Some Like it Hot: Triple Creme Cheese Laughs at “Mild”

Heat, heat, and jellies. Triple creme at your service.

As Marilyn Monroe demonstrated in a plunging neckline and a shimmy, some like it hot. Triple cremes do too.

Triple creme cheese loves heat.

While it’s long been thought that the ideal pairing for a cheese as seemingly rich as cultured butter is Champagne, triple creme cheese has broad pairing abilities. Cloaked in a white bloomy-rind jacket with a creamy paste, triples are friendly. Open. Undiscriminating in pairing sessions. They like to play with others.

They snuggle up to what others fear being sat next to on a cheese plate.

Bring on the pepper jellies and spice.

 

Triple creme and jelly

If you’re someone that laughs when someone asks you if you want your curry “mild,” this is your pairing.

What is a triple creme?  Some might say heaven. Others might say delicious. Both are correct. More specifically…

 

 

A triple creme is a cheese whose butterfat content is 75%. Never fear, this is the percentage of fat in dry matter, meaning that because triples are so young and full of whey, which the FDA doesn’t measure, the butterfat is actually lower than it sounds. Read more here.

Because it’s so soft and creamy and rich, the butterfat in a triple creme wraps itself around piquant flavors, soothing any abrasive notes, and snuggles up to heat like a toddler does a blankie.

You know what cheese doesn’t do this? A blue cheese. Fair warning.

As the butterfat assuages the spiciness, it is also highlights other nuances in what it’s paired with. Blackberry and pepper? Expect a light berrylicious hit. Classic pepper jelly? You’re about to marry chile to sugar to butter. Mostarda? Brace yourself.

 

 

I adore triples and sparkling or triples and a Belgian double. But when I want to try something different, I remember that some like it hot.

The beautiful triple featured above is Ragged Point from Stepladder Creamery, a new California dairy that’s already captured my heart. Never becoming oozy, It turns more buttery and sweet with age. Some of my favorite spicy picks paired with this triple are below! In no particular order.

 

 

Pepper Jellies & Spice

 

Mousquetaire Black Cherry & Espelette JamA classic pairing for the region’s Basque sheep’s milk wheel, I like to drizzle a bit of this back cherry and pepper jam over my favorite butterbombs.

 

Bonnie’s Jams Red Pepper Jelly: Clean and classic. If you like it super hot, try their blackberry pepper jelly- but pair lightly, it goes far (a dollop was bit too strong for my mild tastebuds). My favorite Bonnie’s is their tried and true southern staple, red pepper jelly. Beautiful. Side note- their Raspberry Lime Rickey was amazing with Ragged Point.

Grace & I Chipotle Carrots & Ghost Pepper Jelly: Brined carrots with heat. Layer textures by adding a crunch to your creamy cheese. Ghost Pepper Jelly is great, and… as hot as it sounds.

 

Mostarda MediterraneaItalian candied fruit plus mustard oil creates a fierce pairing happily countered with a triple or cheddar. Serve with ciabatta or a rustic baguette.

 

KL Keller Basque Pepper Honey: As evidenced with this and the first pick, the Basque region can take a little heat. Wonderful with cheese that tastes like butter, and also good in a grilled cheese sandwich.

 

 

Thank you for the samples, Bonnie’s Jams!

Achadinha Creamery Tour: Visiting Sonoma’s Makers on the Cheese Trail

Achadinha’s Broncha

Three weeks ago I was part of a Wine & Cheese Tour for the California Artisan Cheese Festival, called Perfect Pairings. Combining visits to wineries and farmstead creameries, it was my kind of a day. Possibly the only more perfect combo could have been Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, or, peanut butter and chocolate (but at least one of these duos was likely too busy getting ready for the Golden Globes to show).

A calf staying dry in the Sonoma rain

I led the wine and cheese pairing class but first snuck into the tour to Achadinha. I’ve long had my eye on this creamery. Their bold Capricious was one of the “Strong & Hards” in my book, so I got to play around with them around their cheese vat one day when seeing how it was made, but hadn’t had a chance to visit since (when you teach cheesemaking classes, you have less time to visit actual cheesemakers).

