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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Brie

Brie. What is it? More importantly, what is that rubbish in the cheese case at the supermarket, and why is that not Brie?

This post has been kicking my butt. Brie is just such a loaded cheese. The problem is that what the cheese really is, and what we see here in America are so completely different from one another. The first clue you have letting you know if you have Brie, or an impostor is the milk. Brie is traditionally a raw cow's milk cheese. It is aged for a few weeks if it's Brie de Meaux or up to ten if it's Brie de Melun. Essentially that means you can't get Brie in the U.S. Yup, everything that you've been eating, everything packaged as Brie is not actually Brie. Never fear, there are good pasteurized versions of Brie, and then there's...well...

There's this. This is not Brie. I don't even think it's really cheese. I doubt it has the 50-60% butterfat content that you'd find in a Brie. Brie does not come in a log. It does not come in a paper tube. It is not a cylinder. On the packaging it claims that it's the perfect shape for crackers, implying that somehow Brie is very difficult to get onto a cracker. If you are having difficulty cutting a soft cheese and putting it onto a cracker please go see your doctor you might have carpal tunnel. Or more likely, you should be committed.


A few months ago I saw it at the supermarket by my house and took a few pictures before someone asked me what I was doing. How lazy have we become that we need our cheese to be formed for us? Have we as a nation really gotten this apathetic towards our food?


So, we can spot an obvious Brie impostor, but what about those subtle ones? They have a white bloomy rind and straw colored paste similar to Brie. And they smell like...well, what do they smell like? Most smell like nothing.

Brie like all good cheeses has a smell. This can be tricky though. A slight ammoniated, smell isn't all that bad when you talk about Brie. In fact, more often than not you will get that smell with a new wheel. Really you have to know when the Mr. Clean smell is too much, and when it's alright. When the Fromage de Meaux comes into the shop we always take a sniff. If the ammonia smell gets into my throat I know we should refuse it. It's not going to get better.

If the cheese has an ammoniated smell, taste it first. Try the paste alone, and then with the rind and let it sit out of refrigeration, unwrapped for 20 minutes to think about what it wants to do. After 20 minutes has passed, smell it and taste it again. If it's really strong in the nose, and on the palate, wrap your cheese up, and go back to the store you bought it from telling them that they sold you unfortunate cheese. A respectable merchant will make things right. If they don't, well, maybe you need to shop somewhere else.

If, on the other hand you bought some Brie-style cheese, on Monday for a party you're having on Saturday and it tastes awful Saturday morning, that isn't necessarily the merchant's fault. Brie like it's cousins, Camembert, Explorateur, and other double and triple creme cheeses is one of those cheeses that should be eaten shortly after it's been cut. She is a sponge. She wants to absorb all the lovely smells and flavors of your ice box. She wants to go bad. Don't let her If you have determined that the rind is bad, but the paste is still good, do something with it. You could take the paste and make a tasty sandwich. You could even melt it into a sauce for soup. There are a lot of things you can do so you're not throwing out money.

Texturally, the stuff in the supermarket probably won't do much as far as turning into a soft gooey yummy cheese. Think of Brie-style cheeses like butter. You don't want some hard non-yielding piece to spread on your cracker, but you don't want it a puddled goo that you dip into. Brie-style cheese should be in the middle. Yielding to the touch, and when room temp soft, spreadable, delicious.

Enough of my chatter. Let's look at some cheese.


Which of these three cheeses is Brie?


Many people that come into the shop mistake this for Brie. This is Fromage d'Affinois. A double creme, bloomy rind hunk of butter. This is the mildest cheese. It tastes, cuts, and spreads like butter. Slightly salted butter. When I give people a taste of this, and of the Fromage de Meaux they almost always pick this one and say that it tastes more like Brie. For me it doesn't look like Brie, and it sure as heck doesn't taste like it. That being said, this is a good cheese for people just starting their cheese adventures. Mild, unassuming, easy to get along with.


