Cheese (and Wine) Club of the Month- Now Ships from California!

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This month, the “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” cheese club of the month heads west. That’s right, the cheese of the month club will now ship from my home state of California. Why the cheese move, you ask? Two reasons. It lets me access artisan cheese that I can only send from California, and, it’ll help me lower the cost. A lot. Shipping to my California friends will also be a lot more wallet-friendly, too. Plus,… I’m also adding on wine option for cheese and wine pairing fans.

If you think you might know a cheese lover who would appreciate the club for their holiday gift, please read on for club details. If the cheese lover is you, and you don’t care about the holidays except for increased cookie supply at the office, I feel you, cookie lover. You can read on, too.

As always, feel free to email me at kirstin@itsnotyouitsbrie.com if you have any questions.

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The Cheese Clubs

Every month, I’ll pick three of my favorite artisan cheeses from around the world for you. One of my selections will be as ripe and ready as soft heirloom tomatoes in late July, and the other two will hold happy in a fridge for a couple weeks. I’ll ship the cheese, my descriptions written in the lively style of my book and articles for LA Times and NPR from my favorite wine shop and cheese bar (Solano Cellars) to your home. After the club is shipped, members will also receive an email with one of my original recipes for one of the cheeses in the club, accompanied by photographs like those in this newsletter. This club could be the most delicious thing you’ve found greeting you once a month on your front porch… ever. See the pic of a recent recipe on top.

Option 1: The It’s Not You, It’s Brie Cheese Club

Includes around a pound of cheese, cheese descriptions, and after the club is shipped, a club email with the recipe. The single share option costs $37, plus shipping.

  • If you live in California, we’ll ship it to you UPS. Click here to buy the cheese club.
  • If you live anywhere else but California, we’ll ship it to you via Fed Ex 2-day. Click here to buy the cheese club.
  • The first club will ship in January and holiday giftees will receive welcome notes telling them when to expect their first gift shipment.

Option 2: The It’s Not You, It’s Brie Cheese & Wine Club

Includes around one pound of cheese, cheese descriptions, and the recipe. Plus… a bottle of wine worth $25 that Kirstin will expertly pair with one or more of the cheeses, with wine notes. The cheese and wine club totals $62, plus shipping.

 

A few more details….

  • Upon purchasing the club, Kirstin will email welcome notes to all member or club purchasers telling them when to except their first shipment. If you’d also like to purchase a signed copy of Kirstin’s book, click here.
  • Clubs will be shipped the second Tuesday of the month. The first club will ship in January and holiday giftees will receive welcome notes telling them when to except their first gift shipment.
  • Members can sign up to receive clubs every month, or every other month. There is a three-month club minimum and shoppers can sign up in 3-month increments. The shipping charges will be calculated for the first month on the website, and we’ll call you shortly after you sign up for your payment info for the next two clubs.

 

Disclosure: The cheese will be sourced and packed with the utmost care and experience and will arrive on your doorstep in optimal condition. Solano Cellars does not accept responsibility for the condition of the cheese after they leave the shop. 

Baked Ricotta: For the Vegetarian Lunch Date

BakedRicottaTopphoto1 (1 of 1)Coming back from traveling and straight into the holiday craze at the wine shop where I work at has been good- distracting, lively- and then just plain busy. Falling asleep within minutes of eating a 10pm dinner after working the wine bar and writing kind of busy. Since the holidays have hit, I’ve been focusing on cooking meals that require low output- aiming for several meals that last for days, or cooking tasty dishes that inspire, quickly.

So when my good friend Jesse came over for lunch/ business meeting this Sunday (yay, projects!), I wanted to keep it simple. And vegetarian, per her meatless preferences. So what did I do? Mmm hmmm… I bet you can guess. I went cheesy.

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Baked ricotta is one of my go-to, low fuss, dishes. And cooking it just makes me happy, especially when I’m working with such lovely product as Bellwether’s sheep’s milk ricotta. Bellwether was the first certified sheep’s milk dairy in California (I focused on their San Andreas in my book) and they make some of the most gorgeous ricotta I’ve had. But if you can’t find them near you, just go with whatever other delicious local sheep’s milk one you have. Fruition Farms makes a lovely one, too.

Sheep’s milk ricotta provides more of a savory, earthy flavor than cow’s milk that emerges once the cheese is baked, but if all you can is a find good cow’s milk version near you, that’s fine. The ricotta doesn’t need to be true ricotta made from whey for this recipe, either. In fact, it’s probably best if you can’t find a rich sheep’s milk version, to go with whole cow’s milk cream-added ricotta instead. It would provide a richness that shines once baked. Salvatore Brklyn, here’s looking at you.

