Monthly Archives: April 2010

Cheese Class Fever


After a gastronomically enlightening and waist-band expanding cheese and wine trip to France, about which I will write about on future blog posts, I am back and in prime cheese (and wine) class teaching form. Or at least, I am refreshed and my schedule is packed with classes that I am super excited about. And in case any of you were wondering, I DID make it through the volcanic ash that halted European air travel in time to teach a class at the San Francisco Cheese School scheduled just 2 days after planes were relased from Paris! Merci, Diex du fromage!


French Wine & Cheese: Le Duo Dynamique

May 8, 2:00 pm (Saturday), Solano Cellars, Alabany, CA

Feeling revived and fromagical after returning from a wine and cheese-themed trip to France, Solano Cellars wine bar manager, “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” blog author, and San Francisco Cheese School instructor Kirstin Jackson will teach a class covering the regional specialties of the nation that makes more cheese (in spirit) than America serves Big Macs. After sitting through an hour long slide-slow detailing Kirstin’s trip to the Eiffel tower, students will be guided through a tasting of eight cheeses that demonstrate France’s cheese excellence and dairy range. The cheeses will be paired to regional wines that love them. Eight cheeses, five wines, and a slide show? Sign up soon! The class is limited to 22 students and will fill up fast.

1580 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707, call 510.525.9463 for reservations

Mooooving Beyond the Cow: Artisanal Goat and Sheep’s Cheese

May 18, 7:00 pm – 8pm (Tuesday) 18 Reasons, San Francisco, CA

In a land where more people grow up snacking on more Velveeta than chevre, spicy and lively goat and sheep’s milk cheeses don’t get the love they deserve. This class will explain the many differences between milks, introduce eight favorites with accoutrements to match, and help you to make room in your cheese cave for our cloven-hoof friends. Note: No wine or other flavored beverages will be served so that your palate can focus on the cheeses to the fullest extent. A dynamic world beyond cow’s milk cheeses awaits your cheese plate!

Wine 101 Spring Session: 3-Part Series (Wine Focus Only)

Three Wednesday nights, May at 6:30pm, Solano Cellars

Be transformed from wine-weak to wine-geek and never drink mindlessly again! Solano Cellars instructors Jason Lefler and Kirstin Jackson create a fun atmosphere, focusing on the fundamentals of wine appreciation while debunking snobbish misconceptions and marketing myths to bring the adventure of wine to normal people. An excellent introduction to the diverse and rewarding world of small-production wine.

Class 1: WTF is Wine, Anyway? Weds, May 5th

The Tasting Ritual/The Mechanics of Appreciation –) – Scents and Flavors, –  Acid, Tannin, Oak, Etc – What and Why?

Class 2: Regional Wine Styles to Know and Why- Weds, May 12th

Old to New World Wine – The Foundation of Global Wine Styles – Italy, France Spain & Beyond

Class 3:  Advanced Techniques- Weds, May 19th

Blind Tasting– Food and Wine Pairing – Adventurous Drinking -– Navigating the Wine List

1580 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707, call 510.525.9463 for reservations, $50 each or $140 for all three.

Also, keep an eye out for the San Francisco Cheese School’s spring/summer schedule. I’ll be teaching a wine and cheese basics pairing class there and another focusing on cheese and rosé (gotta love the pink). Plus, the school is packed with amazing teachers who like to talk about wonderful things like Comté and bourbon.

Lastly, what would YOU like to learn about in a cheese or cheese and wine class? I love hearing your suggestions and would love to address your interests.

Mouco Interview: Soft & Washed in Colorado

ColoRouge, photo courtesy of Mouco

ColoRouge, photo courtesy of Mouco

This marks the continuation of a new “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” era, ripe with interviews of people who live, breath, swim in, or just do incredibly cool things with cheese. For the second interview in the “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” series I would like to introduce to you MouCo cheese, a cheese company in small town Colorado that focuses on making soft, buttery, and surprisingly easy-to-love mild bloomy and washed-rind cheeses.  MouCo is also at the forefront of eco-friendly business practices. And they named their milk truck Chuck. If you haven’t heard of them, check em’ out, and if you have tried them, keep supporting their creamy habits! Because they need to support ours.

MouCo is deeply rooted in Germanic tradition [the president and her father, the company’s consulting cheesemaker, lived and made cheese in Germany]. Can you explain how your cheeses have been inspired by German cheesemaking and whether most of your creations are inspired by traditional cheeses from a particular region or pure imagination?

