Bon Bouche

A Good Mouthful…of Cheese

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Cheese & Wine…But Why?

Wouldn’t you like to travel the world, discovering and tasting the best wines that each region has to offer?  While some people can only dream of an adventure like that (for example, yours truly), others are able to make that dream a reality. You could do this on your own, of course, or with the help of expert and experienced guides. Like, say, for example, the ones at Wine World Tours. They are, as they say on their website, “dedicated to providing the extraordinary “life experience” one finds tasting, discovering and adventuring with wine,” which they do through “customized and personalized wine country adventures in the world’s most prestigious wine regions of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.” Amazing, right?

I’d cheers to that!

Don’t worry, this isn’t a sponsored post. I wish. I’m not quite that big-time…yet. Here’s a little bit of back-story: At a dinner party a few months ago, my father met a man named David Marchese, who happens to be the CEO of Wine World Tours. My dad mentioned my brand-new career and, upon discovering that Mr. Marchese is a cheese-lover himself, gave him a link to my blog as well as my contact information. Before too long I was having a lovely conversation with David Marchese. We talked about our shared passion for both curds and words and discussed the possibility of doing some work together. Like most savvy businessmen who know what’s up on the web (that’s some serious tech lingo), the people of Wine World Tours are looking to update and diversify their online content. In the minds of most, cheese & wine go together like peas & carrots, so this made perfect sense. Was I interested? Of course! I may not be very knowledgeable about wine, but I’m certainly a fan of the stuff (I’m enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio right now, in fact — can you tell?) and, more than that, I’d love to get more people to read what I’m writing. There was only one thing: I’d need to write more about wine. No need to change my focus or anything like that, but simply add a pairing suggestion or two for each cheese that I featured. No biggie, right?

Wrong. In truth, this condition gave me more pause than you’d expect, because it came just at a time when I was already dedicating a lot of thought to wine…and not necessarily in a favorable light. I enjoy wine just as much as the next guy (who enjoys wine), but…I’m not sure how I feel about having it with cheese. Over the past few months, I’ve dedicated a LOT of time to learning about cheese. Through my work at The Cheese School, my own research and writing, and now at Cowgirl Creamery. And I’ve discovered a theme. While almost every notable expert in the field dedicates a chunk of time, energy, or writing to the pairing of wine and cheese, they always do so with a disclaimer. And this disclaimer explains, in essence, that cheese and wine don’t really pair well together! They tend to get in each others way, overpower one another, or simply clash. I’m not kidding. Everyone I’ve read or talked to says that, as a rule, cheeses are more easily and harmoniously paired with beer, liquor, or other accompaniments…and then they go on to talk more about wine.

WHY? WHY?? WHYYYY???

That all-caps level of emotion is no joke and I can remember the exact moment in which I reached peak frustration. During a brief moment of downtime while working a class at The Cheese School, I grabbed a copy of Max McCalman’s beautifully authoritative Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best and began to flip through the pages. Sure enough, at the very beginning of the section titled ‘Cheese & Wine’, I found the all-too-familiar refrain: cheese and wine are, in fact, not a marriage made in heaven. Right now, I’m looking at my notebook, and under the date of that class (8/5/12), there’s a massive, angry scrawling: “Cheese & Wine…BUT WHY? Why force the need to marry the two?”

Since then, I’ve been on a quest to find answers of any kind. The origin of this marriage, an impassioned defense of the tradition, or even just the proof of one pairing so good that it justifies the entire pursuit. So far? Not much luck. The closest I’ve come to discovering ‘the answer’ is from the introduction of Janet Fletcher’s book, Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying. As Fletcher explains, both cheese and wine became everyday dietary staples in Europe during a time when preservation was the name of the game.

“Over the centuries, humans have learned to preserve nature’s seasonal bounty for the times when nature is not so generous. The abundant milk that a cow gives in summer becomes cheese for the winter months. Fresh grapes, which last only days, become wine for future enjoyment.  In the temperate climates that nurture both grapevines and dairy animals, it is not surprising that cheese and wine are savored together. Both have long been the daily sustenance of farmers in Spain, France, Greece, and Italy, who think of wine and cheese not as fancy foods for entertaining, but as the wholesome heart of an everyday meal.”

