Sunday, June 30, 2013

Andante Dairy's Nocturne

Hello everyone! Can you believe that it is already the end of June? This summer is flying by! 

Because of the summer heat, I was looking for a relatively light cheese to snack on. As I was shopping at our Los Altos location, I came across a wonderful selection of cheese from Andante Dairy. I am ashamed to say that until now, I hadn't tried any of the Andante Dairy cheeses. This is especially shameful because these cheeses are locally made in Petaluma. But, I rectified the situation and tried the Nocturne and couldn't stop going back for more...

Cheese: Nocturne
Producer: Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy
Region: Petaluma, CA
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian

The cool thing about Soyoung, the cheesemaker at Andante Dairy, is that she is incredibly inspired by music and art. In the instance of the Nocturne, she says the color reminds her of Whistler's painting "Nocturnes". She also says that the slow cheesemaking process and the delicate flavors remind her of the gentle movement of Chopin's "Nocturnes". She has other cheeses with names like Legato, Picolo, Metronome, etc. So if you're into music and cheese, these cheeses are right up your alley. 

The cheese itself is an ash ripened, bloomy rind cheese. It is relatively firm when young (like the piece pictured above) and gets a lot softer and more flavorful as it ages. 

In the picture above, you can see that the paste is still relatively firm with just a slight ripening around the edges of the rind. I probably should have let this age for a little while longer, but I was so eager to try it! The aroma of the Nocturne is slightly mushroomy with a little bit of mustiness. As for the flavor, even at a young age, this baby is heavenly! Slightly tart but not over the top, creamy but not cloying with a little bit of funky earthiness thrown in with the rind. Quite a treat.

I served this cheese with some Cranberry Hazelnut Raincoast Crisps and it was quite tasty. Next time I will probably serve ample amounts of fresh fruit as well.

So if you find yourself in a Whole Foods Market and you see any Andante Dairy cheeses, be sure to pick up a piece! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brebiou - a Sheep's Milk Alternative to D'Affinois

Good evening everyone!

The other day when I was browsing the cheese department at the Whole Foods Market in Los Altos, I came across a cheese that I had heard a lot about, but had never actually tried - Brebiou. I had been told about this cheese in the past and decided to buy a piece and see what it was all about.

Cheese: Brebiou
Producer: Fromagerie des Chaumes
Region: Southwest France
Milk: Pasteurized sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

After researching this cheese, I came up with the fact that this cheese is basically an industrial product. But that doesn't mean it's a bad cheese! Fromage d'Affinois is another example of an industrial "artisan" cheese and I sold a TON of that cheese from my cheese counter.

I like the Brebiou because it is super approachable and while mellow in flavor, still pretty complex. For me, sheep's milk makes some of the best cheeses and it's not often that I come across a bloomy rind cheese made with 100% sheep's milk. When you first take a bite, you are greeted with the beautiful creaminess and unctuous mouthfeel of the paste followed by the little hint of funky mushroom from the rind. The sheep's milk lends a nice nutty flavor and while creamy, it is not as "buttery" as a lot of cow's milk bloomy rind cheeses are.

This would be a cheese that I would use to introduce people to "other" milk cheeses. I remember when I first got into the cheese world, I was super scared to try a goat or sheep's milk cheese (blasphemy, I know). But when I did, I was hooked! I think that with the Brebiou, that will be the story for many other soon to be turophiles. :)

My friend/coworker, Francesca and I made quick work of this cheese. All we had were some nice sesame flatbread crackers and we were good to go. If you're a fan of the Fromage d'Affiinois and you're down to try something a little bit different, go to your nearest Whole Foods and ask if they carry the Brebiou. Not all cheese counters will have it, but if they do, ask for a taste.

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Garrotxa - Tasty and a Weapon?

Hello everyone! I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend.

Today I've decided to write about a tasty Spanish cheese called Garrotxa...

