Saturday, September 6, 2014

Point Reyes Creamery Bay Blue

Good evening my fellow turophiles,

I hope you all had a festive Labor Day weekend and I also hope that all of the folks up in the Napa Valley that were affected by the earthquake two weeks ago are recovering well. I went up to the Napa Whole Foods store a few days after the quake and spent some time helping the team get the cheese counter back in working order. I was so glad that everyone was alright and that the store was able to bounce back quickly. As you can imagine, they lost a lot of product - including thousands of dollars of wine - but the important thing is that everyone is ok!

Today I wanted to dig a little deeper into the local cheese that won 2nd place Best in Show at this year's American Cheese Society Conference - the Point Reyes Bay Blue. I was so excited when I found out that they not only won 1st place in their category, but that they were recognized as the second best cheese out of all of the cheeses that were submitted!


Cheese: Bay Blue
Producer: Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Cheesemaker/Affineur: Kuba Hemmerling
Location: Point Reyes Station, CA
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

 
When I first tried this cheese, I was absolutely blown away. I had never tried a blue cheese quite like this one.  It is aged for about 90 days and has a beautiful, natural rind. The flavor is creamy, piquant, caramel-ly, and fruity all at the same time. The mold is not over the top and adds great texture and crunch to the otherwise fudgy paste. Whether you're a blue fanatic, or not the biggest blue cheese fan, you more likely than not will fall in love with this cheese.


While helping out at the Napa store, I ended up helping cut and wrap blue cheeses and Bay Blue was one of them! You can see the freshly cut pieces in the picture above. YUM.


I recommend trying the Bay Blue with a nice dessert wine... I had some with a delicious Zinfandel Port the other night - absolutely scrumptious! You can also stuff figs or dates with the Bay Blue and eat them just like that, baked in the oven, or grilled. Any of those variations are to die for.

All in all, the Bay Blue is an amazing cheese and absolutely deserved the recognition it received at the 2014 ACS Conference. Congratulations Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company! We're proud to have you right in our backyard.

Bay Blue is available at most of the Whole Foods Market cheese counters in the Northern California - Reno region so be sure to swing by your local store and ask for a taste! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

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!