Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bleating Heart's Shepherdista

Good morning everyone!

I hope you all are doing well and your week is wrapping up nicely.

One of the really cool things about working for Whole Foods is seeing how a large corporation can still give back to the local community and help smaller businesses flourish. It is in this spirit that in May, Whole Foods Market granted a "Local Producer Loan" to cheesemakers who are near and dear to my heart. The lucky recipients were husband and wife team, Seana Doughty and Dave Dalton from Bleating Heart Cheese.

Bleating Heart is located in Tomales, CA and their main focus is to produce top of the line cheese using milk from animals that have been treated humanely by the farmers and whose farm practices responsible stewardship of the land. As a result, the milk used in their cheeses is produced during the animals' natural lactation cycle. Cows have a cycle that lasts about 12 months, goats have a cycle that lasts about 10 months and sheep have a cycle that lasts 6-8 months. Keeping this in mind, you can see why many of the cheeses that Bleating Heart produces are only available on a seasonal basis.

Ok, on to the cheese! The cheese I'd like to talk about today is the Shepherdista - a combination of the words "shepherd" and "fashionista" - a delectable sheep's milk cheese.


Cheese: Shepherdista
Producer: Seana and Dave at Bleating Heart
Location: Tomales, CA
Milk: Raw sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Shepherdista is a natural rind cheese where the cheesemakers allow the rind to develop on its own with the help of the molds and bacteria that are in the air surrounding the cheese. (I remember a year or so back, I attended a class that discussed molds/bacteria on the rinds of cheeses. Seana was there and we had the opportunity to look at the rinds of some of her cheeses under the microscope. It was incredible to see all these little flavors producers up close and personal!) The wheels are turned and patted every few days and are aged 60-90 days.


One of the most pleasant surprises for me with the Shepherdista was the "fudginess" of the paste in terms of consistency. It was incredibly smooth, with very few eyes and it coated the inside of my mouth similar to the way fudge does. Just on this alone, I can tell you that this would be an incredible melting cheese and you may consider using it on your next grilled cheese!

The flavor really highlighted the stereotypical characteristics of sheep's milk cheeses. A richer lactic flavor overall because of the higher fat content of sheep's milk with a touch of nutty, earthy, tangy goodness. Because of it's richness, I would pair the Shepherdista with something slightly acidic... think grapes, apples, Pinot Grigio or even a younger, lighter red wine.

As I stated before, this cheese is not always available due to the seasonality of the lactation cycles of the sheep. That being said, we have it currently in most of the Whole Foods Markets in Northern California and Reno. I know that the production is currently limited, so if you see this cheese at your local cheese counter, be sure to grab some for yourself!

That's all I have for now... until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bermuda Triangle

Good evening everyone!
 
Today I want to talk about one of the ribbon winning cheeses from the ACS Conference a couple weeks ago. This cheese won 1st place in the Open Category of Soft Ripened Cheeses made from Goat's Milk. Drum roll please... the Bermuda Triangle from Cypress Grove!
 

Cheese: Bermuda Triangle
Producer: Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove
Location: Arcata, CA
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)


The original size of the Bermuda Triangle is a 1.5 pound triangle. The folks at Cypress Grove made a mini version specially for Whole Foods Market (in honor of the ACS Conference that took place) this month that weighs only 0.75 pounds. Because it is a smaller size, the cheese ripens and gets to the ooey gooey stage I love much quicker...


The Bermuda Triangle that I cut in to today was a bit on the young side. You can see in the picture above that it still crumbles very easily and the cream line close to the rind is still relatively firm. One of the distinguishing features of cheese from Cypress Grove is the use of vegetable ash. If you've ever eaten Humboldt Fog, you know what I'm talking about. When the cheese is first made, it is coated with vegetable ash and then during the ripening stages, develops the soft, bloomy rind on the outside. The result is an inner lining of ash right underneath the rind.


The flavor of the Bermuda Triangle is very clean, fresh and bright. The milk used to make this cheese is superb milk and as a result, you get a superb cheese. The ash doesn't impart much flavor besides making the cheese a touch more earthy while the rind adds a hint of mushroom. The textures of this cheese are really fun as well. The inner paste is crumbly and reminds me of a fresh chevre.The layer right underneath the rind is where the ripening is happening, so the paste here will be more broken down. As a result, that part of the cheese will have stronger flavor and be much softer. The last layer of bloomy rind and ash gives another dimension of texture in that it doesn't melt away like the rest of the cheese. You actually have to chew! One thing to note, the more ripe this cheese is, the stronger the flavor. I personally like a little age on the Bermuda Triangles, but the flavor may be too intense for some.

As you might have expected, we currently have the Bermuda Triangle on sale at the Whole Foods Markets in Northern California and we'd love you to join us in celebrating the folks at Cypress Grove's success. Stop by your closest cheese counter and try a sample!

A fun thing to note.. right after I finished tasting this cheese, I had a fresh cup of coffee. The residual flavors of the Bermuda Triangle really paired nicely with the bitterness of the coffee. It was like I had put cream in my coffee. Totally delicious. I had to go back for another bite.

