Friday, July 3, 2015

Spice Up Your 4th!

Good evening everyone! Happy (almost) 4th of July!

When I asked my coworker Lucy what cheese I should feature for 4th of July, she immediately said "Scorpion Cheddar! People can burn their tongues as they burn in the sun". This made me laugh, so I decided to go with her advice.

Meet the current pepper cheddar that is the hottest on the market to date....


Cheese: Scorchin' Scorpion Cheddar
Producer: Henning's Wisconsin Cheese
Cheesemaker: Kerry Henning
Location: Kiel, Wisconsin
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)


This cheese is spicy... so spicy that we had to put a sign up warning our customers! I just saw this sign today and I just had to take a picture. I actually wore gloves while I was cutting this cheese and prepping it for this blog post. "This cheese is no joke"!


When you first bite into this cheese, you're lulled by the creamy, cheddar flavor with which we're all so familiar, and then, the heat starts to creep up... I gave a taste to my team members yesterday when we first brought it in and many were fine at first, but every single person was surprised with how spicy the cheddar was. The Scorpion Pepper (a.k.a. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion) has a bit more than 2,000,000 Scoville Units - almost double the spiciness of a Ghost Pepper!!! It's currently listed as the second spiciest pepper in the world.


I took a picture of the inside of the Scorpion Cheddar sticker and the folks at Hennings were nice enough to provide a recipe for some diabolical macaroni and cheese... I haven't tried it myself yet, but it sounds incredible. If you like spicy food, try it!

I would absolutely pair this cheese with a crisp, hoppy double or triple IPA. Try Simtra or Hoparillo from Knee Deep Brewing or Ruination from Stone Brewing. These would all pair very nicely with the Scorpion Cheddar.

We aren't allowed to leave passive samples out for this cheese as it is so spicy, but if you'd like to try it for yourself, ask any of your local Northern California/Reno WFM Cheesemongers and we'd be happy to cut you a sample. I hope everyone has a great 4th!!! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, June 26, 2015

#Lovewins Rogue Creamery

Hello everyone,

I apologize for being MIA for the last month. I had to move a bit unexpectedly, was debilitated with food poisoning and am just getting back into the swing of things.

Needless to say, after hearing the momentous news that the Supreme Court ruling today made same-sex marriage a right nationwide, I was ecstatic! I immediately started thinking about cheesemakers that I knew who were a part of the LGBT community and really wanted to do a blog post featuring a cheese made by one of said cheesemakers. After some brainstorming, I remembered that David Gremmels and Cary Bryant of Rogue Creamery in Oregon were not just business partners, but life partners as well. Luckily for me, I have a really yummy blue cheese from them picked specifically for Whole Foods Market that I decided to feature today.


Cheese: Oregon Blue
Producer: Rogue Creamery
Cheesemakers: David Gremmels and Cary Bryant
Location: Central Point, OR
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk (originally raw cow's milk, but just recently switched to pasteurized)
Rennet: Vegetarian


Now I have tried several of Rogue Creamery's cheeses and I have to say that my all time favorite is their award winning Rogue River Blue... but we can't always get this cheese as it is a seasonal cheese. This particular version of Oregon Blue is hand selected for Whole Foods Market based on a flavor profile (out of 30 different lots) agreed upon by David and Cathy Strange, our Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market, who also happens to be a lesbian - yay!!! I also talked to Tim Healy, one of Roque Creamery's wholesale representatives and my good friend, and he told me that the best of the best of the Oregon Blue recipe actually is set aside to become the Rogue River Blue - no wonder I love this cheese!

The Oregon Blue cheese is a perfect middle of the road cheese that is not too piquant or salty. It has a great balance of flavor with a paste that is reminiscent of sweet cream with a touch of salt and mellow, earthy but still very enticing veins of blue mold.

