Monthly Archives: November 2012

Two More San Francisco Book Events (Last ones for a bit) & NYC

Beer & Cheese class at 18Reasons this Tuesday, Nov 27th

It’s official, Thanskgiving has passed. And although I’m a little sad that I might not see the relatives that I spent part of the harvest-themed night making lefsa (first time for this Scando-girl!) with for a while, I know there will be many more fun times, libations and deliciousness to be had with the next set of holidays around the corner.

Making lefsa for Thanksgiving

Making lefsa for Thanksgiving

Of course, I’ll miss the Thanskgiving leftovers that come with going to people’s homes who are excellent cooks -yup, walked away with smoked turkey stock and meat- that are now almost non-extistant in my fridge. On the bright side, I will not miss moving the stacks of Pinot Noir and Beaujolais that are required offerings at a wine shop for the holiday (yes, sir, they do go well with turkey)

Now it’s time to buckle up for what’s next. Like three events and preparing to move other wine around the shop, like Cab and Champagne! Always love when we have more bubbly in our shop.

And… packing for New York next week. Hi fives all around. Very excited to head to New York and teach my first Manhattan class at Murray’s and hang out with my friends. Privileged on both ends. Will be headed to a Sandy fundraiser too, called Drink For Good that requires one to drink delicious beer. Tasty weeks in store.

In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to stop by any of my reading/tastings in the Bay Area, I have two this week, links below. The beer list is looking might sexy for the 18Reasons class, too.

And, if you’re in New York City next Monday, consider coming to my Murray’s Class. Cheese and Drinks (beer and wine). Very excited about it, and there will also a hang-out/signing at the Cheese Bar next door afterward.


18Reasons, It’s Not You It’s Brie! American Cheese & Beer Class, San Francisco, CA, Nov 27th, 7pm

Cheese author and educator Kirstin Jackson joins 18 Reasons for a night of fermented glory. After visiting creameries and interviewing more than 48 cheesemakers for her recently published book “It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese,” she’s ready to tell the stories of some of her favorite domestic cheeses, while holding a pint glass. The selected artisan cheeses will be explored in unison with American beers, most local. We will taste through 6 cheeses and 6 beers!

Books will be for sale and Kirstin will have a pen handy for signing after cheese consumption.


Omnivore Books, Signing and Tasting, Wednesday, Nov 28th, San Francisco, 6-7pm

Tasting, Signing, Drinking. Good times! At an entirely food focused book store -be still my heart! I’ll guide you through making the perfect holiday cheese plate. Then we can eat it together.



Kirstin Jackson’s recently released book It’s Not You, it’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Cheese Culture takes readers “backstage” into underground caves, and into funky scents and traditions that link today’s cheese makers to American history. Jackson– a consultant, educator, professionally trained cook, wine bar manager and cheese program director, whose fridge and head is almost entirely consumed with cheese– will lead us through her dream American cheese plate, paired with outstanding American wines and beers, while sharing stories of each of the American artisans whose hard work makes such a delicious evening possible.


Next post- cheese name tags. Oh yah, we’re crafting. In the most easy, yet cute and cheesy crafty way.

Thanksgiving Recipes: Butternut Alpine Soufflé & Blue Cheese Spoonbread

Just because it’s time for our annual harvest parties and Thanksgiving celebrations doesn’t mean that cheese needs to be left on the appetizer tray. Our favorite fermented milk product knows how to strut its stuff during the main course too.

I wanted to share with you two of my most-Thanksgiving-ey recipes. Not that I don’t cook these as soon as the heat drops below 70 in the Bay Area (you know, around October to November) too. They’re crowd friendly recipes and filled with things that people adore during harvest- sweet potatoes, butternut squash, corn, nutmeg, and, of course, butter. Yay, butter.

I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating this years harvest, and that you can make a little time between planning turkey cooking times and pouring Aunt Nelly her third White Russian to down to sit down and think of things and people for which you can be thankful. Best in Cheese.