Is this Brie? No, this is l'Edel de Cleron. Remember the Winnie that I love so much? That cheese is modeled after the French Mont d'Or (AOC controlled). l'Edel de Cleron is the gentle pasteurized version of Mont d'Or. When ripe, this cheese has a lot of the same textural similarities to Mont d'Or, but shares more of the woodsy, mushroomy, earthy flavors of Brie. A perfectly acceptable replacement for Brie, and a pretty tasty cheese all on its own.


So this must be the Brie right? Technically speaking, no. If this hadn't been pasteurized we would call it Brie de Meaux. Since it has been pasteurized to make it appropriate for shipping to the U.S., it's Fromage de Meaux. Now, the man who sends us this cheese keeps it in the caves with the authentic Brie, so it does have more flavor than most. But it's just not the same.


So then, what's the answer? The smart ass answer is for you to develop a good rapport with your landlord so she doesn't mind when you're a bit late with the rent because you just had to go abroad and eat cheese.

You could also just not buy already wrapped cheese in the cheese island near the deli at your supermarket. Ask if you can taste things before you buy cheese. Trust the cheesemonger. Taste more, because every wheel of cheese, every single batch is different. And don't ever ever ever buy a log of Brie.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last bit from London

At the end of my trip, on the eve of my departure I had a cheese feast! No bread, but some very interesting charcoal crackers to round things out, and the last of a bottle of chardonnay I'd picked up at the supermarket around the corner from the hotel.

Brie de Melun was a great start to a cheesy supper.


Berkswell. This is one of my most favorite of all British cheeses. We haven't had it in the shop for quite a while, but I promise to talk about it more in a later post Promise.


This was my "Oh my God I can't believe I have to fly for 8 hours and be awake the whole time and I can't take a pill* to calm me down because I really hate to fly, but thank the Lord I've got some cheese" cheese.


And of course I had some St. Tola. This cheese did not make it onto the plane. It barely made it onto the tube.


The trick to not getting jet lag coming back is to stay awake the entire time. You're body will hate you, but you'll be awake to see awesome scenery. We were flying over Nova Scotia, and I thought it looked beautiful. If you squint, it almost looks like you're in outer space.



If you haven't seen it yet, I advise you to take a look here. This is a great article about one of my favorite American cheeses.

*Yes, they're prescribed by my doctor. I'm not a great flier-yet. I've only been flying for twenty years. Give it some time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Neal's Yard Dairy Pt. 2

So who or what exactly is Neal's Yard Dairy, and why did I get so excited about going? In the shop I work at we list the cheese, where it's from, and the milk. We then describe the flavors you might get from the cheese. NYD names where the cheese is from, and the milk and rennet, but the first thing they mention is the name of the maker. They've developed this intimate relationship with the cheesemakers in a few ways.

The people at NYD go to the farms to taste and select the cheeses. Then the load them on their vans, and drive them back to London headquarters. They also work with the cheesemakers. Right now there's a young man working on cheese with the help of NYD. In a few years if he ever writes any of his recipes down he could become a cheesemaker of some reckoning. The folks at NYD also have an awesome and intense amount of quality control. Cheeses are tested for nasty bacteria religiously. My sadness at knowing one of my favorite washed rind cheeses wasn't going to be sold for some time was lifted when Lucy told me that they were working with the cheesemaker to get her product 100% again. At the end of the day, yes they are a business, but with such attention to detail, to their farmers, and to the environment (their creamery uses wind power for electricity, and filters their waste water) they're one of the good guys.

This was my favorite cheese that I tasted while abroad. At least my favorite of the cheeses I'd never tried before. Just the right amount of tang. Creamy, crumbly, chalky and just delicious. When I came back to work one of my co-workers told me that he'd met the maker a few weeks prior. I tried to recall where I was that day, why didn't I meet her? Was I hiding? Was she? Unfortunately I was working at the "wrong store" that day. CURSES!


Yes dear reader I developed a small crush on an orange cheese. I couldn't help it. It was sooo good. I even managed to get it on the plane. I think we were over Ireland when I couldn't stand it anymore and ate it. *This cheese would be a ridiculously good match for apple pie, instead of the Cheddar usually used.


