Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cheese for a Wednesday, pt. 6

Wow. Wow. Wow. Thanks Andrew! I popped into Andrew's Cheese Shop this afternoon after an afternoon on the road with the Darling Husband. I'd wanted to pick up a little something stinky. A little runny. A bit unusual. Something worthy of a Wednesday night. As usual, my cheese dreams turned to reality in front of the glass case, and the sun shone down on my incredibly filthy car on our way home with our new cheese babies.

OK - maybe I'm being a little over dramatic. Maybe not.

This evening, we're exploring the soft little diamond on the right (you'll have to wait till tomorrow to find out about contestant #2). The Robiola a Tre Latti. That's right - three milks. This little morsel was so melty that I couldn't really pick it up to give it a good sniff. It just melted onto my fingers! The "nose" of this cheese is definitely a little goaty, and it is very white - another characteristic of goat's cheese. It smelled of wildflowers and green pastures, but in a rich, creamy way. This is because of the three milks - goat, sheep and cow. The goat we've discussed. The sheep we'll get to, and the cow brings the richness. Did I mention that the cheese was just melting on the plate?

So, Robilola is an Italian style soft, fresh cheese perfect for spreading on breakfast toast or on baguette with a great glass of Syrah. With the tre latti, the richness, tangy-ness and complexity (that's the sheep's contribution) of the three together just makes it pop even more. It is so creamy that I felt like it was almost a "lite" triple cream! There is no rind to worry about, and I couldn't help but blurt out "splurk!" as it just gave in to gravity and smeared on the bread.

Search it out. Find a Robiola. Grab a baguette. Forget the vegetables and make this the main course!

Sweet cheese dreams all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What's in the Cheese Shop: A Comic Interlude...

Well, the results upon which the future direction of CheeseDreaming are trickling in (Have you voted yet? Let me know what you like reading about the most - just over there to the left of the screen. It's anonymous. I won't know who you are!), and so far the preference is for witty and educational cheese reviews. I promise - tomorrow I'm going to Andrew's Cheese Shop to get my "Cheese for a Wednesday Night" cheese. I will then post a review of said cheese, and the world will rejoice!

In the meantime, a video to remind you to always ask your local cheesemonger what's good. Click on the link. Really. You'll laugh. I promise! Remember, just because it's in the case doesn't mean it's the best thing in the case, and don't you want to take home the best thing (within your price range, of course)?

And maybe a Red Leicester?

Monday, September 28, 2009

For Every Season, the Perfect Cheese

I don't know about you, but as the days attempt to get cooler I start thinking about red wine again. I have also found myself thinking less about Camembert and tangy little goat cheeses and more about big smoky Blues and stinky Epoisses. It may have something with the changing light in the evenings, or it may be linked to my need to find the perfect sweater even if it's still 90 degrees outside.

In fact, cheeses do have seasons. It has more to do with how long the cheese ages than anything else. The best cheeses come from the best milk, and the best milk comes from animals eating the tastiest food. Cows, goats and sheep eating yummy spring grass, munching on wildflowers and romping in the fields produce milk that tastes fresh, and reminds you of happy goats romping in the fields making daisy chains. Grass in the early fall, when the rain comes after a hot summer is strong and confident. The milk produced at this time has a richer, bolder taste. The same beasts, eating winter hay, will produce milk that tastes a bit less exciting. Needless to say, you want cheese made with tasty milk. BUT, because cheese is preserved milk, you can have it whenever!

In the spring and summer, fresh cheeses and young cheeses rule. Tangy goat cheeses galore! Brie and bloomy rinds come next, as they are all relatively young cheeses. Come early fall, the blue cheeses become available, along with the washed rind cheeses. Yum! In the winter, when all the cows are munching on dry fodder, we get to enjoy cheese that has been aging since April. The flavors of spring grass and wildflowers just intensifies as the Ossau-Irati and Morbier come into season, becoming a comforting reminder of the spring around the corner.

So, go with it! Here's an interesting chart (in French) that can help you determine the best time to eat what. The aged cheeses tend to be good year round, while some others are really fleeting! Ask your cheesemonger what's in season. Think about how dry a cheese is, and try to figure out when it was made by counting backwards. If the month you end up in has tasty wildflowers on the menu, you're in luck no matter what the weather is outside!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Alternate Uses for Bad Cheese...

