Bon Bouche

A Good Mouthful…of Cheese

Archive for the tag “cheese porn”

Long Time No Cheese

Writing my first blog post in a really long time feels a little bit like showing up to a party empty-handed. I’m excited, and certainly happy to be here, but also feeling a bit sheepish. And, as when I show up to a party without anything to offer, I know that guests aren’t interested in excuses. What do you really want? Cheese. So, I won’t bother with justifications or explanations. Instead, I’ll get to the good stuff: A long & detailed history of what I’ve been up to since last I wrote. Ha! Kidding.

But, briefly: About one year ago, I left my job at Cowgirl Creamery’s Ferry Building shop. In my time there I learned so much about cheese, how best to serve and care for it, made a handful of incredibly inspiring friends,  and grew my passion for education and customer service. If I could live in San Francisco on that wage (and maybe get a Saturday off every now and again), I might still be there. But, in May of 2014, it was time to move on. I jumped to the wholesale & distribution side of things, briefly working for a small company that imports and sells Italian and other European delicacies before settling in comfortably at GreenLeaf, a powerhouse in the world of Bay Area Food Distribution. Best known for our amazing produce, GreenLeaf recognizes the innovation and excitement happening in the world of cheese, and hired me to join a team of smart and enthusiastic curd nerds to grow the line and the program. These days, I spend my time helping to source and sell high quality cheeses from all kinds of producers, sharing my knowledge and recommendations with chefs, caterers, and really anyone who will listen. It is challenging and enlightening and rewarding and it keeps me very busy!

So busy, in fact, that I have little time for actual cheese eating. Sure, I do tastings with customers for work and quite regularly I’ll get to sample something we’re thinking of bringing in to sell, but it’s been a long time since I sat down to eat cheese like the consumer I am at heart. Or, it had been a long time, until last night.

Mission Cheese, my favorite neighbor, is celebrating their 4th Birthday this week with a string of events and offers that are hard to resist. Tomorrow there will be goats! Last night they had $4 beers, which was enough to get The Noodle off the couch and out into the daunting world of a Valencia Friday Night. Me? I was looking for cheese, and specifically some that I’d never had before. I found three. These are their stories.

(DUN DUN)

Aged Chelsea – Pasteurized Goat’s Milk,  Zingerman’s Creamery, Michigan

AgedChelsea

This cheese could, quite literally, be the icing on a cake. Inspired by the classic cheeses of France’s Loire River Valley, the straight-up geniuses at Zingerman’s Creamery created Aged Chelsea, a bloomy-rinded goat log coated in edible vegetable ash. Oh, ash-ripening, you are one of my favorite things! This centuries-old tradition comes with a number of benefits. Want to keep the surface of your aging cheese free from microbes and mold spores? Add some ash! Worried your lactic beauty will become overly acidic? Add some ash! (When it comes to cheese, it’s not always bad to be basic). Ash-ripening also brings a lot to the table, aesthetically-speaking. Usually utilized with a bright white goat cheese, the stark contrast between rind and paste is strikingly lovely, and Aged Chelsea is no exception. The round discs presented on our cheese board looked like fat, snowy coins, and the taste was money also. This cheese is light and luscious, letting the subtle flavor of the goat’s milk do all the talking. It’s tangy, bright, and yeasty, calling out for a sweet supplement. I like to play with my food, so I crushed up a few dried cranberries and smushed them right in there. Just as I suspected, it was a perfect pairing.

Battenkill Brebis – Raw Sheep’s Milk, 3 Corner Field Farm, New York

3-Corner Field Farm, Shushan, NY

Mike thinks that all sheep’s milk cheese “tastes like an eraser” and, for this reason, I force him to try new ones whenever they present themselves. I wish I could say that this one changed his mind (honestly, I wish I could say anything had changed his mind), but what I can say is that I happily ate both of our portions. While I had not previously heard of 3 Corner Field Farm, I now know that it is a sheep dairy and farmstead creamery in the Battenkill Valley of New York (which is basically New Hampshire). Former Manhattanites Karen Weinberg and Paul Borghard bought the farm in 1990, and they’ve been doing some serious sheep work since then. Their East Friesian tenants are grazed on fresh pasture every 24 hours, exposing the sheep (and, hence, the milk) to a wide variety of forage like clover, trefoil, and wild oregano. These flavors are then reflected in the finished product, especially considering that the cheese is made from raw milk. Battenkill Brebis is a tomme-style aged cheese with stunning complexity. The milk’s savory vegetal flavors are paired with a damp stone quality imparted by 4 to 6 months of cave-aging. Despite what others may think, this delight will not soon be erased from my memory.

