Wednesday, June 25, 2014

All Things Chimay - Beer and Cheese!

Hello everyone,

I can't believe June is almost over! Time flies when you're having fun I suppose...

I know I recently blogged about one of the Chimay cheeses from Belgium, but I was sent a wonderful sample package from the folks who represent Chimay. After receiving the lovely package, I decided I would talk about all three of the Chimay cheeses we offer at many of the Whole Foods Markets in NorCal and Reno and pair them up with the corresponding beers.

I'll try to keep this post as straightforward as possible... here we go!

The following information on the cheese applies to all three:

Producers: The Trappist monks of Scourmont Abbey
Location: Near Chimay, Belgium
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

First up, the Chimay Grand Reserve. This is a cheese washed with the beer of the same name. It is definitely the most mellow of the three cheeses. Just a little stinky with a very soft, buttery paste. I would use this cheese in a fondue or baked pasta.
The beer itself is nice and flavorful, velvety and slightly sweet (like many Belgian beers). Lots of yeast and malt. When paired with the cheese, the two combine into a harmonious, almost caramel flavor. It was very pleasant.

Next, we have the Chimay Dore Gold. The recipe for this cheese has been kept under lock and key for generations and is now just recently available to the public. This cheese was made in honor of a beer (called Dore Gold) that was a secret beer consumed only by the monks at the monastery. The flavor is decadent, yet fresh. While being slightly stinky, it has aromas of hops and flavors of grass. It is washed with the Chimay Dorée beer which is not always available, so I stuck with the color theme and used the Chimay Tripel.
The Chimay Tripel is a bit lighter, fruitier and more acidic than the other two. Definitely the beer I prefer out of the three when it's by itself. When paired with the Chimay Dore Gold, the fruity acidity of the beer mixes with the creamy funk of the cheese to create a light and almost airy pairing. It was a new sensation for me when it came to pairings. Quite intriguing.
Last, but not least, we have the Chimay a la Primère washed with the beer of the same name. To me, this cheese has a more robust flavor with a touch more funk. It is soft and creamy like the other two, just a tad stinker... I loved it. Putting this onto a burger would be killer!
As for the beer, it is a bit more syrupy with lots of dark fruit flavors. It is slightly sweet, but not over the top. To me, this was the best pairing of the three. The cheese had enough flavor to stand up to the complexity of the beer and the sweetness of the beer balanced out the funk of the cheese. Truly a match made in heaven - and I would hope so! Especially since the cheese is washed in the same beer...
All in all it was a great evening of beer and cheese, laughter and conversation with my girlfriend and my best friend. Photo cred goes to my beautiful girlfriend who graciously offered to take pictures with her higher quality camera phone :).
These cheeses may not be available at every Whole Foods Market, but when you see one, be sure to ask for a taste! You might even get lucky and find the Chimay beer to pair with it. I hope that is the case for you all. That's all I have for you tonight! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert

Good afternoon everyone,

I hope you all are having a wonderful week. Today I wanted to talk about one of the cheeses we have on promotion this month at the Northern California/Reno Whole Foods locations that is incredible but sometimes gets overlooked - the Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert.

Cheese: Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert
Producer: Old Chatham Sheepherding Co
Location: Old Chatham, New York
Milk: Pasteurized sheep and cow's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian

The cheese is named after the Nancy Clark, one of the owners of Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. The farm is the largest sheep dairy in the United States with over 1200 East Friesian sheep. They take great care of their sheep and as a result they produce fantastic milk which makes phenomenal cheese. They get the cow's RBGH free milk from a neighboring farm.

When you unwrap your piece of Nancy's Camembert, you know straightaway that this cheese is going to be gooey deliciousness. Even while still cold from refrigeration, the cheese is soft and spreadable. The consistency reminds me of a triple crème cheese like the Brillat Savarin. It is buttery, rich and smooth with a little touch of umami from the rind. I spread it on one of the Simple & Crisp Pear slices... just a simple dried piece of pear to be used as a cracker substitute. It was incredible. I then drizzled some local honey on top of my next piece and enjoyed a crisp glass of Deccolio Prosecco. It was divine.

Other cheeses featured: L'Alveare (top left) and Moses Sleeper (top right).

This cheese is currently on sale for the month of June, so be sure to swing by your local WFM cheese counter and try a taste. If you're curious about the Simple & Crisp fruit slices (they come in pear, apple and orange varieties), I took a picture of the packaging below:

I should mention that these products are new to our region and as a way to create some excitement, we have them at a special low price! Pick up a package today, they're incredible!

Well, that's all I have for today. I hope you all have a great rest of your week. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Featuring Grand Cru Surchoix for National Cheese Day!

Hello everyone!

I found out from friends that today was National Cheese Day and I was so unprepared! As I didn't have a particular cheese picked out, I decided to go with the cheese that I had in my refrigerator - the Grand Cru Surchoix from Emmi Roth.

I've talked about this cheese briefly before in a blog post back in November of 2012 here but it has never had a post of its own. As it won 3rd Best in Show at the 2012 American Cheese Society Conference, I figured it deserved its own post.


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

The name "Surchoix" means that this batch of cheese is the best and by far, a cut above the rest. The folks at Emmi Roth USA take great care in choosing which wheels of their Grand Cru line will be aged for 5+ months longer to be made into the Grand Cru Surchoix. The original wheels are aged around 4 months, the reserve wheels are aged for at least 6 months and the Surchoix wheels are aged for at least 9 months. Allowing the cheese to age this long really helps to develop some complex flavors that you wouldn't see as pronounced in the younger versions of the Grand Cru.

The cheese is an Alpine style washed rind cheese that is made with a similar recipe to that of the Swiss Le Gruyere. I've been inside of the massive aging rooms at the Emmi Roth facility in Monroe, WI and it is quite impressive to see how many wheels of cheese they are able to make! But even with the volume of cheese they create, they still take such precious care of each and every wheel. The wheels are washed and turned regularly, and each batch has a "tester" wheel that is plugged and tasted at various stages of aging. They definitely take the quality of their cheese seriously.

Today is the first time I've tasted the Grand Cru Surchoix in quite a while and I was reminded of how wonderful this cheese really is. When you take your first bite, you are greeted with the contrasting textures of the creamy paste and the crunchy tyrosine crystals. You taste the buttery, caramel-y richness that develops into an incredible nutty, mushroomy flavor. I definitely had my fair share this evening... oops!

Tonight we had a zinfandel blend from Ridge Vineyards (the Three Valleys) with the cheese and it was quite a nice pairing. The wine was slightly jammy, so it gave the light sweetness that pairs so nicely with cheeses that have a little more age on them. I also have had this cheese with some salami from Creminelli (the Wild Boar and the Tartufo) which were incredible pairings as well. The Surchoix is also a fantastic melting cheese, so try using it with your next batch of fondue or macaroni and cheese...

That's all I have for you tonight. I apologize for not being better prepared for National Cheese Day, but at least I was able to feature an incredibly tasting cheese like the Grand Cru Surchoix. This cheese should be available at most of the Northern California Whole Foods cheese counters, so be sure to go in and ask for a taste soon. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!