Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ringing in 2010 with a Buzz!

Who can resist a name like Barely Buzzed? Definitely not this Cheese Junkie! I have to admit that flavored Cheddars typically aren't my absolute favorite, but after hearing about, reading about, and watching a show (on Food Network) about Barely Buzzed, I couldn't wait to taste it. Not only was it getting rave reviews as an awesomely delicious cheese, but I think the name is one of the best I've heard!

Barely Buzzed is made in Utah by Beehive Cheese Co.. When I think of American artisan cheese, Utah doesn't usually spring to mind, but it should because Tim Welsh and Pat Ford (founders of Beehive) have really hit a home run with Barely Buzzed - taking 1st place in the Flavored Cheddar category of the American Cheese Society's annual competition 2007, 2008, and 2009. And after tasting this cheese I think you'll agree with the judges.

Made with the highest quality of milk, and aged on racks made of Utah Blue Spruce in Beehive Cheese Co.'s caves, this cheese has a wonderfully nutty, rich flavor and a creamy, smooth texture. It's hand rubbed with a mixture of "Beehive Blend" coffee (from the Cheesemaker's brother-in-law's coffee company), lavender buds, and oil. The rub finds its way through out the entire wheel of cheese to develop a caramel-like flavor which I absolutely adore, and the lavender gives it a unique and unexpected finish.

If you're looking to ring in 2010 with a buzz, I whole-heartily suggest Barely Buzzed!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Appalachian: Much More Than a Mountain Range

Early spring of this year, my friend Matt left the comfort of our ideal little Bay Area town to embark on an Appalachian Trail adventure. His goal being to walk the entire length of the trail - from Georgia to Maine. To me this sounds crazy. But Matt's a documentary film-maker and he'd already walked (and filmed) the entire Pacific Crest Trail in 2007, so I knew this was no biggie for him. I mean, I long to be surrounded by pastoral beauty as much as the next person, but I'm just not sure it's necessary to walk 2,175 miles to accomplish this...

Anyway, while Matt was taking his stroll, every so often he'd pop into a town and send us an update on Facebook. One day while I was reading Matt's FB post (and doing my best not to work on our bookkeeping), I decided to Google "Appalachian" and my interest was immediately piqued by a link to Meadow Creek Dairy's Appalachian cheese.

Although I'd not previously heard of this cheese, it sounded delicious: made with Jersey cow's milk, and similar to a French style Tomme, this lightly cooked, pressed curd cheese has a lemony, buttery, mushroomy flavor with a spicy finish. The Junkie in me couldn't resist so I promptly ordered a piece for my cheese counter, and man-oh-man am I ever glad I did! To me, this cheese is a perfect example of everything that is wonderful about the American Farmstead cheese movement.

We have customers in our store everyday who think the only good cheese comes from Europe, and since our focus is on American cheese we try our best to educate these customers. Having a cheese like Appalachian available for American cheese nay-sayers to try has been priceless in my quest to educate (and convert) Euro cheese snobs. Upon popping a piece of high quality, hand crafted, American farmstead cheese into their mouth, it's a delight to see the scrunched up face of the disbelieving morph into the open, bright-eyed glow of the newly converted devotee. Man, I love my job!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Meet the Cheesemakers Event

Hello fellow cheese-junkies! After 6 hectic weeks which included a case of the swine flu and a partial remodel of our store, life has finally returned to what passes for normal around here. My sincerest apologies for the huge gap between my last post and this one, but now that I'm not battling with consultants and contractors (all while having a fever of over 101 degrees), I'll be making regular posts again. Whew, what a relief. Thankfully I bounced back just in time for the holiday season...

Speaking of which, last Saturday we had our first ever Holiday Open-house and Meet the Cheesemakers Event. We were honored to have several local (highly talented, tremendously creative, exceptionally friendly) artisans in attendance. Our lucky customers got to rub elbows with Cheesemakers from Redwood Hill Farm, Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese, Central Coast Creamery, Spring Hill Cheese Co., and Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Co.. The makers of Fra'Mani Salumi also sent a representative to demonstrate their wares. Deeeee-lish!

This was truly cheese-junkie heaven! Laura Chenel Chevre wasn't able to send anyone down to the store, but they generously sent samples of Cabecou and Melodie (see 08/22/2009 post about these two delicious cheeses), and their neighbors at Redwood Hill Farms delighted our customers with Bucheret, a dense buttery bloomy rind cheese. RHF also brought us some perfectly ripe Camellia which they served on a cracker with Les Follies Apricot Cumin spread for Camembert. Absolutely fabulous! Rounding out our offering of goat's milk cheeses was the Tome du Corbier from Shamrock (a hard to come by cheese in our neck of the woods, but we have it, along with their Ashed Tomette and Shamrock Bouchon).

Mariano Gonzalez, the master cheese maker at Fiscalini, charmed us all with his amiable personality and his fantastic (multiple award-winning) Bandaged Wrapped Cheddar. We also tasted Fiscalini's Horsefeathers cheddar and horseradish spread. One word: tasty. I talked with Mariano about the idea of buying the spread from him in bulk so we can sell it on our roast-beef sandwiches. Just to make sure it's a good idea, I tried a roast-beef and Horsefeathers sandwich today, and yes, it's a good idea. What could be better than thinly sliced, medium-rare roast-beef (we just pulled from the oven) slathered in cheddar and horseradish? Absolutely nothing.

One of our newest additions to our cheese case is Seascape made by Reggie Jones from Central Coast Creamery. This semi-soft goat's milk / cow's milk blend just melts in your mouth. Noah fell in love with it and kept going back for more (I had to keep him from eating all the samples meant for our customers). The thing he liked the most is that the flavors are so complex you find something new with each bite you take - hence his multiple trips to Reggie's table!

All in all, it was a successful event and we're planning on doing it again next year. But don't wait until then to stop by the store! Either myself or one of my Assistant Cheesemongers - Kevin, Cammy, or Leslie - will be glad to give you a taste of something spectacular.

...And I'll be sure to let you know when the Roast-beef and Horsefeathers sandwich is making its debut!