Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bonde du Poitou

Good morning everyone,

One of the best things about Spring is that goats start producing milk again, allowing for more delicious goat's milk cheeses to be made. The best thing about right now? Is that most of these goat's milk cheeses are in their prime! One of the goat cheeses we are featuring this month is the Bonde du Poitou. It's only 7oz, but this little round packs a lot of great goaty flavor!


Cheese: Bonde du Poitou
Affineur: HervĂ© Mons
Location: Produced by a small dairy in Poitou Charentes in Western France
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


When I first picked up this cheese, I expected it to be relatively soft and squishy. I was surprised that it was actually a bit on the firm side. After bringing it home, I opened up the container and was met by a pleasantly goaty, tangy aroma. The smell was quite enticing. I then took the cheese and cut it in half. The result was the picture above. A firm middle that was crumbly and similar to a fresh chevre in flavor. As I tasted closer to the rind, the flavor of the goat's milk became more pronounced, along with some grass and light acidity. I would say the flavoring is along the lines of Crottin. As you let it age, the Bonde du Poitou will get even firmer to where you might want to shave off some pieces.


For those of you that love goat cheese, this is a fun cheese that is a little different than the other goat cheese offerings available right now. I would serve the Bonde du Poitou with a Sancerre and some fresh grapes... yum!

Most Whole Foods Market cheese counters in the Northern California region should have this cheese available. Be sure to swing by and ask for a sample. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Point Reyes Bay Blue

Hello everyone!

At the office today I brought out one of my favorite blue cheeses, the Bay Blue from Point Reyes Creamery. I first tried this cheese at the 2012 American Cheese Society Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. I remember tasting other blues at the "blue" table during the Festival of Cheese, but when I tried the Bay Blue, I was blown away.

I recently was given the opportunity to tour Point Reyes Creamery and they were kind enough to send me home with a wedge of this delectable cheese...


Cheese: Bay Blue
Producers: The Giacomini family at Point Reyes Creamery\
Cheesemaker: Kuba Hemmerling
Location: Point Reyes Station, CA
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


Quite a sexy blue isn't it? When opening up the cheese, you definitely smell the tang of the blue mold along with a dusty earthiness. It's no where near as pungent and some of the other blues I've worked with, but still have a bit of a bite.


The flavor and texture to me is very similar to Stilton. The folks at Point Reyes use the term "fudgy" to describe the texture and I think that hits the nail right on the head. The flavor is incredibly earthy and creamy with hints of caramel while being accented with a fruity acidity from the blue-green mold running through the paste.

If you've never been a fan of blue cheese and are willing to try again, this is one that I would recommend. It is a fantastic cheese that I always want to have in my refrigerator. The only issue is that the cheese is made in very limited amounts, so not every Whole Foods in the Northern California region is able to get it. No matter the cheese counter, if you see a piece of the Bay Blue, be sure to grab a wedge! You will not be disappointed...

As promised, here are some pictures from the tour at Point Reyes Creamery...











 

If only I was sitting on that deck now! I hope you all are having a wonderful Friday and that you have a great weekend. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Adventures at the CACF (and recipes!)

Good day everyone!

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be a part of the California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma. I wanted to share some pictures and other fun bits with you here! Take a look :)

On Friday evening, Nancy Brunner from the Whole Foods Market in Petaluma and I (along with a few volunteers) built the "Fantasy Cheese Table" for the Meet the Cheesemaker event. It was quite a lot of fun. I got to try some new cheeses and meet some new people... Here are some pictures of the table.

 





Pretty cool right? Then on Saturday, I taught a class called "Cheese All Ways" in which I taught how to make three different meals with cheese. The first meal I taught was the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with sheep's milk ricotta from Bellwether Farms. Here's the recipe:

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Fresh Blueberries
(serves two)


¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup Bellwether Farms sheep’s milk ricotta (or cow’s milk if you prefer)
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Butter, for griddle
Fresh blueberries

Preheat a nonstick griddle or skillet.
Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk the ricotta, eggs, milk, lemon juice, and zest together in a large bowl. Whisk the dry mixture into the wet ingredients until just mixed. Blueberries can be added into your batter here, or you can save them for a fresh garnish.
 
 

The last picture is of my lovely assistants - Heather and Sam. They were troopers and helped me make the pancakes while I talked to the class. It was an added bonus that they were sure not to set off any fire alarms! Thank you both for your help. :)

The next "meal" I made was a picnic lunch. I paired some cheeses with some other food products to make a tasty lunch.

On the first plate I paired Mt Tam with peach preserves and Bermuda Triangle with fresh grapes and pear:
 

On the second plate I paired San Joaquin Gold with the Casalingo Creminelli Salame and the Bay Blue with orange blossom honey and dates:



The pairings were quite tasty and everyone seemed to really enjoy them.

