Two days (and 20 cheeses) in New York! My top 5 favorite American Cheeses

Recently I was lucky enough to meet up with Kristin Kosmoski, Marketing Manager at The Cheese Course on a short visit through NYC. Of course, my number one item on the agenda was CHEESE TASTING! This was to be my first time trying American Cheeses and I had a big cheesy hit-list to work my way through. New York is an amazing city for foodies, there is just so much it’s overwhelming. From cheese shops to cheese restaurants, concept stores and tasting bars, you can find it all.

Rachel Bajada Cheese Tasting in NYC

Clockwise from top left: Humboldt Chevre, Rogue River Blue x 2, Rachel, Truffle Tremor, Cremont, Tarantaise

Over two days I tasted approximately 20 American cheeses; it was fascinating to discover such a rich and diverse range of excellent quality cheeses each expressing the unique qualities of the region, pastures, climate and local produce. Crumbly, waxed goat milk cheddars, wished rinds, tommes, fresh cheeses, and some really creative originals that were nothing at all like European cheeses. I have to say, living in France, the French consider themselves the cheese mecca of the world, and they sure do have a lot to be proud of. So I may not be French but I am rather bias when it comes to cheeses so I admit I was skeptical that America- known as the home of plastic cheese and industrial cheddar, could produce such exceptional products. My mind was open, and blown away. As ironic as it is, many Americans came to France from the 50’s onwards where they learned cheese-making from the French themselves, taking these skills and knowledge back to the US where idyllic conditions and mini-terroirs produced perfect regions for cheese making. Whilst America’s cheese industry has been exploding, France’s is actually dying. Of the 100-150 raw milk cheeses available, three disappear each year, meaning around 40 have become extinct in the last decade. And while Americans, Australians and Britons are increasingly going for unpasteurized cheese, in France raw milk cheeses dropped to 179,750 tonnes in 2008 against 183,500 tonnes in 2006.

So while the golden days for cheese in Europe may be over, it’s so encouraging to see that the new world is embracing the old, and that cheese-making is evolving to new heights abroad. Hooray for American cheese-making! In homage to my love for American cheeses, I have put together my top 5 and made a small video review for 3 of them.

Enjoy!

Here is my top 5: (The Cheese Course stocks all of these cheeses – find your local store here)

1. Rogue River Blue – Rogue Creamery, Oregon

This is one incredible blue cheese – everything about it is impressive. The first thing that came to my mind when I tasted this cheese was “passion fruit!” and reminded me of salty passion fruit butter. Not sure where that comes from, but the fact that this cheese, reminiscent of a Roquefort is wrapped in vine leaves soaked in pear brandy, contributes to its complex fruity flavor profile. Award-winning cheese-maker, David Gremmels even hand-picks every single grape leaf himself.

Check out my quick tasting/video review below:


2. Humboldt Fog Chèvre – Cyprus Grove, California

I have been forever waiting to try this cheese. Seeing it everywhere online, its beautiful presentation and story had me excited about trying this cheese. Relatively young goats milk cheese with a layer of ash though the center, pays homage to the French Morbier. The line of ash represents the low fog which settles on the valley in the early morning – now isn’t that beautiful! Its texture and complexity is truly divine – crumby on the inside, sensually smooth and creamy on the outside, its textural contrast and flavor depth only increases as it matures. Celebrating its 20th year, the Humboldt Fog Chèvre is my new coup de coeur! Enjoy it whilst it’s young if you like a milder chèvres, and keep it for a few weeks if you’re ready for a goat cheese with serious depth and zing.

Check out my quick tasting/video review below:



3. Truffle Tremor Chèvre
– Cyprus Grove, California

The name speaks for itself. This cheese is tremor-worthy with goodness. Not everyone is a truffle fan, but for lovers or truffle, and those who are not sure, this one is a big pleaser. The truffle character is subtle and lingering, it doesn’t hit you right away, and of course, the smell is positively intoxicating. In the same way that Humboldt Fog ripens, Truffle Tremor also has that characteristic oozing rind and crumbly center. Serve it with wild mushrooms or grilled on toast with fresh thyme… divine!

Check out my quick tasting/video review below:

4. Cremont – Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery

Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery’s Cremont to me stands for one thing: creamy comfort. This cheese is rich, luxurious, intense and purely indulgent. A double-cream dream, Cremont is made from a mix of cows and goats milk. It reminds me of a Saint Felicien, maybe even Saint Marcelin, but it’s actually richer and more buttery. Let this baby melt at room temperature and dip in with a fresh sourdough baguette and slice of San Daniele prosciutto and you’re in heaven.

