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!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Beecher's Flagship Reserve

Happy Valentine's Day cheese lovers!

Whether you're sharing today with your significant other, your family, or your best friends, I wish you all an amazing day filled with lots of love. And what could be greater than adding some cheese into the mix?! Nothing says "I love you" better than a piece of artisan cheese...

Today I'm going to talk about an old favorite that we recently started carrying again at our cheese counter - Beecher's Flagship Reserve.

Cheese: Beecher's Flagship Reserve
Producer: Beecher's Handmade Cheese
Location: Seattle, Washington
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian

The Flagship Reserve is a clothbound cheese that is aged for over a year in open air. The cloth is continuously rubbed in butter during the ageing process to add more complexity of flavor. You can see in the picture above the cheese is on the dry side in terms of texture, but the taste is anything but. After letting the cheese come to room temperature, I took my first bite... At first it was slightly salty, but as it warmed up in my mouth it developed an earthy, nutty, buttery flavor. It was heavenly.

I had the opportunity to visit Testarossa winery yesterday in Los Gatos and got to try some incredible wines. I knew that I would be writing about the Flagship Reserve, so I went into the tasting trying to find a white and a red that would pair nicely with the cheese, and boy, did I find some good ones! The white wine I chose was the 2013 Sierra Madre Vineyard Chardonnay. I'm not typically a Chardonnay drinker, but this particular one was very fruit forward with only a hint of the oak and butter that I associate with Chardonnay. When paired with the Flagship Reserve, the wine tames the bit of salt in the cheese and brings out a wonderful, buttery flavor. This is an example of a pairing where both the cheese and the wine benefit from each other. The cheese got less salty and more buttery while the wine seemed to be a touch more acidic and bright. Quite a combination.

The red wine that I chose was the 2013 Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir. I have to say that I absolutely LOVE this Pinot. It's full bodied and slightly tannic while being extremely fruit forward. It is incredibly easy to drink... be warned! When pairing this with the Flagship Reserve, the wine maintained its fruitiness with notes of cranberry and pomegranate and the cheese became earthier and even more toothsome. So tasty!

The Beecher's Flagship Reserve is a very versatile cheese. You can use it in your cooking, shave it on a salad, make macaroni and cheese or just feature it on your cheese plate! You can also use it like I did today and experiment with pairings. I probably would have chosen beer to go with this cheese at first, but since I was heading to a winery, I wanted to find some wines specifically for this cheese and I'm so pleased with what I found! If you'd like to try a sample of the Beecher's Flagship Reserve, swing on by the cheese counter at Whole Foods Market in Los Altos and we'll give you a taste. I'll also point out the Testarossa wines we carry at my store if you're interested. I don't have every wine they make, so if you're in the Los Gatos area, be sure to swing by their tasting room and try some for yourself.

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day - until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Valsassina Robiola

Good evening!

First of all, I have to tell you all that I'm really excited about tomorrow... we're having a massive sale (20% off!) on all cut in house cheeses at my store and all other Northern CA/Reno Whole Foods Market locations. I will be working during the day from about 8-4:30pm and would love for you to stop by and talk cheese with me! I'll be buying plenty of cheeses myself tomorrow... it's such a great deal! If you can, swing by the Los Altos Whole Foods Market location at 4800 El Camino Real and say hello.

Now, the cheese. We just got this cheese in a couple days ago and it's quite a fun one. The Valsassina Robiola.

Cheese: Valsassina Robiola
Producer: Dairies from the Valsassina. Aged and cared for by Guffanti.
Location: the Valsassina region in Italy
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Valsassina Robiola is a younger, smaller cousin to the Taleggio. It is a washed rind, uncooked, unpressed cheese. Because of its size, it is supposed to age much quicker than it's relative Taleggio allowing it to soften and develop more complex flavors I think the square that I cut open was a bit on the young side and hadn't had much of a chance to ripen. BUT, from what I tasted, I can't wait to see what it will taste like after a couple more weeks of aging!