I write about cheese so I often get insiders tours where we get to visit the animals and sample cheese both so we can better understand the creamery’s story where others might only get to nibble. Like Tomales Farmstead Creamery in Marin, Achadinha does it all no matter who you are. If you make an appointment for the right day, you get a peek in the creamery, taste cheese, visit the ladies, and best of all, hear Achadinha’s history from Donna Pacheco. The mother of the current cheesemakers (her two sons), Donna started the creamery, which is important. But also important is that she’s hilarious. I won’t spoil any jokes though.

Cheesemaker Donna holding her Capricious, a spicy hard goat’s milk cheese beautiful shaved over grilled asparagus or drizzled with honey

Check it out. As for what I paired with the creamery’s cheese? A little juice from one of my favorite winemakers.

Achadinha’s Broncha – an aged goat and cow’s milk wheel- & Massican’s Annia ribolla gialla, tocai friulano and chardonnay blend from Napa. Northern California, you’re the best.

 

If feeling like elongating your windy drive through the green Sonoma hills, check out more creameries to visit on the California Cheese Trail map.

Hello, Spring: New April & May Cheese Classes Bay Area

The ladies of Tomales Farmstead Creamery

Along with April’s sun and showers comes spring. Baby sheep and goats stumbling in pens. Apple and cherry blossoms floating to the sidewalk. Rains nourishing spring vegetables and weeds both battling for garden space. The sweet milk of animals grazing on Sonoma fields, packed with mustard and clover. Cue cheese classes Bay Area.

Here’s my current line-up, below! Spring tends to be packed with private classes, but while there’s a few less public ones due to scheduling, the ones on the books are gems. Hope to see you around!

 

Spring Events & Cheese Classes Bay Area

 

Light Reds & Cheese

April 11th, Tuesday, 6:30-8:30pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

It’s spring. Farmers markets beckon, happy cows prance on
Sonoma hills, and cheesemaking calls! Just in time for brightening spring’s salads and produce, it’s the perfect time to learn how to master rich feta. We’ll learn how to make this beloved cheese from milk to brine and taste some of the best fetas around. Then, we’ll make a simple party-friendly feta dish to share and mingle over at the end of class…

 

Ridge Montebello Collector Tasting

April 22nd-23rd, 13-14th, Santa Cruz, Ridge Montebello

Join us for our 16th annual Component Tasting on March 11th & 12th. This event is an exclusive opportunity for Monte Bello Collector Members to participate firsthand in the assemblage process and taste barrel samples of the separate varietal components for the 2016 vintage of Monte Bello. [I pair the cheese, tell the creamery’s stories, and attend the event].

 

Italy vs France

May 1st, 6:30-8;30, San Francisco, The Cheese School

The two biggest names in cheese face-off in a savory showdown. France and Italy each produce over 400 cheeses. Both are heavily influenced by a millennium of tradition. But one taste will lay bare the differences between cheese styles, cheesemaking approaches, and their particular histories. . In this class you’ll learn how these countries’ cheesemaking traditions differ, how they came to be cheesemaking greats,….

 

Mozzarella & Burrata Making

May 21st, Sunday, 11:00-2pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

Mozzarella on nearly every aspiring home-cheesemaker’s to-do list. Yet, it’s not easy to get it right. Why won’t your curds form a ball? When you do get the ball to form, why is it hard enough for a game of hacky-sack? These are the mysteries of mozzarella. In this class, your instructor, who is also a cheesemaker, will not only demystify the mozz,….

 

Italian Wine & Cheese Pairing

May 30th, Tuesday 6:00-7:30, Albany, Solano Cellars

Join us for a Class on Italian Cheese and its perfect Italian Wine Pairings.
Cheese maven Kirstin will be serving her favorite formaggio Italiano and Sommelier Julie will pour el vino. Aficionado of The Boot or not, learn how to take your cheese plate to the next level or just sit back, learn and enjoy!

Oregon’s Dundee Hills: A Delicious Briar Rose Cheese Sandwich

Briar Rose cheese Iris, marked as “sell now” means,… ready to go.

When visiting Portland a few weekends ago, cheesemaker Sarah Marcus invited me to visit Briar Rose Creamery. This was elating for a couple reasons.

First, I’ve long loved Briar Rose cheese and was very excited to sample some I hadn’t tried before— the new Carena, and their classic feta I just never got my hands on.