And for the final meal, I made two different fondues - a goat cheese fondue and a "classic" fondue using only California cheeses. Again, I was terrible about taking pictures, but here's one:



The one on the left is the "classic" and the one on the right is the goat cheese. I served these with sliced baguette and a crudité platter. Here are the recipes:



California “Classic” Fondue
(serves 4 to 6)


 ¾ pound Wagon Wheel  from Cowgirl Creamery shredded
¼ pound San Geronimo from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company shredded
~2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove
1 cup dry white wine


Coat the cheeses with cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Rub fondue pot with garlic clove, then discard (or keep in the pot for a fun surprise!) Over medium heat, add the wine and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir in cheese and stir continuously until the cheese melts smoothly. Your fondue is ready! Dip away.


 


Goat Cheese Fondue
(serves 6)


1 ½ cups whipping cream
11oz Redwood Hill Farm chevre
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and black pepper to taste
 

In a small pot, bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Remove the pot from heat. Crumble the chevre into the cream and whisk until smooth. Add the sprig of rosemary as well as the salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

All in all the class was a great success. People left full and satisfied and had many of their cheese questions answered. I had a great time with them all.

I hope you enjoyed this fun little post. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!

 
 

 
 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Local Discovery - Baserri from Barinaga Ranch

Hello everyone!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of working at the California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma for the second year. I helped build a fantasy cheese table with Nancy Brunner from the Petaluma Whole Foods on Friday night and on Saturday taught a super fun cooking with cheese seminar. I will post pictures of this event in the next day or so as I'm still compiling them.

It was at this festival that I discovered the cheese that I would like to talk about today - Baserri.


Cheese: Baserri
Cheesemaker: Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch
Location: Marshall, CA
Milk: Raw sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


The Baserri is the first cheese that came from Barinaga Ranch. Marcia Barinaga, the cheesemaker, was inspired by her Basque heritage. She and her husband wanted to make cheese similar to the cheeses made in the Basque region with milk from their own sheep. As a result, Baserri was born! In the Basque region there are ancient tile-roofed huts used for cheesemaking called Basseri, the inspiration for this cheese's name.



The cheese itself is a natural rind cheese that is aged for at least 60 days. It is on the firmer side, but easy to cut once it comes to room temperature. The aroma is a little musty from the natural rind while the paste is fresh and milky. When I tasted the Baserri I was pleased to find that it is an incredibly balanced cheese that would go nicely with just about everything. Not overly gamey, slightly salty and is nutty and creamy at the same time. It is definitely a cheese that I will buy again.

We do live in a time where the incredibly stinky or strong cheeses are becoming slightly more popular, so it's nice to be reminded of the other simple straightforward delicious flavors available in great artisan cheese.

Not every Whole Foods Market counter will have this cheese (I bought it at the Blossom Hill location in San Jose), but if you see it, be sure to ask for a sample. You won't be disappointed.

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

London Truckle - A hockey puck cheese?

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all doing well. I was watching the San Jose Sharks play the Montreal Canadians two nights ago and was reminded of a hockey puck-looking cheese that I had in my fridge, the London Truckle. This 7oz little guy definitely did a good job of playing hide and seek in my vegetable crisper, so I was pleased to find that it was tucked safely behind a large piece of Comte.


 
Cheese: London Truckle
Producer: Westminster
Location: Somerset, United Kingdom
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


Once you get past the thick black wax a nice, yellow paste is revealed. The paste is on the yellow side because the milk that is used to make this cheese is from grass fed cows who graze on the English countryside. The yellow coloring is derived from the carotenoids that the cows ingest by eating grass. Pretty cool right?

This cheddar is aged for one year  and is really quite a fun cheese. I have had several cheddars in my day and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the London Truckle. The cheese was quite nutty, buttery and sharp while not being overly salty. The paste was also particularly smooth due to the milling process used to make this cheese.


I could envision this cheese being used in many different ways, but I went the classic route and had it with apples and some crusty delicious bread. It definitely would melt well, so feel free to experiment with it! I think I may just have one of these guys on my next cheese board. They're a nice, small format cheese that adds a little color and dimension to your board - along with killer flavor.

Most Whole Foods in Northern California should have this cheese in their case at the moment, so be sure to swing by the counter and ask. I hope you all have a wonderful week... until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

ACS Best in Show - Winnimere from Jasper Hill

Good evening everyone!
Today I was fortunate enough to grab a wheel of the award winning Winnimere from the Cellars at Jasper Hill from the cheese counter at the Los Altos Whole Foods... This particular wheel is very special in that it was made exclusively for Whole Foods Market and is washed with Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte Porter. The wheels that were available were ripe and totally ready to eat. I brought the wheel over to a friend's house while my girlfriend brought a bottle of Petit Verdot and we indulged... I'm literally in a food coma as I type (apologies for any typos! haha).