What's this? I believe it is yet another soft-ripened unpasteurized cheese that we can't get in the U.S. I have to be honest and tell you that although I ate an immense amount of cheese most of it in a 24 hour period because I'm a little cheese piggy that not once did I feel sick, or ill. Ridiculously full? Yes, but not sick. I do not understand why our laws governing cheese are so stringent, but genetically modified food is ok. Sometimes I think I should just pack up my bags and move to France. And eat cheese. And have a goat named Marie.



This cheese was written about in the second issue of Culture the word on cheese. One of the reasons this cheese is making a comeback is because of Neal's Yard Dairy. When Randolph Hodgson the head cheese, advises you to do something to your cheese like age it for two months before selling it, you listen. If you follow their advice, you end up with a cheese that started it's history as a coal miners lunch staple and ends as something that people will pay handsomely for.



Oh yeah, they make their own cheese at their creamery. NYD does it all.




*I can't believe you don't know about apple pie and Cheddar. In New England you can have your pie either a la mode, or with Cheddar. It's obscene in all the tastiest ways. Lately I've been missing New England a lot and thinking about apple pie and Cheddar isn't helping.

This has nothing to do with London

I just found this video made about a great co-op in MN called The Wedge. The contest is closed now, but you should go and see if your favorite co-op was represented, or discover a new market you didn't know about.



I love their enthusiasm, and the dulcet tones of a Casio keyboard.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Neal's Yard Dairy Pt. 1

So, when I was trying to decide where to go on vacation I'd narrowed it down a bit If I stayed in the states it was going to be Oregon or Vermont. Abroad the choices had been narrowed down to London, and Frankfurt. I was having a hard time choosing. Then it hit me. Neal's Yard Dairy is in London. At that is how with one week's notice I flew to London by myself to eat some cheese.

I have to give thanks to my cheese buyer and friend Cesar for harassing Jason, Jason, the NYD liaison to the store I work at, and most importantly Lucy who took time out of her day to show me around. Lucy is genuinely nice and perky. She has tons of knowledge, obviously loves her job, is enthusiastic, and I had a great time chatting with her. Oh and Cesar, I'm not giving you Cocoa. You did this out of the goodness of your heart and don't need anything other than my gratitude.

No, this is not an old style shower for dirty customers and mongers. It's a humidifier for the shop. As soon as you walk in, you get hit in the face with the milky, slightly sour warm notes of cheese. This is a house of dairy. I was so freaking excited to be here. To the right of the shower are wheels of Stichelton to the left...


This was the first thing I saw when I came into the shop. A wall of Montgomery's English Farmhouse Cheddar. This is a phenomenal cheese. A big daddy. A wild cheese. She is big and brash and grassy, and salty. Chewy, milky, fruity, creamy and assertive. This cheese has been made by the Montgomery family for three generations, almost 100 years. About 10-15 wheels are made each day. With such a limited production, I can only advise you that if you are given the opportunity to try the cheese here in the states, please do so. Your tummy will thank you.

Here we are in one of the aging rooms. This was my one of my favorite parts of the tour. Ardrahan. Lovely washed rind, stinky, creamy, gooey, lactic, sort of smoked bacony, Irish countryside smelling Ardrahan. In fact, I got to try all the big stinky Irish cheeses. You all know how I love a stinker, so I was in heaven.

Finally tasting all these cheeses was a bit like meeting a celebrity. In the inaugural issue of Culture the word on cheese they did a spread on Irish cheeses, and here I was getting to taste them. Milleens is the cheese that started the rebirth of Irish cheesemaking back in 1976. It started because Norman and Veronica Steele wanted to preserve some of their milk, then Veronica thought that cheesemaking could be a great idea for the smaller farms. A few cheese experiments later and you have Milleens. The cheese world wouldn't exist without people like the Steeles. Brave experimentation is, in my opinion the heart of the cheese industry. Without it...I shudder to think.

The one commonality of all the Irish cheeses I tasted, is grass. All of these cheeses have an underlying pasture quality to them. I could imagine happy cows munching their hearts out on lush pastures while wafts of sea air swirl in the clover. Romantic? Melodramatic? Sure. But I really could taste that. It made me want to go to Ireland. Seriously. I'm thinking my next trip abroad might have to be Ireland. County Cork. To taste cheese. Mmmmm...Irish cheese.

