Category Archives: cheese

Winter Blues: A Pairing Party for 8 to 12 (part 4)

© Johanna Kindvall

 

I hope you all are having a wonderful start of 2015. Winter is here and it’s time for Tenaya Darlington, aka Madame Fromage and my final post in our seasonal cheese calendar, Winter (below you can find links to the other posts). As it is the end of the series, we thought it was suitable to celebrate with a blue cheese pairing party.

I hope you have enjoyed our Seasonal Cheese Calendar as much as we have. Eventually we will create cards and prints. They will be for sale in both our shops.
Cheers.

Winter Blues: A Pairing Party for 8 to 12
by Madame Fromage

Late winter is an ideal time to host an Around the World with Blue Cheese party. In the cold months, who doesn’t dream of traveling abroad? Since so many countries make iconic blues, it’s delightful to take one’s taste buds on a cruise from Stilton to Roquefort, then home again for a taste of artisan American funk.

Blues vary widely in taste and texture. Some swing savory with notes of creamed spinach, fresh herbs, or even pine — while others deliver a sweet song to the tongue. Gorgonzola Dolce tastes like ice cream (try it with cherry jam and graham crackers), and Valdéon can deliver notes of grape and white chocolate. Other blues make me think of oysters – all minerals and brine. Exquisite.

Here’s what to do if you want to host a blue cheese pairing party:

1) pick a wide range of blues, like the ones listed below – aim for five or six hunks, you’ll need ¼ or ½ pound each.

2) Invite 8 to 12 friends, and tell each person to bring an after-dinner drink: stout, barleywine, Scotch/whiskey, or a fortified wine (like Port, Madeira, or Sherry).

Then, set out all of your cheeses – let them come to room temperature before serving, and use notecards to label them – and garnish them with some grapes, dates or apricots, walnuts, berry jam, honey, and dark chocolate.

At your tasting party, let the blues talk. Try them one at a time with a variety of beverages. You’ll go through every glass in your cupboard. Between bites, you can eat grapes or baguette slices to cleanse your palate. At the end of the night, snap photos of your favorite pairings. If you forget, don’t worry – everyone will remember the night they came to your house for a blue cheese initiation.

Note: if you don’t want to mix too many kinds of alcohol, just pick dessert wines or stout/barleywines.

Five Iconic Blue Cheeses

© Johanna Kindvall

Stilton
Britain’s iconic blue is savory with hints of tobacco and leather. It’s sold in wheels with a cigar-colored rind, making its whole disposition rather grandfatherly. Think of it as a craggy, cozy old character – ideally suited for slushy days and a back-drop of scratchy folk records. “Potted Stilton” is sold in crocks – a sort of holiday treat. It’s soft and pungent, delicious with chutney and a plate of oaty biscuits. For a much-loved pairing, sip a glass of Port (or even Scotch). Stilton also loves stout.

© Johanna Kindvall

Valdeon
Spain’s most famous blue is a “granny” cheese, sweet and a little salty with a shawl made of Sycamore leaves. Lean in and you’ll smell a damp cottage with a front walkway made of slate and violets sticking up between the cracks. Lovely for dessert, try serving it with a spot of dark chocolate – it has a hint of white chocolate on the finish, which is lovely to play off. Walnuts and honey are a fine pairing, too. Sherry and barleywine make especially good matches.

© Johanna Kindvall

Gorgonzola
Italy produces a pair of twin blue cheeses, dolce (sweet) and piccante (sharp). Piccante loves pasta and is terrific shmeared on steak or stirred into white bean soup. Dolce loves a light clear honey and a crack of black pepper, alongside some pears – it’s so gooey, you can spoon it up like mousse. Try pairing it with a fruity lambic (Kriek) or barleywine.© Johanna Kindvall

Roquefort
Really good French Roquefort tastes like a cheese from the sea – salty and mineral bright. Its indigo veins shimmer, and its paste is the consistency of melting butter, thanks to sheep’s milk. Roquefort gains its extraordinary combination of flavors from aging in seaside caves that are famous for their “fleurines” – fissures that allow the damp air to circulate. Quality Roquefort (I like Carles), served with a chilled glass of Sauternes, will leave you speechless.© Johanna Kindvall

Rogue River Smokey
One of the great American artisan blues, RRS tastes like bacon in the form of cheese. It loves camping, pancakes, and long walks on the beach. Rogue Creamery, in Oregon, makes a dozen different blues, each one subtly different. This selection is gently smoked over hazelnut shells, making for a nutty, buttery rogue. Pair it with an achingly dark stout or a Manhattan.