Cheese: Garrotxa
Producer: Various
Region: Catalonia, Spain
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

It's always been a bit of a challenge to find really tasty, harder goat's milk cheese and I often have customers looking for something different from the fresh chevres with which most of us are familiar. In these scenarios, Garrotxa is the cheese I recommend.
The cheese is aged for 3 to 4 weeks in caves and develops a really fun rind with plenty of good flavor producing molds. The paste is ivory white (as all goat's milk cheeses are) with a few tiny eyes. When you take a bite of this cheese, you are aware that it is made of goat's milk by the subtle tang and gaminess of the cheese, but it is super mellow compared to the fresher goat's milk cheeses because of its age. It is deliciously creamy, clean and slightly nutty. Be sure to let this cheese come to room temperature... the flavors really open up.

I passed pieces of this cheese around the office the other day and I heard no complaints. Even those who were not necessarily goat's milk fans liked this cheese. I definitely recommend having this cheese on your next cheese plate. Try pairing an Albarino with this cheese... the crisp acidity and touch of sweetness works really well with this cheese.

One other fun fact that I like to mention is that this cheese could have been used as a cannonball! If you watch Mythbusters, you probably remember the cheese cannonball episode. They found that Garrotxa (or cheeses like it) was the cheese that was most likely used in the myth of the Uruguayan captain who used cheese to defeat the Argentinian navy. Fun right? My team and I referred to it as the "cannonball cheese".

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bellwether Crescenza

Good evening and happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend with my Dad and the rest of my immediate family and had a blast. Good food + good company + the beach = an amazing time!

Last Friday my friend Francesca was kind enough to bring in a wonderful treat for us to share - Bellwether Farms Crescenza. I had never had the honor of tasting this cheese, so I was really excited to try some..

Cheese: Crescenza
Producers: Cindy and Liam Callahan of Bellwether Farms
Region: Sonoma County, CA
Milk: Pasteurized Jersey cow's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian

This cheese is made in the style of the Italian Stracchino which is a soft ripened, but rindless cheese made from cow's milk. The cheese ages for a very short amount of time and drains solely under its own weight. By draining in this fashion, a lot of the moisture is retained in the cheese and it stay super duper soft. And because it does not have a rind, there isn't anything there to hold back the ooze when the cheese is fully ripe.

When I unwrapped this wonderfully delicate cheese, I couldn't get enough of the smell! It smelled of sweet cultured cream. I couldn't get enough of it! Francesca did mention that this particular piece of Crescenza wasn't as ooey gooey as others she had had in the past, so it held its shape a lot better than was expected. Not the less, it was wonderful, unctuous delight.

The flavor of this cheese was quite complex considering how straightforward it may seem. When I took my first bite, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't just taste like butter or cream as a lot of soft ripened cheeses do. It was yeasty, yet had a yogurty tang. This is one of those cheeses that you could eat over and over again and still be surprised with its complexity of flavor.

Yes that is a laptop and desk phone in the background.. Francesca and I take our cheese AND work seriously :). Francesca bought this AMAZING crusty baguette that was made with golden raisins and fennel. The bread itself was killer, but when I spread the Crescenza on a toasted piece of this baguette I was in food heaven. The sweetness of the raisin worked well with the creamy tang of the cheese and the fennel added this earthy element that rounded the flavors out, not allowing it to be too sweet... YUM!

I'm not kidding, you really need to try this cheese! Francesca says that she likes to fold it into her eggs or polenta. I haven't cooked with it yet, but I'm planning on it! Swing on by any of your local Whole Foods and grab yourself some, you'll thank me later. :) Until then, eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Barber's 1833 20 Month English Cheddar

As the weather has been getting hotter, I've been less inclined to do any heavy duty cooking in the kitchen. When this happens, I like to fall back on a good old stand by that I enjoyed while growing up - pasta salad. This isn't the macaroni salad with a bunch of mayonnaise that many of us know and love, but a lighter, healthier pasta salad that is easy to make, delicious and filling. 