I hope you all get the chance to try this incredible cheese in the near future. Until next time - eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

American Cheese Society Conference 2014 Highlights

Good day!

As most of you are aware, the 2014 American Cheese Society Conference was held in Sacramento, CA last week - thus, my brief disappearance. But have no fear! I am back and armed with pictures!

Before I inundate you with my pictures, I want to send a huge shout out to the cheesemakers who won best in show!

1st Place Best in Show - Tarentaise Reserve made by the Farms for City Kids Foundation in Vermont




2nd Place Best in Show - Bay Blue made by Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company locally made in Point Reyes! (*This cheese is available at most Northern California Whole Foods Market cheese counters, so be sure to grab a piece while you can!*)




3rd Place Best in Show was a tie between - Aged Gouda made by Oakdale Cheese & Specialties in Oakdale, CA



and Eden from Sprout Creek Farm in New York

*Try as I might, I could not find the Eden at the Festival of Cheeses that day... I'm sorry Sprout Creek Farms! Congratulations regardless!!!*

Now on to some more fun pictures...

The Meet the Cheesemaker event was a hit like always!
 
Honeys and cheese from the honey and cheese pairing class I attended... Cheese clockwise from the top: Annabella Buffalo Milk Mozzarella, Marin French Triple Creme Brie, Vermont Creamery Coupole and Hook's "Ewe Calf to be Kidding" Blue
 
One of the coolest things I got to do at the Conference this year was be in charge of the set up of the Brunch of Champions. This is a place where all of the fresh cheeses and cultured milk products (yogurt, sour cream, mascarpone, ricotta, etc) are featured instead of sitting out for hours at the Festival of Cheese. Here are some pictures...
 

WONDERFUL volunteers helping me set up the brunch

So many butters!

Not to mention yogurt...

Throw some ricotta, creme fraiche and mascarpone and you're almost there!

Behold, the Brunch of Champions Fresh Cheese/Cultured Milk Products table!
That was so much fun. I hope that I'll be able to attend the Conference next year in Providence, RI and do it all over again!

And finally, the Festival of Cheese pictures... I put the Best of Show pictures at the top of this post, but here are some more...








Such a fabulous week! I hope you enjoyed these pictures. Look for my next blog post soon! There are some yummy ribbon winners out there that I want to feature... until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!
 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Willoughby

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had an incredible week. I'm definitely excited for the weekend to begin. Last week when I was visiting the cheese counter at my local Whole Foods, I noticed that a cheese of which I am a HUGE fan, was on special. I really have no problem paying full price for good cheese, but it is always a nice surprise when one of your favorites is on sale. The cheese I'm referring to is the Willoughby.



Cheese: Willoughby
Producer: Originally Marisa Mauro at Ploughgate Creamery but has been adopted by the folks at Jasper Hill Creamery
Location: Greensboro, Vermont
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


It had been a while since I had tasted the Willoughby, but I remembered that I really loved this cheese and my memory served me correctly. It is a washed rind cheese that isn't super stinky and has a really great flavor. The rind is very thin, so it doesn't pass on a huge amount of flavor, but it does add to the slightly funky deliciousness.The paste has a fruity, creamy flavor which is a perfect balance to the slightly tangy rind.


I've seen the paste described as "pudding-like" and I think that describes the cheese perfectly. It is relatively firm for a small washed-rind cheese (only 8 ounces!) and maintains shape very well. As it gets closer to room temperature, it does soften up quite a bit, but you won't see it oozing all over your cheese plate.

The Willoughby pairs very well with a lighter bodied red such as Pinot Noir or Merlot. Other folks who has reviewed this cheese also recommend Saisons if you're in a beer mood.

This cheese is on sale at any of the Northern California/Reno stores now and the promotion will only last for a few more days. Don't miss out! Go to your nearest WFM cheese counter and grab a wheel today. You will not be disappointed. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

p.s. I have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to get Shootin' the Bries, LLC up and running! If you'd like to donate, please visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1613925428/shootin-the-bries-llc-cheese-catering-and-consulti

Thank you!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nobile di Capra

Good afternoon!

One of the things I miss most about being behind the cheese counter everyday is being able to try all of the new cheeses that come through. I often get to try cheeses in a small sample format, but it is never the same as when you have a whole wheel or log and you cut into it and try a nice, fresh piece. By doing that, you really get to see what the character of the cheese is like and how things like the rind and/or paste interact to create the unique flavor of the cheese.

This is one of those instances... I went into the San Jose Whole Foods location a couple of days ago and had forgotten about a few of the really neat and tasty cheeses that we had on promotion for the month of July. The Nobile di Capra was one of those cheeses.


Cheese: Nobile di Capra (also known as Nababbo)
Producer: CasArrigoni
Location: Peghera, a city in the Bergamo province of Italy
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Nobile di Capra is a washed rind, goat's milk cheese very similar to Taleggio. It is even made in the same region as Taleggio! The milk is produced by a neighboring farm which CasArrigoni takes to create this wonderful cheese. The cheese is formed, washed and aged under the expert eyes of the Arrigoni family.