5. Tarantaise – Springbrook Farm, Vermont

Again, another wonderful American cheese inspired by French cheese making and named after the valley in the French Alps. Made from raw Jersey cow milk, the cheese curds are treated in a similar fashion to comté and beaufort. Aged approximately 12 months with a washed rind, this cheese has seriously satisfying bite, complex roasted nutty aroma contrasted by fresh grassiness. It’s buttery, full bodied and bounces between sweet and savory throughout the whole experience. I can think of so many uses for this cheese in cooking, aside from the pure enjoyment of just eating it on its own.

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Who is Rachel? Check out her profile here

Aged Black Truffle Robiola: A special Italian cheese you can only find in Paris!

Aged Truffle Robiola from Alléosse Fromagerie, Paris

Aged Truffle Robiola from Alléosse Fromagerie, Paris

The photo does it no justice, but it was all I had time to take before it was whisked off into my handbag in order to shoot this video below where I explain this very special cheese- my new favorite and most recent discovery.

Recently I convinced someone to show me his cheese maturation caves. This was not just anyone, and not just any old cave. We’re talking Philippe Alléosse and his coveted four caves in the heart of Paris, where over 100 varieties of cheeses are carefully, painstakingly matured and handled by himself and highly skilled staff daily.

Philippe Alléosse is by far one of the most passionate people I have ever met in the cheese business. This man knows and tenders each one of his precious cheeses like they were his own children- I’m surprised some of them don’t’ have names. He could literally point at a 3 week old goats cheese in his shop and tell you it’s life story; how it may have sunk sideways for a few days, then he gently nudged it back in place to retake its correct form. Amazing.

This was one of the last cheeses he showed me in his four caves d’affinage (cheese maturation cellars) and he certainly saved the best for last. The Truffle Robiola is of course an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. There are delicate little flecks of black truffle throughout the cheese, which as you can imagine gives it that divine earthy truffle flavour and aroma – but Philippe’s Truffle Robiola is unique. Unlike even the Italians, who only ever make and eat it as a fresh cheese, he actually ages it. When I asked him why we can only find the aged version at his shop in Paris, his response was simply “well, I’m the only one who knows how to do it”. And that savoir-faire, my cheese-loving friends is what makes all the difference.

The aging process intensifies the truffle character, at the same time creating a nice solid rind and firmer cheese which when warmed to room temperature and eaten alone, grilled on bread or served with Italian charcuterie, is simply divine. Check out the quick video I shot below to discover the cheese in the closest way possible to having the real thing. Enjoy!


The Cheese Reporter, live video blogging about the delicious rare Italian cheese found in Paris from Alleose Fromagerie- Aged Black Truffle Robiola.

A visit to Rome’s “Nazi di Formaggi”

cheese fridge Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi

The magnificent cheese fridge at Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi, Rome

On a recent trip to beautiful Rome, I found myself in a scene that I can only describe as the Italiano, formaggi version of that “Soup Nazi” episode from Seinfeld. Confused? Let me tell you the story. In my extensive research to find the best cheese, pasta and foodie gems in Rome, I stumbled across this post by Parla Food on a special cheese boutique nestled away in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto district.

Beppe Formaggi is a cheese concept store featuring divine Italian cheeses, mostly from the northern alpine region of Piedmont, and a rustic dining salon for private degustations and wine tastings.

After wandering for over an hour and getting completely lost trying to find the shop, I had hoped for a welcoming reception to match my high expectations and bright-eyed, food tourist enthusiasm. Armed with only my iPhone camera, pocket Italian vocab book and sheer excitement, I proceeded to do what came most naturally — taking photos, of course!

Little did I know, this was NOT the done thing in the boutique of Mr. Beppe Formaggi.

The man himself emerged from the back room: a gusto, hearty Italian character with a powerful presence who proceeded to sternly look at me and slowly shake his head. Confused, I attempted to introduce myself in hopeless broken Italian. I could have said, “My name is Rachel; I’m here to order a lifetime supply of formaggi for the entire extended family of Berlusconi,” but it would not have made a difference.

“No photos!!!”

Ugh… how stupid of me not to ask permission first, I thought to myself. I’m not off to a good start here.

Here’s the photo I managed to take before being scolded like some sort of despicable undercover paparazzi:

Fresh Goats cheese selection at Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi, Rome

Some of fresh Goats cheeses at Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi, Rome

Next attempt: Come on Rachel, you’re a cheese journalist (did I invent that title?) … Surely it will change things if I explain myself?