In this day and age it is easy to get caught up in the production and physical science or any product that’s made. With cheese, there is an art side of it. You are not dealing with something that is exactly the same every day so learning the art of working with our cheese and the organisms that produce it is one of the biggest things we can learn from our family and our buddies in Germany.

You describe on your website how carefully you check to make sure that the milk you buy from small farms in Fort Collins, Colorado does not have any traces of antibiotics. Why is this so important to you? 

This is a requirement of the health board, so obviously, that is a great reason. However, in addition, some of our consumers may have antibiotic related allergies and the reactions could be significant. Lastly, people are not cows so we don’t figure they need to take cow drugs.

Your company is at the forefront of environmentally-friendly packaging. What are the main things you do to reduce your carbon footprint, and what steps would you suggest that other cheesemakers take who are interested in doing the same?

The wonderful thing about working on environmental efficiencies is that most of the areas where you are not environmentally friendly are costing money. E.g. We made a change to the way we handle the water used for heating and cooling the milk during the pasteurization process in January 2010 that resulted in a reduction in our water consumption of 20% and has reduced our natural gas consumption by about 25%. So back to costing money….the return on this project was 2 months…we just wish we had thought of it sooner.

So of the new things we work on now….April 1st we will start using a returnable shipping system for small internet orders. We currently have this system in place for our wholesale system; where it reduces our shipping materials by 80%!!!!! So we have great faith we can trip these cardboard boxes around the USA for a long time before they get retired and save a lot of waste from the landfill and save money to boot.

Did I mention we are so close to our milk source that we only put gas in Chuck, the milk truck, once every 2 months.

As for suggestions…don’t take anything for it’s face value, everything can be done better, think out of the box, if you read about a great efficiency that a massive company makes, make it work on the small scale…it can be done.

You also donate cheeses that are not perfectly suitable for sale to a local food bank. It seems like it is important for you to give back to the community around you. Are you involved in any other ventures that bring MouCo and the community together?

We do have a commitment to the community around us and giving away cheese is a great way to support a lot of different causes. Many organizations, be them food support programs or not, will have silent auctions to help raise money during an event. This way we are able to help a broader range of programs within our community.

Once of the more exciting things that has happened recently is an increase in the amount of educational support. Several times in the last year we have taught children about cheese and business economics. We feel this is great way to help expose the next generation to the science and art of cheese making in addition to offering them a bit more knowledge about their food and where it comes from….and we get some really cool thank you cards.

On the back of your cheeses there are suggested dates of consumption, but not just “sell by” or “eat by” dates. They suggest when a consumer should eat the particular cheese they purchases according to their taste preferences. What has been the response to this, and does the cheesemaker like their cheeses young or ripe?

People really love our date code system. A little story…a little cheese..where’s to go wrong. We make a cheese that ages over time and we even go the extra mile to buy a cheese wrap that allows this to happen by “breathing” Oxygen and venting CO^2. So our date code helps them decide when to eat the cheese based on their texture preference. At the bottom we have a little saying, this is our batch tracking system…the computer doesn’t care if it a big long code or a little funny story, then we post these stories on the web so people can understand our craziness.

Young or aged…hmmm, guess the general feeling around here is…for what?…a cracker, a bit more aged; a salad, a bit more young.

Birgit Halbreiter, the president of MouCo, sat on the board of directors for the New Belgian New Belgium Brewing company. How has her beer knowledge influenced the company, and do you use any particular beer to wash the rind of ColoRouge?

Beer is a living product as well as our cheese. Both products deal with creating the right conditions for a set of organisms to …whala…make your product for you; you just have to steer a bit. Because of Birgit’s extensive background in both cheese and beer, we are able to create a system that finds the best in both worlds. When we are moving milk we do so with a gentle “beer” philosophy knowing we have the potential to damage our end product by mishandling the cheese at any stage, even when it is milk.

Really it’s all about creating those ideal conditions for a bunch of friendly organisms to make complex yet mild cheeses…even the salt bath has a few little guys hang out to help create the proper rind conditions for both the Camembert, as well as the ColoRouge.

As for the smear solution for the ColoRouge…sorry, closely guarded secret…but I can tell you it’s not beer.

Although delicious, German cheese does not yet have a stronghold in the United Sates. If readers of “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” wanted to try some of these cheeses that have at least partially inspired MouCou’s inventions, what should they be eating?