So remember my post about orange cheese? Well, this cheese is the exception to my anti-orange rule. This cheese is Leicester and she is lovely. The best way to describe her is warm. She tasted like warm cheese. Like you'd just made a grilled cheese and were enjoying the molten center. Or perhaps you'd made a casserole and grated some of this on top. I did still get a bit of the red pepper smell, but hardly any of the flavor. This cheese made me happy. Happy enough to buy a smidgen of it and have it for dinner that night.



These carts are filled with cheeses for the wholesale fulfillment department of Neal's Yard.


Who are the magical cheese people that make up the NYD staff? Well, here are a few.

Starting on the left we have Michael Jones, manager of the Borough store. Next up is Martin Tkalez, manager of the Covent Garden shop, and Lucy Moylan, cheesemistress extraordinaire. That big pile of cheese is all of the hard cheeses that Michael had picked out for the store from their caves for the Borough shop. He reckoned that it would last a few weeks. I know that the big mound of cheese is cut off, I was laughing too hard to get a good shot of the group and the cheese. Really I was just looking at cute boys because I had turned into a 15 year old giggling schoolgirl for a few minutes that day.

I know it may look funny, but Martin is not giving himself a tummy rubble, he's using a brush to clean off the apron. Although, it does make me smile to think of people giving themselves a tummy rubble at the end of the work day. Maybe I'll try it when I leave work today.

There will probably be at least one more NYD post coming in the next few days. After all, I've hardly touched on who they are, what they do, and how it translates into being one of the most respected businesses in the cheese world.

This is my favorite picture of my whole trip. I have no idea how I got it. I couldn't get a shot this awesome ever again. But man, this is pretty.

I think that the photography Gods were just with me that day. The weather Gods also smiled on me during my trip. Only half a day during my trip was overcast, and no rain. Not a drop.

Friday, May 15, 2009

London Trip pt. 2-La Fromagerie and Paxton and Witfield

Okay, so here's the thing, as much as I love and adore cheese, the heart of my job, of any cheesemongers job is customer service. I have to draw the customer in. If I'm not excited about a cheese, how can I possibly get someone else psyched up to taste and ultimately buy?

The people in the cheese room at La Fromagerie need to learn this. La Fromagerie is a great shop. They have a wine tasting area, a little nook where they sell lunch and afternoon tea. They have incredible dry goods, and the cutest little goat figurines you ever did see.

And of course, they have a cheese room. This is a separate cold room where all of their cheese is kept. You are allowed to take a photo, but only if there's a person in it. I had one taken with me in it, but I don't photograph well, so you don't get to see it na na na na boo boo.

This was my second stop of what I affectionately called "Cheese Monday". I was super excited and energized after my Neal's Yard Dairy tour. I went into the shop, and gave the guy my story. I told him that I was a cheesemonger in Chicago. I told him that I wanted to try raw cheeses that are too young to be shipped to the U.S.A. Then I made a mistake. I asked him what cheese was going to excite my taste buds. What followed was one of the most teeth pulling, soul crushing, cheese and customer neglecting experiences ever.

Me: "What's great on your shelves?"

Him: " I don't know. What do you like?"

Me: "I'm looking for raw soft ripened cheeses that we can't get in the States. Anything younger than 60 days. I'd also love any recommendations you have. What's one of your favorite cheeses in the room right now? What do you have that's perfectly ripe and ready to go?"

Him: "...."

Me: "Like maybe this one here. What do you think about this one?"

Him: "It's okay"

Me: "Well, maybe you could point me in the direction of something that's really got you excited."

Him: "I don't know what you like."

Me: "Um...raw soft ripened cheeses aged for less than 60 days that we can't get in the States, and any other suggestions you might have."

Him: "Why don't you tell me what you want to try."

Me: "Why are you such a bad man? Why can't you get excited about your chosen profession? Why don't you have any cheese knowledge or if you do, why won't you share it? What is your damage and why do you work here? You sir, are a stupid doody head!"

