Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Snow Camp: Cheese From My North Carolina Adventures

Hello everyone!

I took the last couple of weeks off so I could travel around Napa, San Francisco and North Carolina with Lynn. It was a wonderful getaway. I figured that since I was on the other coast, I could talk about a cheese that was local to where I was. In this case, I chose the Snow Cap from Goat Lady Dairy.

Cheese: Snow Camp
Producer: Goat Lady Dairy
Location: Climax, NC
Milk: Pasteurized cow and goat's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian 

One of my friends and past Official Conference Cheesemongers from the ACS Conference - Alexander Kast actually works at Goat Lady Dairy. But, every time I had seen him sampling their cheeses at various events, I hadn't been able to stop and taste their selection. I was really excited when I realized that I was close to their creamery and their cheeses were readily available at the Greensboro and Chapel Hill Whole Foods Markets. After looking over the selection and talking with the cheesemongers behind the counter at Whole Foods, the Snow Camp is the cheese I decided to feature.

What a sexy looking cheese! Right when I cut into it, the paste - or shall I say goo - oozed out onto the plate. The aroma of this cheese was very pleasant - with hints of mushroom and earth - nothing really over the top. The wheel I cut into was the at the perfect age in my opinion, with the rind being the structure holding the divine gooey paste inside. The flavor is a perfect balance with the cow and goat's milk. The cow's milk has the buttery, creamy, unctuous quality while the goat's milk gives a nice gamey, tangy touch of barnyard to balance out the richness. Such an amazing cheese! I wish I could get it more readily on the West Coast!

I decided to take it one step further since I was in North Carolina and pair the Snow Camp with a local beer. I decided to go with the Foothills Brewing People's Porter from Winston Salem, NC. The toasty, malty quality of the porter really paired nicely with the buttery, tangy Snow Camp. It reminded me of having roasted marshmallows while camping... You really have to try it!

That's all I have for now... I hope you all have chance to try this pairing! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Persillé du Malzieu

Hello everyone and happy tax day to all of my American readers!

Today started off a bit crazy for me as I was one of the thousands of Americans running frantically to the Post Office to make sure my taxes went out on time. Glad that's over!

It was nice coming in to work today as I found a much awaited treat from France - the Persillé du Malzieu.

Cheese: Persillé du Malzieu
Affineur: Hervé Mons
Location: Produced by a cooperative in Malzieu Ville, France
Milk: Pasteurized sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

This particular cheese was recommended to me by a customer. He said that he had had it at a different Whole Foods Market location and that we should bring it in. I asked my buyer very nicely to bring it in so we could try it. After waiting 8 weeks (that's how long it takes to get cheese shipped from France), it's finally here! I was very excited to try some. 

As I crumbled a little piece off I could see that there was a lot of mold present, which means more flavor! The smell wasn't particularly strong, but the taste... oh, the taste. Strong and spicy with a nice salty, creamy balance. It walks a thin line of being too potent, but the balance in the cheese makes it amazing. 

I love how Murray's cheese shop describes this cheese: "Spice is the variety of life, which is why we hunger for this rare, powerfully spicy blue. Produced just beyond the legally protected limits of Roquefort, this cheese is made of Lacaune sheep milk, like it's more famous neighbor, but captures a far greater flavor spectrum. Texturally, Malzieu sits heavy on the tongue, only to dissolve into a milky skim within seconds. The threat of excess salt, razing sharpness, and intense moldiness is present but always at bay. Beautifully balanced with rich, fatty milk, mushroom, and a long sweetness that should be complemented by a rich, oily dessert wine such as Sauternes or tawny Port." 

The other difference between the Persillé du Malzieu and Roquefort is that Persillé du Malzieu is made with pasteurized sheep's milk instead of raw sheep's milk. For those folks who prefer their cheeses pasteurized, this is a great alternative. But if you're not keen on blue cheeses, I would recommend steering clear of this blue "giant". Lots of delicious flavor, but really quite strong.

If you'd like to try a piece, come on by the Whole Foods Market in Los Altos where we just freshly cut a wheel of this delectable cheese. I hope to see you all soon. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mediterranean Raclette

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and/or Passover. I've been busily planning my wedding as well as working with Business Insider on an article called: "What it's REALLY like to work at Whole Foods". If you're interested, you can find the link here: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-its-really-like-to-work-at-whole-foods-market-2015-4

I was very honored that I was asked to do this interview and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. A HUGE thank you to all of my loyal readers who have helped make this blog what it is today.