Butternut squash and sweet potato Alpine cheese soufflé-casserole (top photo)

Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and brown butter have always been food pairing buddies. Add leeks and sweet and buttery semi-soft Alpine-style cheese to them, and you’ve got a rich Thanksgiving dish that could knock Aunt Lola’s sweet-potato marshmallow casserole out of the water (better set them on different ends of the table so Lola doesn’t hear them compared much). This dish is a casserole-soufflé hybrid. It’s a classic hot dish in that it’s heavy in (sweet potatoes) and cheese, but the addition of two eggs makes it rise a bit higher than the normal casserole. It wouldn’t say it’s light, per se, but it’s certainly rich and fluffy. Especially good with brussel sprout salad a couple days after Thanksgiving.

Serves 4-6



1 ½ pound butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise

¾ pound sweet potato

3 ½ tablespoons salted butter

1 ½ pounds leek, untrimmed

½ teaspoon salt

pinch cardamom

pinch nutmeg

4 ounces, or ½ cups shredded Alpine-style cheese

2 eggs, beaten

¼ teaspoon ground pepper




 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place a sheet pan with curved sides topped with half a tablespoon of butter in the oven. Season the inside of the squash with salt and pepper. Once the butter is melted, lay the squash facedown on the buttered tray and return to the oven. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork six times and add them to the oven, resting directly on the racks. Cook both until pierced easily with a fork- about forty-five minutes to an hour for the squash, and thirty to forty-five minutes for the potato.

While the squash and potatoes cook, slice off the bottom of the leeks. Cut off and discard the top dark green part, about four or five inches from the bottom, and the roots. Slice the remaining leek lengthwise, then width-wise, half an inch thick. Wash well under running water to rid the leek of any debris.

Melt two and a half tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Scraping the bottom of the pan for about three to five minutes, cook until the butter turns light brown. If butter foams while browning, take off heat and stir until foam subsides so you can see the brown bits aren’t getting too dark, then return to heat until the butter is walnut-hued. Add the leeks, ¼ teaspoon salt, cardamom, nutmeg, and cook for ten minutes. Set aside.

Once squash and potatoes are cooked and cool enough to touch, scrape out their interiors (discard the skins) and run through a food mill or processor into a large bowl. Add the leeks and browned-butter mixture, grated cheese, eggs, and the remaining salt, ground pepper. Mix well. Spoon into a heavy-bottomed 8 x 8 baking dish greased with the remaining ½ tablespoon butter and bake for twenty to thirty minutes, until the top turns golden. Cool for five minutes and serve.



Bacon blue cheese spoonbread

Noted by the stalks of dried, multi-colored corn gracing tables for Thanksgiving decorations, just one of the many things the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims was how to grow corn. Although November is too late to serve fresh the fresh vegetable, I like to utilize dried and frozen corn at Thanksgiving to honor the importance of this vegetable. When cornbread sounds a little too dry or I want something a little richer, I go straight for spoonbread. A custardy, pudding-like corn bread inspired dish, spoonbread is a Southern delicacy commonly served topped with melted butter. I like to use bacon and blue cheese in my version, and offer guests additional butter if they want something richer. Served topped with a fried egg, this spoonbread is great the morning after too.



4 pieces bacon

2 cups buttermilk

½ cup water

1 cup masa harina or corn flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 ½ tablespoons salted butter

2 eggs, beaten

10 ounces frozen corn kernels, at room temperature

6 ounces blue cheese

freshly ground pepper



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the bacon on an ungreased sheet pan and bake for fifteen minutes, or until cooked and lightly crispy. Remove from pan, slice into small pieces, and bring the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring one cup of the buttermilk, the water, masa harina, and salt to a boil, whisking to avoid clumps. Simmer for two minutes while whisking. Add two tablespoons butter and remove from heat.

Whisk together the remaining cup of buttermilk and the eggs in a large bowl. Add this mixture slowly to the cooked masa harina and stir well. Add the corn kernels. Pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish greased with the last of the butter and dot the top with crumbled blue cheese. Cook for thirty-five to forty-five minutes until the top starts to brown and the spoonbread no longer jiggles. Let rest before serving.



