Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tasty Nut Milk Cheese - Say What?!

Very exciting news! A vegan cheese that is actually tasty!!!

Today we received two of the three cheeses available from Kite Hill...

The Costanoa:

And the White Alder:

These cheeses are made from almond and macadamia nut milk. They culture the nut milk just like other cheesemakers culture dairy milk and use enzymes to curdle the milk and form the cheeses. Kinda cool right?

The Costanoa is a semi-soft cheese with a crust of paprika and fennel pollen. A little bit earthy and a little bit spicy it's incredibly tasty! But my favorite out of the two is the White Alder. This cheese is soft ripened with a white fluffy rind around the outside, just like other bloomy rind cheeses like Brie. It tastes earthy and mushroomy and has a great consistency.

If you've been unable to enjoy cheese because of a dairy allergy, here's a solution! These cheeses are available at our cheese counter as of today, so come on by and try them out! You won't be disappointed. If you're looking for more information on these unique cheeses, visit their website at

I hope to see you all soon! Until then... eat, drink and be happy!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cheese Platters that WOW at the CACF

Today I had the pleasure of teaching the Cheese Platters that WOW course with Nancy today at the California Artisan Cheese Festival. We had a great turnout and I must say, the people who attended this class were great! It was so nice to have a room full of people who are passionate about cheese and had such great questions. Thanks for coming everyone!

This was before the festivities... Nancy was great at arranging all of the cheese platters. Thanks Nancy!

Here were the plates we discussed:

Budget Friendly Cheese Plate

ORIGIN-Petaluma, CA

Rich Jersey milk is used in the creation of this tasty cheese. The cheesemakers the create the Rouge et Noir Brie add their cultures directly to the milk instead of spraying it on the surface. This allows the cheese to ripen more evenly and have a wonderful flavor.

PRODUCT NAME- Barely Buzzed
Uintah, Utah

This cheese is rubbed with a finely ground coffee from Colorado Legacy’s Fine Coffee as well as French Superior lavender. An interesting and delectable combination.


Humboldt Fog is a very well-known goat cheese from Cypress Grove. The cheese is easily recognizable by the grey line of vegetable ash running through the middle of the cheese. This was inspired by the French cheese, Morbier.

PRODUCT NAME- Point Reyes Blue
ORIGIN-Point Reyes, CA

Hailing from Point Reyes, this is another readily available super tasty cheese with fresh milk flavor and a relatively mellow blue kick.

A Little Splurge Cheese Plate


An ash rinded goat cheese with a mild, creamy and floral flavor. Perfect for the start of any cheese plate.

MANUFACTURER- Nicasio Valley
PRODUCT NAME-Nicasio Reserve
ORIGIN-Nicasio, CA

A Swiss-Italian mountain style cheese with a wonderfully rich flavor. Mellow, yet flavorful.

MANUFACTURER- Bellwether Farms
ORIGIN-Petaluma, CA

A beautiful sheep’s milk cheese that was inspired by the various flavors of Pecorino available. The natural rind of the cheese adds a whole other level of interesting, complex flavors. 

MANUFACTURER- Cowgirl Creamery
ORIGIN-Petaluma, CA

This cheese was a happy accident. What started off as a batch of Mt Tam, eventually turned into Red Hawk when the naturally present B Linens found the surface. Now made on purpose, the wash on the cheese adds a little funk, but has a wonderfully creamy flavor on the inside.

Pull Out All The Stops Cheese Plate

MANUFACTURER- Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese
PRODUCT NAME-Ashed Tomette
ORIGIN-Willits, CA

The goat cheese from the Shamrock farm is completely farmstead and come from Alpines, Nubians and La Manachas goats. Wonderfully fresh and super delectable.

ORIGIN-Petaluma, CA

An Alpine style cheese that has a firmer almost waxy texture that has a wonderfully balanced nutty flavor.