A younger, handsome lad with piercing northern Italian blue eyes arrived at the counter. This one smiled. I explained to him (resorting to English) that I am a journalist writing about cheese for America and Australia, and was it OK for me to take some photos?

He went to the back of the shop and had a few words with Mr. Beppi Formaggi, who again crossed his arms and shook his head. Blue-eyed boy came back with bad news.

“Sorry, miss, you can’t take photos.”

And that’s how I found myself as rejected as our friend George Costanza being told “No soup for you!” by the Soup Nazi — only in my case it was “No cheese for you!”

Ouch.

Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, since I was still allowed the cheese, just not the photos.

So I figured, if I can’t take pics in the store, I will just have to taste the cheeses, buy them and photograph them back at the hotel room. So that’s what I did.

I started with the mildest of fresh Italian goat cheeses, the beautiful array of Meline di Capra — soft, delicate and crumbly, decorated and adorned with black ash, dried wild flowers, camomile buttons and herbs. I then worked my way through the brothers, sisters and cousins of the king of cheeses, Parmesan, and then finally asked for the rarest Italian blue cheeses I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

Blue-eyed Italian boy disappeared under the counter and then produced a seductively oozing, runny blue cheese with a pale pinkish-orange rind. It was a six-month-old gorgonzola-like blue from Piedmont made of unpasteurised, non-treated cow’s milk.

creamy sweet blue cheese

The undercover photo: A sweet, mild and creamy gorgonzola from Piedmont, Italy


“This one’s really special,” he said. “It’s too soft to pass you a sample but this one is so nice, she is almost sweet.”

“I’ll take it! Now, please show me your strongest blue cheese. A strong, very ‘gusto’ one, please!”

He returned holding a seriously mean-looking blue from under the counter.

“Are you sure you want to try her? Most people can’t handle this one, it’s verrrry strong.”

I replied without hesitation: “Absolutely!”

So, slicing off a sliver, I tried the sample. Boy, was that one big cheese! This blue had serious power. It was so strong it was almost spicy. The blue mould was so developed and intense you could actually feel the texture of it, kind of like a silver foil — practically crunchy. The aftertaste was a warming white peppery sensation that lasted a good 10 minutes on the palette.

Next, the pretty little fresh goats cheeses and our sweet and spicy feisty blues were wrapped up before we rushed off back to the hotel.

For our final night in Rome, what better way to celebrate than an Italian cheese pre-dinner aperitif with a nice bottle of champagne? I took some better pictures before the cheeses were quickly devoured. The rest of the blue came home with me and I’m still working my way through it and loving every spicy morsel!

formaggi and champagne in Rome

Happy days: The ultimate pre-dinner aperetif of Italian cheese and champagne back at the hotel in Rome

italian fresh goats cheeses

Meline di Capra: The gorgeous fresh goats cheeses adorned with black ash, dried wildflowers, camomile buds and mountain herbs

strong blue cheese

Cheese that knocks your socks off: That strong and spicy Italian blue cheese

Thanks, Mr. Italian Cheese Nazi, your welcome wasn’t exactly as warm and fuzzy as that spicy blue, but your cheeses are simply wonderful and made for an incredibly memorable last day in beautiful Rome.

Fun! Do! Fondue

fondu
Here’s the skinny… when it comes to fondue, I’ve historically been more of a fon-don’t… mainly because the idea of going somewhere and paying to “cook my own food” seems… well, cheesy.  (ha! the first of many puns to come).  Last night though I had the pleasure of attending a class on how to make fondue at The Cheese Course, Midtown Miami.  The class was led by this amazing cheese expert, Caroline Hostettler and it was held right in the very lovely TCC location.  Oh – this was my first time going to a TCC shoppe and I was actually quite impresses. Reminded me of some of the cheese shoppes in northern California.

Anyway back to Caroline and fondue; it was quite the interesting experience… I know I personally have never made fondue at home and never seen the prep, pretty much just been to places that place the pot of cheese at the table or the pot of oil and you go at it, so this ‘education’ opened my eyes.

From prepping the pot to choosing the right combination of cheeses, Caroline was truly gracious in her explanation.  I would have never thought of prepping the pot with garlic.  Like with any other dish, balance is key and that’s where her expertise are essential.. all about getting the right creamy cheese, with the right tangy cheese, and the right wine or beer to create a harmony of taste and texture…. texture is key to fondue.

One SUPER IMPORTANT THING, never use Emmentaler, what we here know as Swiss cheese….uhm yeah, definitely a fon-don’t.  It isn’t really the right consistency for melting so you end up with a stringy, rubbery, glue like substance so while it may be called Swiss cheese, don’t add it to your fondue.