Today I wanted to talk about the Mediterranean Raclette from Emmi Roth USA.

Cheese: Mediterranean Raclette
Producer: Emmi Roth USA
Location: Monroe, WI
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The flavored cheeses are not cheeses I typically blog about. But, I am always impressed with the innovations the folks at Emmi Roth come up with for traditional recipes of cheeses - in this case, Raclette. Besides the Mediterranean Raclette, they also have a Roasted Garlic Raclette and a 5 Peppercorn Raclette. I have had the opportunity to try them all at ACS Conferences past and boy oy boy, are they delicious.

We just recently received the Mediterranean Raclette at our cheese counter and I decided to try it just on its own, without being melted. This version of the Raclette has a tomato basil garlic mix, sundried tomato and black olives. I was a little nervous about the black olives at first, but they added a nice tangy acidity without being overly salty. The paste was very smooth and creamy, not as "stinky" as some of the other Raclettes I have had. Needless to say, this cheese is AMAZING melted. Whether you use a Raclette machine, or if you just melt it into your pasta, you will thoroughly enjoy this cheese.

Two of my rockstar team members, Ernest and Ian, both enjoyed the tasting of the Mediterranean Raclette as well. The folks at Emmi Roth USA recommend that you pair this cheese with olives and peppadews, a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, or a Lager or Pilsner. All of these pairings sounds very appealing...

The Mediterranean Raclette is on sale for the month of April, so if you want to have a little fun with melted cheese, come pick up a wedge! I hope you all have a wonderful week. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, March 27, 2015

São Jorge DOP

Good day fellow cheese people!

Today I've decided to talk about a Portuguese DOP status cheese, the São Jorge. Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote about the St. George from Matos Cheese Factory which is a local version of the São Jorge. You can flashback to my old blogpost on the St. George here: http://shootinthebries.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-local-gem-st-george.html

I find it a very fun coincidence that I am now writing about the original, which is an outstanding cheese deserving of emulation. And here we go!

Cheese: São Jorge
Region: São Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

As its name implies, the cheese is made on the island of São Jorge in Portugal. The climate and soil on this island are ideal for dairying (the island has over 20,000 cows!), so the long tradition of cheesemaking makes total sense. The cows are milked twice a day and a right after each milking, cheesemaking commences. The evening milk is delivered around 8:30pm and the cheesemaking starts then and lasts until about 4am. That's dedication!

This cheese really embodies the characteristics of raw milk. You get the tangy, piquant acidity which is classic in raw milk cheeses, but you also get a wonderful creamy finish. If you're a fan of the "sharp" in sharp cheddar, you will adore this cheese. I find the paste to be quite fun as well. There are tiny eyes sprinkled all throughout leaving a cheese that reminds me of the surface of the moon!

Try this cheese with a nice crisp pilsner, or even a funky sour. But beware when trying this with a sour - depending on which one you choose, you may have a wonderful pairing or a "ouch" pairing with similar competing flavors. These are the types of experimental pairings that I like to try out on my own as I find some very unexpected gems in the mix.

We have this cheese on sale at my cheese counter and all other Northern California/Reno Whole Foods Market stores for just a few more days. Be sure to stop by your local store and try some out! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bellwether Farms San Andreas

Hello everyone!

Recently I've heard a lot of talk about earthquakes and when the next "big one" will hit. Thinking about earthquakes made me think of the San Andreas Fault, which led me to think about the cheese named after this active fault, the San Andreas from Bellwether Farms.

Cheese: San Andreas
Producer: Bellwether Farms
Location: Petaluma, CA
Milk: Raw sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Bellwether Farms is a local creamery located in Petaluma, CA. They have been aging sheep's milk cheeses since 1992. Since then, they have branched out to cow's milk cheeses - like the Carmody and Crescenza - as well. They focus primarily on Italian style cheeses, but also make some decadent sheep's milk yogurt and other fresh products. I've honestly never met a Bellwether Farms product I didn't like.

The San Andreas is a Bellwether Farms evolution of the Pecorino Toscano. It's a touch drier, but has a wonderful creamy, nutty, and mellow flavor. You can tell after tasting this cheese that the cheesemakers at Bellwether Farms take great pride in the quality of their milk. The cheese is very straightforward with no "frills". The raw milk and natural rind really allow the flavor of this cheese to sing.