My cheese experience was so unmemorable that there is nothing to say other than it was basically a food court Caprese sandwich with a few rubbery slices of mozzarella, two slices of tomato and piece of wilty basil between two oily pieces of foccacia. Blah. The gummy-ness of the cheese was such a let down. When you are eating amazing cheese everyday, you get a little spoiled. This is really only a bad thing when you badly order at a questionable restaurant. Otherwise, I say - huzzah for realizing the difference and knowing what you like!

So, I was searching the internet for inspiration having failed to experience any cheese related inspiration on my own, and hit across something kind of relevant. I am going to quote directly from the Sailing Navies Forum 1650-1850 Topics Related to Naval History and Literature because, really, how awesome is it that this forum exists in the first place?

"I rather liked this extract from The Times, of October 9, 1804 about making cement.

".... A most excellent cement has been prepared lately by the French Chemists from common cheese. The method is this: Cut the cheese in pieces, and boil it in water, stirring it with a spoon until it be reduced to a glutinous state. Then throw off the remaining water not evaporated, and pour cold water upon the substance. Let it then be pressed or kneaded, and renew the change of the water several times. Pound the mass afterwards upon a stone or in a mortar. In two days the cement will be fit to use, will be wholly insoluble in water, and may be employed on wood, marble, &c. and the union of the fractured parts will be so perfect as to render it very difficult to discover the intersection ...."

... and I'd always thought French cheese extremely edible...."

How great is that! I must assume that since they were French, they wouldn't do this to an amazing Camembert or Brillat Savarin or heaven forbid a tangy Roquefort! No, they would only use overripe cheeses or cheese made from dogs or totally reminds me of my glue-y mozzarella experience this afternoon! And I can just see a bunch of 1804 French Chemists cooking down their cheese rejects, boiling them down until they were reduced to a "glutinous state" and ALL the moisture is gone, beating the crap out of it and letting it sit until they need it to patch a leak in a boat (I'm assuming this is a function as I found this description on a Historical Navy site, plus the fact that it is waterproof...), or glue a teacup back together. Or whatever else needed bonding so tight that it would be "very difficult to discover the intersection."

I propose that the next time you encounter low caliber cheese, you attempt to follow in the steps of the French Chemists and create a batch of glue to make Louis Pasteur proud! But use an old pot. And keep a fire extinguisher handy. And put the glue in a container you never want to use for anything. Ever again. Because it is going to be the most amazing glue ever.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cheese for a Wednesday, pt. 5

First of all, I can't believe this is the fifth official Wednesday cheese, and probably the third blue cheese of those Wednesday cheeses. Something about Wednesdays and blue cheese. Will have to research that a little bit more, next Wednesday...with some more blue cheese...

Anyway, in honor of the upcoming Wedge Festival celebrating the artisinal cheeses of the West Coast (October 3 in Portland, OR for those able to get there. Take notes and eat lots of cheese!), I asked Andrew for something from the Pacific Northwest , and he gave me this amazing Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue. Isn't it pretty in its aluminium foil wrapper?

I hear you wondering "How can a blue cheese be a smoked cheese? I've never heard of that before." Well, the folks at Rogue Creamery aren't called rogues for nothing! They've been in business since 1935 (so you know they aren't trendy). They made the first blue cheese on the West Coast. And now, they are making the first ever smoked blue cheese. Yowza!

Now, if you as much of a BBQ novice as I am, you might wonder, as I did, "But wouldn't the cheese melt if you put it in a smoker?" Well, yes, as it turns out, if it is a hot smoker, and not a cold smoker like they use at Rogue. They use smoke up some hazelnut shells to give the cheese a great nutty, smoky flavor, and its cool enough in the smoker not to melt all this delicious cheese!

Click here to see how to make your own cold smoker. Let me know how it works...I don't think I'll be trying that one soon.

So, this tasty smoked blue was so tasty, both on a baguette, and in the grilled steak and onion salad with tomato and avocado.

Sweet blue cheese dreaming!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cheese Rolling!!!

What has a super steep slope, lots of lumps and bumps, separated shoulders, rugby playing catchers and a Double Gloucester as the grand prize? Why, the annual Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, of course!