And second, Briar Rose is surrounded by amazing wineries and breweries. This meant that my boyfriend, who was accompanying me, and I could make a proverbial cheese sandwich of our trip by stopping at a winery before (Winderlae), and a brewery after (Wolves & People).

Carena Reserva, raw-goat.

Briar Rose cheese is located just 30 miles from Portland in the greener-than-green Dundee hills. In the middle of pines and ferns and moss and rain, cheesemaker Sarah Marcus focuses on goat’s milk cheeses (As a side note, from Briar Rose to River’s Edge, some of the best goat’s milk cheese comes from the Oregon mountains. Deal with the goat’s milk devil? Unsure).

Sarah in hairnet in one of the cleanest creameries I’ve been to, holding Carena wheel.

Trees just outside the creamery. Proof in Portland.

A couple years ago I wrote about Briar Rose’s Lorelei link on my blog. This time I was especially excited about trying Briar Rose’s newbie.

Carena is a firm washed-rind (link) cheese with a crumbly bite. Though made from lively goat’s milk that Sarah or her husband Jim drives an hour-and-a-half to source over the mountains every day they make cheese, the wheel is delicate— with notes from floral, to  honey, to cashew, to a touch of coconut. This plus a dry or off-dry Riesling would be perfect.

Close up of two Carena’s- one raw milk (the crumbly, older guy), one pasteurized.

Or…. with a Pinot Blanc from Winderlea Vineyards about five minutes down the road who was kind enough to squeeze us in so would could try their small-production beauties. Unoaked, lightly yeasty, clean and apple-flecked, their Pinot Blanc could have been confused for Alsatian version. Lorelei would have been my pick for their Pinot Noirs.

Next at the creamery we tried Briar Rose’s feta, which won 1st at the American Cheese Society Conference recently. Instead of making a salt-water brine, Sarah ages her cheese for months the traditional way- in whey. Goat’s milk feta rules in my book, and Briar Rose’s is one of the best in the states. They also got the stamp of approval from my boyfriend, who reminded us that in Turkey where he grew up, “cheese,” just meant “feta.” He also didn’t think he was much into goat’s milk feta until he tried Sarah’s.

Bucket’s o’Briar Rose feta maturing in their whey.

Granted we had to finish up our trip with beer so we made our way to new brewery Wolves & People. Awesomely enough (says this Norwegian-American), Wolves & People often has a Norwegian food truck park outside of their brewery for drinker’s lefse needs, but since they weren’t around that day and we only consumed about a quarter-pound of cheese and were still hungry, we hit up Red Hills market and grabbed sandwiches. Try their Reubens.

Turned out  Wolves & People session ales were mighty tasty with Carena and Lorelei both.

What happens when you brine her cheese in local wine? Sarah will let you know.

Briar Rose cheese gets its basket shape after draining in these forms.

Thanks for the visit, Sarah and Jim! As always, a fan of your creamery and the brewery and winery sandwich that surrounds you.

Making Old School Alpine Cheese in Dingle, Ireland – with Seaweed


Some of you probably know of my adoration for Irish cheese.

The pastured cows on small farms that supply the rich milk from which its made. Its bright herbal and floral flavors. The island’s penchant for stinky washed-rinds. The unbelievably beautiful Irish countryside that supports it. And its skilled makers, who though make wheels that rival Holland’s goudas and Swiss mountain wheels, make their cheese modestly, while smiling.

This post is a photo dairy of the time I spent with Dingle peninsula cheesemaker Maja Binder. Born in Germany and trained in the Swiss and Italian Alps, Maja makes gorgeous Alpine-style wheels with an Irish cheese accent.

Washing the cheeses with water and a brush to encourage the growth of B. Linens, which grow naturally off the Irish coast.

Think classic, aromatic, semi-firm wheels of the kind you’d find on Swiss farms- strong, sweet and herbal, but often with a little seaweed caught off the Dingle coast  (which I was around on a warm enough day that I got to swim in!) mixed in to make some wheels like Diliskus.