Hmm. Sure, the section in question, titled ‘Cheese and Wine: A Time – Tested Marriage’, sheds light on the history of the pairing, but does little to justify (at least in my eyes) why it persists as the standard. Fletcher suggests pairings based on complements and contrasts (in texture, intensity, acidity, and region of origin)…but, again, with a disclaimer.

“Whether you are choosing wine to accompany a platter of cheeses, or selecting cheeses to enjoy with a favorite wine, the objective is the same: to ‘do no harm’ to the taste of the wine. When we talk about a successful wine and cheese match, we mean that the cheese or cheeses do not diminish our pleasure in the wine. The wine tastes just as good with the cheese as it does on its own. Occasionally, but not often, a cheese may even enhance a wine.”

Okay, am I seriously the only one who thinks this sounds just a little bit crazy? Still, the passion with which Fletcher, and so many others just as intelligent and accomplished as she, pursue this particular pairing, gives me hope. I’m entering an entirely new field, but it’s only new to me. Cheese — its making, its selling, its enjoying —  has existed for centuries, a history longer and richer than anything my mind can even really fathom. And you know what’s been there right along side of it? Yep, wine. With that in mind, I’ll continue to try and ‘get it.’ I’ll do more reading, more eating, more drinking (ugh, what a tortured existence!), and I promise to share with you what I learn.

But I won’t be sharing, at least not officially, with Wine World Tours. As much as I admire what they’re doing, and as much as I would love the extra attention (just being honest), catering to that audience, right now, simply wouldn’t feel right. I’m busier these days than I have been in a long time. I’m working at The Cheese School (where I’ve been hired to do some extra work beyond my internship) and Cowgirl Creamery, getting some amazing hands-on cheese time. I’ve also received my first freelance writing assignment, doing some short profiles of ACS award-winners for Culture magazine. This is all great – so great! – but I’m quickly realizing that the moments I’ll be able to dedicate to working on my own blog will be few and far between. And when I do have that time, I just want to write about cheese. Or maybe I’ll want to write about beer. Or maybe I’ll want to write about bread or fig jam or pickles or… Justin Bieber. I don’t know, and that last one seems unlikely, but the point is that I want to write about what I want to write about and, often, I don’t think that will be wine.

Which is ironic, since I spent a lot of time on it just now.

TGIF!

While the old ‘Thank God It’s Friday!’ mantra currently holds less meaning for yours truly (one side effect of being only partially employed: I have no idea what day it is), I’m more than familiar with celebrating a few days off. As such, this photo that The Cheese School just posted to their facebook page makes a lot of sense.

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I was there earlier today but, sadly, I guess I left too early!

Still, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy some cheese and wine any day of the week. As my father so beautifully put it in an email this morning: “Thought for the day: Unwind with the rind!” Don’t mind if I do.

 

 

Blue Ribbon Week

Blue Ribbon Week

It’s Blue Ribbon Week over at Cheese & Champagne, where they’re profiling some of the best blues out there. They’ve got two down with five to go, and after reading all about Crema de Blue & Big Boy Blue, I can’t wait to see what’s next. Might have to do some unexpected cheese shopping today, it seems.

Oh Wow.

Oh Wow.

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 Chee…

“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!”

Capital New York has a great profile of Adam Moskowitz, ‘New York’s Prince of Cheese’

 

Lovely Way to Name Cheese

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From Cheesenotes:

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!

 

 

 

The current cheese star i…

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.

Elaine Khosrova, Editor of Culture Magazine

Alpine meets aged gouda? That one’s going straight to the top of my must-try list. Yum!

A Little Catch-Up

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!