Holiday Cheese Plate Guide: Three Things.

The way I see it, there are four things one can do to create a perfect cheese plate for the holidays.  One is to put your favorite 3-5 cheeses on a plate. Eat them. Have your guests eat them (or don’t, if you pick ones that are less crowd-friendly you get more cheese on your leftover roasted turkey sandwiches – hint: funky washed-rinds, turkey and cranberry paninis are delicious).  In short- you all don’t really need me- cheese is delicious and it’s hard to go wrong with such perfection.

However, there are three things I learned about making a well-rounded cheese plate throughout the years and I’m not afraid to share what I’ve learned via my dairy obsession.

The Cheese Plate Guide: Three Things.

1. Know your crowd.

If you decide not to just go with your favorite 3 to 5 cheeses, you’re obviously more concerned with others’s culinary comfort than fulfilling just your own cheese desires. Nice. Nice. You might not be an only child like I am. Now it’s time to ask yourself, how comfortable dairy-wise do you think your crowd is? To start, do they like more mild or bold flavors beyond cheese? Does your grandmother sip Millers and Coors like mine does, or does she go for craft beer or tequila (Go Nana!)? Do your friends tend to stay with Chardonnay and Merlot, or do they get experimental in their wine choices and order a volcanic or Jura wine every once in a while? Less you think I only know people who drink, do your people go with the basic turkey and bread stuffing at Thanskgiving, or do they mix it up by smoking or herb-brining a turkey and trying a crazy new stuffing recipe every year? Would they ever consider cooking something else besides a turkey?

If your crowd leans toward the former options (simple beers, familiar grapes, always classic turkey, etc..), it might do to keep your cheese plate plate generally more subtle – less experimental. And then for education and flavor’s sake, throw in a strong cheese, with a side of honey or preserves to remind them know that there are other diary worlds out there just waiting to be explored.

But subtle need not be boring.

Some of my favorite subtle, even mild, cheeses:

  • Soft and Creamy: Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam, Brillant Savarin, Rush Creek, La Tur.
  • Lightly punchier, goat’s milk: Twig Farm’s tommes and wheels, Garrotxa, Achadinha’s Broncha
  • Sheep’s milk: Abbaye de Belloc, Manchego, Everona’s Piedmont
  • Semi-hard and Crumbly Styles: Dunbarton blue, Fiscalini Cheddar, Lincolshire Poacher, Comté

If your crowd likes fiercer flavors or you decide to slip in a fun one, consider some of my below favorites. Remember that you can always serve a little sweetness like honey, fruit, or preserves on the side to gently warm hearts.

  • Washed Rind: Chalet Cheese Limburger, Époisses, Torta La Serena, Grayson
  • Hard and Strong: Achadinha’s Capricious
  • Blue: Jean D’Alos Roquefort, Bohemian Blue

2. Keep your selections from three to five cheeses. Don’t overwhelm your guests.

Even one cheese with a couple of pairing options work. If you choose one, go big. Make it decadent. And if you invite me, make sure you have other apps for people to snack on because that one cheese will go fast.

3. Choose different textures, flavors, and milks to bring the number to three or five.

You’ve got goat, cow, sheep, mixed-milk, buffalo. Soft, hard, creamy, crumbly. Subtle, milld, strong. I try to pick at least one goat, cow and sheep, and at least one funky (washed-rind) cheese, and one blue. But that’s just how I roll. It doesn’t matter which milk type is hard or soft, or which milk type is funky or blue. Play around if your crowd is experimental- your creamy pick need not be cow’s milk. Try Kinderhook by Old Chatham, a sheep’s milk triple-creme, for example.

Lastly, serve something for people to put their cheese on. I like bread (or, just slicing the cheese and putting it into my mouth, but let’s assume your folks like cheese vehicles) or simple crackers.

So those are my suggestions. Simple. Clean-cut and straightforward. And remember, you’re eating cheese. Have fun with it.