When brought to room temperature, this cheese is extremely soft. It doesn't ooze or spread all over the table - it instead holds its shape but once you take a bite, it virtually disintegrates on your tongue It is meaty, yeasty, salty and not very goaty or stinky at all. If you've never tried a washed rind cheese or a goat cheese before, this may be a good one to start with. The flavors are very pleasing and the texture is nice and smooth.

There are many wonderful pairings out there for this cheese. Many people recommend white wines (typically Sauvignon Blancs) with goat cheeses, but for this cheese, I went with a red. The bottle we opened was a lovely Tempranillo. It worked well with the cheese because it rounded out the slight end of the barnyard flavor from the wash. While not the best pairing I've ever had, it was pleasant.

Other wines that would work would be Zinfandel or Chenin Blanc. If you're a beer person, a Belgian style Saison or Trappist beer would also be good options.

This cheese is on promotion right now at all Northern California/Reno Whole Foods locations, so be sure to swing by your closest WFM cheese counter and have a taste.

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cotswold - America's Favorite British Cheese!

Good evening loyal readers!

I apologize for the absence - I enjoyed a nice vacation in Cancun with my sisters. Now I'm back to real life and that means more cheese! Today I decided to write about a staple cheese that almost every single cheese counter in most grocery stores carry - Cotswold.


Cheese: Cotswold
Producer: Long Clawson
Location: Leicestershire, England
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian

 
Cotswold is Double Gloucester (http://www.shootinthebries.blogspot.com/2013/03/double-gloucester-english-classic.html) made with chives and onion. It was one of the first blends made by Clawson in the 1970s and is named after the picturesque region in England of the same name where the traditional villages have not changed in over 200 years.

 
 

Cotswold is by far one of the most popular cheeses that we carry at our cheese counters. Whenever I would sample this cheese out, people would go crazy for it! It is creamy and flavorful, similar to cheddar, but with an added zing of the chives and onions. You can eat it plain, melted over potatoes, grated on top of your chili or whatever you like! Cotswold is extremely versatile and just plain tasty. As it is considered a pub cheese, I recommend enjoying this cheese with a nice mug of beer.

You can find Cotswold in almost any grocery store - I know for a fact that all Whole Foods in the Northern California/Reno region carry it. Be sure to swing on by and ask for a sample! You'll be glad you did... Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

All Things Chimay - Beer and Cheese!

Hello everyone,

I can't believe June is almost over! Time flies when you're having fun I suppose...

I know I recently blogged about one of the Chimay cheeses from Belgium, but I was sent a wonderful sample package from the folks who represent Chimay. After receiving the lovely package, I decided I would talk about all three of the Chimay cheeses we offer at many of the Whole Foods Markets in NorCal and Reno and pair them up with the corresponding beers.

I'll try to keep this post as straightforward as possible... here we go!

The following information on the cheese applies to all three:

Producers: The Trappist monks of Scourmont Abbey
Location: Near Chimay, Belgium
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

 
 
First up, the Chimay Grand Reserve. This is a cheese washed with the beer of the same name. It is definitely the most mellow of the three cheeses. Just a little stinky with a very soft, buttery paste. I would use this cheese in a fondue or baked pasta.
 
The beer itself is nice and flavorful, velvety and slightly sweet (like many Belgian beers). Lots of yeast and malt. When paired with the cheese, the two combine into a harmonious, almost caramel flavor. It was very pleasant.
 
 
 

Next, we have the Chimay Dore Gold. The recipe for this cheese has been kept under lock and key for generations and is now just recently available to the public. This cheese was made in honor of a beer (called Dore Gold) that was a secret beer consumed only by the monks at the monastery. The flavor is decadent, yet fresh. While being slightly stinky, it has aromas of hops and flavors of grass. It is washed with the Chimay Dorée beer which is not always available, so I stuck with the color theme and used the Chimay Tripel.
 
The Chimay Tripel is a bit lighter, fruitier and more acidic than the other two. Definitely the beer I prefer out of the three when it's by itself. When paired with the Chimay Dore Gold, the fruity acidity of the beer mixes with the creamy funk of the cheese to create a light and almost airy pairing. It was a new sensation for me when it came to pairings. Quite intriguing.
 
 
Last, but not least, we have the Chimay a la Primère washed with the beer of the same name. To me, this cheese has a more robust flavor with a touch more funk. It is soft and creamy like the other two, just a tad stinker... I loved it. Putting this onto a burger would be killer!
 
As for the beer, it is a bit more syrupy with lots of dark fruit flavors. It is slightly sweet, but not over the top. To me, this was the best pairing of the three. The cheese had enough flavor to stand up to the complexity of the beer and the sweetness of the beer balanced out the funk of the cheese. Truly a match made in heaven - and I would hope so! Especially since the cheese is washed in the same beer...
 
 
All in all it was a great evening of beer and cheese, laughter and conversation with my girlfriend and my best friend. Photo cred goes to my beautiful girlfriend who graciously offered to take pictures with her higher quality camera phone :).
 
These cheeses may not be available at every Whole Foods Market, but when you see one, be sure to ask for a taste! You might even get lucky and find the Chimay beer to pair with it. I hope that is the case for you all. That's all I have for you tonight! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!