ORIGIN-Sebastopol, CA

A natural rind, raw milk cheese made from cow and sheep’s milk, this cheese has such a unique flavor that I have never experienced in a mixed milk cheese before. The natural rind adds a slighty funky element with the paste being salty and umami while also being nutty.


A wonderfully robust blue balanced with a rich creaminess. I tried this cheese at the ACS Conference last year in Raleigh where they won first place in their category. Well deserved!

Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of each platter... but here's a picture of the Budget Friendly cheese platter...

And I really wanted to appreciate the people who attended this class... they were fantastic! 

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of the California Artisan Cheese Festival and I couldn't have done it without my colleague, Nancy Brunner. If you're ever at the Petaluma Whole Foods, make sure you stop by the cheese counter there and say hello to Nancy!

I'm headed back home tomorrow and I have PLENTY of cheese from this festival that I can talk about individually in future blogs. Thank you all for reading and until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Meet the Cheesemaker Event at the CACF

Today I had the honor of being a part of creating the Fantasy Cheese Table at the California Artisan Cheese Festival. We had close to 75 different cheeses from local and out of state cheesemakers. Myself and my colleague, Nancy Brunner, worked together with some other volunteers to create a large piece of edible cheese art... Here are some pictures:

Nancy starting to prep the cheese
The volunteers hard at work

The table starting to come together

Some fresh fruit to add some color
Lots of crackers from Rustic Bakery

...And 6 hours later...

Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves! I'm really excited to teach the Cheese Plates that Wow class with Nancy tomorrow... Hope to see you all there!
Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Manchego's Cousin - Campo de Montalban

As I was working behind the cheese counter today, I happened to be cutting Campo de Montalban which is one of my old favorites... It has probably been well over a year since the last time I tasted this yummy cheese and when I tasted it today, I was reminded why I love this cheese so much!

Cheese: Campo de Montalban
Producer: Quesos Corcuera
Location: Castilla La Mancha, Spain
Milk: Pasteurized cow, sheep and goat's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Originally this cheese was considered Manchego, but when the AOC standards for Manchego changed to be 100% sheeps milk, the Campo de Montalban was created. This cheese has 40% sheep's milk, 40% goat's milk and 20% cow's milk. It is aged for 3 months and really has a great flavor for such a young cheese.

When you first taste the cheese, you definitely get the nutty, creaminess of the sheep's milk followed by even more lactic creaminess of the cow's milk. It's at the very end that you get that slight tang of the goat - but don't worry, it's not over the top goaty. I would recommend this cheese to anyone who loves Manchego and is looking for something a little different and with a bit more complexity. The Campo is also very versatile when it comes to pairings, but I often find myself reaching for nuts or fruit spreads such as Membrillo (quice paste).

Keep this cheese in mind tonight for your cheese plates... it may not be an Irish cheese, but it does have a greenish rind so with a little stretch of the imagination it can be a perfect addition to your St. Patrick's Day festivities.

Be safe everyone! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

p.s. I have chosen a winner for the Cheese for Dummies giveaway.. Her name is Noelle and her idea was to use this Parmigiano Reggiano as a smart, healthy snack to help keep her "bikini lean" year round... Congratulations Noelle!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

St Soleil, Another Herve Mons Hit!

When I was at the Fancy Food show back in January, I was super excited to try this new cheese from Herve Mons at the training that we had with him. The cheese is St. Soleil - a beautiful washed rind cheese from Burgundy.

Cheese: St. Soleil (Soleil means sun in French)
Producer: Herve Mons

Location: Burgundy, France
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

If you have ever had Epoisses, this cheese is very similar... almost like an entry level Epoisses. The St. Soleil, like the Epoisses, is washed with Marc de Bourgogne. Marc de Bourgogne is a French spirit that is made using the leftover skins, pulps and seeds from the wine making process. By washing this cheese twice a day with the Marc de Bourgogne the cheese develops the orange color that you see from B-Linens (naturally occurring bacteria) that are attracted to the type of environment that is on the surface of this cheese (and all other washed rind cheeses). B-Linens are also responsible for the pungent smell that washed rind cheeses have. The B-Linens are actually a part of the same family of bacteria that produce body odor, so being smelly is in their nature!

