Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kinsman Ridge from Landaff Creamery

Good evening loyal readers!

After a two month hiatus from my position at Whole Foods Market and the beloved cheese counter, I have returned! I was extremely excited to visit the cheese counter to see what new and yummy cheeses we had on promotion. To my pleasure, I saw that a cheese aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill was on promotion - the Kinsman Ridge from Landaff Creamery!

Cheese: Kinsman Ridge
Cheesemakers: Deb and Doug Erb of Landaff Creamery (aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont)
Location: Landaff, NH
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The milk used at Landaff Creamery comes from Springvale Farm - the farm founded by Doug's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Frederick A. Erb, DVM and taken over by Doug and Deb Erb in 1989. The veterinary office that Doug's father used to occupy is now the cheese making room for Landaff Creamery! Pretty cool right?

The Kinsman Ridge is inspired by St. Nectaire. It is a semi-soft, tomme-style cheese that has a beautiful natural rind. For some reason, I am really drawn to this particular style of cheese. I love the natural rind cheeses that demonstrate the characteristics of the caves in which they are aged. I smelled an earthy, buttery, musty aroma when I unwrapped the Kinsman Ridge. Upon putting a piece in my mouth, I was blown away with the complexity of this cheese. The paste was springy and smooth, with small eyes throughout. It reminded me of a savory, slightly firmer Taleggio without the as much yeast flavor present. I can see how St. Nectaire influenced the cheesemakers in the creation of this cheese, but I wouldn't say the Kinsman Ridge is nearly as funky as the St. Nectaire can be.

The first thing I thought of when I tried the Kinsman Ridge was that I needed to cook with this cheese. I could just taste how unctuous and lovely a macaroni and cheese or fondue would be if made with this cheese. I would also recommend using this cheese on any of your Oktoberfest cheese plates because it would pair very nicely with the myriad German beers that are being featured now.

Most of the cheese counters at the Whole Foods Markets in Northern California and Reno would have the Kinsman Ridge, so be sure to swing by your local WFM cheese counter and ask for a sample. I absolutely loved this cheese and I'm sure you will too!

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fat Bottom Girl - It Makes the Rocking World Go Round

Hello hello hello!

I have returned alive and well! I am now happily married, nicely rested and ready to get back to work! Upon our return from our honeymoon, my wife (!) and I stopped at our local Whole Foods Market to get groceries and some cheese of course. I was very pleased to see that the cheeses from Bleating Heart Cheese had returned to our cheese counter and was quick to grab a couple pieces.

Today I am going to talk about the Fat Bottom Girl, the flagship cheese from Bleating Heart Cheese, because it is one of my favorites and I can completely relate to the name right now. I am definitely a "fat bottomed girl" after not working out like normal, traveling and eating very decadent foods on our honeymoon.

Cheese: Fat Bottom Girl
Cheesemakers: Seana Doughty and Dave Dalton of Bleating Heart Cheese
Location: Tomales, CA
Milk: Raw sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

I absolutely love the story behind how this cheese got its name. Here's the story from their website:

"The cheese's unique whimsical shape began as an accident when cheesemaker Seana was helping out at friend Marcia Barinaga's dairy. Seana had taken some cheeses out of their forms to be flipped, but then had to run out to get ready for the afternoon milking. Upon returning to the creamery, Seana saw the cheeses had flattened a bit under their own weight and were starting to get an asymmetrical shape with a fat bottom. It was a mistake, but it made her laugh. Seana quickly decided that she actually liked this funny look and continued to develop the process, coming up with the correct timing to achieve the desired fat bottom shape. Seana found herself frequently referring to those yet-to-be-named cheeses as "fat bottom girls," which is a song by Queen that had come up on Seana's iPod while working in the creamery. The name stuck." (http://www.bleatingheart.com/cheese/sheep-milk/fat-bottom-girl)

When I first unwrapped the cheese, I was hit with one of my favorite aromas - the musty, funky aroma of a washed rind cheese. It was not overly pungent like Morbier or Raclette, but still had the pleasant "tang" that I so love in washed rind cheeses. The paste is a gorgeous ivory with a little touch of yellow closer to the rind and has a wonderfully smooth consistency with little bits of tyrosine crystals throughout.

The flavor of this fantastic cheese portrays all of the good qualities of working with not only sheep's milk, but raw sheep's milk. When you take the first bite, you are met with the nutty, buttery qualities with which we are familiar from sheep's milk. But then you are transported into the world of the sheep whose milk you are enjoying. Depending on the season, you can taste different nuances of the greenery on which these sheep feasted.

I would absolutely pair this cheese with a nice local honey or a Saison farmhouse style ale. The sweetness of the honey would go wonderfully with the nuttiness of the cheese. The slight funk of the Saison would really play nicely with the touch of funk the Fat Bottom Girl has.