Next week- I’m getting crafty. Yes, this is different for “It’s Not You, It’s Brie.” I’m gonna show you how to make cheese name tags for your plate with wine corks, so drink up.



The Book Release, The Election, Cheese.

The week has arrived. Starting this week, this Tuesday in fact, you can both a) Vote for president in a polling booth, and b) find my book and hang out with me at a book signing while eating cheese. Mmm hmmm…..

Excitement!  Now, the first source of excitement in terms of the book for me was getting the actual book deal. Then, there was a bit of stress, work, writing, eating, happiness and all that in between. The second step of excitement was feeling the above book in my hands. Yup, it’s real. The third step was having the official publication date arrive. That means not only did I get to write the book, people are going to read it. This realization takes a little longer to settle in than one might think.

The feeling that this realization evokes is similar to the one felt when walking into your first candy store and realizing that someone has put thousands of candies all together in one room. For you. All in one room. In front of you all at once. Candy. It provokes a feeling of astonished bliss, and sometimes, because you don’t know which candy barrel to run to first, you just kinda hang out in the middle of the room, immobile, with a smile on your face. It’s excitingly nerve-wracking.

I will continue to blog about cheese, post recipes and interviews with cheesemakers here, but I’ll also be writing a lot about the book and book events too. A blog, almost by default, gives you a little look into the life of the blog’s writer. And I’d be lying if I told you my life wasn’t all about this book right now, and trying to fit in a yoga and pilates class here and there to get the kinks out from writing. Dating? Hanging out with friends? I’ve heard of these things….

So keep posted for event info and special announcements here. And of course, some down and dirty cheese talk. Looking forward to posting about holiday cheeses and plates, new cheese recipes, gift guides, and more, too!

If you’d like to come visit me at a book event, scroll to the end of the post. 

It also feels important right now to address Hurricane Sandy and the devastation its brought to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, not to mention the havoc it has wrecked in the Caribbean. I’d of course encourage people to do everything they can to help those living in Sandy’s aftermath, but because this is cheese blog, and we have friends who have suffered in the community, it feels especially right to talk about them here. If you’re on twitter, however, consider following @occupysandy . It’s great place to find out how to help.

We all know that parts of NYC were/are without power for days. People in Long Island, Staten Island, and probably New Jersey and beyond are still without power, and of course there are the hundreds of communities that have been drastically affected about which we haven’t even heard. Well, it may seem small with all the problems people in the region are now facing, including injuries, death, lost family members and much more, but I also want to point out that people can make significant differences in various ways. One way is to support business and cheese companies in the aforementioned regions right now.

No power, no sales, means an incredible amount of food and cheese loss. Food and cheese without proper storage dies, and this means a lot of pain and financial hardships for cheesemongers, restaurateurs, and the people that work in food service establishments. Days without sales are devasting to the food industry, and we all know how important the food industry is to our well-being, and, economy. If you buy cheese or other foodstuffs via mail order, please consider buying from business who are coping with such loss- financial and beyond- as a result of Sandy. Many cheese companies ship. Check out my friend’s blog, Cheese Notes, he lives in New York City and covered this subject too. Some of my faves just in NYC that ship (although it may take them a bit to get back to normal shipping schedules) are: Lucy’s Whey, Bedford Cheese, and Artisanal, but spread the food love where you will, if you haven’t already.

We’re thinking of you.



And…  those book events I mentioned for this week:

The first two below include cheese and readings. The last include cheese and, me drinking wine (see, I can’t read when I’m sipping because I need to hold the glass.). Hope to see you at one of these events!

Book Passage, San Francisco Ferry Building, Wednesday, Nov 7th, 6pm, with cheese from Cowgirl Creamery!

Book’s Inc, San Francisco, Marina, Thursday, Nov 8th, 7pm – with the awesome Seana Doughy BLEATING HEART!!!

Book Release Party, Solano Cellars, Albany, Saturday CA, 3:30-7pm

More on the classes page tab.