Culture Magazine just posted this photo from the Cheesemonger Invitational to their facebook page. Now that is a lot of cheese.
“When I started the Cheesemonger Invitational, no event in the U.S. honored or celebrated the cheesemonger’s contribution,” he said. “Nobody was giving the monger the mic!”
I bet nobody’s ever said that before, right?
Moving on: Early last week I attended another delightful class at The Cheese School, Old World vs. New World with Juliana Uruburu. I’ll write more about that later (there is so much to say!), but one of the highlights of the class was my introduction to an incredible ‘New World’ Parmesan, Sartori SarVecchio. As soon as I had a taste of this cheese, I knew that I wanted more! But…that’s not quite where this post is going. The following evening I was riding the 33 bus back home from my pilates class in the Inner Richmond and, not having had any dinner, I was growing quite hungry. I fondly recalled the taste of SarVecchio and remembered Juliana telling the class that many long-distance runners and cyclists carry a hunk of parmesan or other hard, protein-packed cheese in their pocket for an on-the-go energizing snack. Now, I’m no long-distance runner or cyclist, but anyone familiar with the 33 bus knows that it can be just as trying. Anyone familiar with the 33 bus also knows that it goes right past Bi-Rite Market on my way home, and these facts all resulted in me getting off the bus two stops early in search of some SarVecchio!
Well…Bi-Rite didn’t have any SarVecchio. So, I went home empty-handed. Pshaw! No way. Bi-Rite did have some impressive looking Parms, but I figured that since I had covered that territory in class the night before (again, more to come on that soon), I should strike out in search of something new. I had something my heart set on something hard and salty, and one of Bi-Rite’s friendly cheese specialists suggested Spanish Roncal. A name-controlled classic that I’d never tried? Sold! Of course, once I’d spent about 5 seconds in the cheese section I just knew I’d have to go home with a few treats, so I let this same lovely lady give me two more recommendations, and I went home with the Roncal, a Dutch Remeker, and an Italian Toma Della Rocca — around the world, and only two blocks from home!
Roncal – Raw Sheep’s Milk from Valle de Roncal, Navarra, Spain
This traditional Spanish cheese is produced in the Navarra province from the milk of Latxa and Aragonesa breeds of sheep. Roncal gets it’s name from the Roncal Valley in the Pyrenees mountains, which is home to seven villages that work cooperatively to make the cheese. Roncal is an uncooked, pressed, natural rind cheese, aged between 4 and 8 months. The aging process creates a cheeses with firm beige or brown rinds that are sometimes covered with spots of gray mold. The paste is light yellow and has small holes and the appearance of little cracks. When cut and allowed to stand for a bit, the cheese can start to look sweaty. This isn’t bad, though! It’s a sign of the butterfat weeping out, which indicates the richness of the cheese (George Harrison should have written about that)! How does it taste? Great! I had what I’m assuming was a younger Roncal. It had a decent amount of moisture (which I’m into) with a somewhat nutty but more citrus & olive-y flavor. As the cheese ages, it gets drier, darker, and that nutty flavor will get meatier. Maybe if I had let mine sit around for awhile I’d experience some of that, but polished it off pretty quickly for lunch the next day. Yum!
Remeker – Raw Cow’s Milk from Lunteren, Holland
It was decidedly easy to eat this delicious cheese, but I had a hell of a time trying to learn about it! I’ve got some stuff, but my resources were limited AND questionable, so take all of this information with a grain of salt. According to my research, Remeker cheese is made in Lunteren, Holland by the Van de Voort family, using raw Jersey cow’s milk. The cheese is sold at two ages — Young and Old. The more aged cheese is Old Remeker and the younger is just…Remeker. Or, at least, that’s what it said on the label of the one I purchased! The (Young) Remeker is aged for 6 months, while Old Remeker is aged for 16 months! I can’t speak to the taste of Old Remeker (which I’ve read is ‘deep and complex’), but the Remeker we had (Mike had his fair share) was a delight! Dense & moist for a firm cheese, it was rich and creamy with some nice hints of fruit and hay. With the Remeker, I was again confronted by a cheese that I would describe as ‘fudge-y’, which is just…lots of fun!
Toma della Rocca – Pasteurized Cow, Sheep, and Goat’s Milk from Piedmont, Italy
Oh, Toma della Rocca. Just one taste of this bad boy and I was ready to run away to Italy forever. He might look all nice and neat in this portrait, but once you get your hands on him it gets messy real fast. Even this picture doesn’t do him justice (I don’t know why I’ve turned this cheese into a man — very weird, me), but this experience is worth the mess! Toma della Rocca hails from the Alta Langa region of Italy (right on the border of Piedmont & Lombardy), where soft mixed-milk cheeses are the norm. The cheese is ripened for about 10 days, and tastes and acts more like a goat’s milk than a mixed-milk cheese (based on my experience, at least). It has a nice bit of salt & runniness under it’s thin Geotrichum rind (that’s the brainy kind), but the majority of the paste is thick, chalky, and slightly sour. Because of the goat’s milk, you get a lot of tang and lemony flavor, but the cow’s milk contributes a lot in terms of thickness and a hint of sour cream. The sheep’s milk? That just makes the flavor linger in your mouth, which was a-okay by me. I enjoyed this cheese for a few days in various ways, but my favorite was actually as a breakfast to-go. One day I went to the gym before work (which, wow, never happens) and by the time I was heading out the door I was both running late and very hungry. I sliced off a thick piece of sweet batard, grabbed some Toma della Rocca from the fridge, slapped it together, and walked out the door. And it was amazing! Because the cheese was so cold, it was very firm and the tang was really pronounced. Paired with the sweetness and density of the bread, it was just an amazing (and amazingly filling) treat. I felt like I was eating a very classy version of a bagel and cream cheese!