Since perhaps the dawn of time (or at least the 1800s), people have gathered at Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire, England, to participate, or to watch the crazies participate in a fantastic tradition. Folks in all types of dress or undress, wrapped in bubble wrap, loincloths or knee pads depending on their level of crazy wait for the MC to say "ready, steady, go" and hurl a 7-8 pound whole Double Gloucester cheese down an amazingly steep hill. Moments later, the "contestants" hurl themselves right after it! Cooper's Hill is a 1-1 or 1-2 grade all the way from the plateau at the top to where the rugby players catch people at the bottom so they don't just keep going. Needless to say, pretty much nobody makes it down without doing a little slide on their bum, or more dramatically, bouncing head over heels all the way down. (You MUST click there for an awesome video!!) When it rains, it's slippery, but the ground is softer (and you can get a nice mud slide going!)

The winner receives their very own cheese to take home. And not just any cheese, but one hand made by Mrs. Diana Smart of Churcham, Gloucester using traditional methods and milk from her herd of Brown Swiss, Holstein and Gloucester cows! Second place gets 10 pounds sterling and third gets 5 pounds. Not a lot of a prize considering that there is almost always a separated shoulder, or some other major/minor injury! It's all about the challenge and the tradition.

A pretty great way to celebrate cheese and the crazy things people will do for it!

(And BTW - The next race is coming up in May, 2010...visit the official Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake website to make your plans! Maybe I'll see you there!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shropshire Love in Wine Country

I've been feeling guilty about not taking care of happy cheese land these past few days, but I've just been having too much fun in real cheese land to have write up my adventures in virtual cheese land. But here we are, back in happy virtual cheese land with memories of Shropshire Blue and Robiola Bosina and Bermuda Triangle, Pinot Noir and cupcakes.

That's right - nothing like a day in Santa Ynez enjoying the best wines of the Central Coast of Cali, and pairing them with delicious cheeses and yes, cupcakes. Nothing like it to make for an amazing day, and nothing like it to make you want to spend the next day drinking gallons of water and taking many, many naps!

That said, I am now unabashedly in love with Shropshire Blue cheese. We were formally introduced in a glamorous tent, under the magical light of a chandelier. It may be because I'd had many, many samples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but it may also be that there is something inherently unusual about an orange-yellow cheese with beautiful blue veins throughout. It may be because there was an enormously humongous chunk of the stuff sitting right there in front of me. Who knows. But I do know that it had enough just enough sweetness to counteract the moldy saltiness of the blue mold, and just enough crumbly-ness to require eating with your fingers instead of spreading on a cracker. Yum. Plus, it tastes great with a 2007 Pinot Noir from the Foley vineyard.

This is a relatively new cheese, but it is a very confident, secure cheese, with a great sense of humor. It was developed in the 1970s, and the unusual orange color (for a blue cheese) comes from the natural annato food coloring. For our veggie friends, this cheese is made with vegetable rennet, so no animals were harmed (unless the milk maid hadn't moisturized in advance!). Originally, it wasn't even made in Shropshire, England, but in Inverness, Scotland. I guess they thought Inverness Blue just didn't sound as rich and creamy as Shropshire Blue. Funnily enough, this cheese is now made in Shropshire England.

At the end of our magical evening, it was a a bittersweet sight to see the Shropshire Blue devoured to within an inch of its life. To know that that many people share my love is exciting, but to see it so decimated made me a little sad. I guess that's the thing with cheese - you have to destroy it to really show your love....

Getting a little deep here. Sweet dreams of happy Inverness cows munching on highland grass!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cheese Cruelty & How to Avoid It - Lesson 1

I love a full cheese plate. A whole, lovely goat cheese round, a two inch wedge of aged Gouda, a three inch wedge of my favorite Roaring 40s blue...It has something to do with proportion. Unfortunately, the suggested serving size for any cheese is one oz. per person per cheese. Any more than that, and you are asking for some digestive problems. So here's where I attempt to use the geometry I learned in High School... The radius of a Gouda is about six inches, so if you are only getting enough for two people, the wedge only needs to be about a 1/2 inch. A two person serving of Roaring 40s (probably a four inch radius) is an inch or less. If my calculus was better, I could tell you what the volume of a wedge that shape would be, but I can't. I can tell you that you are looking for 2-3 ounces. Insert sad face here. How insubstantial, if nutritionally sound.