Vermilion River Blue – Raw Cow’s Milk, Ludwig Farmstead Creamery, Illinois

VermillionBlue

Remember when I said that I sat down to eat cheese “like the consumer I am at heart”? Well, you can take the girl out from behind the cheese counter, but you can’t take the ‘monger out of the girl. One taste of Vermilion Blue, and I was overcome by the urge to just sell the hell out of it. Memorable name? Check. Semi-soft kid-friendly texture? Check. Little-to-no evident blue veining and a flavor mild enough to trick unsuspecting blue-phobics? Check and check! Damn, I want to throw on that apron and sling this stuff all day. The cheesemakers at Ludwig Farmstead Creamery have a money-maker on their hands with this raw Holstein cow’s milk “triple creme” but…do I like it? That is, quite honestly, hard to say. At the risk of sounding like a total jerk, the qualities that make this cheese so easy to sell are the same qualities that give me pause. Shouldn’t a self-described triple creme actually be creamy? Shouldn’t a raw milk blue be absolutely bursting with flavor? I didn’t get any of that with this cheese, but I did get to try a new (to me) crowd-pleaser. And, for the record, Mikey liked it.

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Eat This: Rupert

Looking to try some new cheese? Well, if you aren’t, now you will be. I’ve added another cheese to my growing list of favorites.

Consider Bardwell Farm – Rupert (Raw Jersey Cow’s Milk from West Pawlet, Vermont)

A few weeks ago, some old Kaufman family friends were in town for a brief San Francisco visit. Alec and Meena both went to Miami University with Sister Bouche (Laura), and they are now a sophisticated (and decidedly gourmand-y) married couple living in Evanston, Illinois. While Alec was busy working all day, Meena enjoyed what the Ferry Building had to offer and, when we met for drinks, arrived with a turophile’s dream gift bag: a box set of cheese-serving accoutrements and 3 pieces of cheese. Two of the three were old favorites (Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam & Jasper Hill Farms Winnimere), but there was one I’d never seen or heard of before: Consider Bardwell Farm’s Rupert.

Consider Bardwell is a 300-acre cheesemaking co-op in Vermont (and it’s a beauty), first established in 1864 by a man named Consider Bardwell Stebbins. Nearly 150 years later, Consider Bardwell is owned by Angela Miller and Russel Glover. Using raw milk from their own herd of Oberhasli goats and the milk from a neighboring farm’s Jersey cows, cheesemaker Peter Dixon makes small batches of cheese by hand.

Rupert (which is named after one of the oldest towns in Vermont) is a raw Jersey cow’s milk inspired by the classic Alpine style cheeses of Europe like Gruyere and Comte. Sitting next to the Mt. Tam and the Winnimere, it didn’t look (or smell) like much, but the Rupert packs quite a punch. Aged for a minimum of six months, the thin and earthy rind gives way to a titillating paste. While the color is buttery, the flavor tastes more like cream, with sharpness, complexity, and the definite hint of onions. The texture is firm, but not hard, and there are a few pleasing chloride crystals scattered throughout. This cheese would be great on plain crackers, but I had no trouble taking it down all by itself.

 

Cheese Tastings: Brunch With My Parents

(Clockwise from Top Left:  Neal’s Yard Colston Basset Stilton; Meadow Creek Dairy Appalachian; Cowgirl Creamy Mt. Tam; Vermont Butter & Cheese Company Double-Cream Cremont; Noord Hollander Gouda)

Mmm. Look at all that cheese. Wouldn’t you like to try that cheese? Well, if you were lucky enough to be me, my parents, or Mike this past Sunday, you would have!

My parents were in San Francisco this weekend, and before hitting the road back down to L.A. on Sunday afternoon, Mike and I had them over for what I am now and forever going to call ‘Cheese Brunch’.  I want to have so many of these! Before my parents showed up, I (lovingly) ordered Mike around so that everything would be ready to go. We were slicing bread, plating crackers, making fruit salad and, of course, cutting cheese (everyone’s favorite joke). I actually put all of the cheeses out with a little card next to each one that had the cheese name, where it comes from, what it’s made of, and what it should taste like. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of that. Mike commented that I should be a party planner and, I have to admit, I kind of agree. I’m not big on cooking, but I love plating and preparing. Think there’s a business in bring-to-your-home Cheese Brunch? One day.

Anyhow, I digress. Like I said, I set it all out: cheeses, sliced baguette,  crackers, fig compote, sliced pears, insanely sweet Cara Cara orange slices, strawberry and blueberry fruit salad, and an assortment of delicious (and nutritious) pastries brought by Mr. & Mrs. Kaufman. I am more than happy to start any day with a healthy dose of cheese, but this brunch was extra special because it was the first time I was able to share my new passion with my parents. It was a lot of fun to flex my (limited) knowledge and even more fun to hear what everyone else had to say. One of the things that excites me most about working in cheese is the prospect of sharing something wonderful and delicious with others and helping them to get a better sense of what their taste buds like best. On Sunday I was able to do that with my family.