Wondering how blue cheeses get their dark veins? They’re pierced with long needles. The piercings allow air to flow through the wheels, and that promotes “blue-ing.” Many people think that blue mold is injected into the cheese, but that’s not so. The “blue” develops naturally, thanks to a special culture (Penicillium Roqueforti) that cheesemakers stir into the curds. That said, “blue” likes to wander, so you’ll want to store your blue cheeses away from other cheeses in your fridge.

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Please also read the other parts in this Seasonal Cheese Calendar:

Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)
Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)
Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3)

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Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3)

Fall is just around the corner (or at least here in Brooklyn) and it’s time for part 3 of the seasonal collaboration with Tenaya Darlington, alias Madame Fromage. This time of the year I just want to put my wellingtons on and pick loads and loads of mushrooms. And a proper mushroom hunt needs a picnic and together with Tenaya there will of course be cheese.

Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part3)
by Madame Fromage

In fall, I love when the air smells of damp leaves and wood fire. It’s a good time for a hike with wool hats and a hamper of cheese. Find a smooth tree stump or an overturned log without too many mushrooms, and you can create a woodland snack scape fit for a band of hobbits.

Such an adventure calls for cheeses that bring earth and forest to mind.

Clothbound cheeses. Leaf-wrapped cheeses. Bark-bound cheeses. Cheeses smoked over wood. And my favorite: booze-washed cheeses that are supple and mushroomy with a kick of rank funk.

Here are a few fall favorites with unusual coverlets and trappings…

Clothbound Cheese

Long before block American Cheddar appeared, traditional British Cheddars were wrapped in muslin and smeared with lard to keep them moist inside cellars. Aging a cheese in a cellar or a cave kept cheeses cool and allowed them to develop unique tastes – let’s call that taste “earthy.” Today, several traditional Cheddar makers still produce clothbound Cheddar – ask for samples of Montgomery’s, Keen’s, or Quicke’s next time you visit a good cheese shop. A handful of American makers have been inspired to wrap their Cheddars in cloth, too, including Cabot Clothbound and Beecher’s Reserve.

If you haven’t tried a clothbound Cheddar before, now is the time! As the days grow shorter, don’t you long for the taste of mushrooms and butter? Clothbound cheddars are ‘shroomy and supple, perfect to serve on Halloween – invite your friends in to taste mummified cheese from a cave. They’ll find it more compelling than candy.

Bark-bound Cheese

In fall, seasonal cheeses that are wrapped in bark begin to appear in markets. In France, the best-known varieties are Vacherin Mont d’Or and Epoisses. These small moons turn so soft and gooey that cheesemakers use “belts” made of bark (Birch or Spruce) to hold the wheel in tact. Think of them as cheeses that need girdles. This European tradition has, once again, inspired several American artisans to follow suit with special cheeses, like Harbison and Winnimere, from Jasper Hill in Vermont.

You can warm these cheeses very gently on a lipped plate or a crock – try 200 degrees in your toaster oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, plunge steaming new potatoes into them. This is how the Swiss make it through fall and winter. Be sure to serve a round of Doppelbocks.

Smoked Cheese

One of the best smoked cheeses, Idiazábal, comes from the Basque region of Spain — a nutty, buttery sheep’s milk cheese that is lightly smoked over a fire to impart a fragrant taste. This smoky accent is part of a mountain tradition; the same cheese from the valley around Navarre is not smoked. Idiazábal is often compared to Manchego, from the same region. Both cheeses are traditionally paired with quince paste or quince jam. The bright, acidic taste of the fruit offsets the dense, woodsy flavor of this cheese.

Sit by the fire with some mulled cider or a Spanish red. On a cheese board, this darling is wildly versatile. Try pairing it with toasted almonds, meaty green olives, cured meats, dried apricots, and pine honey. If you want to add another rare smoked beauty, make it Rogue River Smoky — a stunner from Oregon with midnight veins.

Booze-washed Cheese

Long ago, monks hatched the idea to wash wheels of cheese with beer and spirits — dampening the rinds adds moisture to the paste but also turns the exterior a wee bit sticky and funky. Stinking Bishop, from England, is washed in a spirit made from pears, called perry. Epoisses, mentioned above, is washed in Marc de Bourgogne – a dazzling brandy. Chimay is washed in Belgian Chimay. If you’re a fan of beefy cheeses, this is the season to break out these fudgy wedges and let the breeze carry the scent away from the rest of your family.

