Monthly Archives: December 2009

Going Grand: New Years Cheese Ballers

bubbles

Happy New Years Bubbles

I’m not making a cheese plate for New Year’s. Instead, I’m going to a Raclette party and am going to eat melted cheese. All night long. When I’m not drinking. Or dancing.

But I still want to share a hypothetical cheese plate with you, or rather, share a list of cheeses that would ring in anyone’s sexy new year with a bang. This is also a list of cheeses that I will make every attempt to consume on a monthly basis in 2010.

I’m thinking big and I’m not focusing on prices because I’ve heard that if you set your standards high and roll with the cheese ballers on New Years Eve, that the rest of your year will be blessed. So I’m also gilding my fromage plate in gold. If I could not jinx myself for a moment, 2010, you’re going to be better than 2009. I’m going to hold you to it.

My New Year’s Cheese Plate

Achadinha Capricious: Goat mik’s cheeses come in many forms, and this firm, earthy, tangy number impresses me with it’s nuances and complexities every time. Plus, its atypical nature and shape and size draws gasps of surprise from people who are certain they dislike goat cheese, so this one is going on the plate for sure.

Sampietrino: A cheese made out of cow and sheep’s milk that is shaped like a square and has a crumbly center that tastes like mushrooms and buttermilk? No way it’s not going on. God bless Italy, the land of the mixed milk fermentation.

Colston Basset Stilton: The only true Stilton, Colston Basset is made exclusively from the milk from four dairies in the Val de Belvoir in the English countryside. Although there has been no shortage of attention for blues this year, this is one that I keep coming back to with complete admiration. Colston Basset Stilton, rose confit jam, and late-harvest Chenin Blanc makes me the happiest girl in the world.

Vermont Ayr: This was the first cheese I choose for the “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” club. Back then, the wheel struck me with its earthiness and peanut buttery streak. When I broke into a new wheel last week, however, it tasted like buttermilk and really good beef fat (think rib-eye). Vermont Ayr is a testament to the living, breathing, changing nature of cheese.

Salvatore Bklyn Ricotta: Ricotta doesn’t normally go on cheese plates. This one, however, blew me away when I visited New York. It was served warmed over grilled bread, sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with olive oil. Bellewether’s sheep’s milk ricotta is amazing, but I was blown away by Salvatore’s because I’ve never tasted a sexy version made from cow’s milk . I can safely say that I’ve never had a better fresh cow’s milk cheese than this. Serve warmed alongside crostini, sea salt, and good olive oil.

Happy New Year!

What will you be serving?

Cheese Balls: Artisan, Updated, Wonderous

Cheddarcheeseball2-e

Farmhouse Cheddar, Bourbon and Pecan Cheese ball

Nothing besides crazed children running around department stores hopped up on seven times thier daily sugar limit makes me feel the spirit of the holidays more than cheese balls. So it is with great pleasure that I am sharing with you today my first article on NPR’s The Kitchen Window, devoted entirely to this spherical ball of wonder. Comments at the end of the NPR piece are very, very welcome!

And here is a link to a holiday wine pairing article I recently wrote for Edible East Bay too, just in case you haven’t picked out your juice for the big nights ahead.

Happy Holidays!

New York: Where the Cheese Never Sleeps

Formaggio Essex

Formaggio Essex in Essex Market

True, the year-round produce isn’t as good (hello seasons!) as in California, and snow flurries aren’t as cute as they sound when experienced in thirty degree east-coast weather, but in spite of New York’s downfalls, I fell in love with the city again. Could have had something to do with the food. Not only do the city’s best restaurants all serve perfectly cooked bone marrow, the place is rampant with damn good wine, beer and cheese.

What follows is a photographic tour of my fromagical cheese experiences in New York city. I got to gaze into cheese caves (although not pictured here, I was also able to check out Murray’s caves), sit in on a class with Max McCalman of Artisinal, visit the best cheese shops in New York city and Brooklyn, and taste my little heart out.

I also got to meet some fantastic people outside of the dairy world, such as Olga of SassyRadish, Zen of Zenchef and Mel of Cook and Craft. But that is a bit blurry because of my lactose-induced haze. Thus begins the photo tour, with a special thank you to the incredibly funny and generous fromagier Tia Keenan, who pretty much arranged nearly every cheese step I took and who has more boots than Bloomingdales in winter.