We used to cube up standard medium/sharp yellow cheddar and mix it in with our pasta salad. I have since found an outstanding cheddar that I like to use and that is the Barber's 1833 20 Month English Cheddar. This cheddar is made by the oldest cheddar making family (the Barber family) in England. If you haven't already deduced, they've been making traditional English farmhouse cheddar since 1833. That's 180 years! Clearly these folks know what they're doing. The Barber's family has also been the sole guardians of the original starter culture and are the only farmhouse block-cheddar maker in the world to still use these original cultures. You can find out more information about the cultures on their website here: If you're into bacteria (like me) you'll enjoy the read :)

Cheese: Barber's 1833 English Vintage Cheddar (20 Month)
Producers: The Barber Family
Region: Ditcheat, Somerset, England (right outside of the village of Cheddar)
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Barber's cheddar falls under the PDO label of "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar". This ensures that you are getting a cheese that is made in the traditional method, the curds are still turned by hand (a.k.a. cheddaring), the milk is from local farms within the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, the cheese is aged on the farm for a minimum of 9 months and is assessed by a professional grader. Check out the cool video about this cheese here:

Now for the tasting! This cheese is another one of those yummy cheeses that has the tyrosine crystals as well as some salt crystals throughout the paste. The flavor is exactly what I look for in an aged cheddar, a little bit of nuttiness, a hit of salt and a nice acidic tang. Considering it is a block cheddar without the bandage wrapped around it like most other English cheddars, you really get TONS of flavor. I use this cheese in just about anything, and as you'll see in pictures below, in my pasta salad. :)

Cut up ingredients: cherry tomatoes, olives, red onion, celery and capers
Add cubed Barber's cheddar
Boil the pasta of your choice
After pasta has chilled, mix in with other ingredients. Drizzle with a little Italian dressing and you're all set!
Super easy, super delicious! Try some for yourself! And the fun thing about it is that you can add whatever other ingredients you like... make it your own :). 

On a totally different note, I wanted to share some very exciting news! Today we received our first shipment of cheese at our new Distribution Center. So exciting! Here I am standings next to some of the cheese we received. 

We'll be getting plenty more over the next couple of weeks, but since this was our first shipment, we were all pretty excited. 

So... next time you're in your local Whole Foods Market, be sure to ask for a sample of the Barber's 20 Month Cheddar. You'll be in for a treat. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Young Mahon

Good evening everyone!

Today I had the brilliant idea to grab a chunk of cheese from my fridge and bring it to work with me. I chose to bring the Young Mahon...

Cheese: Mahon
Producers: Various
Region: Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
Milk: Raw or pasteurized cows milk (the one pictured is pasteurized)
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Balearic Islands, where Mahon is produced, are in a very remote location in the Mediterranean. The cheese is named after the main port of the islands. Because of the remote location, the food that is produced in this region and then exported must be somewhat shelf stable. You can find Mahon that is young or around 2 months (like the one pictured) or aged anywhere up to 10+ months. As the Mahon ages, the paste starts to dry out, become more crumbly while the flavors intensify.

The making of the Mahon is super fascinating to me... the cheesemakers take the curd and place it in a cloth and then tightly tie off the corners. This causes the edges of the wheel (it's more like a square) to round. The cheese is then brined and placed in aging rooms where they are regularly rubbed with a blend of olive oil, butter and paprika which gives the Mahon its distinct color.

I love using the Mahon to introduce people who are new to cheese to artisan cheese. It has a nice buttery flavor, but definitely has a little more spunk than say a Havarti or a Monterey Jack. There is a slight acidity that reminds me of citrus, a smooth buttery flavor with a touch of salt. I've heard it described as tangy or tart, but when I hear those words I think of sour candies that make you lips pucker... the Mahon is no where near that flavor. The Mahon goes amazingly well with fruit because it does tend to be a little saltier. Today I cut up an apple and my friend Francesca and I enjoyed a tasty little snack...

The paper plate just adds class... :)
For beverages, I would either pair a crisp cider or a slightly more robust red wine... my first thought would be a Syrah. 

This cheese is great for novices and turophiles alike! If you haven't tried this cheese, swing by any local Whole Foods Market and they should have this cheese on hand. You might even luck out and see that they carry the aged Mahon as well. If you're that lucky, ask to try a sample of both so you can see how different the flavors can be. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!