Anyway, I've been trying to watch the budget (and the waistline), so I keep the wedges thin during the week so there isn't a lot left over at the end of the night. (I'm enough ADD to get bored with cheese leftovers after a day.) But, when I'm shopping for a party, I get to buy the thicker wedges; the full rounds. So exciting! And, when I've chosen right based on what I know of the guests and the menu, there still aren't any left-overs!

I guess the lesson for the day is to make sure that your eyes, dinner plan, and budget are all in agreement before you enter the cheese shop. Once you are there, and you get a few tastes, you might end up with more selections than you thought you needed, even if you have a specific shopping list. Stay strong, but be flexible. Cheese does keep in the fridge, but the little left over nubs look so sad. BTW - try wrapping your left over bits in paper (parchment, not waxed) - plastic wrap doesn't let it breathe. You don't want to be accused of suffocating your cheese. Avoid cheese cruelty - shop appropriately!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cheese for a Wednesday, pt. 4

As promised, I am giving some love to sheep cheese, and no better day to give this love than a Wednesday, the day I have unofficially devoted to exciting new cheese. I managed to get out of the office and made it to Andrew's Cheese before it closed. I was looking in the case for labels with little sheep on them, and didn't find as many sheep icons as cow and goat ones, and realized that I needed to love sheep cheese for another reason - it's kind of the undersheep, as it were, in the cheese world, and I love an underdog!

I was going to get an Ossau-Iraty from France because my friend VG really enjoyed that cheese on vacation last month, but I got there and I saw a funny, almost flying saucer shaped cheese with a lumpy brown rind from Coventry, England called Berkswell with the sheep icon on the label. Hooray! Something totally new. And so delicious. Dry and crumbly, but not flaky. A sweet nutty-ness that went great with the chocolate almond crostini. Andrew says there's a pineapple finish. I don't know if I got that, but it was definitely amazing.

I asked him for another sheep cheese to serve as counterpoint to the Berkswell. Most sheep's milk cheese are hard cheeses, and I was hoping to find a nice soft sheep cheese. Apparently, that is because they have a higher protein content. The opposite is true of goat cheese, with it's lower protein content it is easier to make a soft cheese than a hard one. But I found a great semi-soft sheep cheese from Portugal called La Serena. It smelled like black olives at first whiff, and the first taste tastes just like it smells. The end is a little bit bitter, but in a good way. With all of these complex tastes and smells, it doesn't have any of that barnyard/ammonia smell that comes from a washed rind "stinky" cheese (because it isn't a washed rind cheese - duh!).

So, we had a delicious Wednesday dinner of sheep's milk cheese, chocolate almond crostini and Sangiovese. My skin is a little extra oily at the moment, but it's good for skin, right? We ended with a great over-the-fence chat with neighbors, an an evening of my favorite Fox television - Glee with a starter of So You Think You Can Dance. Nobody ever said I wasn't a little cheesy!

Sweet dreams everyone, and continue to count those happy little sheep!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cheese - You Can Bank On It!

The economy has been on everyone's minds for a long while now, and far be it from me to ignore such a trend. In Italy, the Parmigiano-Reggiano makers have a creative way of raising money for general operating expenses on their diaries and other production expenses. They use aging rounds of their national treasure as collateral for bank loans! According to MSNBC, a wheel of this hard salty goodness is worth up to 300 euros, and a cheesemaker might put up as many as 2,000 of the 7,000 wheels they make each year (600,000 euros), and the bank would give them a cash loan for 60-70% of the value (420,000 euros). Not a bad deal, especially in difficult economic times. When the loan is due to expire (when the cheese is fully aged and ready for sale), the cheesemaker can either repay the loan, or allow the bank to sell the cheese at market prices. Considering the two year delay, a lot can happen to the price of cheese (commodity prices being what they are), and the 30-40% taken by the bank doesn't seem that high when you consider the risk they are taking (though I think it still seems a bit high). The BBC report says there is only 3% interest + a fee, which seems much more reasonable. I guess we'll have to travel to Italy and check it out for ourselves to clarify!

