Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bleating Heart's Shepherdista

Good morning everyone!

I hope you all are doing well and your week is wrapping up nicely.

One of the really cool things about working for Whole Foods is seeing how a large corporation can still give back to the local community and help smaller businesses flourish. It is in this spirit that in May, Whole Foods Market granted a "Local Producer Loan" to cheesemakers who are near and dear to my heart. The lucky recipients were husband and wife team, Seana Doughty and Dave Dalton from Bleating Heart Cheese.

Bleating Heart is located in Tomales, CA and their main focus is to produce top of the line cheese using milk from animals that have been treated humanely by the farmers and whose farm practices responsible stewardship of the land. As a result, the milk used in their cheeses is produced during the animals' natural lactation cycle. Cows have a cycle that lasts about 12 months, goats have a cycle that lasts about 10 months and sheep have a cycle that lasts 6-8 months. Keeping this in mind, you can see why many of the cheeses that Bleating Heart produces are only available on a seasonal basis.

Ok, on to the cheese! The cheese I'd like to talk about today is the Shepherdista - a combination of the words "shepherd" and "fashionista" - a delectable sheep's milk cheese.

Cheese: Shepherdista
Producer: Seana and Dave at Bleating Heart
Location: Tomales, CA
Milk: Raw sheep's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Shepherdista is a natural rind cheese where the cheesemakers allow the rind to develop on its own with the help of the molds and bacteria that are in the air surrounding the cheese. (I remember a year or so back, I attended a class that discussed molds/bacteria on the rinds of cheeses. Seana was there and we had the opportunity to look at the rinds of some of her cheeses under the microscope. It was incredible to see all these little flavors producers up close and personal!) The wheels are turned and patted every few days and are aged 60-90 days.

One of the most pleasant surprises for me with the Shepherdista was the "fudginess" of the paste in terms of consistency. It was incredibly smooth, with very few eyes and it coated the inside of my mouth similar to the way fudge does. Just on this alone, I can tell you that this would be an incredible melting cheese and you may consider using it on your next grilled cheese!

The flavor really highlighted the stereotypical characteristics of sheep's milk cheeses. A richer lactic flavor overall because of the higher fat content of sheep's milk with a touch of nutty, earthy, tangy goodness. Because of it's richness, I would pair the Shepherdista with something slightly acidic... think grapes, apples, Pinot Grigio or even a younger, lighter red wine.

As I stated before, this cheese is not always available due to the seasonality of the lactation cycles of the sheep. That being said, we have it currently in most of the Whole Foods Markets in Northern California and Reno. I know that the production is currently limited, so if you see this cheese at your local cheese counter, be sure to grab some for yourself!

That's all I have for now... until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bermuda Triangle

Good evening everyone!
Today I want to talk about one of the ribbon winning cheeses from the ACS Conference a couple weeks ago. This cheese won 1st place in the Open Category of Soft Ripened Cheeses made from Goat's Milk. Drum roll please... the Bermuda Triangle from Cypress Grove!

Cheese: Bermuda Triangle
Producer: Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove
Location: Arcata, CA
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

The original size of the Bermuda Triangle is a 1.5 pound triangle. The folks at Cypress Grove made a mini version specially for Whole Foods Market (in honor of the ACS Conference that took place) this month that weighs only 0.75 pounds. Because it is a smaller size, the cheese ripens and gets to the ooey gooey stage I love much quicker...

The Bermuda Triangle that I cut in to today was a bit on the young side. You can see in the picture above that it still crumbles very easily and the cream line close to the rind is still relatively firm. One of the distinguishing features of cheese from Cypress Grove is the use of vegetable ash. If you've ever eaten Humboldt Fog, you know what I'm talking about. When the cheese is first made, it is coated with vegetable ash and then during the ripening stages, develops the soft, bloomy rind on the outside. The result is an inner lining of ash right underneath the rind.

The flavor of the Bermuda Triangle is very clean, fresh and bright. The milk used to make this cheese is superb milk and as a result, you get a superb cheese. The ash doesn't impart much flavor besides making the cheese a touch more earthy while the rind adds a hint of mushroom. The textures of this cheese are really fun as well. The inner paste is crumbly and reminds me of a fresh chevre.The layer right underneath the rind is where the ripening is happening, so the paste here will be more broken down. As a result, that part of the cheese will have stronger flavor and be much softer. The last layer of bloomy rind and ash gives another dimension of texture in that it doesn't melt away like the rest of the cheese. You actually have to chew! One thing to note, the more ripe this cheese is, the stronger the flavor. I personally like a little age on the Bermuda Triangles, but the flavor may be too intense for some.

As you might have expected, we currently have the Bermuda Triangle on sale at the Whole Foods Markets in Northern California and we'd love you to join us in celebrating the folks at Cypress Grove's success. Stop by your closest cheese counter and try a sample!

A fun thing to note.. right after I finished tasting this cheese, I had a fresh cup of coffee. The residual flavors of the Bermuda Triangle really paired nicely with the bitterness of the coffee. It was like I had put cream in my coffee. Totally delicious. I had to go back for another bite.

I hope you all get the chance to try this incredible cheese in the near future. Until next time - eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

American Cheese Society Conference 2014 Highlights

Good day!

As most of you are aware, the 2014 American Cheese Society Conference was held in Sacramento, CA last week - thus, my brief disappearance. But have no fear! I am back and armed with pictures!

Before I inundate you with my pictures, I want to send a huge shout out to the cheesemakers who won best in show!

1st Place Best in Show - Tarentaise Reserve made by the Farms for City Kids Foundation in Vermont

2nd Place Best in Show - Bay Blue made by Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company locally made in Point Reyes! (*This cheese is available at most Northern California Whole Foods Market cheese counters, so be sure to grab a piece while you can!*)

3rd Place Best in Show was a tie between - Aged Gouda made by Oakdale Cheese & Specialties in Oakdale, CA

and Eden from Sprout Creek Farm in New York

*Try as I might, I could not find the Eden at the Festival of Cheeses that day... I'm sorry Sprout Creek Farms! Congratulations regardless!!!*

Now on to some more fun pictures...

The Meet the Cheesemaker event was a hit like always!
Honeys and cheese from the honey and cheese pairing class I attended... Cheese clockwise from the top: Annabella Buffalo Milk Mozzarella, Marin French Triple Creme Brie, Vermont Creamery Coupole and Hook's "Ewe Calf to be Kidding" Blue
One of the coolest things I got to do at the Conference this year was be in charge of the set up of the Brunch of Champions. This is a place where all of the fresh cheeses and cultured milk products (yogurt, sour cream, mascarpone, ricotta, etc) are featured instead of sitting out for hours at the Festival of Cheese. Here are some pictures...

WONDERFUL volunteers helping me set up the brunch

So many butters!

Not to mention yogurt...

Throw some ricotta, creme fraiche and mascarpone and you're almost there!

Behold, the Brunch of Champions Fresh Cheese/Cultured Milk Products table!
That was so much fun. I hope that I'll be able to attend the Conference next year in Providence, RI and do it all over again!

And finally, the Festival of Cheese pictures... I put the Best of Show pictures at the top of this post, but here are some more...

Such a fabulous week! I hope you enjoyed these pictures. Look for my next blog post soon! There are some yummy ribbon winners out there that I want to feature... until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!