When I first unwrapped the Valsassina Robiola, I was surprised with the subtlety of the typical washed rind smell. It was very earthy and dusty smelling with a hint of funk. The paste is very mild with tastes of yeast, cream and salt. I can only imagine what it will be like in a few weeks! Both the smell and flavor will become more intense as the cheese ages. I'll probably buy a square for myself tomorrow during the sale and age it in my vegetable cooler myself to see it reach its potential!

As it was a little young, the salt was a touch overpowering... and all I could think about was how tasty this cheese, at this age, would be with a beer. I bought a piece for myself and paired it with the Hopocalypse Black Label Triple IPA from Drakes brewing. Unfortunately, this beer isn't available currently. My amazing beer buyer, Matt, bought me a bottle at the brewery during their Hopocalypse release on my birthday - thanks Matt! But have no fear, any other hoppy, delicious IPA would go amazingly well with the Valsassina Robiola.

Like I mentioned before, I would love to see you all tomorrow at my cheese counter! Be sure to swing by and try some yummy cheeses with me! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Miss Morbier? Try Secret de Scey!

Hello loyal readers!

There has been quite a few changes with the FDA reformulating their procedures and for the moment, Morbier is one of the cheeses that has been affected by these changes. If you've been craving some Morbier recently, we have a cheese that may satisfy your craving until we can get the original back - the Secret de Scey!

Cheese: Secret de Scey
Producers: Fromagerie Jean Perrin
Region: Franche-Comte, France
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Secret de Scey is actually the same exact cheese and recipe as the Morbier, it is just made with pasteurized milk. AOC regulations have changed recently for the Morbier saying that it must be made with raw milk, so all pasteurized versions of Morbier are now called Secret de Scey.

The traditional recipe of the Morbier and now the Secret de Scey includes two different milkings, one in the morning and one in the evening. The farmers would take the morning milking and after it had been processed, place the curd into the form. They would then sprinkle vegetable ash and salt on top to keep the curd from drying out. For the evening milking, the process would be repeated and this curd would be placed in the same form as the morning milking on top of the vegetable ash and salt. After the curds have set, the cheese is washed with a natural brine and is aged for a minimum of four months. 

The Secret de Scey (as well as the Morbier) will always have the signature line of vegetable ash lining the middle of the paste. This is how you can tell the difference between the two milkings. Try tasting the paste on each side of the ash separately. Do they taste different? Depending on what the cows ate that day, there may be a large or small difference in flavor. That's what makes this cheese so fun!

Don't be frightened by the semi-potent washed rind smell of the cheese... the paste is creamy with a hint of funk. If you're a "stinky" cheese fan, you should add this one to your list. As for a beverage pairing, I lean more toward a Saison/Farmhouse style beer. The light, almost fizzy quality of these beers help cut the cloying cream and slight funk of the cheese... Quite incredible.Be sure to swing by the Whole Foods Market Los Altos cheese counter soon and we'd be happy to give you a sample of this yummy cheese!

ALSO, if you're interested in yummy cheese at a GREAT price, be sure to come by our cheese counter on Friday, February 6 for 20% off ALL CUT IN HOUSE CHEESE! That means... any cheese that we cut and wrap in house will be 20% off for that Friday and that Friday only! I'll be behind the cheese counter from 8am - 4:30pm if you want to stop by and chat cheese with me! You better believe I'll be stocking up on some cheese that day also!

I hope to see you on Friday, February 6 or any day before then! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Enjoy National Cheese Lover's Day with some Challerhocker!

Happy National Cheese Lover's Day everyone!

I hope you all are having a great week so far. Today is an amazing day because it is in fact National Cheese Lover's Day. I wasn't behind the cheese counter today because I took a couple of days off... BUT I did cut into a lovely cheese the other day that is currently on promotion that I would love to share with you all... the Challerhocker.

Cheese: Challerhocker
Producers: Kaserei Tufertschwil/Walter Rass of Chas & Co.
Region: Tufertschwil, St.Gallen, Switzerland
Milk: Thermalized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Walter Rass is known for his superb Appenzeller and has won myriad awards for said cheese. Instead of sitting on his laurels, he decided to step up his game and tweak the recipe. He changed the curd size, adjusted the cooking temperature and lengthened the aging process. "Challerhocker" literally means "sitting in the cellar" which is one of the important differences between Challerhocker and Appenzeller as it ages for a minimum of 10 months or more while the Appenzeller only ages for 8-10 months. 