Most of the Whole Foods Market cheese counters in the Northern California region (including Reno) should have these cheese available, so be sure to stop by and ask for a sample. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Beauty of Bethmale

Good evening!

For our July promotions, we received another really fun seasonal cheese at our cheese counter that I wanted to feature - Bethmale.

Cheese: Bethmale
Affineur: Hervé Mons
Location: Valley of Bethmale in Pyrenees, France
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

This is another amazing cheese from the caves of Hervé Mons. It is only available during the summer/fall and is quite a treat. I bought a piece from the Santa Rosa store on Yulupa today and when I opened it up, I was met with the slightly funky, barnyard smell typical of washed rinds. The paste is slightly yellow which tells me that the cows were on pasture in the spring when they were milked.

The milk comes from several small, local dairies and when the process of making Bethmale begins, the milk is heated to 86°F, renneted and left for 45 minutes. It is then hand cut and put into a mold with thick cheesecloth. It is first hand pressed, flipped and hand pressed again. A heavy plank is then put on top of the forms overnight to expel more whey. The next morning, the cheese is taken out of the form, the cheesecloth is removed and is salted on one side. The other side will be salted the following day. After this process, the Bethmale is transferred to the maturing caves where it will be aged from 4-8 weeks. It is regularly flipped and washed with a brine solution leading to the pungent, sticky washed rind.

The Hervé Mons team was kind enough to send some little jars of traditional blueberry preserves from the same region as the Bethmale. My oh my, what a treat! 

I did this tasting with my Mom and it maybe took us five minutes to finish all of the cheese. The cheese itself was slightly pungent, but more mushroomy and creamy. I would categorize this cheese as a semi-soft cheese because of its springy paste. So, this means it will melt incredibly well and be a great addition to your cooking. When I put the blueberry preserve over the top, I was completely blown away. The bright, acidic, juicy blueberries with the little bit of sugar along with the earthy, tangy, creamy cheese was an incredibly balanced pairing. The acidity of the blueberries cut the fat in the creamy Bethmale. It was like eating a blueberry cheesecake. Sooooooo incredible.

The Betmale is on sale for the month of July, so be sure to stop by your local Whole Foods Market cheese counter and ask for a sample! I'm sure you're going to love it. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sleeping Beauty from Cascadia Creamery

Happy weekend loyal readers!

I hope your weekend has been treating you well. Today I wanted to talk about a newcomer to my cheese counter - the Sleeping Beauty.

Cheese: Sleeping Beauty
Producer: Cascadia Creamery
Cheesemaker: John Shuman
Location: Trout Lake, WA
Milk: Organic raw cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Cascadia Creamery is a family run operation and they have revived a long tradition of artisan cheesemaking in the Trout Lake Valley that started almost 125 years ago. The Trout Lake Valley is an ideal location for cheesemaking because of the rich volcanic soil, lush grazing fields and temperate weather. All of the cheeses they make are 100% organic and raw!

The Sleeping Beauty is a natural rind cheese that is wonderfully smooth and elegant. I particularly loved the texture of the paste - it looked like it would be crumbly and dry, when in fact it was smooth and creamy. The natural rind lends some earthiness to the paste and I imagine this cheese would change depending on the season.

I would recommend eating this cheese with some crisp apples or pears and maybe a yummy cider. I could even see a nice light pilsner or pale ale playing nicely with this cheese. I also found a very decadent recipe for Sleeping Beauty Mac n Cheese on my friend Marcella's blog... check it out! http://www.marcellathecheesemonger.com/2014/03/29/sleeping-beauty-mac-n-cheese/

I hope you all get the chance to try this delicious cheese. Be sure to ask for it (and for a sample) at your local cheese counter! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Spice Up Your 4th!

Good evening everyone! Happy (almost) 4th of July!

When I asked my coworker Lucy what cheese I should feature for 4th of July, she immediately said "Scorpion Cheddar! People can burn their tongues as they burn in the sun". This made me laugh, so I decided to go with her advice.

Meet the current pepper cheddar that is the hottest on the market to date....

Cheese: Scorchin' Scorpion Cheddar
Producer: Henning's Wisconsin Cheese
Cheesemaker: Kerry Henning
Location: Kiel, Wisconsin
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

This cheese is spicy... so spicy that we had to put a sign up warning our customers! I just saw this sign today and I just had to take a picture. I actually wore gloves while I was cutting this cheese and prepping it for this blog post. "This cheese is no joke"!

When you first bite into this cheese, you're lulled by the creamy, cheddar flavor with which we're all so familiar, and then, the heat starts to creep up... I gave a taste to my team members yesterday when we first brought it in and many were fine at first, but every single person was surprised with how spicy the cheddar was. The Scorpion Pepper (a.k.a. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion) has a bit more than 2,000,000 Scoville Units - almost double the spiciness of a Ghost Pepper!!! It's currently listed as the second spiciest pepper in the world.