Some fun facts about this cheese - the milk is RBST free, it is gluten free, it is cave aged for a minimum of 90 days, is artisan made since 1957 and is Rogue Creamery's Classic Signature Blue Cheese. I also asked my friend Tim why the creamery recently switched this recipe to pasteurized milk as opposed to raw milk. He told me that this year, they combined their "girls" with another herd and David's partner, Cary, really wanted to pasteurize the milk just for one year to better control the variables and overall the quality. What an amazing sacrifice! Rogue Creamery is well-known for their passion in using raw milk and to maintain their high quality, decided to pasteurize their milk for one year. I actually wasn't aware of this until today and I respect the folks at Rogue Creamery even more than I did before.


I had a bit of a sweet tooth today, so I decided to pair this amazing blue cheese with some orange blossom honey.... soooooooooooo goooooooood! I was sampling it out to customers and definitely heard some blissful exclamations. 

If you'd like to celebrate and support the LGBT community, please consider supporting Rogue Creamery in any way you can. They make several varieties of blue cheese as well as several cheddars and even some blue cheese powder! If you'd like to try some Rogue Creamery cheeses, swing by any of your local Whole Foods Markets and ask to try some cheeses from Rogue Creamery. Any cheesemonger will be able to point these out for you.

I'm so excited to be able to write about this cheese in celebration of the SCOTUS decision today. My fiance (a woman) and I are very excited to get married in August and not only be recognized in California, but the rest of the country as well. Cheers!

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Willoughby and Barr Hill Gin

Let me tell you a little story...

I've been starting to flirt with the idea of pairing spirits and cheese. I know it's not a brand new idea, but it's taken a hold of me and I want to run with it. I knew that I couldn't start doing this with mass-produced factory spirits just like I couldn't start my cheese pairing/passion/business with American slices...

Because I don't have a large amount of money, I usually reserve my alcohol purchases to a reasonable 22oz bottle of beer or a 750ml of wine. I've found some gems and I've found some stinkers, but they're at least within my price range. The only "spirits" that I could find in my price range really cannot be rightfully be placed in the same category as artisan spirits. I think of them more like kerosene... Once my palette for cheese, beer and wine really began to blossom and I could recognize the subtle nuances of each type, I knew I was ready to attempt the "spirit-world" (pun absolutely intended).

(I promise I'm getting to the cheese soon!)

Firstly, I have to give all credit to Mary Guiver for teaching me how to properly enjoy spirits. It's not just there for a shot - forgive me, this was my college experience - it's there for the enjoyment, just like any other beverage. Working with her for the short period that I did allowed me to start really trying and enjoying different spirits. I could easily point to which ones I cared for and which ones I would rather light on fire. Then, moving on to the Los Altos location gave me even more opportunity to try artisan spirits. We can't sample alcohol on the clock, but my schedule just so happens to fall into place where I get to participate in the active samplings done in my store once my shift is over. I've tried myriad amazing spirits and can't wait to experience more.

This is where I met Sarah Bryant, our incredibly passionate and fun Bay Area brand ambassador for Caledonia Spirits.

Sarah introduced me to the Caledonia Spirits company in Vermont that works very closely with the Vermont, Hardwick and Caledonia Country and the farmers/cheesemakers/dairy producers therein. Todd D. Hardie, the founder of Caledonia Spirits, actually started off as a beekeeper for 49 years! Sarah even brought in a tub of Caledonia Spirits Raw Honey they produce. He hired Ryan Christiansen as head distiller and Andrew Pinault as production manager.