Well, they are not all German by here we go….BergKäse, Limburger (has to be fresh, scrape it, slice it yum) Morbier, Comte, Bavaria Blü, Rochette…for starters. Sure they are not all like our cheese at all, but we can learn something about flavor and texture creation from each one.

Thank you very much MoCou!

Do you have a favorite MoCou cheese? How do you like eating it?

Beer and Cheese Pairing with a Wine Geek


Even though I love drinking beer, I know as little about it as I do grappa, the best potato varieties to use for vodka, and the birth of rhinoceros babies. Despite my lack of hoppy knowledge, I wanted to share with you some findings from a recent cheese pairing experience that I was lucky enough to taste in on.

The tasting took place with the super knowledgeable beer people at Monks Kettle who in fact do know more about beer than rhino babies. They busted out their cheese menu, I gave a little talk about the bacteria used in this and that piece of fermented milk, and we sampled a hell of a lot of beer from their menu.

The results follow.

Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, Humboldt, CA

Pasteurized, goat, soft-ripened

We tried this one with many beers and discovered that unless someone absolutely loves the harsh bite hops unleash from a soft-ripened cheese like Humboldt Fog, they should stay away from mixing hoppy beers and this genre of cheese. Like the tannins in a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon and a thick piece of rind on a brie, both wanted to be the star of the show. The winner was a Weizenboch, a light wheat ale with a touch of spice.

Robiola, Lombardy, Italy

Pasteurized, cow, sheep and goat’s milk, surface-ripened

As it is with wine, Robiola is a beer pairing dream. The mix of lemony, grassy goat’s milk, nutty sheep’s milk, and sweet buttery cow milk provides an easy pairing canvas. But of course, peanut butter always tastes better with chocolate than raspberry, Journey always sounds better after three drinks, and there will always be a beer that’s a better match for a cheese. Although nothing went poorly with Robiola, we tried a Geuze/Gose, a tripel and a stout. The best match was the Geuze – not too light, and not too dark. I would imagine this would pair well with most 3-milk cheeses.

Yellow Buck Camembert, Marin County, CA

Pasteurized, cow, soft-ripened

This cheese wanted something as creamy and lush as it. Buttery and earthy, it was aching for something nutty. Although just fine with Speckled Hen, it was even better with Downtown Brown, a beer I normally find a little boring. But together, they tasted like a buttery toast dream. In short, a perfect breakfast pairing. I would try an earthy and creamy cheese with a like beer in a heartbeat.

Bellwether Farms Carmody, Sonoma, CA

Pasteurized, cow, semi-firm,

Carmody wanted hops, badly. It’s a mild cheese- more of a cooking favorite than its sister Carmody Reserve, which is made from raw-milk. It needed something fresh and feisty to uplift it. It didn’t fare well with a clean-cut wheat beer and was completely overwhelmed by darker brews. The winners with Carmody were Stone Pale Ale and Sublime Self-Righteous.

Wavreumont Belgian Cheese, Wallonia, Belgium

Unpasteurized, cow, semi-firm, washed-rind

Although technically a trappist cheese, the monks hire a local cheesmaker to craft this mild beauty while they harvest latex from the nearby forest. Yes. The porters we tried with this one were too dark. The cheese is buttery with a touch of funk, but didn’t sport the strong scent of an average washed-rind like Époisses or Comté. What worked best with Wavreumont was a Biere de Garde.

Beehive Seahive Cheddar, Uintah, Utah

Unpasteurized, cow, firm, Cheddar

It was difficult not to like all the options with this cheese. It would be like having a basket of fries in front of you and a mug of beer and complaining that the pairing just wasn’t perfect. Who cares? Salty, buttery, high acidity, with a touch of honey, the Beehive went with everything from a porter to a Rauchbier.

Grevenbroeker Blue Cheese, Flanders, Belgium

Unpasteurized, cow, blue

I’m not a fan of uber-hoppy beers. But all of us, myself included, thought this one was best with Pliny the Elder, a heavily hopped beer from the Russian River Valley. Together with the salty-sweet cheese, the hops tasted fresh and enlightening. And the bitter hoppyness of the beer melted away until a grapefruit flavor carried it all through to the end.

Have you tried these cheeses or beers with other drinks or bites and loved (or hated) the pairing? Tell me about it in the comment section!