorite cheese for Summer 2013?
Mozzarella. I can't stop making tomato/mozz toast snacks during the summer. 

6.     Tell us one random fact that will win over the crowds.
I play bass in a rock band called All Forces.  We're almost done with mixing our album & i can't wait. 

Good luck Gizella!

If you want to stop into Bklyn Larder to grab some yummy cheeses or chat with Gizella, they are located at 228 Flatbush Avenue. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 1020 : Blue Heaven

In honor of the 80th anniversary of Rogue Creamery, the owners have introduced Blue Heaven. A melange of Oregon Blue, Oregonzola, Crater Lake Blue and their special reserve blue cheeses, this blue cheese powder packs the classic spicy piquant punch of a morsel of blue cheese but in powder form!

So how is Blue Heaven made?

The melange of blues mentioned earlier are freeze dried and then blended with nonfat organic milk powder to craft this unique cheese product.

What to use it with?

Sprinkled on top of soups and salads. Mixed into sauces or on top of popcorn, you name it, it will add a nice punch.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 1019 : Root, Root, Root for the Hometeam Part One -- Amy Thompson

It's that time of year again -- time for interviews with the awesome cheesemongers competing in this year's Cheesemonger Invitational on June 29th. For more information on the Cheesemonger Invitational check out their website --

So let's get going with our first cheesemonger interview below -- Amy Thompson of the awesome Lucy's Whey location in Chelsea Market. Lucy's Whey is one of Fromagical's favorite cheese shops -- focusing on American artisanal cheeses, this little gem offers a wonderfully curated selection of local cheese beauties. Amy Thompson is the creative brains behind this wonderful selection and is definitely a force to be reckoned with on June 29th!

So Amy, how did you get into the cheese world?

After spending a college summer on a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, I was passionate about local food and sustainable agriculture.  I was searching for a job where I could talk about food and farming all day long. I landed a cheesemonger/manager job at Murray’s Cheese Grand Central, where I met great people (gotta love cheese people!) and learned all about the world of cheese. Nine years later I’m still in love with cheese.

Tell us a little bit about your place of work/ establishment.

Lucy’s Whey started six years ago in East Hampton, and a few years later Lucy was asked to open a second shop at Chelsea Market. She hired me to run the Chelsea Market location and we opened just before the holidays in 2009. We are now working on our third and largest location on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, opening late this summer! My job keeps getting better—we have a great staff and fantastic customers, and of course delicious, hand-crafted food of all sorts, with a focus on American artisan cheese.

Which round of the Cheesemonger Invitational do you think you are going to ace?

The perfect bite—but who knows? At any rate it’s the round I’m most excited about!

What’s your favorite cheese pairing partner?
Cheddar and pickles! A lovely farmhouse cheddar with a nice crunchy, briny cucumber. Really any pickled vegetable works wonders with cheese – onions, carrots, asparagus or kraut. I love their tangy zing with a rich, fatty hunk of earthy cheddar, especially Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.

What is your favorite cheese for Summer 2013?

Ledyard! It’s a little Robiola-style round, wrapped in grape leaves from Meadowood Farms near Syracuse, NY. I’m also a big fan of Mettowee, the chevre from Consider Bardwell Farm—a true taste of early summer! And I can't wait to taste this season's Arabella from Jacobs and Brichford in Indiana and Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy, two great stinkers that will be back to our counter next week! 

Tell us one random fact that will win over the crowds.

 The fact I keep in my repertoire for customers who request low fat cheese always brings a chuckle for its unexpected simplicity: a smaller piece of cheese has less fat that a larger one! You can get a great cheese at our shop—delicious and full of fat—and eat half as much, or you could simply buy half as much. I’m happy to sell you a smaller piece!

Thank you Amy! Good luck to you on June 29th!
If you haven't visited Amy in her shop in Chelsea Market, it is definitely worth the visit. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 1018 : Why Ash?

Utilizing ash in cheesemaking is a centuries old technique, originally utilized as a method of perserving younger cheeses for a longer shelf life. Nowadays, one sees the usage of ash in goat's milk cheeses for the most part. But why primarily cheeses crafted with goat's milk? 

Because cheeses crafted with goat's milk tend to be highly lactic in nature meaning that they are weaker in terms of body structure and are therefore more fragile and softer. The question then becomes how to preserve a cheese of this nature right? How about with a bloomy rind as one option? But because these cheeses are so highly lactic they are also highly acidic meaning it takes a longer time to develop the bloomy rind so the addition of ash or charcoal will help reduce the acidic bent of the cheese so that the white mold grows more efficiently.

