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:

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!

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!