I love to serve these stinky monsters with a side of beef stew – they adore braised meat and onions. And, of course, you’ll want to wash it all down with a pint of Belgian ale or a snifter of Brandy. Maybe both, depending which way the wind blows.

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Please also read the other parts in this seasonal cheese calendar:

Winter Blues: A Pairing Party for 8 to 12 (part 4)
Late Summer Cheese Picnic
(part 2)
Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)

* If you want to dig into more cheeses, I recommend you to check out Tenaya’s cheese book. It’s wonderful!
* And I can also let you know that she is working on her 1st cocktail book together with her brother, André Darlington. Cheers.

 

Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)

Both Tenaya Darlington and I have separately experienced Italy earlier this summer. As you know I visit Case Vecchie in Sicily while Tenaya was leading a story telling workshop in Puglia. Now she is back in Philadelphia and has set up a decadent cheese picnic for us to crave for this summer.

Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)
by Madame Fromage

Summer is the season to eat cheese in the wild. What’s lovelier than eating Pecorino in a pasture strewn with wildflowers? As you eat, you can taste the grassiness of the milk, and the experience becomes doubly sensual. If you can’t picnic near actual ewes, stare up at the clouds and picture a pastoral life. In the summer, shepherds throughout Europe still lead animals into the hills to feast on wild grasses and herbs (mint, fennel, dill). Animals that gobble gorgeous feed produce beautiful milk. And thus, the best cheeses come to be.

For a summer picnic, I love to buy cheeses made from grass-fed milk. Farmers’ markets are a great source for these beauties, and so is a cheese counter that specializes in artisan cheese. You can also learn to discern grass-fed cow’s milk cheese just by sight; cows cannot digest beta carotene, so they produce golden summer milk. If you see a butter-yellow cow’s milk cheese, chances are it was made from a grass-fed gal.

Picnic cheeses should be easy to pack and easy to pair. Here are a few suggestions for mid-summer cheese combinations that you can toss into a hamper and assemble quickly. If you have your wits about you, grab some toothpicks and a Swiss Army knife. Otherwise, just grab a baguette and a blanket for the grass.

1. Mozzarella balls in brine are a lovely first bite. You can skewer them with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil – or try strawberries and basil – then drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. This is lovely with Prosecco.

2. Fresh ricotta comes alive with fresh herbs and sea salt. Pack some thyme from your windowsill, or forage in the wild. Bring a bottle of extra virgin olive oil for drizzling. Also, you can stuff fresh ricotta into peach halves or apricot halves, or use the fruit as scoops. Try topping these with toasted almonds and honey.

3. Soft cheeses that come in balsa wood boxes (Camembert) or little crocks (Saint-Marcellin) or leaves (Banon, Robiola) are excellent picnic mates. They are gooey enough to spread with a stick, if need be, and they all pair wonderfully with dried fruit, nuts, and honey. Try this: Camembert, green apples, honey, walnuts, amber honey, and a jug of dry hard cider.

4. Swiss Army Knife cheeses include Provolone, Caciocavallo, Pecorino and other sturdy birdies. Choose one or two hunks and load up on olives, cured meat, celery sticks, pickled mushrooms, and olive oil crackers. A bottle of red? Enough said.

5. Gooey blue (like rich Gorgonzola Dolce) makes for a lovely dessert, especially with graham crackers and honey or cherry jam. A goat’s milk blue, like Cremificato Verde Capra, is also a good choice because it’s light. Try packing some dark chocolate and candied nuts, or bring a box of dates and stuff them with blue cheese and almonds.

Storing cheeses for picnics: If you have a hot day or a long bike ride ahead of you, pack your cheeses on frozen water bottles or a chilled bottle of wine. Sheep’s milk cheeses tend to sweat in the sun, so keep them covered with a cloth nappy.

Please also read the other parts in this seasonal cheese calendar:

Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)
Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3)
Winter Blues: A Pairing Party for 8 to 12 (part 4)

More by Madame Fromage on kokblog
Guest Post: How to Turn Your Desk Into a Cheese Board
and check out her wonderful cheese book

Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)

A couple of posts back I had Tenaya Darlington, aka Madame Fromage, as a guest here on the blog. She wrote a beautiful and fun post about How to Turn Your Desk Into a Cheese Board. We enjoyed working together and decided to continue with a series that will highlight great dairy and pairings for each season. For our first seasonal post: what can be better in life than Spring, flowers and goat cheese?

Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer
By Madame Fromage

Along with daffodils and Easter bonnets, spring is the season of great goat cheeses. They appear like ice-white confections at cheese counters across the U.S. and in Europe, where they are often spectacularly cloaked in petals, pink peppercorns, or green herbs.

