Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fancy Food Show Favorites

We had quite a week last week, hence why I'm posting later than usual. To start off, we attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and by mid-week we were battling the flood in our store caused by the heavy rains. Whew. I'm tired!

But now that our back-of-house is dry again, I've had time to reflect on our trip to the food show last week. One of the items that stands out most in my mind is a cheese from Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese called Little Boy Blue. This cow's milk, semi-soft, mild blue boasts a natural rind, and a superbly creamy texture. Aged over 60 days, and delivered in rounds weighing about 1.25 lbs, Little Boy Blue is exactly how I like my blues: a light, buttery paste with a mild to medium tang. Not over-powering, but not boring either. Just perfectly balanced.

My other favorite from this year's show is Cowgirl Creamery's new seasonal / winter cheese - Devil's Gulch. Soft, creamy, and melodious are a few words that come to mind. The rind of this Jersey cow's milk cheese is dusted with sweet and spicy peppers grown at All Star Organics Farm (one of my favorites - we carry their salts and sugars at our store). So to sum up, Devil's Gulch is the point where Cheesemaking at its highest intersects with organic farming at its finest. Not too shabby.

For those of you interested in trying either of these examples of perfection, Devil's Gulch will be on our counter by mid-week, and Little Boy Blue the week after next...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oregonzola: A perfect American interpretation of a European classic.

I've never thought of myself as someone who's particularly patriotic. Don't get me wrong, I love America and recognize I'm blessed to be a citizen, I just mean I've haven't spent much time thinking about my level of patriotism. I have relatives in the mid-west who are very clear on their loyalty to America. They won't buy anything, especially a car, that's not made in the US and the implication that anyone else, anywhere else in the world can do anything better than us is blasphemy. Fortunately they haven't disowned me for buying a Toyota Camry - they just chalk it up to the fact that I was raised, and continue to live in California, aka "the land of fruits and nuts."

I guess I've sort of bought into the idea that my immediate family is different from the rest of our family because we live in Cali and they live in Wisconsin. But since we purchased our cheese shop in 2007, I've been nurturing my growing passion for domestic artisanal and farmstead cheese, and it turns out I've got the same "patriotism gene" as the mid-western contingent of my family. At least where cheese is concerned. I'm totally convinced we make some of the best cheese in the world, and it would be impossible for you to dissuade me from this way of thinking. I guess now I understand how my uncle, Kevin, feels about Ford trucks.

I mean, when it comes to cheese not only are we producing some wonderful original cheeses like Barely Buzzed and Appalachian, but we're also reinterpreting some classic European cheeses in a way that really pays homage to the centuries-old cheesemaking traditions. A fine example of what I'm talking about is Oregonzola by Rogue Creamery. This Gorgonzola style cheese made right here in Oregon boasts a tart, fruity, yet creamy flavor with the classic light veining you associate with the Italian version. It's great for cooking (fondue, soups, etc) as well as by itself or paired with fruit, nuts, prosciutto, and a good Pinot Noir.

Pure and simple American perfection...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

O'Banon. OMG.

I basically have a love - hate relationship with goat's milk. This is due to the fact that I had a mom (Deborah) who didn't want her children to eat or drink anything processed - which led to her keeping a goat, whom we named Jasmin, in our carport. (No we didn't have a farm, which is why this is weird). She would milk Jasmin and use the goat's milk on our granola, for cooking, and for anything else you'd use milk for. My sister Molly and I just wanted to be "normal" kids, you know, with store-bought cartons of homogenized Vitamin D cow's milk. But no. Even Mom's attempts at "hiding" the fact that it was fresh goat's milk by putting the milk inside a store-bought milk container she got from one of her friends didn't work. First of all, the milk was usually still warm which was a big indicator that it didn't come from the Safeway dairy fridge. Secondly, it tasted "goatie," not "cowie." And being young (and desperate to conform) we really, really, really wanted "cowie." So often when I eat goat's milk cheese, I'm brought back to that phase of my childhood which my husband has dubbed "little Deb on the Prairie."

What does my tale of woe have to do with delicious O'Banon cheese? Well O' Banon made by Capriole is one of the reasons why I have the "love" part of my love-hate relationship with goat's milk. This dense, yet creamy chevre wrapped in bourboned chestnut leaves is like an amusement park ride for your taste-buds. The high quality milk gives the cheese a feather-light, yet mildly tangy attack, and the Woodford Reserve Bourbon soaked leaves provide a light kick at the end. Perfection. Pure and simple. And one of the best things about it is that it's an American farmstead cheese!

As quirky as my childhood was, as an adult I appreciate my mom's efforts to give us the highest quality foods. And even though I joke about the "trauma" of having a goat rather than a Volvo in the carport, without all my exposure to different flavors I may not be so well equipped to appreciate little slices of joy like O'Banon.

Thanks, Mom.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Black Mambazo

If you've familiar with the name Black Mambazo, it's probably because you've heard of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the all male choral group that performed with Paul Simon on his "Graceland" album. That is, of course, unless you frequent one of the farmer's markets in the Seattle area, in which case you would recognize Black Mambazo as the delectable little organic, farmstead cheese made by the Samish Bay Cheese Company.

I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to Black Mambazo through sheer happenstance: I own the cheese shop across the street from Stanford University which is where the daughter of the Cheesemaker is currently attending school. One day while I was sitting in my office staring at the mountain of bookkeeping work piled on my desk (and feeling sorry for myself, I must admit), Roger Wechsler walked into my store with cheese-in-hand. Lucky me!

Black Mambazo is a 2lb wheel of semi-hard, organic cow's milk cheese. During the aging process the cheese is rubbed with chipotle mixture which gives a little kick to the otherwise smooth, creamy, and buttery flavor. My favorite thing about this cheese (besides it's rustic look) is the super long finish - like fresh, but spicy butter - that lasts for several minutes. So nice. If you're interested in experiencing something you've probably never experienced before, come on down to the store for a taste...