December 28, 2011

Christmas Eating is Serious Business.

I promise there were no reindeer sweaters in the making of this blog entry.  Seriously.  I don't think the Christmas Eve guests would have stood for it.  Instead I chose to impress them with a selection of awesome food rather than a polyester Santa hat.  Judging by the silence (and occasional bickering over choice bits) after I brought the cheese board out I believe my Xmas lay out was a delicious hit.
Being that I had been working non-stop for two weeks at my day job Cheesemongering I decided cooking for the holiday was right out.  I wanted to be predictable.  Because my predictable is other peoples holy-crap-this-is-the-best-thing-I've-ever-put-in-my-face.  Yeah, it's like that.
I would like to say what I fed my friends last Saturday was the culmination of many hours of contemplation and planning.  It wasn't.  I wrote it out on the back of a receipt while cramming half of a chicken salad sandwich into my gob (i was hungry. don't judge.)  Still, I'm fairly smug (obviously) about the amazingness I call my Christmas Cheese Board 2011.  Sure, this trio and respective tasty bits could have been put together by anyone (not to mention given a more creative name).  But I am here to take the credit.

Cheese Clockwise from Top Right: Taleggio, Pierre Robert Brie, Stilton Blue. Meat: Soppressata (far), Prosciutto di Parma
 This plate consisted of three rather different cheeses: Taleggio, Pierre Robert Brie, and Stilton Farmhouse Blue.  If there is such thing as "sexy" cheese I feel like Taleggio is the bar by which other cheeses are measured.  It is an Italian cows milk washed rind cheese with a mottled orange crust that has a pervasive salt and earth aroma (like a 70's porn star. see, sex-ay.) Its chewy insides bulge with a romp of toasted hay, yeast, and more than a touch of beefiness.
The Taleggio was set as the anchor of my plate.  The other cheeses were chosen as compliments for the anchor, if you will.  Their bright acidity was used to combat the fatty palate-stomping abilities of the Taleggio.  Stilton Blue, hailing from the English county of Derbyshire, has a high singing salty acidity tempered by fruit and grassy notes from its long days in the aging caves.  The Pierre Robert, a fabulously fluffy wheel from Seine-et-Marne, also kept the acidity high but with a more refined texture close to that of mousse echoing with earth and lactose.  While both cheeses were little shining stars on their own, each played fabulously in the supporting role.
To keep my guests stomachs happy and to help the cheese shine even more I chose a few meats, nuts and a good crispbread as companion.  The Framani Sopresatta and Proscuitto di Parma made the classic salty-&-sweet paring with any of the cheeses.  The Marcona almonds also played a similar role but added a delightfully surprising varience in texture.  My favorite go-to cracker of all time, 34 degree Crispbread Black Pepper, made a stand-by appearance.  I admit, more than once I just had a cracker by its self.  I really could down (and have) a whole box of those peppery delights.  (The Quicos (i.e. Fancy Corn Nuts), well, those were just there because they're tasty.  They got to sit by everyone else because I felt bad for them.) So go forth and use Christmas Cheese Board 2011 outright or to inspire your own spread for the New Year Holiday.  Here a little bubbly, too, would not be found amiss.
My other favorite part: the kickin' nutcracker knives from Ian's Mom

I have to share this. Knitted for me by my Uncle. More on this amazing gift here.

December 18, 2011

This Cheese Doesn't Suck: Cotswold

I know what you're thinking. Cotswold. Really? Sure I could have dedicated this inaugural cheese profile to something more fabulous.  A hulking diva of cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano (always recited in my head with a bad Italian accent.) or a suave Pierre Robert brie.  Nope.  I want to talk about Cotswold.  This my friends is the clear evidence that I really, truly, just want to yammer on about whatever my gullet is currently begging to be crammed with.