Artisinal Iberian Cheese Class

Artisinal Iberian Cheese Class

Sitting on on Artisinal’s Iberian Cheese class, I was able to sample Ibores, Los Beyos, the best Evora I’ve ever tasted, Roncal, Garrotxa (which I’m convinced that Max McCalman never leaves home without, as it seems to appear on nearly everything he touches), and La Peral.

Artisanal

Artisanal

Class set up (complete with imported meats from Despana company). Go Iberico pig!

ArtisinalGoatcheeses copy
Artisinal is a school, an importer, a website, and a wholesaler. This is a photo of the goat cheeses in one of their temperature and humidity controlled caves.
Formaggio Essex

Formaggio Essex

Formaggio Essex imports directly from some of the best cheesemakers in Europe. Check it out. And, they have two of the most lovely and passionate cheesemongers in the city working behind the counter who I was lucky enough to work with at Oakland’s Pasta Shop. They’ll tell you what you need to know.

Bkyn Larder
Bkyn Larder

Bklyn Larder is a shop packed to the brim with high-end cheeses and provisions, including the Von Trapp family’s “Oma” cheese, and is run by a super nice man named Sergio who can lead you directly to the Salvatore ricotta, no questions asked.

Lucy's Whey
Lucy’s Whey
Lucy's Whey

Lucy's Whey

Lucy’s Whey is a little cheese shop in the Chelsea Market that has been open for three months. This is the only place where I tasted Dunbarton Blue, a blue/cheddar made from two brothers in Wisconsin (who look so wholesome there’s no way they ever crossed state lines) that tastes divine and looks like a… brain.

One other shop that I wanted to visit but instead ended up kicking myself over missing, was Saxelby Cheese. Also in the Essex market, it had some of the best, ripest, sexiest Twig Farm cheese that I’ve ever seen.

Mastering Cheese: An Interview with Max McCalman & Book Giveaway

What compelled you to write a 383 page cheese book, now?
Cheese has suffered for far too long, this primordial near-perfect food with a stellar track record for food safety, and a food that is amazingly complex at the same time, that when invited to write another book, this one to be titled “Mastering Cheese,” at first I jumped at the opportunity, my attempt to answer the many questions that I have been asked for the past fifteen years and to allay fears and confusion, all within the cotext of a book that would offer “mastery.” After realizing that the title suggested that it would be all-emcompassing, if not near-complete (as is cheese – nutritionally speaking) then I knew that I would need to stretch beyond the original word count that was budgeted. As it was, I exceeded that count by well over 40%; it had to be pared down. Quite frankly: I have a mission to rescue cheese.
What do you find to be the most understood thing about cheese in the United Sates? In Europe?
For the US I would say that the number one most misunderstood thing about cheese is that is actually is very good for you, or at least that it can be if it is produced and maintained well.
In Europe (for the most part) it seems to be largely receding in appreciation, sadly. As for most misunderstood thing about it? Very similar to the problem here in the US, but especially sadly to see: that it can be as good, both nutritionally and aesthetically, or that it may even be “safer” if it is produced with pasteurized milk. The trend throughout much of Europe is toward the production of cheese made with pasteurized (read: “compromised”) milk.
What are the top three things that you wish people knew about cheese that they don’t?
What genre or realm of cheese do you wish people would embrace, perhaps because it would surprise them, or maybe just because it is often overlooked?
I believe that we often look for the single best pairing partners for cheese: wines, beers, other foods and beverages. When instead I would like to invite people to enjoy cheese without relying on other people’s recommendations or mandates for the ideal successes in pairing partners. Try multiple partners, share the assessments, applaud the wide range of cheese types that are available and have a little variety of types; look to the unexpected matches for new surprises and tolerate other people’s confusion or dissatisfaction with a pairing that seems to work fine for you.
Secondly, I believe that the US is fertile ground for some world-class cheese making; this is where the real excitement is occuring; though not to discount what is still happening in other countries that are still (if not more so) in touch with its agricultural and gastronomic heritage.
What are your feelings about all the cheesebooks that are coming out right now? Excitement? Trepidation? Hunger?
It is great to see the new attention that is being brought to cheese. It is helping to affirm the value of cheese, a food that has been so profoundly misunderstood. Much of what appears to be coming out in print is highlighting the hard work and the passion that goes into producing, developing and maintaining fine cheese.
If you didn’t volunteer to take charge of the cheese cart at Picholine, what do you think you’d be doing today?

