Saturday, June 5, 2010

Seal Cove Farm Cheve - bringing the family together.

The past few days have felt like a week and a half, they have been so full of family events.  I met my brother at the Portland, Maine airport in the middle of the night, and we drove up to Belfast to celebrate the life and remember the love my grandmother had for all of us and we for her at a lovely memorial service.  It was the first time the whole family has been together in longer than any of us could figure out, so it served as a family reunion as well.  

My brother and I rented a cottage at the same complex where we stayed as kids, skipping rocks down by the shore and chasing lightening bugs.  A little sentimentality is appropriate at times like this.  Unlike when we were kids, however, we were able to stop at the grocery store to pick up a six pack of beer, a bottle of decent Pinot Grigot and, of course, some cheese and crackers!  As you know, I'm always a little leery of grocery store cheese, but with a little snooping, I found something fun.  Seal Cove Farm herbed chevre from Lamoine, Maine.  Local and tasty!  Good thing too, because our cottage turned into the afterparty spot after dinner on Thursday night for the cousins and a few aunts and uncles.  Serious props to my brother for getting the fire going in the stove.  You warded off the chill and made things just a little more cozy.

It was a little tough to open the package with the giant ginsu knife that we found in the drawer at the cabin, but once it was open, almost everyone was nibbling.  This cheese, from  Seal Cove Farm near Bar Harbor, which comes from the 125 goats that happily grazing on the rocky coast was perfect for the party.  It is flavored with herbes de provence, and while it tastes like there is garlic in the mix, there isn't.  The little bit of tang from the goat's milk combined with the herbs just bring out this great blend of flavors.  It's not a really complicated cheese, but since most of the relatives aren't really aware of my serious obsession with the curd, it's probably better that I didn't have a cheese soapbox to lecture from during the party. What a drag that would have been.  Instead, we just had some laughs, and shared some great stories, and got to know each other again with a little cheese and wine to lubricate the love.  

By the time everyone left and my brother and I were alone with our jet lag and a serious game of Crazy Eights, almost all the cheese was gone.  We took care of that pretty well.  

The next day we gathered at the hillside cemetery to say goodbye to Gram, with the sun shining down and the wildflowers blooming across the way.  It was a beautiful service, and we all came together with love for her and for each other.  I think she would have approved.  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cheese for a Wednesday - pt. 31 Camillia, a Farmer's Market Find

As the weather changes and the sun stays out longer, my tastes spin toward Sauvignon Blanc, Stainless Steel Charddonay and goat cheese. It's kind of a cliche, but it's how my palate and brain work.  Crisp, clean flavors help keep summer from getting too funky (though some might argue that goat cheese is funky enough...).  Another thing I love about summer is the Farmer's Market.  Around here, it's open all year round, but there is something much more festive about buying apricots and fava beans than rutabega and turnips.

So, the last time I went to the Farmer's Market with my re-usable bag and steel toed boots to protect myself from the profusion of strollers, I stopped by the Redwood Hill Farm stall and picked up a hockey puck sized Camembert style goat cheese named Camellia.  The dairy is up in Sebastopol (far from Los Angeles), but I got a chance to talk with a few people who had just been up at the farm to see the new kids.  I really got a sense that they really care for their herd, who all have names.

Camellia is one of their favorite goats, and the cheese certainly looks like a Camembert (other than the goat on the label).  The bloomy rind has the appropriate ammonia-lite scent, and there is a milky-ness to the nose of the paste.  What's different is the bone white color of the paste - normal for goat cheese but weird if you are expecting the butter yellow paste of a traditional Camembert.  The flavor has a wee bit of goat-y funk, but really it just tastes sweet and creamy with just a touch of salty.  Pretty fantastic!  We tasted ours when the cheese was still young, but it still had a nice richness to it, though it didn't ever get really gooey even when we let it set at room temp for over an hour, but it did get nicely soft. This cheese has won several gold medals at competitions, so other people think it's good too!

I saw this for sale up in Santa Barbara wine country at the local market, and I'll be enjoying it again the next time I head to the Farmer's Market during my continued celebration of longer days and warmer nights!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Science Project Update!

Science Monday has become Science Tuesday this week due to a last-ish minute trip to the beautiful Santa Barbara wine country.  If you'll remember, last Monday, I began a quest to reproduce the bacteria found in the fabulous Vendeen Bichonne.  I swiped a precious piece of this cheese across a petri dish and waited.  And waited, and waited.  And then...attack of the killer mold!!!  I must say I was impressed with the miniature world I had created.  I had the Professor look at my civilization, and he helped me realize that I've actually created two separate worlds - one of bacteria and one of mold.  The big blue-ish and white fuzzy circles are the mold and the smaller dots are bacteria.  The Professor recommended that while mold is an important part of the cheesemaking process, it might be a little more volatile than I am scientifically prepared to manage.  He did suggest that I try and grow the bacteria a little more, by transferring it to a clean petri dish with a (scrupulously clean - ha!) toothpick and waiting (again!) to get a little more bacterial growth.

Hopefully, in another week, my bacteria universe will be teaming with life!