Now if you can get past the funky, barnyardy, woodsy smell, you are in for quite a treat! The cheese, when fully ripened, is just a goopey heaven - hence the need to put it in a wooden round in order to keep its shape. Enjoy this cheese like you would a fondue - grab a baguette and dig in!

For me, this cheese reminded me so much of how beef broth tastes... it's a little salty, but meaty and savory. The salt is balanced out by the creamy flavors present. I call this an entry level Epoisses because the flavors aren't as intense. If you're in an adventurous, smelly cheese mood, I recommend grabbing one of these tasty little rounds. They are exclusive to Whole Foods Market, so you won't be able to find them anywhere else! Come on by the cheese counter and get yours today!

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

p.s. If you're going to be in the Petaluma area the weekend of 3/22 - 3/24 stop on by the California Artisan Cheese Festival! I will be teaching a course on how to build cheese plates with some of my WFM colleagues that Saturday, 3/23 from 1:30pm - 3:30pm. For more information and the schedule of events, please visit I hope to see some of you there!!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bonne Bouche "Wrinkles are Sexy!"

That's right, I said it, wrinkles are sexy! At least in the case of this magnificent cheese... Bonne Bouche.

Cheese: Bonne Bouche (French for "good mouthful")
Producers: Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery located in, you guessed it, Vermont
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Aged: Ten days before release - can be aged up to 80 days after that.
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

The Bonne Bouche is one of the cheeses that we are featuring this month at the cheese counter and I think it is the perfect time to do so. It is a wonderfully fresh and full flavored goat's milk cheese that can be used in many lighter dishes just in time for spring.

Before we get into the flavor, let's talk about it's appearance first. The wrinkles come from a yeast called Geotrichum which interacts with the mold on the rind to reduce fluffiness and instead produce wrinkles. The Bonne Bouche is grey because they sprinkle it with poplar wood ash before they allow it to ripen. The ash does add a slight earthiness to the cheese, but ultimately the ash is used as a preserving agent that prohibits unwanted mold growth on the surface.

I took a picture of the cheese in it's box above because I wanted to talk about this ingenious contraption. The wood box actually acts as a mini cheese cave.. the wood absorbs any extra moisture from the cheese and then if the cheese starts to dry out, the cheese can take moisture from the wood! It's pretty cool... if you can't finish a whole round in one sitting, put the rest back into the box and wrap with film.

And now finally, for the flavor... think fresh goat's milk with a touch of hay. As I said before, if you eat the rind, the ash lends a touch of earthiness. Because it is so small, it ripens very quickly causing the paste on the inside to become gooey and delicious. The round that I cut into today still had some of the firm paste in the middle that was surround by a gooey exterior... simply divine.

This cheese would pair nicely with some fresh grapes and some caramelized nuts. To drink, I would go with a slightly sweeter, yet not syrupy white wine like a Pinot Grigio or Riesling. The classic goat cheese with Sauvignon Blanc (or Sancerre) pairing would work nicely as well.

Well that's all I have to say for now. The Bonne Bouche is currently on sale and on special at our cheese counter, so come pick up a round for yourself. Also, don't forget to join us 3/9 (yikes! that's today!) at 12pm for our Parm Crack! It is bound to be a great time. Until then, eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Repost on Parmigiano Reggiano - with a twist!

Hello everyone!

Our Parm Crack is just around the corner! Join us on March 9 at 12pm to see Kevin and Manny cut into two wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano along with every other Whole Foods Market in the company! Whole Foods is trying to take back the Guinness World Record of the most Parmigiano Reggiano wheels cracked simultaneously, so if you're there you'll be a part of history! It's a great event and there are loads of samples, so don't miss out.