The flavor of the Challerhocker is spectacular. It has a brown butter, caramel, nutty quality of which I can't get enough. It also has the tiny tyrosine amino acid "flavor crystals" throughout the wonderfully creamy paste. I am 100% going to add this cheese to my next fondue. It does have a little pungency, so if you're a little gun-shy with the stinkier cheeses, be sure to ask for a sample before taking a piece home with you.

Be sure to take advantage of this promotion while you can! This cheese is not inexpensive, so now would be the time to stock up. Swing by your local NorCal Whole Foods Cheese counter and check it out! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Nettle Meadow Farm's Kunik

Happy New Year loyal readers!!!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Things have settled down at the cheese counter this week and I finally have a moment to write about some of the fun cheeses we have! Today, I'm going to talk about a cheese of which Ryan, my Cheese Specialist, is quite fond - Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm.

Cheese: Kunik (named after one of the first goats on the farm) 
Producers: Sheila Flanagan and Lorraine Lambiase of Nettle Meadow Farm
Region: Southern Adirondack Park in Thurman, New York
Milk: Pasteurized goat and cow's milk (75% goat's milk, 25% jersey cow's cream)
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

I'd personally never had the Kunik until a couple of days ago when one of my team members opened it up for a customer to try. When it was cut open, it was almost at peak ripeness. The paste was luscious and gooey and I couldn't wait to get my hands on a sample. 

As the cheese hit my tongue, it was obvious that it was a triple creme right off the bat. The thick, buttery-ness of the paste was unmistakable. The next flavor that hit my palate was the slight tang of the goat's milk followed by the cloying texture of jersey cow's cream. I was also very impressed by the complex notes of grass and grain that were present in the cheese. As it says right on the label, "This cheese is a sumptuous concentration of the organic grains and wild herbs our goats and sheep eat every day, including wild raspberry leaf, nettle, kelp, comfrey, garlic, barley, goldenrod". A lot of cheese makers I know try to avoid having their livestock eat these very flavorful herbs as the flavors get passed on in the milk causing "off" flavors. To me it was such a breath of fresh air really being able to taste the terroir and experience some of the environment in which the goats live. 

The typical beverage pairing with many triple cremes is a bright, sparkling wine of sorts. In this case, a sparkling wine would absolutely work with this cheese, but what I was really craving was a nice chocolate or hazelnut porter. The complexity of the Kunik would pair beautifully with the bigger flavors of a porter. 

Next time you're in the Los Altos area, be sure to stop by the Whole Foods cheese counter there and say hello! I'd love to have you taste a sample of this magnificent cheese.

Until next time (you won't have to wait so long this time), eat, drink and be happy!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Camembert aux Cepes

Hello everyone!

I hope you are all having a wonderful week. We're getting ready to have another fun holiday week at my store and I wanted to let you know about a special cheese we had come in last week. If you remember from a while back, I blogged about the Herve Mons Camembert ( This Camembert is made exclusively for Whole Foods Market and is a pasteurized version of camembert that is made to have flavor closest to a raw milk camembert. The version we received last week is this same Camembert, but with a layer of mascarpone and porcini mushroom in the middle... Fan-freakin-tastic!

Cheese: Camembert aux Cepes
Producer: Hervé Mons
Region: Normandy, France
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

You can see the line of mascarpone and porcini mushrooms in the pictures above. I had my whole team come by and try a piece. It was definitely a decadent treat. We sell through a TON of truffle brie as well as other truffle cheeses, so it was nice to try something with a different mushroom - especially one as tasty as the porcini!

After tasting this cheese, LaVonda, my wine buyer and Certified Sommelier, immediately said that she would pair the David Noyes Pinot Noir. She says the wine has a lot of dark, dried fruit and rich earthiness with a soft velvety mouthfeel that would go perfectly with the earthy cheese and mushrooms.

Most of the Whole Foods Markets in Northern California/Reno should have this cheese, so be sure to swing by your local cheese counter soon and grab a wheel for your upcoming holiday parties before they run out. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!