"Something Old; Something New; Something Stinky and Something Blue"

The Lady has been back from her trip to New York and Murray’s Cheese Boot Camp for a few days and has been especially attentive; she knows I am annoyed; I know she knows I am annoyed… which I, of course, use to my advantage.

The Lady explained that Murray’s is yet another one of those “No Pets Allowed” places…” we gotta keep those pesky dogs and cats away from where we sell and serve food”… I am more than willing to put my personal cleaning habits up against any humankind, any day of the week. Unlike many, maybe even most, humankinds, this Feline Foodie is fastidious when it comes to cleanliness… in my not-so-humble opinion, there are far more humankinds who shouldn’t be allowed inside food establishments than cats… as for dogs, there are so many other reasons to ban them… but I will save that argument for another day.

Since The Lady started her new cheese adventure, she has been traveling a lot and always comes home smelling of cheeses… lots of cheeses… ones of which I can only dream. At least while she’s away, I have The Man”Servant” at my beck and call. He is one easy dude to get to do most everything I wish… but I digress.

The Lady returned with wonderful tales of the cheeses in the cases at Murray’s and the cheeses she tasted during boot camp; a total of seventy-five plus many wines and several beers… as mentioned (numerous times), she gets the glory; while I do the heavy-lifting…

She took a photo of the cheese plate that followed the tour of Murray’s Cheese Caves… be still my heart… caves filled with cheese…

Affinage is the specialized art of aging cheese. The affineur finds the best sources for cheese and then nurtures them to their optimum ripeness for the best flavor of the cheese. This includes brushing, washing, bathing and turning to promote everything good in the cheese and keep the bad “stuff” out.

Brian, Murray’s resident affineur, led the class on a tour of the caves which Conde Nast Traveler named one of the 50 Coolest Places to be in the world. After the tour, he served a cheese plate that reflected the many talents involved in being a successful affineur.

The plate started with two wedges of Haystack Peak, a soft-ripened cheese produced by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Colorado. (A detailed review will be posted soon.) The first wedge of this cheese was new and the second was aged about two weeks. While both were delicious, the aging made a good cheese only better.

Next on the plate were two wedges of Petite Frères, from one of our favorites, Wisconsin’s Crave Brothers. The first wedge was “as produced” by the Brothers, a wonderful small wheel of a fruity, earthy washed rind semi-soft cow milk cheese. The second wedge had been washed by Brian in a local brewery ale. Brian was experimenting with a new wash and the improvement to the cheese was amazing.

St. Nectaire, a French cheese from the Auvergne region of Central France was the next cheese up on the plate. This is an AOC –protected cheese. This is a washed-rind Tomme-style cheese that is shipped at the age of two weeks to the affineur for another six weeks of aging before the dense paste reaches perfection and is ready for the consumer. We will be reviewing this cheese in the next few days.

Up next were two versions of Cabot Creamery’s Aged Cheddar. The first was a creamy wedge of their cheddar that is shipped in cryovac to grocery stores national-wide. A very respectable wedge of cheese; one that appeared at the Burbank manse more than once. This is what The Lady and I like to call “an everyday cheese” – one that is respectable in its taste profile and inexpensive enough to have available for everyday use.

The second version from Cabot was their Clothbound Cheddar which is aged by the Cellars at Jasper Hills in Vermont.  With absolutely no disrespect to cryovac cheddars, once you’ve had a clothbound cheddar, you’ll never go back.

Following the cheddars was a wedge of Black River Blue; an award-winning blue cheese from Wisconsin. A milder blue that is slightly softer than butter and easily spreadable on a baguette for “everyday” enjoyment. Black River Gorgonzola is one of the “everyday” cheeses you can find around the manse.

The final cheese on the plate was Bayley Hazen Blue from the Kehler Brothers of Jasper Hills Farm in the northeast kingdom of Vermont. This is a cheese I have been dying to taste and thankfully, The Lady shipped a wedge home in her luggage for The Man and moi to taste and enjoy.  A review of this cheese will follow this Cheese Plate posting… but let’s just say, I’ll be using all my paws…

The Lady thanks Brian for leading the boot camp on a tour of the caves and if you would like to tour the caves, Murray’s Cheese offers tours of the cave along with many other great, cheesy classes at its Greenwich Village location. Check out their array of classes here.