I took a picture of the inside of the Scorpion Cheddar sticker and the folks at Hennings were nice enough to provide a recipe for some diabolical macaroni and cheese... I haven't tried it myself yet, but it sounds incredible. If you like spicy food, try it!

I would absolutely pair this cheese with a crisp, hoppy double or triple IPA. Try Simtra or Hoparillo from Knee Deep Brewing or Ruination from Stone Brewing. These would all pair very nicely with the Scorpion Cheddar.

We aren't allowed to leave passive samples out for this cheese as it is so spicy, but if you'd like to try it for yourself, ask any of your local Northern California/Reno WFM Cheesemongers and we'd be happy to cut you a sample. I hope everyone has a great 4th!!! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, June 26, 2015

#Lovewins Rogue Creamery

Hello everyone,

I apologize for being MIA for the last month. I had to move a bit unexpectedly, was debilitated with food poisoning and am just getting back into the swing of things.

Needless to say, after hearing the momentous news that the Supreme Court ruling today made same-sex marriage a right nationwide, I was ecstatic! I immediately started thinking about cheesemakers that I knew who were a part of the LGBT community and really wanted to do a blog post featuring a cheese made by one of said cheesemakers. After some brainstorming, I remembered that David Gremmels and Cary Bryant of Rogue Creamery in Oregon were not just business partners, but life partners as well. Luckily for me, I have a really yummy blue cheese from them picked specifically for Whole Foods Market that I decided to feature today.

Cheese: Oregon Blue
Producer: Rogue Creamery
Cheesemakers: David Gremmels and Cary Bryant
Location: Central Point, OR
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk (originally raw cow's milk, but just recently switched to pasteurized)
Rennet: Vegetarian

Now I have tried several of Rogue Creamery's cheeses and I have to say that my all time favorite is their award winning Rogue River Blue... but we can't always get this cheese as it is a seasonal cheese. This particular version of Oregon Blue is hand selected for Whole Foods Market based on a flavor profile (out of 30 different lots) agreed upon by David and Cathy Strange, our Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market, who also happens to be a lesbian - yay!!! I also talked to Tim Healy, one of Roque Creamery's wholesale representatives and my good friend, and he told me that the best of the best of the Oregon Blue recipe actually is set aside to become the Rogue River Blue - no wonder I love this cheese!

The Oregon Blue cheese is a perfect middle of the road cheese that is not too piquant or salty. It has a great balance of flavor with a paste that is reminiscent of sweet cream with a touch of salt and mellow, earthy but still very enticing veins of blue mold.

Some fun facts about this cheese - the milk is RBST free, it is gluten free, it is cave aged for a minimum of 90 days, is artisan made since 1957 and is Rogue Creamery's Classic Signature Blue Cheese. I also asked my friend Tim why the creamery recently switched this recipe to pasteurized milk as opposed to raw milk. He told me that this year, they combined their "girls" with another herd and David's partner, Cary, really wanted to pasteurize the milk just for one year to better control the variables and overall the quality. What an amazing sacrifice! Rogue Creamery is well-known for their passion in using raw milk and to maintain their high quality, decided to pasteurize their milk for one year. I actually wasn't aware of this until today and I respect the folks at Rogue Creamery even more than I did before.

I had a bit of a sweet tooth today, so I decided to pair this amazing blue cheese with some orange blossom honey.... soooooooooooo goooooooood! I was sampling it out to customers and definitely heard some blissful exclamations. 

If you'd like to celebrate and support the LGBT community, please consider supporting Rogue Creamery in any way you can. They make several varieties of blue cheese as well as several cheddars and even some blue cheese powder! If you'd like to try some Rogue Creamery cheeses, swing by any of your local Whole Foods Markets and ask to try some cheeses from Rogue Creamery. Any cheesemonger will be able to point these out for you.

I'm so excited to be able to write about this cheese in celebration of the SCOTUS decision today. My fiance (a woman) and I are very excited to get married in August and not only be recognized in California, but the rest of the country as well. Cheers!

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Willoughby and Barr Hill Gin

Let me tell you a little story...

I've been starting to flirt with the idea of pairing spirits and cheese. I know it's not a brand new idea, but it's taken a hold of me and I want to run with it. I knew that I couldn't start doing this with mass-produced factory spirits just like I couldn't start my cheese pairing/passion/business with American slices...

Because I don't have a large amount of money, I usually reserve my alcohol purchases to a reasonable 22oz bottle of beer or a 750ml of wine. I've found some gems and I've found some stinkers, but they're at least within my price range. The only "spirits" that I could find in my price range really cannot be rightfully be placed in the same category as artisan spirits. I think of them more like kerosene... Once my palette for cheese, beer and wine really began to blossom and I could recognize the subtle nuances of each type, I knew I was ready to attempt the "spirit-world" (pun absolutely intended).