This isn't a new financial arrangement. Apparently, the Italians have been doing this since right after WWII. It's extremely organized, and banks even have in-house cheese watchers to take care of the collateralized wheels of cheese in environmentally controlled vaults especially built for cheese aging. They even check the wheels during the aging process to ensure that they are properly developing (they aren't worth as much if they have air holes in them).

Cheese deposits are up 10% during the current recession. Yet another indicator to watch as we look for signs of light at the end of the financial tunnel. In the meantime, grate a little Parmesean on your pasta and don't panic! There's more where that came from, and its tucked up safely in a bank vault.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Oh yes, we went to the LA County Fair this weekend! We trembled at all the scary rides, ate all the weird fried things, saw all the prize winning tablescapes and quick breads, went to the pig races (Lindsay Loham was the big winner), and spent A LOT of time at the farm!

We saw sheep get sheared, and went to a goat milking demo, but wasn't allowed to try milking because I'm over 12 years old. Such a huge bummer! I got pics of the milking rig, but was so disappointed that we didn't stay till the end. The wool lining was that I ended up really bonding with the sheep.

Now, this isn't to say that the goats weren't totally adorable, and I still love them, their milk, and their cheese. There is even more love there now that I've pet their ears and stroked their fuzzy necks. The good news is that my heart has expanded to include woolly sheep! The way they look into your eyes and let you scratch their heads is pretty awesome. I think that I was the only adult in the petting zoo without a 5 year old, but I had so much fun, and got some great pics of my fuzzy dairy producing friends!

So, I've vowed to highlight more sheep's milk cheeses, starting today! At the moment, the sheep's milk cheese I'm most familiar with is Feta, with all it's salty yummy-ness, perfect in a summer Greek salad and Pecorino Romano, which I often substitute for Parmigiano-Reggiano. (BTW - Pecorino tranlates loosely in Italian as "little sheep" so whenever you see a pecorino cheese, you know it's got sheep's milk in it.) But a quick look in Murray's Cheese Handbook reminds me that there are so many great sheep's milk cheeses to taste and talk about!

I'll leave you with a fun one introduced to me by Andrew at Andrew's Cheese. Zamorano is a great Spanish sheep's milk cheese that he suggests when you are looking for Manchego (another sheep cheese). Manchego isn't regulated, so it can be made wherever and however (but it is always pretty tasty). Zamorano is regulated, which is good for consistency. It's a nice firm cheese, and still goes great with quince paste. It has a dry, confident nutty flavor that is really delicious. Check it out!

Sweet dreams all, and don't forget to count your sheep!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Cheese and Tea Party

My dear friend VG hosted a birthday tea for herself today, and we all pitched in, bringing cucumber sandwiches, scones, tea, and of course, I had to bring cheese! I had never thought about how to pair cheese with tea, but I knew it was totally possible. There are not as many guides for tea and cheese pairings as there are for wine and cheese. Its a bit more complicated than goat cheese with Chardonnay! That said, I did find this great site that offered a few suggestions (I also subscribed to the magazine! Stay tuned for future insights). Very helpful!

I was running late, and had to go to to Whole Paycheck to pick up the cheese babies for the day, and so was deprived of an encouraging chat with my cheese monger friends. I was looking for the Mt. Tam triple cream that I knew everyone would enjoy, but they didn't have it, darn it all! Thinking on the fly, I settled on a very diverse trio, figuring that people would probably find at least one that they enjoyed, and perhaps one that even melded well with the tea. Since almost everyone snacked on at least two, I think it was a success!

The first cheese was a Bucheron goat cheese, which has a nice delicate flavor, with a soft, almost bloomy rind. It comes from the farm in a log shape, so what you get from the store is a lovely circle of goaty goodness. It is slightly aged to mellow out the goat flavor a little, and the one I got had an incredible "cream line" which is the ring of softer, gooey-er, more translucent cheese right underneath the rind that has ripened more than the bright white, firmer center. Yum! And delicious with green tea, as it turns out.

The second was an amazing Epoisse - a traditional washed rind cheese from France that gets its weekly rind washings with brandy! How about that. This stinker comes in its own cute little balsa wood box, and has a great saltiness that tastes much more mild than it smells. Once you cut into this one, it oozes gracefully out onto the plate - just waiting to be scooped up onto a cracker and eaten with Earl Grey.

