Friday, January 31, 2014

Fun Pictures from the CMI and FFS

Hello everyone!

I thought I would share some of the photos I took from the first West Coast Cheesemonger Invitational and the Fancy Food Show. Enjoy!

These are pictures of the Cheesemongers creating their "perfect bite"

 Party time! The last picture is the top ten competitors cutting pieces of cheese to an exact pre-set weight.

Lots of cheese at the Fancy Food Show!
I'll be posting about a fabulous cheese in the next couple of days.. stay tuned! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rock me like a Wagon Wheel

Good day everyone!

Today I wanted to talk about a cheese that is very near and dear to my heart - the Wagon Wheel from Cowgirl Creamery. Even before visiting the creamery in Petaluma and helping make their cheese, I was enamored with this cheese. It is super versatile and incredibly tasty - a must for almost any cheese plate.

Cheese: Wagon Wheel
Producer: Cowgirl Creamery (Cheesemaker - Eric Patterson)
Location: Petaluma, CA
Milk: Organic pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to volunteer at the first West Coast Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco. It was quite an experience! There were 35 cheesemongers competing on things such as salesmanship, the perfect bite, pairings, tastings, etc. It was quite an event! (I'll write another post in a couple days covering this event as well as the Fancy Food Show - there are plenty of pictures!) One of the perks of helping out at cheese events such as this is you get to bring home lots of cheese. The picture above is the piece of Wagon Wheel that I was able to bring home. A whole wheel weighs around 16 pounds and this is well over a quarter of a wheel... so much delicious cheese!!

Now to the cheese itself. The Wagon Wheel is a natural rind cheese that is aged for about 2 months. Eric Patterson, the cheesemaker, explained to me when I was at the creamery that this is the first cheese that they used animal rennet instead of vegetarian. He said they did this because they found that the vegetarian rennet developed some off flavors in this particular recipe after being aged. Quite fascinating.

Being a semi-firm cheese, the paste of the Wagon Wheel has a little bit of give, but is still relatively firm. The paste has a yellowish hue and is speckled with small eyes. The smell is earthy, musty with a hint of funk, but when you taste it you are pleasantly surprised with the mellow, buttery, creamy flavor. I was reading the description that Cowgirl Creamery has on their website and they describe the taste like this: "The flavor has a slight tartness balanced with richer notes of brown butter and cream." 100% spot on. I couldn't describe it any better.

This is me helping wash the wheels of Wagon Wheel at Cowgirl Creamery

I've already used this cheese in myriad of ways - featured on a cheese board, melted into some decadent macaroni and cheese, on my sandwich and paired with some mildy spicy salami. It is super duper versatile and is just mind blowing when melted.

This is an example of cheese that is locally made, but may not be available at every Whole Foods in the area. I would definitely call and ask anyone that works behind the cheese counter to see if they stock this cheese. If not, you can always visit the Cowgirl Creamery retail shop in Point Reyes or at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

I hope you have a chance to taste this wonderful cheese! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

St. Nuage - Like floating on a cloud...

Happy New Year to you all!

I hope that you all had a wondrous holiday season filled with lots of family, friends and food! My holiday season was great - I just can't believe it's over already...

Even though we are well into the month of January and are past most of the New Years parties and shindigs, I still had some sparkling wines leftover in my fridge. I didn't want these to go to waste (both my best friend and my girlfriend do not care for sparkling wine - crazy right?!), so I decided to pick up a tasty cheese to have with my leftover sparklers.

I was super excited when we brought in the St Nuage this season from Hervé Mons. It just recently made it to the stores, is on promo for the month of January and was a no brainer to pair with my sparkling wines...


Cheese: St. Nuage (or "Saint Cloud")
Affineur: Hervé Mons
Location: Produced by a cheesemaker in Burgundy, France
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The St. Nuage is a triple crème, bloomy rind cheese that really embodies the meaning of its name - Saint Cloud. It is light, fluffy and airy yet still extremely buttery and decadent. It has an unbelievably smooth paste that basically oozes out when brought to room temperature.

When I took this picture, the cheese was still cold. By the time I got around to eating it, it was a divinely gooey treat. I spread it on some Raincoast Crisp crackers, but a baguette would have worked just as well. I was drinking a sparkling Vouvray at the time and the crisp acidity of the wine cut through the creamy, buttery flavor just right.

The St. Nuage is an extremely versatile cheese as well. You can pair it with either sweet or savory flavors. A toasted baguette with butter and roasted garlic would be heavenly if you slathered some of the St. Nuage on top. Or you can pair with pretty much any preserve of your choosing... Cherry and blackberry preserves are some of my favorites. I could also see this cheese being used in crepes or even in sandwiches. The choices are endless!

This is not a cheese we carry year round, so be sure to grab one (or two!) before they're gone. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!