They've created a beekeepers co-op, with small farmers from New York, North Dakota and Michigan in order to source the best possible product and keep up with our demand for the highest quality raw honey that go into their spirits.  Todd was keeping 2000 hives and decided to give them to our bee-keeping friends, to support as many family farms as possible with our distillery.  Caledonia Spirits is buying honey in 55 gal drums and processing (filtering, jarring, labeling) in house in Hardwick, VT to keep the cost of production for the beekeepers as low as possible.  This allows us to sell over $100 of honey for ~ $60 as Vodka - and create many jobs in the process!! Todd Hardie is a visionary Founder/Beekeeper and as a farmer he knows that value-added products keep the farm sustainable. His wife and partner Tanya is actually the aunt of Mateo Kehler from Jasper Hill Creamery

This is where the cheese comes in.. after talking to Sarah about how the cheeses produced at Jasper Hill Creamery were produced in the exact same area as the honey and spirits produced at Caledonia Spirits. I took this nugget and ran with it... I bought the Harbison and the Willoughby once I was able to procure some of the Barr Hill Gin and immediately went home to try...


*That's a sexy picture right there... I do have to say that I will only be speaking of the Willoughby today as I thought it was the best pairing and Harbison has made an appearance on my blog several times...*

Cheese: Willoughby
Original Producer: Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery
Current Producer: Jasper Hill Farm
Location: Greensboro Bend, VT
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


As mentioned above, the Willoughby was originally created/produced by Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery. In 2010, there was a creamery fire that resulted in a stop in production of this cheese. Jasper Hill Creamery, with Marisa's blessing, has resurrected this fantastic cheese and is continuously developing the recipe.

The Willoughby is a delicious washed rind cheese that is surprisingly small, yet maintains a relatively firm paste - and by firm, I mean it doesn't immediately ooze all over the plate. You can actually cut and portion this cheese up until about 9 weeks after its production. What I find incredible about this cheese is how rich the paste is (buttery, fudgy, herbal) while having a very thin washed rind that adds the earth and the funk to the flavor of the cheese without completely overpowering everything else.



I literally could eat the Willoughby with a spoon on my couch without any accompaniment, but I was super eager to pair it with the Barr Hill Gin. The Barr Hill Gin from Caledonia Spirits is made with pure grain spirits with only juniper berry and raw northern honey - the honey being added just before bottling. By itself, the Barr Hill Gin is wonderfully flavorful and you really do get hints of the raw honey. I had it straight in the snifter when I first brought it home and was over the moon.

When I tried the Willoughby and the Barr Hill Gin together, well, I was speechless. I never knew there was such thing as terroir in spirits, but pairing those two items together from the exact same region in Vermont, it felt like I was transported to the Northeast Kingdom. Like I was standing in a field listening to the wind sway through the grass, the bees buzz and the cows moo in the distance. It was an incredible experience.


So incredible in that our dog, Joe, was looking at me longingly the entire time I ate the Willoughby and drank the Barr Hill Gin. I'm sure to a dog, the aromatics were wonderful....


Well, that was probably one of my longest blogs in a while and I apologize for being long-winded, but I think everyone should go out and try this pairing. Not every Whole Foods in our region carries spirits, so be sure to call and ask if they carry the Barr Hill Gin before visiting. If you see the Willoughby in any of our cheeses cases, don't hesitate to pick up a wheel (they're only 8 ounces).

If you happen to try this pairing, please let me know what you think! Feedback is welcome for all of my posts, but as I delve into a world less familiar, I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can comment below or email me at shootinthebries@gmail.com.

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gorwydd Caerphilly

Hello everyone!

I hope your week is going well so far. Today I wanted to talk about a fun cheese we are featuring this month - the Gorwydd Caerphilly.


Cheese: Gorwydd Caerphilly (pronounced GOR-with CARE-fully)
Producer: Todd, Maugan and Kim Trethowan
Location: Llanddewi Brefi, Ceredigion in Wales
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)


Todd Terthowan had originally studied archaeology before working for a stint at Neal's Yard Dairy. This is where he was bitten by the proverbial "cheese bug" and wanted to learn how to make cheese. He chose to learn to make Caerphilly as he had a Welsh Grandmother who had grown up right outside the town of Caerphilly and had made the cheese herself at one time. Todd learned how to make the Caerphilly from third generation Caerphilly maker, Chris Duckett, who was one of the few cheesemakers producing Caerphilly in the traditional manner on a farm. After spending 6 months with Chris, Todd returned to his parents' farm to start making the cheese himself.