If you’ve ever wondered how cheeses get their names…Jasper Hill posted this photo on their Facebook wall, of a memorial near their farm which contains the inspiration for three of their amazing cheeses: Bayley Hazen Blue, Constant Bliss and Moses Sleeper.
This gives me some lovely chills and an even greater sense of admiration for everyone at Jasper Hill Farm & Cellars. Not only is the cheese quite delicious (I can’t believe I turned down a chance to try some Moses Sleeper the other day!), but you can sense a real respect for the environment (yes, the terroir) and the history of the area. Beautiful!
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to enjoy a whirlwind of a phone call with esteemed chef Frank Pace. Pace is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy who was formerly a line cook at Aqua and then chef de cuisine at Carnelian Room, both SF fine dining establishments that are now closed. These days, Frank lives in Burlington, Vermont, where he’s recently taken on the role of in-house butcher for Catamount Hospitality and where he runs his own catering business. On top of these noteworthy credentials, Frank also happens to be a relative of my dear friend Jay, which makes him all the more impressive (and, most importantly, all the more accessible). Once Jay and his mom heard about my new cheese course (I can’t believe I haven’t used that before now), they insisted I talk to Frank, and I was delighted that he agreed!
He may look calm in that picture (perhaps he loses himself in the meat?), but on the phone he was a big, enthusiastic, and inspiring ball of energy. His advice? Get to it. That quote up there — “Go milk a goat!” — that was his. And while I may not be able to get my hands on a hoofed creature as soon as I’d like, some of his other advice might be easier to follow.
Speaking of traveling: How about a trip back East? Frank may have started his career out here in San Francisco, but he’s now a serious Vermont enthusiast. While he mentioned a few connections he has here in California, he made it clear that his real hook-ups are with dairies in Vermont. Luckily, this assertion was followed by a welcome invitation to visit any time. Not only has Frank offered to show me around Vermont, but he said he’ll take me up in to Canada, too. Awesome! I’ve already corresponded with Jay (currently far away in Buenos Aires), and we’ll probably spend the next few months conspiring to actually make this happen.
So, that’s what I learned from Mr. Frank Pace. In all sincerity, I’m really grateful that he took the time to speak with me, and I’m really looking forward to keeping in touch and learning from him in the future. Thanks, Frank!
The current cheese star in my refrigerator is Seven Sisters, a golden raw Jersey cow’s milk from Pennsylvania’s Doe Run Dairy. It has the flavor endurance and complexity of a world-class alpine cheese, with the fudgy sweetness of an aged gouda.
Alpine meets aged gouda? That one’s going straight to the top of my must-try list. Yum!
Remember at the end of March, when I wrote a post apologizing for my lack of regular blog writing and promised to get back on the path of productivity? Well, here we are again, after some pretty serious silence. Sure, there’s been a post here and there (even I couldn’t let myself drop off entirely!), but I just haven’t had the time to put things up as regularly as I’d like. Oh well, hope springs eternal! Once again, I must do a bit of rapid fire debriefing. Let’s get to it!
Okay, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on what I’m doing, where I’ve been, and what I’ve eaten. Until then…stay cheesy.
Uh oh. Move over, Mike, because I have a new love: Hook’s Cheese Tilston Point Blue.
No, no. Luckily, my man is a blue lover too, so this is a friend that we can share. Okay, this is coming out creepier than I’d imagined. Let’s get to the cheese!
Hook’s Cheese – Tilston Point Blue (Pasteurized Cow’s Milk Blue from Mineral Point, WI)
Last night, I had the extreme pleasure of working a two hour “trial shift” at Mission Cheese, a delightful cheese shop/restaurant/bar that also happens to be my neighbor. Everything was great: The staff, the customers, and especially the cheese. As I “studied” the menu the night before, I kept getting stuck on the Midwest Cheese Flight, which featured (at that time, the cheese flights are always changing): Zingerman’s Detroit St. Brick, Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative’s Dante, and Hook’s Tilston Point Blue. I had never tried any of these 3 cheeses, and they all sounded amazing.
Well, now that I have tried these 3 cheeses, I can confirm that they all taste amazing, too. So why the extra love for Tilston Point? If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m not, traditionally, a blue fan. But you guys? I think I might not be able to say that anymore. That’s how much this cheese rocked my world.
Hook’s Cheese Company’s Tony Hook and wife Julie have been handcrafting cheese like cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack for more than 30 years. In 1997, they began perfecting a series of blue cheeses and in 2004 created Tilston Point, their sole washed-rind cow’s milk blue, which is super-aged for 10 months to a year. Tilston Point is made in the style of an English blue (the name is, in fact, an anagram of Stilton), but there are many ways in which this cheese differs from its namesake. This cheese is denser, and it’s washed with B. linens, surface bacteria created by whatever is used to wash the cheese (Hook’s keeps their recipe secret). Bacteria? Yum! That bacteria is also responsible for orange coloring on and around the rind, as well as Tilston’s somewhat stinky aroma (to me, the smell is mild, but I could see someone more sensitive feeling differently).
So how does it taste? I guess if I just said “incredible” that wouldn’t really be helpful. Tilston Point has the complex and luscious texture of French Roquefort, but tastes different. It’s rich & earthy, like Stilton, with some sweetness and minerality that lingers on your tongue. Spicy? Not at all, and that’s why I like it!
Added bonus: At approximately $12/lb., it’s very affordable! A little goes a long way…if you can find it.