Finally, I grabbed a beautiful, caramel colored hunk of 5 year aged Gouda. Now, I recently learned that this cheese is not called goo-da, but how-da. Those crazy Dutch. This hard cheese would probably taste amazing grated up and used instead of Parmesan on a pasta with a butternut squash sauce. It even looks a little like Parmesan, because as it ages, it somehow grows crunchy crystals, probably through dehydration. It tastes a little like a butterscotch candy that got mixed with hazelnuts. My goodness, delicious! I could have eaten the whole chunk myself. But I did share, and it was incredible with an Autumnal black tea infused with orange.

We all had a great time at the party and stuffed ourselves with little sandwiches, scones, champagne, tea and cheese! We didn't hold our pinky's in the air, as we discussed the craziness one of the ladies experienced during her week at Burning Man (unpublishable on this respectable page!), outdoor corporate karaoke (the horror!) and watched Tessa the dog do tricks for (non-cheese) treats. What can I say? We're a post-modern crowd, but we sure know how to have a good time!

In addition, I had fun experimenting with how tea and cheese can go together. It was great to share these cheeses with such a smart and eclectic group of women, and I'm looking forward to continued research! It's a gooey job, but someones got to do it!

Sweet dreams all. I hope that the caffeine has all been absorbed by the cheese and I'll be able to rest up for another day of cheesy exploration!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cheese - Not for the Faint of Heart!

So, I was wandering down to the far end of the cheese counter last Saturday, and came upon the craziest cheese. It looked like it was 100 years old, or a victim of serious teenage acne! This bright orange cheese was covered in pock marks, and just looked mysterious and ancient. I innocently asked Tony the cheesemonger how long the cheese had aged. Turns out that it had aged for 18 months, which is a relatively long time for a cheese to sit and wait in a cave. But, it wasn't age alone that made that lunar surface.

The cheese was Mimolette, from the north of France, and according to some sources, it was Charles DeGaulle's favorite cheese. While that is neither here nor there in my book, there may be some history buffs out there that will want to try it for that reason. You should try it, but not because you harbor a dream of having a huge French airport named after you, but because it is a really delicious hard, bright orange cheese with a nice sweet nuttiness that melts on your tongue and hangs out in your mouth being happy.

But you should know that there is someone else out there that loves this cheese. Actually, it's not someone, but something. Remember the craters on the rind that make it look a little like a cantaloupe? They don't grow there on their own. There is a very specific little critter that loves Mimolette almost as much as I do, and they're called cheese mites! These little mites love the rind of this cheese, and while the cheese is aging in its cave, these little mites burrow in and have a serious snack in the rind. Some people say that they even help make the cheese taste better. Who knows if this is true. There is a little bit of "cheese dust" residue that you need to brush away that might be a delicacy... Some say it imparts a bit of minty-ness, but I didn't taste that. I just think it tastes great with a little Pinot Noir. They also say that the mites are gone by the time it gets to your local cheesemonger. I sure hope that's true! But in any case, there is no way that the mites get any further than the incredibly hard rind. I promise.

So gnaw away. This is a great cheese, even if it has some weird little friends.

And if you aren't afraid of some bad bug dreams, check this out. Cheese mites were the subject of the very first science film... More recently, they were magnified 100x for a slightly more graphic effect.

Mwa ha ha ha!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cheese for a Wednesday, pt. 3

Yes, it's Wednesday again. And I sure hope your day was better than mine! But you know what? While any and every day is a good day to eat cheese, cheese for a Wednesday is a special thing. Its a cheese that you can think about all day, while you are busy dealing with tedious book keeping, a pile of essays to read, saxophone lessons, whiny volunteers or misbehaving experimental bacteria. (Shouts out there for some of my loyal readers - you know who you are!). This has to be a special cheese.

Tonight, that special cheese is is Roaring 40s Blue from King Island Australia. (The other cheese on the board that looks a lot like cantaloupe will be discussed later. I promise!) I know I've raved about this before, but tonight, it really was the right cheese for a Wednesday night. This creamy blue cheese is just blend of sweet, salty, creamy and spicy. We had it tonight with a little Zinfandel and it was just love on a cracker! The minute it hit my tongue, all the thoughts spinning through my head just slowed down and I was really home.