In the making of the Caerphilly, the Terthowans get their milk from one supplier which gives them great control in the quality of the milk. They also just recently started using animal rennet to add to the complexity of the flavor. All I have to say is - good job! The cheese is beautiful and complex. I love the way the flavors are described in the DiBruno Brothers blog: (http://www.dibruno.com/blog/2010/11/10/gorwydd-caerphilly-the-turducken-of-cheese/)

"Bite #1: Begin by tasting the center; it’s all lemon sponge. This is the whitest part of the cheese and also the mildest. The texture is cakey, and the flavor calls to mind yogurt or crème fraiche — bright and milky.

Bite #2: Moving outward, you’ve got your gooey layer below the rind. It bulges a bit at room temperature and appears darker in color, with the same golden cast as a ripe Camembert. Take a nibble, and you’ll taste warm tones – sautéed mushrooms, roasted cauliflower.

Bite #3: On to the rind – which is edible. Here, you’ll taste earth, mushrooms, cave. Okay, it can be a little bitter, but that’s a good excuse to crack open some beer (try a citrusy ale or a dry cider).

Bite #4: Finally, eat all three layers together, and you’ll taste what makes cheese connoisseurs go crazy – a fracas of flavors and textures. It’s what makes this Caerphilly so special. A combination of light and dark, mild and wild, heavenly and earthly."

I couldn't have described it better myself!!


For the month of May, all NorCal/Reno Whole Foods Markets have the Gorwydd Caerphilly on promotion - so get some while you can! Be sure to ask for a sample, you won't be disappointed.

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Snow Camp: Cheese From My North Carolina Adventures

Hello everyone!

I took the last couple of weeks off so I could travel around Napa, San Francisco and North Carolina with Lynn. It was a wonderful getaway. I figured that since I was on the other coast, I could talk about a cheese that was local to where I was. In this case, I chose the Snow Cap from Goat Lady Dairy.


Cheese: Snow Camp
Producer: Goat Lady Dairy
Location: Climax, NC
Milk: Pasteurized cow and goat's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian 


One of my friends and past Official Conference Cheesemongers from the ACS Conference - Alexander Kast actually works at Goat Lady Dairy. But, every time I had seen him sampling their cheeses at various events, I hadn't been able to stop and taste their selection. I was really excited when I realized that I was close to their creamery and their cheeses were readily available at the Greensboro and Chapel Hill Whole Foods Markets. After looking over the selection and talking with the cheesemongers behind the counter at Whole Foods, the Snow Camp is the cheese I decided to feature.


What a sexy looking cheese! Right when I cut into it, the paste - or shall I say goo - oozed out onto the plate. The aroma of this cheese was very pleasant - with hints of mushroom and earth - nothing really over the top. The wheel I cut into was the at the perfect age in my opinion, with the rind being the structure holding the divine gooey paste inside. The flavor is a perfect balance with the cow and goat's milk. The cow's milk has the buttery, creamy, unctuous quality while the goat's milk gives a nice gamey, tangy touch of barnyard to balance out the richness. Such an amazing cheese! I wish I could get it more readily on the West Coast!


I decided to take it one step further since I was in North Carolina and pair the Snow Camp with a local beer. I decided to go with the Foothills Brewing People's Porter from Winston Salem, NC. The toasty, malty quality of the porter really paired nicely with the buttery, tangy Snow Camp. It reminded me of having roasted marshmallows while camping... You really have to try it!

That's all I have for now... I hope you all have chance to try this pairing! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Persillé du Malzieu

Hello everyone and happy tax day to all of my American readers!

Today started off a bit crazy for me as I was one of the thousands of Americans running frantically to the Post Office to make sure my taxes went out on time. Glad that's over!