With the Royal wedding looming on April 29th, The Lady decided to create a Cheese Plate for the Prince and his Princess-to-be… and for your own Royal Wedding Party on April 29th while watching the festivities live via cable and satellite. The Lady expanded the cheese plate to accommodate the guest list, in the event the Royal Family decides to follow her choices. For a more intimate event in your own living room, you might want to choose only 4 or 5 cheeses.

Most of these cheeses are available through Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. In Portland, Oregon, we suggest you contact the fine folks at The Cheese Bar in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. In Seattle, we recommend Calf and Kid Artisan Cheese Shop on Capitol Hill or in the Ballard neighborhood Savour Specialty Foods. In Manhattan, visit Murray’s for most of these cheeses. You can also order cheese online from Murray’s.

The first group are cheeses I recommend but have not as yet reviewed.

Anne and Andy Wigmore’s Waterloo – Buttery at the edges with a fresher, lactic center. Oozes near the rind and becomes firmer at the center. Made with raw Guernsey cow’s milk and vegetable rennet. This cheese is made on the Duke of Wellington’s Estate in Riseley by Village Maid Cheese.

Charlie Westhead and Haydn Roberts’ Finn – Made with unpasteurized cow’s milk. Fresh and creamy with a rich double cream texture. Mushroom flavor develops as this cheese ripens. This cheese is named after the cheesemaker’s dog.

Greenacres Farm’s Golden CrossMade using raw goat’s milk and vegetable rennet. Velvety texture; goaty and citric with a sweet finish. This cheese is similar to St. Maure, which The Lady sells at her kiosk.

Laurel Farm’s Stinking Bishop – Pasteurized cow’s milk and vegetable rennet. It has a pungent smell with a gentle and subtle tasting paste. This cheese can ooze or run with age. This cheese was inspired by a cheese made by Cistercian monks in the English Village of Dymock. Although this cheese is indeed stinky, the name comes from variety of pears used to make the Perry solution used to wash the cheese.

Berkswell – Made with raw sheeps milk and traditional animal rennet. This cheese is rich, sweet and nutty with a pineapple finish. The texture can be grainy and depending on age, it can range from soft and moist to quite firm and drier.

The following group of cheeses for your Royal wedding Cheese Plate are all recommended and I have reviewed them. Click on any of them for my thoughts.

Appleby’s Raw Milk Cheshire from Neal’s Yard

Ford Farm’s Coastal Cheddar

Lincolnshire Poacher

Ford Farm’s Dorset Red

Shropshire Blue

Stichelton Blue

The Lady, The Man and I have our own Royal Wedding Party planned for the wee hours of April 29… along with a few hundred million others who will attend the festivities in their jammies in front of the tellie… to use an English term…

May the Prince and the new Princess be as happy as The Lady and The Man…

Updated June 5, 2011

Thank goodness; the cheese folks are getting into apps… it’s about time… something that The Lady has wanted for use on the floor at the cheesemines when someone asks about a cheese she doesn’t carry or knows too little of… now she can check one of these apps and it’s all there:

Janet Fletcher released Cheese Plate app earlier this year. This app presents 25 cheese plates personally designed by the two-time winner of the James Beard Award and writer for  the San Francisco Chronicle.

You can purchase Cheese Plate at iTunes for $4.99.

In addition to her cheese app, Janet has written or co-authored 18 books including Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing and Enjoying. This was the first cheese book The Lady ever bought.

She is also the author of The Cheese Course and Eating Local. Both available at amazon.

The second cheese app available is Fromage from Steve Welch which features more than 750 cheeses with pictures and complete profiles and food and wine pairing for each one. You can even add your own cheese favorites with pictures and store them in the app.

This app is a steal at $2.99. Also available at iTunes.


June 5, 2011 Update:

Max Allen and Will Studd have developed a Cheese and Wine Pairing App for the iPhone and iPad. Max and Will have been eating cheese and drinking wine and writing about their adventures for more than a decade.