While tasting the San Andreas today, I was pleasantly surprised by the long finish. I found myself tasting the cheese long after I had swallowed my first bite. I would pair this cheese with a nice fruity Pinot Noir or Merlot. I would also consider using this cheese to kick my macaroni and cheese up a notch. 

If you'd like to swing by the cheese counter at the Whole Foods Market in Los Altos tomorrow, we not only have this magnificent cheese, but we also have all wines $14.99 and up on sale for 20% off! If you buy six or more bottles, you get a whopping 30% off!!! I'm personally buying at least six cases of wine for my wedding... so don't miss out! 

I hope to see many of you tomorrow! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Camembert di Bufala

Hello everyone!

I can't believe that it is already almost halfway into March! How time flies when we're having fun...

Today I wanted to talk about a cheese that is slightly out of the ordinary... the Camembert di Bufala from Italy!

Cheese: Camembert di Bufala
Producer(s): La Casera
Location: Lombardy, Italy
Milk: Pasteurized buffalo's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Upon unwrapping this cheese, I was very pleased with how beautiful the white, fluffy rind was. There were very few flaws and it looked closer to what I associate to be a Brie rind rather than a Camembert. Being led by the name "Camembert" I was expecting this particular cheese to have a bit more funk to its smell, but in actuality, the smell was rather earthy, sweet and pleasant. Just by pressing the rind a little bit, I could tell that there was an ooey gooey delicious cheese just waiting for me to enjoy.

As evidenced by the pictures above, I was right! The paste inside was the exact consistency I was expecting... runny, unctuous and creamy. The flavor though, due to the buffalo milk, was a bit different. I have had buffalo milk cheeses before and expected a touch of gamey-ness, but due to my myriad experiences with other bloomy rind cheeses, I was expecting a lot more of a buttery flavor. Instead, you get a very clean, grassy and, for lack of a better word, gamey flavor.

I oddly enough paired this cheese with some Fire Roasted Jalapeno pita chips, and it was amazing! They were a touch spicy for the cheese, but the cheese (after coming to room temperature) had enough oomph to stand up for itself.

If you are interested in trying something a little different than your normal Brie or Camembert, stop by your local Whole Foods Market in Northern California or Reno and pick up some of the Camembert di Bufala. You'll be taken on a cheese journey of which 99% of you have not ventured.

Have a great rest of your week! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Le Maréchal

Hello everyone!

Happy Lunar New Year!!! I wish you all a very healthy and prosperous year.

Today I'm going to tell you all about a really delicious Swiss cheese called Le Maréchal.

Cheese: Le Maréchal
Producer: Jean-Michele Rapin and family
Location: Granges-Marnand, Switzerland
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

Le Maréchal was created by Jean-Michele Rapin as a nod to his great, great grandfather - a respected blacksmith (maréchal-ferrant in French) whose likeness is on the cheese's label above. The cheese itself is made in traditional Swiss fashion, but is then rolled in a mix of aromatic herbs (including oregano and thyme) and aged for a minimum of four months. The raw milk is delivered twice a day to the creamery from 14 local family farms. A fun fact about this cheese is that flax is added to the cattle feed, so this cheese is a great source of Omega 3s! Who said cheese wasn't good for you?!

To me, the rind makes Le Maréchal even more appealing. The herbs are extremely visible and really help make the cheese pop. When you cut into the cheese, you can see the areas close to the rind have really been permeated with flavor (notice the dark outline close to the rind in the picture below).

When we first unwrapped the Le Maréchal wheel, the smell was quite pungent. It smelled funky like a washed rind should, but had a grassy, herbaceous quality from the herbs. Cutting into the cheese you reveal a beautiful, slightly yellow, firm paste that has a delicious, nutty smell. Eating the cheese was even more of an experience... I was blown away by the complexity and how much of the flavor of the herbs came through in the paste! It was fudgy in consistency, with creamy, brown butter notes and a finish of herbs (thyme was the main aftertaste for me). I would absolutely cook with this cheese and well as feature it as a stand-alone cheese on one of my cheese boards. I'd probably pair a nice Sauvignon Blanc with this cheese to go with the herbs on the rind. The slight acidity of the wine would also cut the fudgy, heaviness of the paste. Mmmm... my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

We just cut a fresh wheel yesterday, so be sure to swing on by the Los Altos Whole Foods Market cheese counter (or any WFM cheese counter in Norcal/Reno) and grab a piece! Hope to see you soon. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!