As an added bonus, I will be holding a contest on who can come up with the best use for Parmigiano Reggiano. The winner will receive a free copy of Cheese for Dummies ( provided by culture: the word on cheese! To win, please post your idea to this blog or email me at by the end of day on March 10th. The winner will be announced the week of March 11th.
The basics -

Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano
Producers: Farmers from Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna (to the west of the Reno River), and Montova (to the east of the Po River).
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Aged: 18+ months
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Parmigiano Reggiano has the PDO label, which means it has a Protected Designation of Origin. Basically, this is a trademark. In order to be called Parmigiano Reggiano, the cheese must be produced in certain regions (listed above), must be made by the recipe used since the Renaissance, and it must be approved by the Consortium (or in Italian, consorzio). Anything else that is called Parmesan is just an imitation of Parmigiano Reggiano. As for the Consortium, they are no joke. While the wheels are ageing, the people at the Consortium are constantly tasting the cheese and using little hammers to knock on the outside of the cheese to ensure that they sound alright. Every wheel is branded with: the inscription Parmigiano Reggiano, the inscription DOP (PDO, but in Italian), the inscription Consorzio Tutela as well as the identifying number of the dairy, and the production month and year. If after testing the cheese and it is not up to snuff, these identifying markers are scratched off, the cheese is grated and sold as Parmesan. The Consortium is also responsible in making sure that no one else uses the name (or trademark) Parmigiano Reggiano. Because of this, the consumer knows that they are getting the actual, superior Parmigiano Reggiano. For more information, visit

One of the best experiences I have as a cheesemonger is breaking into one of these 80 pound wheels. We use special tools to cut into the thick rind and crack the wheel open. Once the wheel is cracked in half, you are rewarded with a beautiful nutty and fruity fragrance. If ever you have the opportunity to see a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cracked, be sure to ask for a sample from the heart. This is the part of the cheese that is in the absolute middle - the furthest from the rind - and has the richest, most decadent flavor. It is especially tasty after being freshly cracked and being exposed to the air for the first time in around two years. I use this cheese in many things, but being Italian, I almost always use it in my pasta dishes. 

See how much fun we had at our Parm Crack last year... click here: I'm the one doing the countdown at the beginning :) (I couldn't figure out a way to get this video as a separate link so I had to link it through Facebook... you'll need to have a Facebook account to view this video.) You can tell in the video that it is a lot of fun. Don't miss out! Be sure to swing by my store on Saturday, March 9 at 12pm sharp! Until then, eat, drink and be happy!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Double Gloucester - An English Classic

A couple of days ago at the cheese counter we received a wheel of Double Gloucester and it was like seeing an old friend. Double Gloucester is the cheese that is used to make Cotswold (Double Gloucester w/ onions and chives) and well as Huntsman (Double Gloucester w/ Stilton). These cheeses are fantastic, but nothing is like the pure, unadulterated form of Double Gloucester...

Cheese: Double Gloucester
Producer: Garry Grey and the Appleby family
Region: Abbet Farm, nr Hawkstone, Shropshire (England)
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Vegetable rennet

This cheese is a wonderfully balanced and reminiscent of a beautifully flavored mild cheddar. It comes from a three centuries old recipe that the Appleby family was able to research and develop. The "double" in Double Glocester means that it is made with whole milk from both the morning and evening milkings. The "single" version of this cheese uses partially skimmed milk. By using whole, raw milk, this cheese has a lot more flavor than most in this category. The folks at Neals Yard describe this cheese as being like buttered toast, and I think that they are spot on.

Another characteristic of this cheese is that it melts wonderfully. So if you want to make any meal a bit fancies (grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, even a quesadilla!) try using the Double Gloucester instead.

If you want a sample of this cheese, come on by the cheese counter and ask anyone there. We'd love to have you try it! I hope to see all of you again soon, but until then - eat, drink and be happy!