This app is another steal at $2.49 and you can purchase it by clicking here.

iPhone Screenshot 2

If you find more cheese app, please comment below or send me an email at spauldingthecheesemonger  (@) gmail.com and I will add them to the list.

Whole Foods’ Cheese Plate

February 17, 2011

The Lady and The Man stopped in the local Whole Foods to buy some White Truffle Oil and while there, The Lady couldn’t resist checking out the cheese counter. Whole Foods carries many cheeses that The Lady doesn’t carry at her kiosk. She went through the small morsel basket and came up with six small pieces she used to make up a Valentine’s Day Cheese Plate:

Before I begin, let me express a bit of disappointment that two of the pieces had mold under the label side although the dates were well in the distance. We all realize this can happen, but when cheeses are in the $10-$40 a pound range, you’d prefer to know they are freshly wrapped. Also, a couple of the pieces were on the dry side which also indicated more age than the label dates indicated… The Lady simply trimmed the mold away; but had these been larger sizes, she would have returned them. Do NOT hesitate to return cheese to your cheesemonger when you feel its quality is lacking in any manner…

Now for the cheeses we sampled:

Boschetto al Tartufo Il Forteto Coop: this semi-soft cheese from Italy is a mixed-milk cheese using cow and sheep milk and added to it are black truffles. The cheese is both sweet and savory with just a touch of salt. The truffles add a pleasant earthy and garlicky flavor. Neither the cheese nor the truffles over-powered the other and actually were complimentary. The Man was quite taken with this cheese, although he didn’t swoon… ($38.99 a pound)

Next on the plate was Cypress Grove’s Lambchopper: A sheep’s milk Gouda made in Europe exclusively for Mary Keehn’s Cypress Grove. In keeping with Mary’s sense of humor, her website states that this cheese is “Born to be mild”. This was the favorite of the three of us, particularly The Man who actually did swoon while eating this sample. The Lady had to go through the “Sharing is a Virtue” drill… This cheese was sweet and tangy and although mild, the sweetness lingers. This is a cheese that The Lady calls “Kid-friendly”. And it is Vegetarian suitable. ($27.99 a pound)

Tumalo Farm’s Rimrocker: Named after the rocky cliffs that surround Tumalo Farms, this semi-hard cheese is a mixture of organic cow’s milk from a neighboring farm and Tumalo’s own farmstead goats’ milk. As it ages, the flavor becomes more full-bodied. The piece we sampled was a little drier than we felt it should be and The Lady plans to buy another piece at another WF and taste it again before making a final decision on that issue. The flavor was mild with just the right touch of goat tang. ($21.99 a pound)

Leyden with Cumin from Best Uniekaas: Leyden in a Dutch Gouda seasoned with cumin and caraway seeds. In Holland it is called “komijnekaas” which means cumin cheese but due to its popularity in the region around Leiden, it is exported as Leyden. This was our least favorite; none of us cared for the cumin flavor in the cheese even though we love cumin in Mexican dishes… ($12.99 a pound)

Cordobes Mitica: A Merino Sheep milk cheese imported exclusively from Spain for Whole Foods by Mitica. This cheese is similar in taste and texture to Manchego which is a favorite around the manse. Again, this piece was a little drier than we like but the flavor wasn’t diminished by the dryness and with Vintner’s Kitchen’s Port Cherry Marmalade, the taste sensations were delightful. One thought about the Port Cherry Marmalade; a little less liquid would be better. The taste, however, was perfect; just tart enough and just sweet enough. ($16.99 a pound)

Reggianito Argentina from Provvista: The last sample was Parmesan from Argentina. Reggianito, which means “small Reggiano”, is a hard cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano and was first made in this South American country by the Italian immigrants who missed the parms of their homeland. This cheese is produced in smaller wheels rather than the huge wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is aged 5-6 months and generally used in cooking or grated on pasta dishes. However, serving it at room temperature and as the last cheese of the plate was a perfect end to our cheese plate. The Man topped this cheese with a little dollop of Vintner’s Kitchen’s Raspberry Mimosa Gelee and then he swooned… ($9.99 a pound)

It’s actually hard to rate this cheese plate when the quality (due to post-cheesemaker care) of a couple of the cheeses is in question… but I’ll go with 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). However, I have to give the Cypress Grove Lambchopper 4 Paws out of 4 Paws…

Like most cheesemongers we had a cheese drawer in the fridge (recently, we “upgraded” to our own mini-fridge just for cheese) filled with various cheeses that are acquired through samples sent our way and cheeses The Lady buys to taste and get to know. She also visits cheese shops and combs through their markdown baskets* looking for gems at bargain prices. As a result, she can put together a respectable cheese plate most any evening or throw together a yummy mac n cheese or au gratin when the fancy strikes.