In the interest of being honest, I didn't say that. I thought it. But I didn't actually say it. For the next ten minutes I forced "Mr. I hate my job" into tasting out cheeses for me. The only time he made a comment was when I tried the Ticklemore he said that he likes that cheese with a quince paste, and when I tried a fresh goat cheese I liked he mentioned that he did as well. That was it. I spent 99 pence on a sliver of Wigmore to go with a few cheeses I'd bought earlier. I went to their location on Moxon St., and had planned to go to their location in Highbury Park so I could check out their aging facilities. I was so underwhelmed by the attitude, that I just couldn't do it. I had to go to stop number three instead.

From the dispassionate staff in the cheese room at La Fromagerie we go to Paxton and Whitfield. From what I was told by the engaging, personable, lovely, knowledgeable interactive cheesemonger working the counter, this shop has been around longer than our country. For 250 years Paxton and Whitfield has been supplying the folks of the UK with cheesy goodness.

Paxton and Whitfield is on Jermyn St. This is a very ta part of town. The Ritz Carlton is a few blocks away. Buckingham palace is down the road. There is a considerable amount of money walking up and down those streets. And then there's me. Headscarf (it was windy), Kitchen clogs (they're comfy) and a peasant top. I thought I would feel out of place. I thought I wouldn't be able to afford anything. I was wrong. This shop had a lot of the same cheeses at La Fromagerie, but most of them were cheaper.

The shop is great. It's cold. No, not the staff, they are lovely I mean the actual shop is cold. It's a bit like a mini walk-in. After a while I didn't even notice, but then when I got outside my glasses fogged up. Slightly.


I tasted ten or so cheeses, but this post is about Brie de Melun. I'm not a Brie lover. Okay, let me start over. I don't like what passes for Brie in this country. It makes me angry. At best it tastes like the cardboard box that once held mushrooms. On the other side, it often has a rubbery slight Silly Putty consistency. Brie de Melun is a deliciously yummy exception. I have had this cheese twice. Once when I went to Paris, and Monday at Paxton and Whitfield.

Brie de Melun is the more artisan version of Brie de Meaux. She is big and mushroomy and earthy and slightly bitter. She is creamy and milky and lactic. This cheese has the slightest bit of citrus going on in the rind. The rind is thicker than Brie de Meaux, but not unpleasant. It is the only time I've liked Brie, and I was happy to have it be my final taste at the shop.


This is a great shop, and they've got the Royal Warrants to prove it. What's a Royal Warrant you ask?

"Royal Warrants are a mark of recognition to individuals or companies who have supplied goods or services for at least five years to HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales. Warrants have always been regarded as demonstrating excellence and quality, and are highly prized."
More Warrant information can be found here. Having a Royal Warrant is a wonderful achievement and something to be proud of. Due to rules and regulations, we common folk don't know what goods the holder of a Royal Warrant supplies to the Royal family. Let's just go out on a limb and assume that the cheese shop that's been in business for 250 years supplies them with cheese.


I've got one more shop post to talk about. That's the big daddy, Neal's Yard Dairy. That post is posing a bit of a problem for me. Lucy, my guide and the woman who picks out which wheels she sends to our shop in particular gave me a great tour. We compared notes on how we do our jobs, talked about cheese, tasted tons of it, met all sorts of people, and had a great time. I got a great behind the scenes look at one of the cheesiest places on earth.

So what's the problem? Now I have to sift. I took A LOT of pictures. Now comes the part where I have to organize, and prioritize and it's going to take a bit. My goal is to have it up on Monday, but it might just have to be a two parter.

I know that this is a cheese blog, but I just have to share a picture with you. A ten minute walk away from Paxton and Whitfield is Buckingham Palace. I walked through this lovely green serene park area, and through the Canada entrance. It's a great photo and I had to share. It didn't rain a single drop the entire time I was there. In fact, most days were sunny and glorious like this one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

London Trip pt. 1-Harrod's

This was on day two. I'd done Parliament, The Eye, and Trafalgar square. I was hungry. Where to go? I decided to walk down a few streets and see if anything caught my eye. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon an outpost of the Obika Mozzarella Bar. I've heard of it, but had never been myself. They had a fun menu full of Mozzarella, and delightful accompaniments like Proscuitto San Danielle or Parma, anchovies, olives, caperberries and other tasty treats. I was going to do a tasting of 3, but the waiter informed me that it would be too much. Instead I opted for a salad.