It was nice coming in to work today as I found a much awaited treat from France - the Persillé du Malzieu.

Cheese: Persillé du Malzieu
Affineur: Hervé Mons
Location: Produced by a cooperative in Malzieu Ville, France
Milk: Pasteurized sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

This particular cheese was recommended to me by a customer. He said that he had had it at a different Whole Foods Market location and that we should bring it in. I asked my buyer very nicely to bring it in so we could try it. After waiting 8 weeks (that's how long it takes to get cheese shipped from France), it's finally here! I was very excited to try some. 


As I crumbled a little piece off I could see that there was a lot of mold present, which means more flavor! The smell wasn't particularly strong, but the taste... oh, the taste. Strong and spicy with a nice salty, creamy balance. It walks a thin line of being too potent, but the balance in the cheese makes it amazing. 

I love how Murray's cheese shop describes this cheese: "Spice is the variety of life, which is why we hunger for this rare, powerfully spicy blue. Produced just beyond the legally protected limits of Roquefort, this cheese is made of Lacaune sheep milk, like it's more famous neighbor, but captures a far greater flavor spectrum. Texturally, Malzieu sits heavy on the tongue, only to dissolve into a milky skim within seconds. The threat of excess salt, razing sharpness, and intense moldiness is present but always at bay. Beautifully balanced with rich, fatty milk, mushroom, and a long sweetness that should be complemented by a rich, oily dessert wine such as Sauternes or tawny Port." 


The other difference between the Persillé du Malzieu and Roquefort is that Persillé du Malzieu is made with pasteurized sheep's milk instead of raw sheep's milk. For those folks who prefer their cheeses pasteurized, this is a great alternative. But if you're not keen on blue cheeses, I would recommend steering clear of this blue "giant". Lots of delicious flavor, but really quite strong.

If you'd like to try a piece, come on by the Whole Foods Market in Los Altos where we just freshly cut a wheel of this delectable cheese. I hope to see you all soon. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mediterranean Raclette

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and/or Passover. I've been busily planning my wedding as well as working with Business Insider on an article called: "What it's REALLY like to work at Whole Foods". If you're interested, you can find the link here: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-its-really-like-to-work-at-whole-foods-market-2015-4

I was very honored that I was asked to do this interview and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. A HUGE thank you to all of my loyal readers who have helped make this blog what it is today.

Today I wanted to talk about the Mediterranean Raclette from Emmi Roth USA.


Cheese: Mediterranean Raclette
Producer: Emmi Roth USA
Location: Monroe, WI
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The flavored cheeses are not cheeses I typically blog about. But, I am always impressed with the innovations the folks at Emmi Roth come up with for traditional recipes of cheeses - in this case, Raclette. Besides the Mediterranean Raclette, they also have a Roasted Garlic Raclette and a 5 Peppercorn Raclette. I have had the opportunity to try them all at ACS Conferences past and boy oy boy, are they delicious.



We just recently received the Mediterranean Raclette at our cheese counter and I decided to try it just on its own, without being melted. This version of the Raclette has a tomato basil garlic mix, sundried tomato and black olives. I was a little nervous about the black olives at first, but they added a nice tangy acidity without being overly salty. The paste was very smooth and creamy, not as "stinky" as some of the other Raclettes I have had. Needless to say, this cheese is AMAZING melted. Whether you use a Raclette machine, or if you just melt it into your pasta, you will thoroughly enjoy this cheese.


Two of my rockstar team members, Ernest and Ian, both enjoyed the tasting of the Mediterranean Raclette as well. The folks at Emmi Roth USA recommend that you pair this cheese with olives and peppadews, a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, or a Lager or Pilsner. All of these pairings sounds very appealing...

The Mediterranean Raclette is on sale for the month of April, so if you want to have a little fun with melted cheese, come pick up a wedge! I hope you all have a wonderful week. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!