However, we also keep a staple of cheeses on hand that The Lady calls her “everyday” cheeses. With these cheeses, you are never at a loss regarding lunch or a snack.  The two criteria in choosing “everyday” cheeses are: accessible taste-wise and cheeses that won’t kill the budget.

These are the cheeses you will find in “my” fridge everyday of the week:

Cheddar. This is a “universal donor” cheese; you can never go wrong with this cheese and it pretty much goes with anything: fruits, nuts, on sandwiches and for snacking. My personal favorite is from the local Tillamook Co-Op: 2-year Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar. This is a full-flavored cheddar. If you want something milder, go with a medium sharp cheddar. You’re looking at under $5.00 a pound and if you’re a member of Costco or another Club Store, the price will be even lower. (This cheese may have been discontinued by Tillamook – still awaiting confirmation… what a travesty for the cheese world, if true… will advise…)

Swiss. Another must-have cheese in the house. For kids, Jarlsberg is almost always a winner and again the price is right. You can move up to a cave-aged Swiss but the price will rise considerably.

Gouda. Aged Goudas are among the best hard cheeses in the world and many of them are quite affordable. You can also find smoked Gouda and young Gouda for a very fair price and again, Gouda can be used in so many ways.

Parmesan. If you enjoy making pasta dishes, then you have to keep a Parm in the house and a couple of the domestic Parms can go toe-to-toe with the Italian greats and when it comes to price, hands down domestic is the way to go. BelGioioso’s American Grana is a terrific Parm as is Sartori’s SarVecchio. Both are multiple award-winning cheeses and often half the price of Parmigiano-Reggiano. And don’t ever forget Parrano, the Dutch Gouda that thinks it’s parmesan; this is another of the great cheeses that we always have on hand…

Blue Cheese. The last cheese you want to keep around the house, especially if you are into making salads, is a quality blue cheese. Wisconsin’s Black River Blue and Gorgonzola cheeses are high quality without the high cost. You can buy Black River for under $10 a pound and it has a nice shelf life.

Alpine-Style Cheese. A new addition to the “everyday” “must-carry” cheese around the manse. Gruyere and Comte are the most popular in this category. You may recall The Lady went to Wisconsin as a guest of The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and made Gran Cru Gruyere at the Roth Kase plant in Monroe.

To maximize your cheese’s life, wrap in waxed paper and place inside a zipper-style bag, leaving a bit of the zipper open. Cheese is living and needs to breathe. If the cheese develops mold, slice it off. While you don’t want to eat the mold, the mold doesn’t hurt the taste or quality of the cheese. We joke about knowing when blue cheese has gone bad… not to worry… you’ll know. If it doesn’t smell and taste “right”; then it’s probably time to toss it. But most cheeses, when wrapped properly, can live and thrive in your fridge for weeks or even months with harder and low-moisture cheeses, assuming you don’t eat them quickly.

*Most cheese departments have baskets where they put cheese that has a close-to-expiring selling date. Most cheeses have long shelf lives (brie and triple creams being exceptions) and many get better with age. These baskets are a great place to find cheeses to make up a very proper cheese plate. At The Lady’s cheese island, the cheeses will be marked half price; you can’t beat the bargain price for specialty cheeses. Also, many cheese shops, including The Lady’s Kiosk, have baskets of small morsels of cheese – usually under $3.00 each – great way to try specialty cheese without taking out a loan…

For more information regarding the types of cheese made, please check out Cheese 101: The Eight Faces of Cheese.

(Stay Tuned: we are only 6 posts and pages away from our 500th post here (doesn’t include our sister recipe blog, cheesemonger recipes). We have big plans for 500!!)