  • As previously announced, this summer I will be an intern at The Cheese School of San Francisco. When I signed up for this amazing opportunity, I knew that my duties would include setting and cleaning up before and after courses. But…what would the courses be? I’ve now taken two courses at the school (and will be taking another one next week, but that’s my next item) — Desert Island Cheeses & a Master Class on Identifying Cheese Flavors — both of which were so great, that I couldn’t wait to find out which classes I’d be working on during the summer. Well, earlier this week, I got The Cheese School’s summer course schedule, and believe me when I tell you that I could not be more excited! I’ll let you peruse the offerings for yourself (and, if you’re a Bay Area dweller, I encourage you to sign up), but l must say I’m most excited for the Cheese and Wine Pairing at Brack Mountain Wine in Sonoma, well-known for producing wine that pairs exceptionally well with food. We’ll tour the winery and then do a pairing with cheeses AND the estate olive oil. Yum! I’m also really looking forward to the Master Class, featuring the cheeses of renowned French affineurs (master cheese agers) Rodolphe Le Meunier & Pascal Beillevaire & the Vegeterian Cheese class. Since really getting into cheese, I’ve learned a lot about how it’s made and have had to come to terms with animal rennet. Despite being a long-time vegetarian (well, pescatarian, really), I’m comfortable with my decision to go for it with cheese —  I eat it all. Still, many American cheesemakers are now using vegetarian (microbial) rennet, and I can’t wait to learn more about that process and how it impacts the cheese. Exciting stuff! 
  • Speaking of classes at The Cheese School: I have one coming up! This coming Tuesday (6/12), I’ll be attending Old World vs. New World, taught by Juliana Uruburu. Juliana Uruburu (what a fun name to say!) is the cheese maven at the Bay Area’s renowned Pasta Shop in Oakland. Recognized as an individual dedicated to promoting quality cheese and consumption, Juliana was recently inducted into the Guilde des Fromagers, dedicating her lifes work to promoting the consumption of cheese! I’ve heard she’s an amazingly informative, energetic, and enthralling speaker, and I can’t wait to see for myself. (Confession: I would also LOVE to one day work with her at The Pasta Shop, so I’m hoping I can work that into an after-class conversation). In Old World vs. New World we’ll compare and contrast traditional European cheeses with their more modern American counterparts and, drumroll please, we will be pairing them with 5 luscious Maderia wines! I wrangled two of my friends into coming with me, and I can’t wait to show off to them where and how I’ll be spending my summer.
  • Another way I’ll be spending my summer? Reading! In addition to devouring cheese, I’ve also been devouring books on cheese (and on food, in general). An amazing resource? Omnivore Books right here in San Francisco. A friend of a friend recommended this place to me, but even though he used the word ‘awesome’ multiple times while describing it, I couldn’t have imagined how incredibly impressive it really is. Omnivore is a somewhat hidden Noe Valley gem — a tiny space packed floor to ceiling with books on all things food. Cookbooks of all shape, size, and style; memoirs by chefs, food critics, and food-loving writers; rare vintage magazines; histories of regional delicacies — you name it, they have it. Sadly I was on a time crunch, or I could have spent all day (and all of my money) there. I walked away with three new reads (The United States of Arugula, The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, and The Guide to West Coast Cheese — reviews to come eventually), and I know I’ll be going back soon for my next fix. If you live in SF or you know you’ll be visiting, definitely make time for a trip to this shop. When I was there, three Parisian tourists came in and excitedly declared that they had come all the way from The Sunset District (on the far, far West side of the city) JUST to visit Omnivore. Their decree? It’s worth it. 
  • And last, but certainly not least (although least related to the normal contents of this blog): I invite you to treat yourself to a few moments with the Shiba Inu puppy cam. I discovered these cuties about 4 days ago and, since then, I’d say I’ve logged about 10 hours. Not 10 straight hours (and, I promise, I do other things on the computer and then switch over to Puppyville for a few seconds), but still….I’m pretty attached. It’s worth a look.

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.

California I’m Coming Home

California I’m Coming Home

Oh oh oh. I saw this article linked to on Facebook, and it immediately put me in a Joni Mitchell mood. I’ve been in Massachusetts for awhile spending good and necessary time with friends and family in the wake of a death, but looking upon these lovely California cheeses made me homesick for San Francisco and for the cheese life I’ve been longing to start. 5 more days in Massachusetts, one more month of book publishing, and then it starts.

California I’m Coming Home

Another Vermont Creamery lover. I don’t know Pranqster, but soon I will!

Straight Outta Comte

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North Coast Brewing and Vermont Creamery are pioneers of their respective fields. Long before it was cool to make awesome beers and high quality cheeses, these guys were already doing it the right way.

Bonne Bouche is the flagship cheese from Vermont Creamery. Lightly dusted with tree ash, they are put in their little crates and shipped off after only ten days of aging . VC sources their high quality goat milk from farms in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Ontario. VC are unrepentant Francophiles, so it is no small compliment to make comparisons between Bonne Bouche and the goat cheeses of the Loire Valley (a region that is the provenance of some of the world’s best goat cheeses and my favorite white wines). Soft and runny, with a rind more like a skin, Bonne Bouche is mild when young. With a few weeks of age the cheese becomes more firm…

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