This. This is what I want to eat all of the time.
 Cotswold is in all actuality a dressed up Double Gloucester* style cheese.  Heralding from the ceremonial county of Gloucestershire, England.  A 25 mile by 90 mile patch of country so beautiful it must have been the setting for every PBS costume drama ever.  Gloucester cheese has been made in one tradition or another since the late 15th century.  Once the mover and shaker of commerce in its region, it faded to a pale obscurity by the 19th century.  In recent decades there has been a marked boost in its production and popularity spurred on by a delightful surge of folks taking an interest in traditional dairying.
Though this cheese bears the same general shape and mac-n-cheese hue of a cheddar, don't be fooled.  It is not one by any means. (besides "cheddaring" is an actual process.) It's texture tends to be much less dense than that of cheddar, even the milder varieties.  Because the curds are milled into bits the size of rice the feel of the finished cheese keeps a certain amount of a pleasing moist graininess.  I prefer, for this reason, to eat it very slowly, letting it fall apart between tongue and the roof of my mouth (t.m.i.?).  What can I say? I'm a textural eater.
The addition of chives to this Double Gloucester is really what makes the magic happen. As an old friend of mine once said about Cotswold. "It's like a loaded baked potato...without that pesky potato part." Glor-i-ous.  What more could a person ask for in a party pleasing cheese? (No, don't answer that.) Who could resist the siren call of Cotswold's smushy chive-y zing?  Probably no one.  Though the dedicates of Kraft singles probably wouldn't.  I don't really like to talk about Them.
Cotswold is, at its heart, really a two note cheese.  It belts out its oddly strong aromatic flavor in only the key of Cheddar-like and chive.  This, reader, is not always a bad thing.  Sure, I adore a nicely ripened Tallegio with its beefy whiff.  But sometimes I want to plop down on the sofa, butter knife in hand, and happily stuff my face with a cheese that doen't need to be complicated to be delicious.

*This is also the cheese of "Cheese Rolling at Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire" fame.  The last Official event saw 18 injuries.  4 of which were spectators  fainting.  It was considered a light year.

December 05, 2011

Blog Lovin'!

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December 01, 2011

Cheese. Meet People. People. Eat Cheese.

I have had a many years long love affair with cheese.  Ever since the Herve Mons class was given for my Whole Foods Market (WFM) Specialty Team, of which I was but a Team Member, at my Ann Arbor, MI store I have been hopelessly in lust with the stuff.  I won't wax poetic about knowing since childhood that cheese was my destiny (add dramatic flair here).  Because I didn't.  Cheese, until about 4 years ago, was a tasty condiment, right up there with ketchup, or a festive treat ala the Pepperidge Farms holiday cheese ball.  I did live for that cheese ball every Christmas, however.  Hardly the grounds for an adulthood cheese obsession.  
Frankly I had always thought my true calling was in academia.  Slogging through grading papers or lecturing on the finer points of the French Revolution.  It wasn't until having hauled my life across the country to be with the man of my dreams and a few unfulfilling jobs later that I resettled into the life of a Cheese Monger.  It was then, and really only then, I realized that what I loved doing (selling, eating, talking about, sharing cheese, etc.) could be a legitimate living.  I can have my cheese and eat it, too! (harhar)
Thus, here I am.  Shouting from my proverbial mountain top about all things curdy and delicious.  Lets be reasonable here though.  I cannot start a blog about cheese without filling you, dear reader, in about all the wonderful things associated with cheese.  Heavenly micro brewed beers, spicy compotes, more-than-your-average-Ritz crackers, shamefully good charcuterie...oh the list could go on and on.  My capacity to talk endlessly about food is only slightly less than my daily intake of oxygen.  That is to say it is vast.
Here I fully intend to channel the enthusiasm for cheese that causes my mothers eyes to glaze over after 15 minutes of steady verbal stream.  I bring you my best of cheese. Even my worst of cheese.  Blogging is, in essence, about opinions. When it comes to cheese, boy do I have them.
I also welcome your comments, ideas, and cheese you can't live without.  Without the reader this blog remains just another Internet foodie backwater.
So here's to the beauty of a good wheel of the moldy stuff in all of it's satisfyingly delicious forms.

What I'm Currently Eating. Rogue Creamery's Crater Lake Blue

The sun comes up over Cheese Island at The Mighty Arb where I got my start.