So what do I mean when I say ash? 

Ash in this context means wood or any vegetable substance that is burned in an open area producing a highly alkaline material -- obviously utilized to counteract the goat's milk acidity. Charcoal obviously would be the same sort of substance just crafted in a situation with limited air supply.

What sort of flavor profile does the ash create?

A rustic, slightly smoky and farmsteady bent that is crisp and flavorful, but not overpowering. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 1017 : Last morsels of British cheese

Not in the mood for heading to Neal's Yard but want a nice early summer cheese from your local Waitrose?

Then grab a morsel of Mrs. Quicke's Goat milk cheddar from behind the cheese counter at Waitrose. Firm and crisp, with a bright milky citrusy bent, this is the perfect June snacking cheese. Pop open a bottle of Provençal rose because really summertime is rose season and enjoy a glass with this cheese. If you're looking for any additional pairing partners, perhaps some of the nice green olives with pesto found at the olive bar would be an excellent touch or even some roasted and salted almonds. 

Maybe you are looking for a more adventurous option, instead of your Goat's milk cheddar, well then why not try the firm aged Norwegian Shofrisk Goats. Crafted with milk from goats fed on fjord and mountain grass, this is honest, milky, crisp cheese with hints of citrus and a slightly floral finish.

So my friends go with the local hometown favorite or the Norwegian stallion, the choice is yours, but I guarantee you won't be disappointed. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 1016 : What you absolutely must have at Neal's Yard Dairy

Neal's Yard Dairy, located right off of the Seven Dials in the Covent Garden neighborhood of London, is the place to go for the most extensive selection of cheeses from the British Isles. Looking for the classic English cheddar aged to perfection or perhaps that stinky piquant and utterly fabulous Stilton, you can find it here!

But what about those hard to find cheeses of the British Isles that are not exported to the US? Look no further! 

What's good right now in that category of hard to find British cheese wonders?

Cardo -- not exported out of the UK but currently available at Neal's Yard Dairy's Covent Garden shop. A washed rind goat's milk cheese crafted by Mary Holbrook of Sleight Farm in Somerset. Crafted in the traditional manner, this washed rind stinker is primarily unique because it is made with goat's milk and not with sheep or cow's milk. Biting and fierce with a rustic barnyardy bent but with a clean citrusy finish, it is absolute perfection with a nice glass of dry Riesling. Make sure to take this cheese out of the fridge 45 minutes to an hour before serving.

What else?

Ticklemore, a firm pasteurized goat's milk cheese hailing from Devon. Originally crafted by Robin Congdon of Ticklemore Dairy, the cheese is now made by Debbie Mumford and Mark Sharman at Sharpman Creamery quite close to where Robin used to craft the same cheese. Why the change of hands? Debbie actually worked with Robin crafting Ticklemore for years and when Robin decided he wanted to focus solely on the production of his three blue cheeses, the natural choice for continuing the production of Ticklemore was Debbie. The rest is history.  

Although you can find this cheese in the US, it is especially fantastic right now. Enjoy it with a morsel of Spanish fig almond cake and a glass of crisp Provençal Rose, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

It is always such a treat stepping into Neal's Yard Dairy. I look forward to my next visit.

Neal's Yard Dairy
17 Shorts Gardens

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 1015 : Sunny Days

What a rush Saturday in Stockholm was -- full of endorphins and adrenaline. There's something about pushing yourself to your limits that allows you to learn more about yourself. How far can you go? Can you go just a little bit farther than you thought? 

Sure - why not? Try a little harder, push a little longer and the results are endless. 

So after a day of testing my limits, what was in store for my last and final day in Stockholm?

A meander through the hip designer neighborhood -- Stockholm meets Brooklyn -- full of indie designer boutiques, chic coffee shops and cafes, Nordic design shops and much much more. A perfect day for a picnic in a local park, complete with a nice aged Gruyere and some toasted walnuts -- a lovely end to the trip.

Stockholm was such a friendly and welcoming place on sunny days. A real treat to the senses -- civilized and refined yet relaxed and laid back. But what about all those cold and dreary months where there is just six hours of light a day? Gosh, I felt lucky to be enjoying the city in its prime!

Now off to London! 

A place I used to call home and the home to many dear friends.
On the agenda?

A little bit of art, a little bit of exploring, visiting with friends, of course some fabulous British cheeses, and just enjoying London in the sun!