(I promise I'm getting to the cheese soon!)

Firstly, I have to give all credit to Mary Guiver for teaching me how to properly enjoy spirits. It's not just there for a shot - forgive me, this was my college experience - it's there for the enjoyment, just like any other beverage. Working with her for the short period that I did allowed me to start really trying and enjoying different spirits. I could easily point to which ones I cared for and which ones I would rather light on fire. Then, moving on to the Los Altos location gave me even more opportunity to try artisan spirits. We can't sample alcohol on the clock, but my schedule just so happens to fall into place where I get to participate in the active samplings done in my store once my shift is over. I've tried myriad amazing spirits and can't wait to experience more.

This is where I met Sarah Bryant, our incredibly passionate and fun Bay Area brand ambassador for Caledonia Spirits.

Sarah introduced me to the Caledonia Spirits company in Vermont that works very closely with the Vermont, Hardwick and Caledonia Country and the farmers/cheesemakers/dairy producers therein. Todd D. Hardie, the founder of Caledonia Spirits, actually started off as a beekeeper for 49 years! Sarah even brought in a tub of Caledonia Spirits Raw Honey they produce. He hired Ryan Christiansen as head distiller and Andrew Pinault as production manager.

They've created a beekeepers co-op, with small farmers from New York, North Dakota and Michigan in order to source the best possible product and keep up with our demand for the highest quality raw honey that go into their spirits.  Todd was keeping 2000 hives and decided to give them to our bee-keeping friends, to support as many family farms as possible with our distillery.  Caledonia Spirits is buying honey in 55 gal drums and processing (filtering, jarring, labeling) in house in Hardwick, VT to keep the cost of production for the beekeepers as low as possible.  This allows us to sell over $100 of honey for ~ $60 as Vodka - and create many jobs in the process!! Todd Hardie is a visionary Founder/Beekeeper and as a farmer he knows that value-added products keep the farm sustainable. His wife and partner Tanya is actually the aunt of Mateo Kehler from Jasper Hill Creamery

This is where the cheese comes in.. after talking to Sarah about how the cheeses produced at Jasper Hill Creamery were produced in the exact same area as the honey and spirits produced at Caledonia Spirits. I took this nugget and ran with it... I bought the Harbison and the Willoughby once I was able to procure some of the Barr Hill Gin and immediately went home to try...

*That's a sexy picture right there... I do have to say that I will only be speaking of the Willoughby today as I thought it was the best pairing and Harbison has made an appearance on my blog several times...*

Cheese: Willoughby
Original Producer: Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery
Current Producer: Jasper Hill Farm
Location: Greensboro Bend, VT
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

As mentioned above, the Willoughby was originally created/produced by Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery. In 2010, there was a creamery fire that resulted in a stop in production of this cheese. Jasper Hill Creamery, with Marisa's blessing, has resurrected this fantastic cheese and is continuously developing the recipe.

The Willoughby is a delicious washed rind cheese that is surprisingly small, yet maintains a relatively firm paste - and by firm, I mean it doesn't immediately ooze all over the plate. You can actually cut and portion this cheese up until about 9 weeks after its production. What I find incredible about this cheese is how rich the paste is (buttery, fudgy, herbal) while having a very thin washed rind that adds the earth and the funk to the flavor of the cheese without completely overpowering everything else.

I literally could eat the Willoughby with a spoon on my couch without any accompaniment, but I was super eager to pair it with the Barr Hill Gin. The Barr Hill Gin from Caledonia Spirits is made with pure grain spirits with only juniper berry and raw northern honey - the honey being added just before bottling. By itself, the Barr Hill Gin is wonderfully flavorful and you really do get hints of the raw honey. I had it straight in the snifter when I first brought it home and was over the moon.

When I tried the Willoughby and the Barr Hill Gin together, well, I was speechless. I never knew there was such thing as terroir in spirits, but pairing those two items together from the exact same region in Vermont, it felt like I was transported to the Northeast Kingdom. Like I was standing in a field listening to the wind sway through the grass, the bees buzz and the cows moo in the distance. It was an incredible experience.

So incredible in that our dog, Joe, was looking at me longingly the entire time I ate the Willoughby and drank the Barr Hill Gin. I'm sure to a dog, the aromatics were wonderful....

Well, that was probably one of my longest blogs in a while and I apologize for being long-winded, but I think everyone should go out and try this pairing. Not every Whole Foods in our region carries spirits, so be sure to call and ask if they carry the Barr Hill Gin before visiting. If you see the Willoughby in any of our cheeses cases, don't hesitate to pick up a wheel (they're only 8 ounces).

If you happen to try this pairing, please let me know what you think! Feedback is welcome for all of my posts, but as I delve into a world less familiar, I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can comment below or email me at shootinthebries@gmail.com.

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!