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Serve with whatever tasty sides you have around. I served with a pomegranate citrus salad, olive bread and sliced watermelon radishes. If I weren’t going veg, I’d slice a local salami or two and serve with warmed olives.

 

Baked Ricotta

For two

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

 

3 cups ricotta (really, it shrinks once cooked!)

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoons chopped parsley

 

Place ricotta in a shallow baking dish that’s table-friendly. Flatten slightly. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Top with freshly ground pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and parsley and serve.

 

 

 

French Cheese & Wine Tour: Provence!

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A tour here, a class there, a little bubbly sipping everywhere, planning events for SF Beer Week- how’s one to keep in all in straight? I have no idea. With battling visions of spring in Provence and winter cheese classes in my head, I’m a little in need of an organizer. Or a calendar. Or someone to put things in my organizer and calendar (l pay in cheese?).

Either way, I’m loving what the busyness is bringing. December and wine buying season hit like a glittery, icy, hammer at the wine shop I work at, we’re shipping wine all over the place, and things are in motion all around me. I’m a little tired, but feeling very blessed.

I’ll be featuring different cheeses on my blog throughout December and will have a lot of news to share in the upcoming weeks, so please keep posted!

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Today, there’s something I want to share with you dear readers that I’m very excited about. My first tour! I’m heading to Provence with the UC Alumni Association! Yup, you’re invited, too.

Flavors of Provence: A 9-Day Infusion of Wine, Food and Culture:

I’m honored to announce that I’m the guest lecturer on an upcoming UC Berkeley Alumni trip to Provence this May. Did I mention I love to travel? I’ll be joining the Cal Travel team as one of their hosts to provide further enrichment and education on the tour by talking about… you guessed it! Cheese, culture and wine. Though it sounds like its just for alumni, anyone can actually join the group after joining the association (which is open to the general public). I’m pretty ecstatic. We’ll be staying for seven nights in a farmhouse chateau, watching cooking demonstrations from Michelin starred chef Edouard Loubet, visiting markets, and… more. At the moment, spots are still open. Let me know if you have any questions- if I can’t answer them, I’ll direct you to someone who can.

 

I’m very excited and hope some of you can make, but if you can’t, rest assured they’ll be more opportunities go eat cheese with me, many of them at future classes, or, just with me in general. I eat a lot of it.

I hope you have a wonderful week!

 

(I’m working on the comments issue on the blog at the moment. I can read them and appreciate the love, but I know that you can’t. I hope to have it back to normal soon! Thanks for holding tight, your support, and reading!)

A Statement Cheese: One for Thanksgiving

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When you hear “statement piece” from a woman about to attend a holiday party, she’s normally talking about the large piece of jewelry she’ll be wearing to attend said party. Perhaps a large or bright coral or clunky gold necklace, worn with a simple black dress. Besides calling attention to fantastic jewelry, wearing a statement piece is also a great way to pare down. The jewelry is doing all the meeting and greeting, charming the crowd, smiling at the babies- not much else needs to be done besides throwing on a shift underneath to serve as a platform.

It’s the same with statement cheese for Thanksgiving.

When things are crazy and I’m working four days a week at the wine shop advising people on what wine goes with turkey in addition to working on writing samples, recipes, pitches, and projects galore at home, I like to simplify what I bring to Thanksgiving (which we all know will always be fromage). In general, serving cheese is a great way to reduce the amount of cooking one does for events because besides remembering to take out a wheel or wedge an hour or two before the party so it comes to room temp and arranging it on a plate, nothing else needs to be done.

And its possible to do even less with cheese but have it shine even more by serving fewer cheeses.

This is statement cheese.

Serving from four to five cheeses is lovely, but sometimes the glory of a wheel can get lost when tastebuds are overextended. So here goes: try serving one spectacular cheese with varied condiments on the side so people can explore the pick with different flavors and textures. They’ll enjoy it on another level because they’ll have time to appreciate its nuances- like when a woman wears an LBD and a great chainmaille necklace without any rings or earrings so the eye isn’t distracted. Statement cheese likes all the attention too, and pairing it with sides keeps all eyes on it- a touch of sweetness here, a crunch there, a tart pairing here- shows different sides of the cheese.

Here’s how to do it.

 

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Statement Cheese Guide:

Pick one cheese. Make sure it’s one of your favorites. Stellar. A statement.

Pair it with three to five sides.

Here are two examples.