The grass the cows eat on this remote island comes with a great legend. One story goes that the straw mattresses from all the boats that wrecked off the coast floated ashore and the seeds inside the mattresses grew into the lush grass the cows snack on, when they aren't indulging in a little kelp snack down by the beach. Really.

I love this story. And who knows, it might be true. This cheese is really something special. Something to make any Wednesday more than just a Wednesday. Enjoy your cheese any night, but don't forget Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Little French Lesson...

I got the most amazing nugget of cheese on Saturday at the Cheese Shop. I'd gotten a hunk of my favorite Roaring 40s Blue from King Island, Australia for dessert and asked Tony if he could suggest a "main course" cheese to go with it. He hands me this little hunk of love called Reblochon. This washed rind cheese comes from the Savoie region of France - near the border of Switzerland and Italy. Even though it is part of the "stinky cheese" club, it is a great cheese to share with your stink-a-phobe friends. Another fabulous cheese from this area is Beaufort (see Aug. 23 post). Amazing things come from these mountain pastures, and the cows that make the milk for Reblochon are no exception!

According to Steve Jenkin's Cheese Primer, the word Reblochon might come from the word reblessa (French Savoyard slang for to steal or swipe). In the bad old days, you would milk your cow, but then you'd have to give everything you milked to the taxman and/or over-lord. Bummer, right? But if you were clever, you'd fake like you'd gotten all the milk possible out of Bessie, only to go back after the bad guys left to milk her for yourself. Sneaky, right? And the best news is that for whatever reason, the second milking would result in even richer milk with higher butterfat! Whoo Hoo!

This cheese has the most wonderful texture. Smooth and soft, but confident and not goopy. The rind is brine washed, so it has that distinctive smelly-ness, but not so much that you're worried about what is going on your cracker. It has just enough saltiness, and is so rich, with just a little nuttiness. It tasted great with the Pinot Noir we had open, but I bet it would have been even better with a bigger wine. The DH and I could have kept eating, but I knew I had artichoke ravioli with a ricotta/pepper sauce coming out next. Plus, now I have enough left over to have for "Cheese for a Wednesday Night!"

So, don't "reblessa" any of this amazing Reblochon, but keep an eye out, and enjoy whenever you can!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

For All You Dog Lovers...

This is Philby. He is a VERY spoiled greyhound (as you can see from the fact that he has managed to take over the entire couch and ALL the pillows). He loves all kinds of treats, and will stand behind you in the kitchen hoping that you will accidentally trip over him and fall backward holding a steak.

Because he is so cute, however, I just don't mind (except when he is making a pest of himself at dinner parties). In fact, I tend to encourage it with new stuffed toys and left over pieces of chicken skin.

Yesterday, however, I entered a whole new world of pet pampering when I discovered a new reason to go to the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Cheese Rinds! Most dogs love cheese, but don't tend to be that discerning about whether they get Velveeta or artisinal cheddar. I have given Philby more than one pill buried in a slice of pasteurized processed cheese food. The problem with giving dogs cheese snacks to regularly is that it tends to do weird things to their tummies, and the snack lasts for all of 2 seconds and then they are begging for more. Not so with rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano! These rinds (also delicious thrown into minestrone soup) are the perfect dog treat. They are tough but tasty. Plenty of cheese still left on the rind, and since the rind is really just extra hard cheese, it's all natural! More like a rawhide chew than a cheese nip. Philby loves them, and so do I. I think it took him a whole 10 minutes to chew through it, and when he came back, I have never seen him look so happy! I picked up a whole sack of these rinds at the Cheese Store. People don't tend to want them (they don't grate up very well), so they are kind of like left-over bones at the butcher counter.

I don't know if you can pick these up at other cheese stores - I haven't asked - but you should!

Here's to happy cheese dreams - for you and your dog.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Great Minds....

After a delightful day off pre-Labor day, I staggered into Bay Cities Italian Deli still a little delirious from my facial, and in the daze of too many layers of moisturizer, I wandered over to the cheese counter, where I found a pre-sliced, plastic wrapped hunk of Tallegio. I grabbed it and proceeded to wander the store picking up ridiculous things like tubes of tomato paste and aloe vera juice and putting them back down again. When I was done, the only thing I still had from the beginning was the Tallegio.

