Sunday, November 16, 2014

Parsley, Sage, - Romao -, and Thyme!

Hello everyone!

It is incredible how quickly Thanksgiving is approaching. A little over a week and we're already there!

As you can imagine, cheese has become a huge part of my holiday traditions and I am often bringing cheese boards to holiday parties. I have several go-to crowd pleaser cheeses that I use on my cheese boards, but I also like to throw in at least one seasonal or fun cheese. The Romao fills both roles for me. While it is available year round, I like to use it during the holidays because the rind is coated in lard and rosemary - and what fits in better with your holiday meal than fat and herbs?
Cheese: Romao
Producer: Estanislao at Castilla La Mancha
Location: Cuenca, Spain
Milk: Raw sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

As stated above, the Romao is from Spain (Cuenca specifically) and is made of 100% raw sheep’s milk. It is hand rubbed with lard and coated with rosemary, then aged in caves for at least 8 months. The flavor of the inner paste is very similar to Manchego - rich, nutty and very flavorful. The rosemary definitely adds a fun element and while very aromatic, the rosemary flavor only penetrates the first ½ inch or so of the paste. All in all a very balanced cheese that does not have overly metallic or bitter flavors from the rosemary.

If you're looking for a yummy beer to have with the Romao, try the Saison DuPont from Belgium. It's a bright, herbal beer with a light effervescence - perfect to cut through the fat in the cheese and pair with the rosemary on the rind.

Like most of the cheeses I've mentioned this month, this cheese is on promotion at the Whole Foods Markets in Northern California and Reno with a sweet price break. Be sure to come in and grab a piece for yourself before it's gone! If you happen to be close to the Los Altos location, be sure to come by and ask for me and I'll give you a yummy sample!

I hope you all are having a great weekend and that you have a wonderful pre-Thanksgiving week. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fromage d'Affinois de Brebis

Hello everyone!
I hope you all had a great weekend. I had a WONDERFUL weekend as Lynn, my better half, proposed to me! I guess I should call her my fiancé now... I'm so excited! We were out of town for most of the weekend, so when we went shopping today, we had to grab a yummy cheese to celebrate. We decided on the Fromage d' Affinois de Brebis.

Cheese: Fromage d'Affinois be Brebis
Producer: Fromagerie Guilloteau
Location: Rhone-Alps region in France
Milk: Pasteurized sheep's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

This cheese is a very approachable considering it is 100% sheep's milk. It is super creamy and buttery while still having a touch of the earthy, gamey, nutty flavors that are present in almost all sheep's milk cheeses. The cheese on its own is very simple, so I decided to step it up a notch...

I spread the Fromage d'Affinois de Brebis on the apple crisps from Simple & Crisp and drizzled some honey over the top. The creamy, nutty cheese with the crispy apple and flavorful honey made for a perfect pairing. The only thing I would possibly add in the future would be a nice, bubbly Prosecco to cut the richness of this delectable treat.

Even my good friends' one year old. Nolan, loved the treat! If you want to try this for yourself, be sure to stop by your local Whole Foods Market cheese counter (the Los Altos location if you'd like to visit me!) and ask for a sample. It's on sale in Northern California/Reno for the month of November, so it would be a great time to take some home for yourself. I hope you get a chance to try this yummy cheese!

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Meadow Creek Dairy's Grayson

Hello all,

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween last night. I had a lot of fun... my girlfriend and I dressed up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Quite a riot!

One of the best things about being back in a store behind the cheese counter is that I get to try all of the delicious seasonal cheeses we receive. The other day we received a shipment of Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy. I was in the right place at the right time because I was the lucky one who got to unwrap and cut this wonderful cheese.

Cheese: Grayson
Producer: The Feete family at Meadow Creek Dairy
Location: Galax, VA
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

As I unwrapped the Grayson, I was greeted with the funky smell typical of washed rind cheeses. The rind was slightly sticky, but not unbearably so. Cutting into the cheese revealed a beautifully smooth, straw colored paste that I couldn't wait to taste.