Some of the most sought-after specimen look like pug puppies, with ashy coloring and heavy wrinkles. Don’t be afraid. Most of these come from the Loire Valley, the seat of sweet, tender goat cheese that the whole world admires. In Paris, pairing one of these gems with a glass of Sancerre or rosé is a rite of passage.

The taste of Paris in spring can be yours, too, if you know how to identify superb fresh goat cheese (it should taste balanced, never sour) and what to serve with it. If you want to be clever, you can tell your friends why fresh goat cheese enjoys it’s fashion season in spring: it has to do with wee shoots and wildflowers.

The first meadow greenery is essentially extra-virgin grass, and when those lady goats enjoy their first romps’n nibbles, they produce milk that is sweetly delicate, even herbaceous. This makes the finest cheese.
Oh, bliss! Here are a few of my spring favorites…

Five Must-Try Goat Cheeses

The best place to shop is a reputable cheese counter. Remember, darlings, buying nice cheese is like buying diamonds — if you go bargain hunting, you won’t get the Tiffany-blue box. Avoid shrink-wrapped logs that are mass-manufactured. They’re fine for crumbling onto salads but, trust me, they will not induce reverie.

kindvall-Selles-sur-Cher

Selles-sur-Cher
This ash-coated round the size of your palm should resemble a very large Girl Scout Thin Mint. Selles-sur-Cher (pronounced sell-sur-SHARE)  is Loire Valley goat cheese at its best. Mild and very fresh, it has the consistency of damp earth. After several weeks of proper ripening, it becomes oozy around the edges and a little more pungent. Serve with rosé and anything raspberry. I love to eat it for breakfast with raspberry jam.

Caprino Fiorito
If you spy a little muffin topper from Piedmont rolled in petals – often chamomile blossoms – nab it before anyone else does. Great goat cheese starts with great milk, and the pastures of Piedmont produce lovely chèvre that tastes as pretty as it looks. Pour a glass of Prosecco, and enjoy Caprino Fiorito without any trappings, preferably after a long bath. It’s basically a cheese bath bomb; it will fill you with warmth, ease, and delight.

Saint Maure
You simply can’t miss this silvery log because it has a shaft of wheat running through its center. It’s really the Prada bag of goat cheeses, gorgeous and functional. The reed stabilizes the cheese and creates a little air tunnel so that the center won’t be mushy. Expect a light, dry texture, and a slightly flinty taste. This is a pretty cheese to drizzle with honey as you sip Sancerre over a plate of sliced Asian pear. Watch a French weepy, and call it your spring cleanse.

Clochette
Beautiful Clochette is bell-shaped (no surprise: the name means “little bell”), making it a perfect selection for Sunday brunch or an engagement party. Some refer to the rind as “wrinkly,” while others prefer to call it “textured.” Either way, don’t be afraid of the fleecy surface. It’s delicate and supple, a lovely contrast to the dense, damp center which is as rich as night cream. Pair this with lemon marmalade and French 75s after a vampish night on the town.

kindvall-cannonball

Wabash Cannonball
This little snowdrop speckled with peppercorns represents one of the best goat cheeses coming out the United States. Any cheese made by Judy Schad of Capriole Farm in Indiana is a must-nibble. It’s so compact and perfect, you should share it with a lover over glasses of sparkling lambic or eat it alone on a park bench without any disruptions, other than butterflies. Wabash C. is hard to find and very spendy, but worth every penny. Psst…don’t try to slather this on a baguette. It should be devoured like the best bon-bon in the world.

How To Dress Your Goat Cheese
Great fresh goat cheese needs no accompaniment, but if you’re searching for good matches, then reach for other spring fare. Every fresh thing from the farmers’ market pairs well, especially…

Wild strawberries
Raspberries
Homemade berry jam
Meyer lemon marmalade
Rhubarb compote
Honey, light and dark
Sautéed ramps
Sautéed fiddleheads
Steamed baby vegetables
Baby greens or micro greens
Radishes, thinly sliced with salt
Rosemary crackers

Describing Goat Cheese to Your Lover

Good goat cheese tastes bright. Like sunlight, like citrus. That’s because it’s acidic (think: lemons), more so than cheeses made from other milks. Fatty, it’s not. Goat cheese is very light and easy on the stomach. If you want to eat a cheese in bed, this is the one. If you have eaten goat cheese that tastes sour, tangy, or gamy (called “bucky,” after a male buck), you’ve probably eaten a goat cheese of poor quality.