Cherry tomatoes (about 3/4 of a pint), baby spinach (more like adolescent spinach) and endive. I chose Burrata as my cheese. Burrata is a Mozzarella made from water buffalo milk where the center is still soft and creamy. Why is it so creamy? Well the center of the Mozzarella ball is filled with leftover strands of cheese, and cream. When you cut into it, it's soft and delicate, and lactic and salty and mmm...so good. I love Burrata. Usually.

If I haven't mentioned it before, let me do this now. Cheese should not be served cold. Ever. When people taste cheese at the shop, especially the soft cheeses I tell them to let the cheese sit in their mouth for a moment to help warm it up. Masticating a bit will also help break through the cold. This cheese was freezing. It was like they'd just taken it out of the fridge. It was colder than the sparkling water I was drinking. The presentation also took me off guard. The cheese was diced up like for an egg salad. I sat there, waiting for the chill to come off, but it was just too cold. When I left, I left disappointed. I mean, yes the service was apathetic, but to serve ice cold cheese! It boggles the mind.





These photos were all taken at Harrods. Possibly the most famous department store in the world. I went so I could take a gander at their food court. I tasted so many cheeses from their monger, Dora. She was lovely and let me taste until I couldn't taste any more. She also pointed me in the direction of the cheese shop La Fromagerie. That post's going to wait until next time.

There's Dora. Alllllll the way down there.




*WARNING! NON CHEESE TALK BELOW! HAM TALK APPROACHING*

Iberico ham is a ham made from the black Iberico pig raised in the southern parts of Spain. What makes this ham so special is that during the last part of their life, the piggies are fed on acorns which as you might imagine gives their meat a luxurious nutty almost buttery quality that you don't find in other hams. This is a cheese blog, I hope you will forgive the slight detour as I get on my soapbox.

For years Jamon Iberico was not allowed imported into the states. Then, about 18 months ago it was ok'd for import. Recently the ham has been hurt once again. the ham can still be imported, but it can't have the hoof attached. The black hoof is what marks the ham as being authentic. It's like the casein label on Comte, or the red stamp on Roquefort. It's how a customer knows they're getting the real thing. Now, our country is once again being hateful towards yummy goodness. You can read more about the ham here.


I know it's not cheese, but it just tickled me to no end that if one so desired one could purchase haggis balls at Harrods. It's even fun to say out loud.


I'll do more updates this week. The one from Neal's Yard Dairy is probably going to take a while to get together. Next up, La Fromagerie, and the 250 year old cheese shop that is cheese supplier to Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince of Wales.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm London Bound!

In 16 hours I'll be starting my journey to London.  The cheese buyer for the shop got me a bit of a tour with Lucy from Neal's Yard Dairy.  Two hours one on one with someone from the cheesiest place on Earth? Take that Disney  You bet your Berkswell I'm excited! 

I bought some cheese from the shop tonight to have for my trip tomorrow.  Then I remembered that I can't fly with soft cheese.   So I had to eat it for dinner instead.  The cheese tonight was called St. Pat and she's from Cowgirl Creamery in California.  This is a great little cheese.  Each round weighs about 1/2# or 225 g the metric system...oh yeah, I'm learning it. and is wrapped in nettle leaves.  The nettles are washed and frozen, so there's no sting left in them.

This cheese is soft and creamy like a well-ripened Camembert, but it has a lovely vegetal quality to it.  Some people describe  it as artichoke-ish, but I don't know.  To me it tastes like the sweet and sour clovers we would eat as kids when we were at camp.  Kind of grassy, tangy and slightly bitter.  This cheese is a great way to celebrate spring, or to kick off a trip to London!


This is going to be my last post for a week.  I just can't justify bringing my laptop all the way across the pond.   I know I haven't even gotten there yet, but I already can't wait to come home and share my cheese experiences with you guys.  Eat plenty of cheese while I'm gone!




Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cypress Grove

Congratulations are extended to Cypress Grove 's Mary Keehn for being one of San Francisco's 2009 Small Business Week Winners.  Cypress Grove produces Humbolt Fg.  That cheese was the catalyst for my cheesy love.  People who don't know that much about cheese know Humbolt Fog.  People who love cheese know Humbolt Fog.  ONe of the best ways to eat it is with a warm pice of homemade bread and a drizzle of good honey.  YUM!  If you want to read the whole story it's here.  This is the cheesy part:


SBA San Francisco Announces 2009 Small Business Week Winners


Last update: 6:33 p.m. EDT April 21, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO, Apr 21, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in San Francisco has announced the winners of its 2009 Small Business Week awards. They range from a Northern California cheese maker and an executive with a Berkeley non-profit that helps low-income women become entrepreneurs, to a marketing/communications specialist in San Jose. The winners - all women - will be announced May 18 in San Francisco during the kickoff of the city's annual Small Business Week celebration.
Small Business Person of the Year: Mary Keehn, owner, Cypress Grove Chevre, Arcata.
Started in 1983 in Humboldt County, Cypress Grove Chevre has put American cheese making on the national (and international) map. Mary Keehn simply wanted a healthy source of milk for her children when she started raising Alpine goats in the 1970s. She soon gained recognition as a premier breeder of Alpine dairy goats, and the owner of way too much goat milk. She headed to the kitchen and started to stir up recipes for cheese. Local chefs and restaurants bought her cheese and word spread fast about the taste and quality. Today, Cypress Grove Chevre employs 42 and has awards from the American Cheese Society, the U.S. Cheese Championship, the World Cheese Awards and the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. Two years ago, the company won the Outstanding Product Line at the 2007 International Fancy Food and Confection show in New York.
The SBA award's criteria is not only for developing an outstanding business; a business must also help make a contribution to the community. Cypress Grove has earned its reputation as a purveyor of excellent cheese by putting quality first. "We realize that quality must be evident in more than the cheese," says Keehn. "We have to have excellent milk, and that means healthy goats and family farms. By contributing to our employees and community, we make it clear that we are all motivated by the same commitment to quality of life. This award affirms that our focus is appreciated and valued by the business community as well as by our customers."
Keehn has served in leadership roles in a number of industry associations and was also the first chairman of the Humboldt Harvest, an incubator group formed to help small food businesses become successful. She also serves on the President's Advisory Board of Humboldt University.
"We're delighted we can give the award to a woman who is such a great asset to the community," says Mark Quinn, SBA's San Francisco district director whose territory covers much of Northern California. "Mary Keehn's attention to her business, her employees and the Arcata community is what made her an easy selection for our Small Business Person of the Year."
Keehn will receive the award at the Arcata Economic Development Corporation's Spotlight on Success event May 20 at the Arcata Theater Lounge.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Goat's Milk Ice Cream

Things are getting a bit nutty here in my world.  My computer is acting silly again, and I'm supposed to be going abroad in 4 days!  I thought I was being super adventurous picking a last-minute vacation like this.  Now I realize that I have a ridiculous amount of things to do, and no time.  

I'll be honest.  I haven't been eating a lot of cheese the past week or so.  I haven't been eating a lot of anything but burritos and delivery.  And caffeine.  Mmmmm espresso.

One thing I did manage to try a few days ago was this lovely ice cream.  As you well know by now, I love goat cheese.  I've got a little crush on it, and want everyone else in the world to say "YES!" to goat's milk cheeses.  I found this goat milk based ice cream at the Whole Foods near me and thought it might be tasty.  I was right.  It was creamy and tangy and smooth.  There are little pieces of fig throughout, and the ice cream itself had a pleasant, almost fluffy texture to it.  Kind of like goat's milk gelato.

There's finally an ice cream for people who are lactose intolerant, people who loves goat's milk, and  people who have good taste and a Whole Foods nearby.


Goat cheese and figs are one of the more perfect pairings in the known cheese universe. No surprise then that this ice cream is scrumptious.


I am going to do my best to do a few more posts before Thursday. I am not going to be bringing my computer with me though so you'll have to wait to hear all about the London trip until I come back! I hope that you guys are all enjoying your chocolate. Maybe I'll find something in London to bring back and share.