When I tasted the Grayson, it was like I was tasting the grass the Jersey cows had eaten. The Feetes only make this cheese when the cows are out on pasture when their diet consists of mainly fresh grass. By using raw milk, the flavors of the pasture really come through along with the slightly spicy, very rich flavors of the butterfat in the milk. The consistency is very smooth and relatively firm. It melted beautifully in my mouth and I couldn't help but take another bite.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, you're in luck! It's on promotion for the month of November and is available at most, if not all of the cheese counters in the Northern California/Reno region. You're more than welcome to stop by the cheese counter at the Los Altos location where I have relocated and chat cheese with me as well!

I hope you all had a wonderful first day of November and I look forward to the possibility of talking cheese at my new store with you all. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, October 24, 2014

La Casera Quercino

Hello everyone!

I'm back from my two weeks in Italy and wow, what an amazing time I had. I'm still getting over the last touches of jet lag but for the most part I'm feeling good. When I get all of my pictures compiled, I'll be sure to post some here for you all to see. If you're on Facebook, you can see them on my personal and Shootin' the Bries pages:

Today I figured I would stick with the Italy theme and talk about an Italian cheese that we have currently on promotion - the Quercino from La Casera.

Cheese: Quercino
Producer: La Casera
Location: Piedmont (Piemonte), Italy
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Quercino is derived from the word "quercia" which means Oak in Italian. This is very fitting because it is indeed oak bark that wraps around this wonderful puddle of cheese. It is a soft ripened, bloomy rind cheese that has quite a bit of character. The aroma is musty, slightly funky, but very inviting. The cheese is perfectly tasty with the rind in tact and I actually prefer it that way. But, I wanted to make it easy to share, so I cut off the top "lid" to allow for a kind of fondue pot action. The paste is a straw color with a custard-like consistency. It tastes deliciously buttery, but has an umami, earthy quality that elevates the flavor to the next level. It reminds me of L'Edel de Cleron - vaguely reminiscent of the Vacherin Mont d'Or with more brie-like qualities.

I used the Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisps to dip into this delectable treat. The fruit and seeds in the crackers gave an interesting contrast in both consistency and acidity. If I wasn't at work right now, I would be enjoying this cheese with a nice jammy Zinfandel. Thank goodness it's Friday!

Be sure to visit your local Whole Foods Market cheese counter soon as this cheese is only on sale for a few more days. And speaking of cheese counters.....

I've decided that I have missed being behind the cheese counter so much that I will be returning to the Los Altos Whole Foods Market as the Specialty Team Leader. I'll be running the beer, cheese and wine department and am really looking forward to the holiday season. If you are ever close to the Los Altos store (4800 El Camino Real, Los Altos, CA) be sure to swing by and say hello! I'd be happy to help with any cheese plates, pairings, party planning, etc.

I hope to see you there soon! My first day will be Monday, October 27th. 

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

American Cheese Month Begins!

Hello everyone,

Happy American Cheese Month!!!

October is one of my favorite months of the year for many reasons... I can start to wear turtlenecks and long sleeve shirts, Halloween and the Holidays are just around the corner, and it's a month that celebrates the wonders of American artisan cheese!!!

I'm celebrating American Cheese Month by enjoying some delicious Mt Tam over some yummy Apple crisps from Simple & Crisp topped with peach preserves... quite a treat!

If you want to know more about what American Cheese Month is all about and what other turophiles are doing to celebrate, you can visit these sites:


There are usually a lot of fun promotions going on at your local Whole Foods Market during this month as well. Look for the gold "ACS Winner" sticker to know who took ribbons home at this years American Cheese Society Conference in Sacramento.