Some other important things

• ALWAYS use a wooden spoon

• Stir your melty goodness in a figure 8 for even stirring

• If you want to be authentic, a simple crusty bread is the true and original vessel for your fondue

• Dry white wine is the traditional companion to fondue, but here I add my 2 cents… Brut or dry champagne or sparkling wine are even better.  The bubbles tend to balance out the heaviness of the fondue best, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like bubbles at a table!  As Always my recommendation is Domaine Carneros Taittinger, but whatever you fancy is fine as long as it is dry or even Brut.

• Lastly, and this is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT rule… whoever drops the bread in the fondue buys the next bottle of wine/champagne! HA! This only applies if you’re at a restaurant but it would make a great drinking game or hey, have a house party and play strip fondue… I bet NO ONE drops the bread!!!

So after seeing the prep and hearing Caroline’s words of wisdom it was time to try the melty yummymess… (in all the anticipation I did not take a photo of the prepared fondue).   So in goes the bread, soaking in this pool of cheesy heaven and time to taste.  Mmmmmmm….  Caroline’s recipe, (to follow) of Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois and a wee bit of Kirschwasser really hit all the right notes.  Creamy but silky and a wee bit tangy with that hint of garlic, yummyliciousness.  So savouring all these note put a smile on my face… as a cheese lover this was brilliant. The recipe and process is über simple so really this is the perfect thing to do at home!!!!!   Better yet, it’s the perfect thing for Diva to do at her home and invite me over!  Either way I think because of how much fun it was to sort of do as a group and the process of actually making it, how it can truly be a social fun activity, I’m all about Fondue-ing at home!

While it is still winter, I recommend it as the perfect thing for a cold winter night, to hang with friends and gather round for a fun night.  Some fruit, apples, pears and perhaps some almonds to accompany the event… and if you have 2 Fondue pots do 2 variations…. have everyone join in the making.

So here’s the simple recipe

BASIC: 2 units of cheese to 1 unit of wine. For 2 people, think 1lb of cheese and 8oz of dry white wine.  In this case we used

• 8oz of Gruyere

• 8 oz Vacherin Fribourgeois

• 1oz of Kirschwasser mixed with 1teaspoon cornstarch

• 1teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon

(There are variations o this recipe – the Alpine, one made with beer instead of wine and one with blue cheese… if you want them just add a comment and I’ll send ‘em to you)

PREP:

First rub the inside of your fondue pan with fresh garlic clove halves… you’d be surprised what a difference this makes.  If you are not a vampire or just love garlic leave one or 2 clove halves in the pan. Place over medium heat… REALLY important, never go all crazy with the high heat, you’ll burn the cheese and it will just be all icky! Patience is key and really it doesn’t take long anyway.  So medium heat.  Add your shaved cheeses to the pan along with the dry white wine and start melting. As the cheese melts it is important to stirr, this is the most labor intensive part, but stick with the figure 8 and you’re good to go. When the cheese is melty, add the Kirchwasser and corn starch and lemon mixture  then keep stirring till you have a nice creamy consistency.  Once this is done it is ready to serve, really takes less than 10 minutes… once on table, it is everyone’s job to keep stirring as they dip, and don’t forget to not drop the bread in the bowl!!!  ha! TADA  it’s done!

Want to see what happens when you use this recipe:

That’s right… it’s all GONE!  Yummmm (Some garlic cloves in there still)

So moral of the story… Fondue, I think great FUN to DO at home!!!!   Key elements.. the right cheese from your local cheese store, if you’re in SoFlo The Cheese Course have the experts on the right cheese combos for fondue. The right pot, a Caquelon is the way to go. A great bottle of wine or champagne which you may also pick up at our local Cheese Course, and of course amazing company! (feel free to invite me over)

Tons of stuff coming up in the next few weeks, as I discovered a treasure of yummy things at The Cheese course I’ll probably be using a lot of products from there… oh and I found my favourite Mozzarella, Annabella Creamery Buffalo Mozzarella at every The Cheese Course location.  YUM!

By  Dickson Bueno – Cre8tiv Dish

Learn more about Caroline at www.qualitycheese.net
Learn more about The Cheese course at www.thecheesecourse.com
Learn more about Annabella Creamery at www.annabellacreamery.com
Learn about my work at www.DicksonBueno.net
Follow my personal blogg at http://dicksonbueno.wordpress.com/

 

 

22 Dec
2011

What’s a Holiday without CHEESE?