 

A Blue Cheese

Like… Bay Blue, Avalanche Blue, Shaker’s Blue, Stichelton, Roquefort

Sides:

Candied or toasted pecans, sliced fresh pears, local raw honey, broken pieces of milk chocolate, pistachio cream.

Getting it? You’re curating an experience.

 

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A Soft Gooey Cheese

Forsterkase, Nettle Meadow Kunik, Harbison or Winnemere, Époisse (serve a whole wheel or large wedge)

Sides:

Rose confit, honeycomb, toasted hazelnuts, bacon jam, broken pieces of white chocolate, persimmons

 

 

What’s your favorite statement cheese?

Unpacking: Return from the English & Irish Cheese Invasion

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The first thing most Irish would ask upon meeting me upon learning that I was from California was, “How are you putting up with the weather here?” The ground was wet, my Wellies were in full use, my overgrown bangs curled haphazardly whenever I stepped outside, and the windshield wipers on my tiny car were working overtime. I adored it, I told them. After experiencing reseviors a third full in California for three years straight, I felt blissful in the Irish mist and showers. Things were green. Things were about thirty different types of green, in fact.

Yorkshire, Hawes, England.

Yorkshire, Hawes, England.

Today I’m curled up on my couch in California with a cup of Barry’s tea in hand – my second after my starter cup of coffee- watching the rain fall outside. The skies are grey and bright. After I publish this post, I’m thinking of putting on my Wellies and going for a walk.

Ladling at Stichelton

Ladling at Stichelton

My flight returned me to the states late last Monday night, and since then I’ve been experiencing a wealth of emotions, which might not surprise those I ended up crying on when saying goodbye (sorry, guys), and, a tad bit of jet lag. I visited three of the most wonderful countries in the world- Wales, England, Ireland- spent time making cheese with top cheesemakers kind enough to let me salt and play with their curds, revisited friends and made new ones, was genoroursly welcomed into the homes of families who I hadn’t met before and fed delicious things by them, and ate an insane amount of cheese and perhaps also drank a little local alcohol. Perhaps.

Neal's Yard Dairy, Borough  Market

Neal’s Yard Dairy, Borough Market

I had a blast. I’m unpacked. And, quite honestly, I’m ready to pack again. More news about that last part in future posts.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be posting here and there about my trip, and working on a project based on my time there. I”ll write all about it. Of course I’ll stay grounded in American-ness too- all about Thanksgiving cheese plates here next week. I also have some news to share soon. There will be a lot going on here, folks, check back in.

Ardrahan aging, North Cork, Ireland

Ardrahan aging, North Cork, Ireland

Marco at Toonsbridge Dairy

Marco at Toonsbridge Dairy

To all the cheesemakers and families who let me visit and didn’t yell at me in the make room when I did things wrong, thank you. I’ve never felt so welcomed by so many as I did over the past two plus months. I’m very, very lucky.

Sharpham, Devon, England

Sharpham, Devon, England

Lastly, if you don’t have anything to do next Tuesday or simply need something else to think about for a couple hours other than turkey or how to sit family members at the Thanksgiving table to encourage wellbeing, I’m teaching a class at the Cheese School next week (sorry, guys the Bubbles class in December is sold out) and there are a couple spots open: Winter Cheese and Wine . I’d love to say hello.

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First Stop: Making Cheese in Wales

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Sam tending to the curds.

The start of my two month trip to Wales, England and Ireland left me feeling spoiled. My first stop was to Hafod, a cheesemaker utilizing suuuuuper old cheddar-making methods- think 11 and 13 hour-long cheese making days- to produce earthy, layered Cheddars in east Wales. After spending a week with the wonderful Holden family, I wondered how I would be able to happily move on. Quite literally at times- I managed to throw my back out the day before leaving their place.

A combination of all that I learned from Sam and Rachel Holden in the make room (fueled by hourly tea breaks), Rachel’s cooking, visiting Welsh secret gardens, and rubbing lard on cheddar wheels would be impossible to top, I thought. Luckily, I was proven wrong. Cheesemakers I visited in England, where I traveled after Wales, exceeded my expectations at every stop. I ate wonderfully, met more fabulous people, and, had more chances to witness animal fat and cheese form a close relationship (buttered Lancashire, be still my heart). Here are a few pics of my time at Hafod. I hope you enjoy. More to come.

The girls waiting their turn to be milked

Aging.

Aging.

Joss in action

Joss at the mill.

Pressing Hafod.

Pressing Hafod.

Larding Hafod- the magic before the bandage.

Larding Hafod- the magic before the bandage.