I added four options to our familiar fromage (see this post for in-depth Double-Cream Cremont coverage). Read about each of them below and scroll to the bottom to see what we each picked as favorite!

Cowgirl Creamery – Mt. Tam

You may recognize Mt. Tam as one of the cheeses served at my Super Bowl gathering, but since I didn’t do a real write-up then, I’ll do it now. Mt. Tam is a triple-cream cheese made with pasteurized cow’s milk from the Straus Family Dairy. It is deliciously bloomy, with a really smooth and creamy, earthy taste. I like to let it sit for about an hour before serving, because it gets perfectly spreadable and really messy. I love messy. However, the next day, I came home from work starving, pulled the leftover Mt. Tam out of the fridge, and popped a chunk into my mouth. The experience was amazing! Eating this cold and hard was like eating the world’s most delicious piece of butter. It tasted incredible. One of my new favorite things is trying one cheese at many different temperatures.

Noord Hollander Gouda

Back in the “old days” (before I started learning about cheese), I thought that all Gouda was Smoked Gouda. Luckily, I was wrong, and I’m not the only one to make that mistake! Turns out that smoked Gouda is basically just a cheap version of the real deal. No offense to smoked Gouda fans (I am one), but if you don’t look into aged Gouda (not smoked), you are seriously missing out. Noord Hollander is a 4-year aged gourmet cheese, made from high quality pasteurized cow’s milk in Northern Holland (hence the name). The milk from this region is sweeter and richer than other Dutch milk, and you can taste that in the cheese. Noord Hollander has a really deep caramel/butterscotch flavor, and the aging process leaves it riddled with salty-sweet crystals. Basically, this is the candy of cheese, which is perfect for me, because I’d rather eat cheese than candy.

Meadow Creek Dairy – Appalachian

I’ve been hearing/reading a lot of good things about the ‘unexpected’ pleasures (?) of Southern Cheeses, so I wanted to try one for myself! Meadow Creek is a family-owned grazing farm in Galax, Virginia and, let me tell you, they make a good cheese. The Appalachian is a raw cow’s milk cheese with a speckled white rind and a slightly yellow firm-but-silky paste. The yellow is fitting, I think, because the cheese has just a slight taste of lemony sweetness and some grassiness, too. They say that with cheeses like this, you can really taste what the cow is eating. Assuming that’s true, those are some lucky cows.

Neal’s Yard Dairy – Colston Bassett Stilton

Oh Blue! We are getting to know one another. As regular readers know, I don’t have a long loving history with Blue Cheese. In fact, I never really liked it, but I’m learning to give it a chance. And, after I had such a good experience with the Bohemian Blue, I knew I couldn’t give up. Still, I know absolutely nothing about blues, and I trust myself to pick them even less. As such, you can imagine my delight to see Anthea Stolz, the cheese buyer for Bi-Rite, standing right next to me in the cheese aisle. I explained to her my blue cheese aversion (I’m not into anything too runny or drippy, and I like a lot of not-blue with my blue), but also mentioned that there would be some big blue fans in attendance (namely Mike and my mom), and asked for a recommendation. She let me sample the Neal’s Yard CBS (I’m shortening for speed) — which I had already heard and read about — and it tasted too amazing to pass up. This pasteurized cows milk blue (wow, guess I went almost all cow this tasting) has a rich flavor and somewhat basic tang (in the basic vs. acidic way, not in the not-special way), with a more-buttery and less-crumbly texture. I love buttery, and I liked the strong flavor of this. It was a big hit with the blue lovers, and that’s all that matters.

Note: Tomorrow I will be taking my first class at The Cheese School of SF, and it’s being taught by the aforementioned Anthea! It’s called ‘Desert Island Cheeses’ and she’ll be introducing the class to the cheeses she couldn’t live without. I’m pumped!

Okay, so, that’s the wrap-up. Now, for personal MVC’s (most valuable cheeses, duh):

Bonnie: I still have to go with the Double-Cream Cremont, but of the new cheeses sampled, I really got a kick out of that Noord Hollander Gouda.

Mike: A blue boy through and through, Mike mostly stuck with the Neal’s Yard Colston Bassett Stilton.

Mom: As a lemon-lover, it makes sense that Mom’s favorite was the Appalachian (though she had a hard time picking just one).

Dad: We learned that, like me, Dad’s a fan of the creamy cheeses. His favorite, by a long shot, was the Double-Cream Cremont.

Okay, all this cheese talk is making me hungry. Time to go eat!

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