During this same conference, 90 Whole Foods Market team members became brand new Certified Cheese Professionals!  Janet Fletcher (author of Cheese & Beer, Cheese & Wine, The Cheese Course and many more) even featured one of my colleagues in her latest Planet Cheese on her feelings of being one of the newly minted CCP's. See below:

Why the Big Smile?
Emailed October 1, 2014

Alison Martin

If your cheesemonger has a little broader smile these days, it could be because he or she has just passed the CCP exam. Like a bar exam for the cheese industry, the CCP (Certified Cheese Professional) quiz is a rigorous test of knowledge. Modeled loosely on programs like Master of Wine and Master Sommelier, the three-year-old credential encourages professionalism among the people who market and sell specialty cheese.

Alison Martin (above), an associate team leader for Whole Foods in Palo Alto, was one of several dozen company employees to sit for the grueling exam this summer. To learn more about her study regimen and how the experience has affected her work, I spoke to Alison by phone shortly after she learned that she had passed.

What was your studying strategy?
I got Max McCalman’s books—I already had your books [smart girl!]—and started reading everything I could. I would highlight passages and take notes. I repeated a lot of the knowledge to my family and friends, and the more I said it out loud, the more I got it.

Like what?
Like milk composition. The different compartments of a cow’s stomach and what they do. The average yield of milk per day from a cow versus a goat. I made a lot of flash cards.

Whole Foods put together weekly classes and webinars for us. They paid my application fee, test fee and traveling expenses. (Bravo, Whole Foods. The test fee is $500—prohibitive for the typical cheese-counter employee.) They also paid for me to go to Wisconsin and work at the Center for Dairy Research. I got to visit creameries there and a dairy farm. It was cool to see cheese making from start to finish.

What areas were the hardest for you?
Definitely the Old World cheeses that I haven’t been as exposed to. Remembering names of molds and enzymes. On our fridge at home, we have a picture of a cow cut in half so you can see the different stomach compartments. And on my desk at work, there’s a picture of the top breeds of dairy sheep, goats and cows, and a graph of the pH level in different cheeses.

What was the test like?
Really difficult. I went into it thinking that I knew everything. But some of the answers depended on your perspective. One question was what to do if you find mold on a cheese, and the choices were to give it a brine bath; cut the mold off and eat the rest; or throw the cheese away. That question haunted me because I didn’t know whether I was supposed to be the retailer, the consumer, the distributor or the cheese maker.

For another question, you had to put the cheeses in order from softest to hardest, but there was a cheese I had never heard of. When I left, I was pretty sure that I hadn’t passed, and I wasn’t sure what I would say to Whole Foods to let me take it again.

Are you a better cheesemonger for having done this?
I’m 100 percent more confident talking about cheese to customers. It has helped me with organizing our cheese case and even with organizing our walk-in, because I know more about how different parts of a refrigerator affect cheeses. Now we don’t put blue cheeses so close to the fan.

So what’s your ideal cheese platter? If you could take home any four cheeses from your case tonight, what would they be?
I always grab Piave. It’s been one of my personal favorites forever. It goes with beer and wine, red or white. I love Délice de Bourgogne. I tell customers if Brie and butter made a baby, this would be it. For a blue, I would choose Stilton or Bay Blue, and for a goat cheese I like Garrotxa because it’s not too gamy.

Any tips for shoppers on how to negotiate a cheese counter?
Don’t be intimidated by price. We can always cut cheese to a size that fits your budget.

Congratulations Ali and all other new Certified Cheese Professionals!!

And if that isn't enough, I recently heard some more exciting news. The Academie Opus Caseus is offering their first West Coast Seminar! It's called Cheese from Pasture to Plate and it looks like it's going to be super exciting! For more information, be sure to visit


You can also see the other courses offered by the Academie in France and Vermont at the same website. I've been trying to save up money to go and I can't wait until I can!

I know that this wasn't one of my usual blog posts, but I figured it would be as good of a time as any to get you all caught up in what's happening in the cheese world. I also wanted to be sure to let you all know that I will traveling abroad to Italy (Venice, Cinque Terre and Florence) for vacation as well as a wine/cheese training through Whole Foods Market. I'm super excited about this opportunity and can't wait to share my pictures and experiences with you all. I'm leaving this Friday and returning at towards the end of October, so you probably won't see much action on my blog during that time.