Stay tuned for what's good at Neal's Yard and many other British favorites!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 1014 : Stockholm Marathon Recap and Celebration

Moving onto day two in Stockholm and the main event for my trip - the 35th annual Stockholm marathon, ran by over 21,000 people from 81 countries. The race was to start at Noon - late for a race start but it allowed one to have a morning to prep, have breakfast, and not feel rushed. Arriving at the starting line, the adrenaline pumping through my body about the run, I lined up in my corral and waited to start. It was refreshing to see so few Americans in the race, this truly was a European race. A few minutes before the start, "Sweet Caroline," came on in honor of this year's Boston marathon. A shiver went through my body. Standing there, I had an overwhelming rush of recognition of how lucky I was to be there and how running truly transcends cultural and societal boundaries. Being a runner, it does not matter where you are from, as you will always be a runner.

Bang! The start gun goes off and everyone is running! 2 loops of central Stockholm with kilometers added on here and there to make the appropriate 42.195 km distance of a marathon. Passing over bridges and across islands, through the expanses of local parks and long stretches of highway along the water, one truly got to take the city in. There were folks cheering us on even in the pouring rain, plenty of Abba cover bands and definitely some of the most unique refreshment stations -- pickles, coffee, warm pickle juice, and much more. By far the best part of the course was the finish and no that's not because you were done running, it's cause you got to run through the 1912 Olympic Stadium -- what a rush! It sure didn't matter that it was raining and freezing -- this was a once in a lifetime experience! 

Crossing the finish line, thoughts flooded into my head of the tragedy and disappointment runners in Boston just a few short months ago must have felt. Thinking to my Coco and how she watched over me the entire race, I never had any pain and never feeling the effects of the 26.2 miles on my legs -- here's to you Coco, for being my guardian angel in this and many other marathons to come. 

So how to celebrate?

How about with a meal at a restaurant with one of the most breathtaking views of Stockholm -- Gondolen. New Nordic cuisine by a locally renowned chef.

We had the pleasure of sitting in the kitchen area which felt much more like a country rustic restaurant than an urban metropolis joint. 

So what did we have?

I started with a steamed local white asparagus dish served with homemade avocado and spinach purée, topped with shavings of Parmesan, basil leaves and micro greens. Simple, flavorful, and highlighting the season's spectacular bounty. 

Next up, I had their house beet root cured char served soft scrambled eggs, asparagus, radish, English pea purée and a cauliflower purée. Simple yet decadent and delish, this clean dish truly was Nordic cuisine at its finest. Never in my life have I had such wonderful smoked fish, each morsel truly melted in your mouth.

And last but not leastwe had to have a bite of their cheese! Of course all of the selections were French, but hey what did you expect? 

So we had a small morsel of their aged Comte paired with truffle honey and a fig walnut compote. A great way to end this celebration of an evening and day!

Here's to a great meal and a great race!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 1013 : In and around Stockholm

It's been a while since I've been somewhere where I don't know the language and am not familiar with the city's particular rhythm, stimulating and eye-opening, grounding me within myself but expanding my knowledge base and intellectual curiosity. 

Getting off the plane in Stockholm Friday morning, I surely felt that way -- arriving in a city where I did not speak one word of the language and had only ever flown through the airport. What was Stockholm going to offer? Well definitely the experience of my first international marathon, but what else?

How about one of the world's top 10 food halls - Ostermalm Saluhall? Housed in an open and airy building, this food hall boasted the best looking cured salmons, lobsters, homebaked breads, cheeses, chocolates, teas, meats, fruits, vegetables and much much more. Curious as to know what cheeses are popular here? Mostly traditional French cheeses -- Loire valley goat's milk delights, decadent triple creams, stinky blues, and plenty of Alpine style cheeses. Although existing firmly in the 21st century, this food hall harkens back to a simpler time in the most fabulous of ways. 

After a delectable and simple lunch from one of the stands in the food hall, it was off to explore the waterfront and the Old Town. Set on a series of islands, much of Stockholm is on the water so one could walk for hours exploring different inlets, quiet expanses of islands, nooks for fishing and sailing and much much more. Traversing a footbridge, one arrives in the Old Town, a maze of cobblestone streets and petite alley ways, full of bars and restaurants. My mind wandered to simpler times when this was the center of life and commerce in Stockholm, gosh how it has changed!

For dinner, we dined at Rakultur, meaning 'raw culture,' in Swedish, a popular Japanese restaurant. Housed in a discreet 19th century building, this elegant yet not fussy sushi restaurant boasted some of the freshest and reasonably priced sushi around town. I had their straw cured char roll served with avocado, asparagus and pickled cucumber. Crisp, fresh and absolutely delish. Perfection with a nice glass of green tea. 

What a wonderful first day in Stockholm!

Stay tuned for a full recap of my first international marathon next up. 

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