Tallegio is a traditional Italian, washed rind cheese - ie: stinky. It was a good sign when I could smell it through the plastic wrap! I love the fact that this is traditionally a square cheese, rather than a round one. It stands out at the cheese counter. So I get home and show my finds to my sweet DH, only to find out that he had almost bought a hunk of the exact same cheese! How wild is that? And how sweet!

So, it warmed up, and we are enjoying it with a little Pinot Noir. It's a funny thing that just because a cheese smells crazy stinky because of the washed rind doesn't mean that it is hugely mushroomy and barn-yardy. This cheese is almost meaty, maybe even a little bread-y or yeasty. It isn't very gooey, it keeps its shape when you cut it, and it has an almost velvety "mouth feel." Very sophisticated. It knows its a great cheese, and doesn't need to shoot off any fireworks. I almost want to eat it with raspberry jam! Maybe a richer red wine might have done the trick. But it is still delicious, and makes me want to keep eating.

Unfortunately, I can't keep eating right now - we're out the door to the movies. Guaranteed, though, that if I fall asleep, I'll dream of sitting in an outdoor Italian cafe drinking a big red wine and eating on a giant hunk of Tallegio.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Buried Buckets of Butter!

A few weeks ago, my darling dad sent me a great link about some 3,000 year old butter that was recently found in a English bog. Crazy stuff. Three thousand year old butter!! These two blokes "harrowing" the bog found the butter barrel with their hoes, and the smell of the ancient butter brought the crows (the archaeologists came later!). The wooden barrel was packed with 77 pounds of butter and hidden away in the bog. It isn't edible anymore (surprise!). It has expanded over the years splitting its oak log container, but the lid was still on, and there it all was, waiting for its Iron Age creators to come back looking for something to spread on their morning toast.

While this sounds like a one of a kind find, it isn't completely unheard of. This one may be one of the biggest, and the fact that it wasn't damaged at all until the hoes whacked into it earlier this year is unusual. Apparently, there was a lot more butter being made back in the day than there were people to eat it, and lots of butter ended up getting buried for later use. In addition to going on toast, it may also have been an important trading commodity, and was something worth hiding. In fact, according to "Butter through the Ages" points out that it was a 12th century Scandinavian export, and that one of the most common artifacts found in Ireland is an ancient buried bucket of butter. According to these butter educators, the butter was often mixed with garlic (probably to make it taste better after its time in the ground!). "Butter through the Ages" also points out that the people who buried these buckets and barrels of butter knew it would be a while before they came back, and would sometimes plant a tree to mark the spot! I wonder if there used to be a tree over the barrel they just found in the bog. Amazing that a bog, and a barrel of butter have been in the same location for THREE THOUSAND YEARS. This buried barrel simply boggles my brain.

Makes me appreciate the nub of butter I put in my risotto tonight just a little bit more!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Feeling Cheesed Off?

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, when nothing really goes the way you want it to? When meetings you have been dreading are just as bad as you were anticipating? When you waited and waited for that one signature (that never came) to complete a project and get it out the door? When you got the eggs home after a miserable shopping trip only to find a couple broken with egg goo all over the bag? Ya, me too.

How do you feel on those days? Miserable? Crappy? Fed up? Cheesed off? Really? Why would anyone want to equate feeling crabby with cheese? Doesn't everyone feel happier when they eat cheese?

From what I've been able to glean from various internets, including Merriam Webster and "World Wide Words", the phrase is British in origin, and strangely Merriam Webster lists its year of origin as 1942. And darn those Brits, but apparently in olden times, they didn't like their cheese stinky (though they do make amazing Cheddar and other tasty cheese). Sadly, the phrase "cheesed off" refers to the delightful "stinky" smell of cheese. I have this vision of a miserable Brit having a bad experience with a washed rind cheese that had just been patiently waiting for someone to come and love it, sending its fumes off into the world looking for a friend, only to run across this crabby patty, who wrinkles up his nose, and the rest of his day is ruined. To his mind, that complex, charming cheese was "off," and from that day on, whenever he was having a really miserable day, with his quirky British sarcasm firmly in place, he would tell people he was cheesed off. Somehow, it caught on.

Anyway, that's just my version of events. Please feel free to share your own version of events!

Sleep on it. Wake up happy, and try always to eat cheese not get cheesed off!