I hope you all don't miss me too much, *giggle*. I wish you all delicious cheese, luscious libations and incredible company in the time that I'm away.

Until next time, eat drink and be happy!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Get Roquefort While You Can!

Hello loyal readers,

I hope you all had an amazing weekend! My weekend was full of cheesy events, so I had a blast!

If you've been following cheese news recently you are aware that several cheeses are having a hard time getting into the country due to stricter FDA regulations. The American Cheese Society and the FDA are in discussion trying to get these over the top regulations back to more reasonable levels, but that probably won't happen for a while. In the meantime, many delicious cheeses are being refused at our ports....

Roquefort, the well known blue cheese from France, is unfortunately caught in this crossfire. I was looking back at some of my older blog posts and I actually had posted about Roquefort on my fourth post ever! If you want to see my amateur post on Roquefort, you can see it here:

Luckily for me, I am still able to get my hands on some Roquefort from Gabriel Coulet - and it's 100% organic!

Cheese: Roquefort
Producer: Gabriel Coulet
Location: Rouerge, France
Milk: Raw sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Roquefort is deliciously tangy, creamy and a touch salty. I'm going to plagiarize myself very quickly and take the description of Roquefort from my original blog post:

"Roquefort is a very special cheese in that it was the first cheese to receive AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in 1925. This means that the name "Roquefort" is protected and in order for a cheese to be called Roquefort it needs to follow very specific guidelines. The milk must be raw and must be the milk of the Lacaune ewes that are raised within a specific area in France. The cheeses must be aged in the caves of Combalou for a minimum of three months and the mold used must be produced in the caves themselves. The way that the cheesemakers get the mold for Roquefort is that they leave bread in the caves and allow them to get moldy. The mold formed is the Penicillium roqueforti which is naturally occurring in the air in the caves. Once the bread gets moldy, they scrape the mold off of the bread and add it to the milk they will use to make this cheese! By using bread to produce the mold it is recommended that those who are gluten intolerant avoid this cheese."

I featured the Roquefort on a cheese plate I built the other day (pictured above) and used fresh figs as a complimentary pairing. I don't know about you, but I love figs and pretty much any blue cheese. It's fun to stuff the figs with the cheese and grill them or broil them in the oven.

I just recently was able to procure some more of this amazing cheese and it will be back in our stores for a short time at the beginning of October. Keep an eye out for it and enjoy it while you can. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Heinrichsthaler Bierkäse

Good evening everyone,

I hope you're having a great start to your week. I was out last week with the flu, so I apologize for the delay in posting.

Today I would like to talk about a fun cheese that we currently have on promotion at all NorCal/Reno Whole Foods Markets - the Heinrichsthaler Bierkäse!

Cheese: Bierkäse
Producer: Heinrichsthaler
Location: Radeberg, Germany
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

"Bierkäse" literally means "beer cheese" in German and is a fun seasonal cheese produced in time for Oktoberfest starting on September 20th. The curd is washed with beer and has little bits of onion mixed in. When I first cut into the cheese, the onion smell was very obvious, but not over the top. I was pleased when I took the first bite that I didn't taste only onion, but other nutty, creamy nuances as well. There isn't much of a beer flavor, but the addition of the beer to the curds add a fun twist as most "beer cheeses" I know have the rinds washed with beer instead of the curds.

In pairing this cheese, the obvious choice was a German beer. I was reminded by one of  my colleagues that we currently have a beer on promotion that is from the same place the cheese is from - Radeberg, Germany. Can you see the name? Should be relatively easy to remember - Radeberger.

We will only have this cheese for a limited time during the Oktoberfest season, so be sure to visit your local Whole Foods Market cheese counter. I stopped by the Whole Foods Market in Campbell today and visited one of our 20 newly minted Certified Cheese Professionals - Joe Buckle! If you're in the area, swing on by, he'd be happy to talk cheese with you. 

On that note, I'm off to enjoy what remains of the Bierkäse I purchased and polish it off with my glass of my Radeberger. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!