Visiting Maja was amazing. She’s as charismatic as they come. Energetic- she runs a cheese shop in Dingle in addition making her cheese on her own wheels, Maja is a vibrant cheesemaker who is one of the few people outside of the Alps who make their wheels with curds they gather with a cheesecloth they hold with their teeth. Really.

So she pretty much does everything.

I’m working on a writing project that will reveal more about this skilled cheesemaker later, but its a slow work in progress and I was aching to show you Maja’s work in the meantime. The photos capture the story in color.

 

Gathering the curds with a cheesecloth and wire.

Tying off the curds

Pressing the curds wrapped in cheesecloth into plastic forms.

And then reallllllly pressing the curds under fresh cheese wheels and stones.

Traditional tools used to stir the curds in the vat

The wonderful Binder pup. the liked to chase hurling-balls on the beach mid-game.

Me, stoked, on the Dingle coast.

Thank you Maja for letting me visit!

Burrata, Spring Flowers & Wine: February & March Cheese Classes

Baetje Coeur de la Crème

For spreading  Valentine’s Day fever & beyond.

Happy February! I just returned from a writer’s retreat/lock-down in the Mill Valley redwoods where I spent breaks walking beside streams and ferns, and let me tell you, what just last year used to be just trickles are now full-blown waterfalls. It’s raining. It’s raining a lot. Which means one,… California, we will have water to drink! And… two, it’s cozy time. Time to do warming things.

Like making cheese. And celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Truth be told, any cheese wheel or wedge is a good Valentine’s Day gift for oneself or one’s other. But there’s something about filling mozzarella with cream, ladling custard-like curds into molds, or clinking glasses during a pairing with the person next to you that really spells Valentine’s Day (just move the letters in the word around a little, add a few, then move those around…). Classes make cheese bonding happen. 

Below are my February and March public classes. As always, please be in touch if you’d like to arrange something private for team-members, clients, or in your home. Hope to see you around!

 

Spring cheese plate

February & March Classes and Events

Burrata by Hand

Feb 13th & 15th, Monday & Wednesday, 6-9:30 pm, 18 Reasons

The most exciting cheese on the cheese board needs little explanation: burrata is fresh mozzarella filled with luscious cream and more cheese. You get to make your own in one short night. And eat it too! In this action-packed evening class, you will learn the basics of cheesemaking, including which milk to use, where to find cultures, and options for rennet. You will also leave with a deeper understanding of the science behind the process.

 

Cheesemaking: Spring Cheeses with Leaves, Herbs and Flowers

March 5th, Sunday 11-2 pm, The Cheese School 

Few of the new year’s pleasures are greeted with as much joy as the wobbly legs and little sounds of baby animals and the first bright blooms in the garden. In this class you’ll learn to make feta, fromage blanc, and ricotta from scratch, then marinate each in its own springtime bouquet of leaves, herbs, and flowers.

Ridge Montebello Collector Tasting

March 12th, Sunday, Ridge Montebello

Join us for our 16th annual Component Tasting on March 11th & 12th. This event is an exclusive opportunity for Monte Bello Collector Members to participate firsthand in the assemblage process and taste barrel samples of the separate varietal components for the 2016 vintage of Monte Bello. [I pair the cheese, tell the creamery’s stories, and attend the event].

Artisan Cheese & Wine Festival: Tour & Lunch- Perfect Pairings

March 24th, Friday, Sonoma Cheese Festival

Rise and shine! Start your morning with the Pacheco family, proprietors of Achadinha Cheese Company and the Pacheco Family Dairy. On nearly 300 acres in Petaluma, Jim and Donna Pacheco, with help from their four children, milk goats and make cheese inspired by family legacy and the Old World traditions of Portugal. You will tour the farm, learn why the Pachecos transitioned from a traditional cow dairy to a goat dairy, meet the “girls”, and taste their farmstead cheeses. Then you are off to the historic Petaluma Hotel…

Springtime Cheese & Wine Pairing

March 28th, Tuesday, 6:30-8:30pm, The Cheese School 

Come May, foodie hearts’ swoon at the first sights and flavors of Spring. Few of the new year’s pleasures are greeted with as much joy as the wobbly legs and little baa’s of baby goats and lambs. Babies on the farm means milk for cheesemakers. Author and cheese expert Kirstin Jackson will lead you in a tasting of the first cheeses of the year….