Cheese: Winnimere
Producers: Mateo and Andy Kehler at Cellars at Jasper Hill
Location: Greensboro, VT
Milk: Raw Ayshire cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


I was so excited when I found out that the Winnimere had finally made it out to California. It only comes out around this time of year since it is made with the high fat, high protein milk of the cows during their winter diet. Since the milk they use is raw, they have to wait 60 days in order to sell it, so we typically start to see this cheese around January through the Spring.


As I unwrapped this beauty, it was barely able to hold its own shape because it was so soft. I laid it down and gently removed the top rind. The paste was so luscious and smooth, I could hardly resist dipping my finger in. You immediately smell the funk and barnyard from the washed rind. The flavors, once I dig in, are meaty, brothy, yeasty and woodsy. There are barnyard flavors closer to the spruce bark around the edges, and delicious funk all the way through.


The pairing with the Petit Verdot was quite nice. The flavors were a good balance, but I felt the cheese slightly overpowered the wine. I will definitely look for a heartier red for the next time I eat this cheese. Belgians and other yeasty beers would go very nicely as well.

I must warn you that this cheese is not for the faint of heart. First of all, it's definitely one of the more potent cheeses available and it's in a rather large format (1.5 pounds). I wouldn't recommend sitting and eating the whole wheel yourself, so be sure to have some people over. The cheesemongers behind the counters at Whole Foods can definitely cut this cheese down to size for you, but I have to say that the absolute BEST way to eat this cheese is in the whole form. The minute you cut down the cheese, you start to see flavors and the life of the cheese fade away.

I hope you are all able to experience this fantastic cheese! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Point Reyes Toma

Hello everyone!

I hope you all are doing well. Last week my girlfriend and I were lucky enough to have a private tour of the Point Reyes Creamery in Point Reyes Station, CA. Lynn (one of the four Giacomini sisters) was gracious enough to give us a tour and talk about all the amazing things they do at their farmstead facility. I have TONS of pictures that I want to share with you all on the farm, but I'm still getting them all collected. I will have another post in a couple of days or so with the pictures of the farm, so stay tuned!

The cheese that I would like to talk about today is one of the cheeses made at Point Reyes Creamery - Toma.

Picture borrowed from www.culturecheesemag.com
Cheese: Toma
Producers: The Giacomini family at Point Reyes Creamery
Location: Point Reyes Station, CA
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

 
Toma in Italian means "cheese made by the farmer himself." It is a truly delectable California version of this typically Italian cheese. The Point Reyes Creamery is 100% farmstead (meaning they use the milk from their own animals to make the cheese onsite). There is a level of passion that you don't always see with cheesemakers when you talk to the Giacomini family. They really believe in quality and being stewards of the land as much as they possibly can. Their herd looked very happy and healthy - perfect for making quality milk!
 
 
As you can see in the picture above, the Toma is a natural rind cheese. By allowing some bacteria and other fun molds to grow (to an extent) on the outside, the cheese is allowed to develop flavors that are unique to the milk and the pasture on which the cows graze.
 
 
As for the flavor, the Toma is super duper approachable and versatile! It has a smooth, creamy, almost buttery paste that just melts in your mouth. The paste is dotted with a few eyes, but for the most part is fairly uniform. The flavor is subtle, yet still has quite the personality and charm. You get the buttery cream from the cow's milk and then little hints of grass on the tail end. It's super luscious, yet mellow at the same time. I would pair the Toma with fresh fruit or jams as the acidity in the fruit would really harmonize nicely with the buttery, creamy flavor of the Toma.
 
Visiting the creamery has led me to really "rediscover" this cheese in a way. I haven't had it in ages and after trying it again, I don't know why that was the case. I will definitely be featuring the Toma more prominently in many of my cheese plates and cheese classes in the future.
 
That being said, I will be teaching a cooking class at the California Artisan Cheese Festival on Saturday, March 22, 2014 from 1:30 - 3:30. The class is $65 and here is the description:
 
Seminar No. 15:  Cheese All Ways, (Fondue Too!)
Presenter: Leah McFadden, ACS Certified Cheese Professional and Whole Foods Markets Cheese Specialist

Leah McFadden, ACS Certified Cheese Professional and Whole Foods Markets cheese specialist, will show you, wedge by wedge, how to expand your cheese repertoire beyond the usual cheese course or appetizer platter. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, cheese, glorious cheese, can be the centerpiece of any meal with the right recipes, attitude and accompaniments.  Leah will even demonstrate two fun fondue recipes that will get you dusting off those forgotten fondue pots – “retro” has never been so delicious!   $65.00 per person.
 
I hope to see many of you there!
 
Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!