It is hard to imagine that I would have found a mission that I would have embraced more passionately; I’ve loved cheese all my life. At a very early age my father told me that I

might become a good teacher.

Mastering Cheese by Max McCalman

Mastering Cheese by Max McCalman

Max McCalman, the man who started the cheese department at New York city’s Picholine and Artisinal Brasserie & Fromagerie, who has written books such as Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide, and who heads the dynamic education program at Artisanal, has published a new book. Filled with knowledge ranging from the difference in sheep and cow milk production to overviews of American dairy pioneers and raw-milk cheeses, Mastering Cheese is a textbook fit to grace the bookshelf of any seriuos cheese lover. And it just so happens to look smashing next to your pillow if you, ahem, fall asleep with it.

In honor of this educational yet decadent cheese bible, I’m happy to announce that “It’s Not You Brie” is hosting a book giveaway contest for one copy of Mastering Cheese AND featuring an interview below with the man himself, Max McCalman. Read to the end of the interview to find out what the book giveaway question is, and enjoy! By the end of the interview, if you can’t understand why you would want to own a book written by this man, lord bless you, I can’t help you.

Max McCalman and “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” Interview

What compelled you to write a 383 page cheese book, now?

Cheese has suffered for far too long, this primordial near-perfect food with a stellar track record for food safety, and a food that is amazingly complex at the same time, that when invited to write another book, this one to be titled “Mastering Cheese,” at first I jumped at the opportunity, my attempt to answer the many questions that I have been asked for the past fifteen years and to allay fears and confusion, all within the cotext of a book that would offer “mastery.” After realizing that the title suggested that it would be all-emcompassing, if not near-complete (as is cheese – nutritionally speaking) then I knew that I would need to stretch beyond the original word count that was budgeted. As it was, I exceeded that count by well over 40%; it had to be pared down. Quite frankly: I have a mission to rescue cheese.

What do you find to be the most understood thing about cheese in the United Sates? In Europe?

For the US I would say that the number one most misunderstood thing about cheese is that is actually is very good for you, or at least that it can be if it is produced and maintained well.

In Europe (for the most part) it seems to be largely receding in appreciation, sadly. As for most misunderstood thing about it? Very similar to the problem here in the US, but especially sadly to see: that it can be as good, both nutritionally and aesthetically, or that it may even be “safer” if it is produced with pasteurized milk. The trend throughout much of Europe is toward the production of cheese made with pasteurized (read: “compromised”) milk.

What are the top three things that you wish people knew about cheese that they don’t?

What genre or realm of cheese do you wish people would embrace, perhaps because it would surprise them, or maybe just because it is often overlooked?

I believe that we often look for the single best pairing partners for cheese: wines, beers, other foods and beverages. When instead I would like to invite people to enjoy cheese without relying on other people’s recommendations or mandates for the ideal successes in pairing partners. Try multiple partners, share the assessments, applaud the wide range of cheese types that are available and have a little variety of types; look to the unexpected matches for new surprises and tolerate other people’s confusion or dissatisfaction with a pairing that seems to work fine for you.

Secondly, I believe that the US is fertile ground for some world-class cheese making; this is where the real excitement is occuring; though not to discount what is still happening in other countries that are still (if not more so) in touch with its agricultural and gastronomic heritage.

What are your feelings about all the cheesebooks that are coming out right now? Excitement? Trepidation? Hunger?

It is great to see the new attention that is being brought to cheese. It is helping to affirm the value of cheese, a food that has been so profoundly misunderstood. Much of what appears to be coming out in print is highlighting the hard work and the passion that goes into producing, developing and maintaining fine cheese.

If you didn’t volunteer to take charge of the cheese cart at Picholine, what do you think you’d be doing today?

It is hard to imagine that I would have found a mission that I would have embraced more passionately; I’ve loved cheese all my life. At a very early age my father told me that I might become a good teacher.

Book giveaway rules:

1. Leave a comment in the comment section in this post answering either of these two questions, and I will enter your name into a drawing to win the contest:

a) Does Max like raw-milk cheeses?

b) What’s your favorite raw-milk cheese?

2. Unless you feel like sharing the cost of shipping this glorious, fatty book,with me, live in the continental United States. Kisses.

That’s it, good luck!