Here’s what good fresh goat cheese often tastes like (saying these words makes for lovely pillow talk): herbaceous, floral, delicate, grassy, clean, bright, citrusy, mellow, woodsy, flinty.

Here are some common textures:
damp, dense, light, fluffy, smooth, creamy, clay-ey, icy, cool, downy (rind), rumpled (rind)

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Note: Thank you for reading Part I of our 4-part series. We are excited to share these seasonal cheese posts with you and hope that they inspire you to dream, to eat, to explore. In June, look for our post on great summer cheeses. Once we’ve completed all four seasons, we hope to present a calendar!

Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)
Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3)
Winter Blues: A Pairing Party for 8 to 12 (part 4)

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This post was also published at Madame Fromage

 

 

Guest Post: How to Turn Your Desk Into a Cheese Board

kindvall-MF-cheese-desk

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Tenaya Darlington, aka Madame Fromage. We instantly connected and started to email back and forward, sharing thoughts and ideas around cheese. Compared to most cheese lovers (including me), she is an expert and has for the last 5 years kept records of cheeses that she tastes & eats, smells or just overheard when visiting a cheese shop.

In 2011 she started her website Madame Fromage where she shares her thoughts and stories about cheese. For example it can be a post about specific cheeses with pairings, study visits,  traveling reports or even tips on how to talk to a cheesemonger etc.

Tenaya knows how to tell a story, so for me its not a surprise that she also is an associate professor in English and teaches writing classes at the Department of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

In May 2013 her cheese book, Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes and Pairings was published by Running Press. I think this book, with 170 cheese profiles, 30 recipes, and 10 themed cheese boards, is a mouth watering treasure. Tenaya’s storytelling skills really comes out in the book. It is well written and inspiring. It makes me smile and I want to draw everything. Di Bruno Bros. is a well known cheese shop in Philadelphia, opened in 1939 by the two brothers  Danny and Joe. The book is tastefully photographed by Jason Varney. House of Cheese is Tenaya’s third book, she has published poetry and one novel before.

So when I heard that Tenaya had a cheese cave at her office desk I instantly wanted to draw it. And to draw all the different kinds of cheeses was great fun… so now I can’t stop!

The cheeses and the desk are available as posters in the SHOP.

kindvall-MF-cheeseknife3

How to Turn Your Desk Into a Cheese Board
By Madame Fromage

At work, it can be nice to break for a spot of cheese. Clear the clutter, spread a tea towel, and set out a cutting board. Then reach into your secret desk drawer that is stocked with crackers and preserves, and set out an array of snacks. You can surprise your office mates with a spontaneous party (on someone’s birthday, say) or make it a private affair while you read a book over the lunch hour.
After all, there is nothing lovelier than kicking off your shoes, putting your feet up on the radiator, and enjoying a hunk of Cheddar with almonds and honey on a rainy afternoon. A cheese board makes a perfect lunch, and if you stock your desk pantry well, you’ll never have to remember to pack leftovers.

What To Stock in A Desk Pantry

• Small wood cutting board
• Set of cheese knives or a paring knife + small spoon
• Tea towel+cloth napkin(s)
• Nuts: almonds, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, or walnuts
• Dried fruit: apricots, figs, dates, or cranberries
• Petit toasts and pretzels for triple crèmes
• Oat biscuits, wheat crackers, or flatbread for firm cheeses
• Savory things in jars: cornichons, olives, dilly beans, grainy mustard
• Sweet things in jars: sour cherry jam, fig spread, apple chutney, honey
• 1 bar dark chocolate (for blue cheese)

In a mini fridge: celery, radishes, 2-3 cheeses,
1 stick mild salami, a bag of fresh thyme (optional, nice with chèvre),
grapes, apples, pears, sparkling water

kindvall-MF-cheeses-progress

Good desk cheeses
(read: not too stinky)

• Cheddar
• Gouda
• Pantaleo (firm goat)
• Petit Basque (sheep)
• Stilton or Chiriboga Blue

kindvall-MF-cheeses-02

Good cheeses for one person

• A tub of quark or chèvre
• Saint Marcellin (creamy, comes in its own crock)
• Banon (small, wrapped in edible leaves)
• Purple Haze (small goat round dusted in fennel pollen)
• Vermont Creamery Bijou (picture: goat gumdrops)

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You can also follow Tenaya on twitter, instagram and facebook (I do).

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More by Madame Fromage and me…
Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)
Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)
Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3)
Winter Blues: A Pairing Party for 8 to 12 (part 4)