At The Cheese Course, Holidays are a special time to feature what we love the most…..CHEESE! We take pride in bringing over 150 artisanal cheeses from dairy farms all over the world, to all of our 5 South Florida locations. One of our favorite cheese makers is Annabella Creamery which producers buffalo mozzarella made with natural 100 % water buffalo milk. If you are looking to add a yummy dish to your holiday dinner table, take a peek at this delicious recipe featured in Cheese Connoisseur’s December issue.

STUFFED MARINATED MUSHROOMS

 

MARINADE
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
6 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

STUFFING
6 oz Fresh Annabella Buffalo Mozzarella, shredded or diced small
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

1. Whisk oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic clove in small bowl to
make marinade.
2. Using a spoon, scrape out gills from mushrooms and place
mushrooms on rimmed baking sheet. Brush marinade over both sides
of mushrooms, arrange hollow side up, and let stand at room
temperature 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350° F.
4. Mix Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, shallot, thyme, oregano
and garlic in medium bowl. Spread on mushrooms, leaving 1/2-inch
border around edges.
5. Combine panko, melted butter and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle
evenly on mushrooms. Bake until cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
Finish under the broiler if not yet browned.

*If you are interested in other recipes from Annabella Creamery click on the link below:

http://annabellacheese.com/upload/category/recipes/

 

Happy Holidays from your friends at The Cheese Course

19 Oct
2011

October is Cheese and Beer Month at TCC

Beer has long been one of the most food-friendly beverages on the planet. Its versatility in cooking is unmatched, even by wine. Thanks to the great variety of beer styles out there – which can be influcened by culture, geography, and terroir — beer can be paired with food in ways that create great subtlety or a bombast of flavor. And much like the great artisanal cheeses of the world, beer is a craft product that can be deep and rewarding to explore.

It’s in that spirit that The Cheese Course is offering a series of cheese and beer pairing classes this week. At each class, you’ll learn about the varying styles of beer and how they are created. You’ll discover the nuances of styles such as India Pale Ales and Belgian Tripels, and you’ll get to taste them alongside some truly stunning cheeses such as Cypress Grove Chevre’s Humboldt Fog and Cowgirl Creamery’s Mount Tam. Best of all, since this month’s focus is on amazing American cheeses, we’ve invited some of the finest American craft beer producers to participate, including Rogue Ales from Portland, Oregon and Cigar City Brewing from right here in Tampa, Florida. The classes cost just $10, and include five, four-ounce beer samples and eight different cheeses to pair with. For more details, refer to the class schedule below:

*Weston Location (1679 Market St., Weston, 33326), Wednesday 10/19 at 6 p.m.

*Gulfstream Location (601 Silks Run, # 1480, Hallandale, 33009), Thursday 10/20 at 7 p.m.

*Coral Springs Location (2866 N. University Dr., Coral Springs, 33065), Thursday 10/20 at 6 p.m.

*Boca Raton Mizer Park Location (305 Plaza Real, # 1305, Boca Raton, 33432), Friday 10/21 at 6 p.m.

Cheers!

~John Linn

Baron of Beer Happenings

Cheese and Coffee?

Hello fellow cheese lovers, I’m Matt- your friendly neighborhood cheesemonger. Today I would like to share with you an awesome experience I partook of last week; a cheese and coffee pairing class. Now, before you question coffee as a pairing companion (as I did at first), trust me that cheese can be paired with virtually anything! The class I shared with around 15 others was led by Giorgio Milos, a Master Barista from Italy who works with illy, a well known purveyor of fine coffee, espresso, and tea. At the class, Giorgio explained the difference between mainstream American baristas and those select few who have earned the title of “Master”; and let me tell you, as an espresso veteran the difference is worlds apart. We were treated with beautiful drinkable art in a cup. Some received hearts, while others were given leaves. I received a beautiful twist of lines resembling the waves of the ocean.

The cheeses provided, of course, by The Cheese Course of Coral Springs, paired beautifully with the cappuccino and espresso we were served. Five different selections danced across our pallets both on their own and with the wonderful coffee drinks. We were treated with Chevre from the U.S. , Essex Street Comte from France, Cypress Grove Midnight Moon from the U.S. (via Holland), L’Amuse Two Year Aged Gouda from Holland, and last but not least, Valdeon from Spain. My personal favorite pairing was the Chevre (a fresh goat’s cheese) with the cappuccino, but many others enjoyed the Midnight Moon (a semi-hard goat Gouda style cheese). We all also agreed the L’Amuse (a hard cow’s milk cheese) paired beautifully with the espresso. All in all, it was a wonderful experience to share with all the amazing people I met and mingled with over cheese and coffee. Until next time, cheese lovers, remember to always keep an open mind to new cheese experiences.

-Matt S.