Showing posts with label Ardrahan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ardrahan. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Resolve to Eat More Cheese

It's a new year which usually means making a resolution, keeping it for a few weeks, breaking it and then feeling bad about yourself for not having the willpower to continue going to the gym. In the grand tradition of my family I've decided to make resolutions I know I'll be able to keep.

  1. I resolve to eat more sheep milk cheese. I have been loving on the goats for years now. It's time to bring more Baa Baa to my life.
  2. I will accept orange Cheddar (I'm already halfway there)
  3. I will cook more cheese-centric recipes.
  4. I will renew my membership to the ACS in a timely manner, not wait until I get a second reminder letter like I did last year.
  5. I will visit cheesemakers outside of Vermont. (Maybe Maine?)
  6. I will never watch Sex and the City part 2 ever again. My eyes, ears and soul are still recovering.
  7. I will convince my once cheese-loving nephew to stop being a wicked beastie and to love cheese again. He's 3 1/2 so this could be an uphill battle.
  8. Fondue.
  9. I will finally clean out the fridge.
  10. Battlestar Galactica is awesome!
Okay, so number 10 isn't really a resolution, but seriously, it's so good. Just thinking about watching another episode right now has got me thinking that maybe I should stop writing and just take 45 minutes off. So tempting. All I have to do is press "play". Fine. I'll continue with the post.

Hopefully you all had a fantastic holiday season and are having a great start to the new year! I spent the Christmas holiday with my brother, sister in-law and wicked beastie. For dessert we had a traditional-ish cheese plate.

You've just got to have a blue for Christmas and I brought back some Stichelton. A raw milk delicious blue that tastes like Stiltons' wilder, more flavorful cousin. Next up is the Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm in upstate New York. I have been pushing to get this cheese into our store for at least six months. Finally, my boss relented and agreed that this would be a fantastic cheese to bring in for the holiday season.

Kunik is a triple cream cheese made with goat milk and Jersey cow cream. It's also one of my favorite triple creams.

Founded in 1990 Nettle Meadow Farm primarily raises goats, although they have some sheep, some guard llamas (don't mess with a llama they will frack you up real good) and a rescue sanctuary filled with older goats, horses, and other farm animals.

When you first open the wrapping of the cheese you get notes of grass, herbs, pepper and mushrooms. The paste ripens from the outside in which means you get a nice creamy layer of cheese right under the rind and a more dense middle. On their website they call this cheese buttery, and while I agree I would like to add some more descriptors. This cheese is mushroomy, acidic, slightly salty, silky and is a bit like raw broccoli on the rind. A fantastic cheese good for a holiday, special occasion, or really any day that ends in the letter 'Y'.

Our final cheese on the plate is Ardrahan. Oh man, I really want to talk about this cheese with you right now. The problem is that talking about Ardrahan is more complex than just mentioning a cheese and what it tastes like. If I talk about Ardrahan I have to talk about Irish farmstead cheeses. If I talk about Irish famstead cheeses I have to tell you about how the industry had all but disappeared, and the people who helped bring it back, and how I want to go to Ireland and how washed rind cheeses are particulary delicious and it becomes it's own post all together.

For now I'm going to stop here and start working on the Irish farmstead cheeses post* in which I'll hopefully be able to do justice to lush green land, hard work, beaurocracy and deliciousness that all comes together to make some of the most delicious cheese on earth.

If you manage to see any Irish washed rind cheese at your local cheese counter or shop in the next few days, buy it, then when you read the upcoming post you'll have first-hand experience on the tastiness of Ireland.

*Truth is, I'm going to take a break just for 45 minutes to watch an episode of Battlestar Gallactica. Dang it! I just can't lie to you guys.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Time for some housekeeping.

The first part of the day's post is finishing up a post I started before the wacky hectic schedule that was the ACS conference. So in this post I was talking about the Neal's Yard Dairy cheese tasting that I went to. We're going to finish up with the blue cheeses.

The blue positioned at about 7 o'clock is Strathdon Blue from Scotland. It was my first time every having a Scottish blue and I wish I could say it was fantastic. The flavors were good, salty, milky, moldy, grassy, buttery, but the texture. I couldn't get over it. David, our educator said that this particular wheel was a bit wet and he was right. It tasted to me as if a block of tofu, and a wedge of Stilton got together and had a baby. Not a pleasant texture for a cheese. Great texture for a fermented bean curd.

The next two cheeses (going clockwise) are the same, but different. Stilton. The first one we found out after tasting is done with a vegetarian rennet, the second one with a traditional rennet. I preferred the second one. I preferred it for the same reason I prefer raw milk cheeses, it had more flavor. Now, if I'd just tried the vegetarian cheese by itself I would have found it a pleasing cheese. Side by side with the traditional rennet cheese, I found it to be...meh.

Rounding out the cheese plate is Stichelton. Lovely, wild, untamed, grassy, ballsy Stichelton. I did a post about this cheese last spring, and in the interest of not repeating myself I'll just tell you to go here to read it.

Finally, I would like to send a big ol' shout out to Junglefrog for the lovely treats she sent. We joked that the first package she sent must have been eaten by the folks at customs, and after getting the goody bag, I'm sure they were. The Drop Donders are little licorice candies in the shapes of cars and a muffler that looks a bit like Emmenthal. The adults enjoyed them. Next up is the box of jimmies. Chocolate, rainbow and chocolate shavings. Soo good. I sprinkled them on ice cream and made the nephew and I very very happy.

And then there are the stroopwafels. Imagine a wafer sandwich filled with caramel. Now image going to the coffee shop not S***bucks, never S***bucks and getting your coffee and dunking this in there. Or break it into little bits and mix it into ice cream. Either way is good. Thank you so much for the treats, J.F.

Next post: What does 17# of cheese look like and why would I attempt to bring it back from Austin?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I have a new love. His name is Ogleshield.

A few weeks ago I went to a seminar given by Dave and Raef from Neal's Yard Dairy,held at Goose Island Brewery here in Chicago. We were given a tasting of eight different cheeses. Today I'm going to talk about the first four.

Going clockwise I'm going to start at 12 and tell you about Ogleshield. This was a brand new cheese for me, and I fell in love immediately. From the wonderful people who bring you the big English cheese, Montgomery's Cheddar,Ogleshield is a washed rind cheese. In this case it's been washed in a brine solution. On their website NYD says it's similar to Raclette. I know that they're the experts, but honestly Raclette never tasted this good. It feels like on the timeline of cheese, Raclette evolved into something bigger, better and tastier. It's floral, a bit grassy and beefy. It's got a little bit of a funk going on, but it's very mild. This is one of those cheeses where it smells milder than it tastes. This cheese tastes warm. Not temperature, but when I tasted it I imagined it's melting possibilities.

Next up is Ardrahan. another washed rind cheese, this time from County Cork, Ireland. This cheese is also washed in a brine solution, but is very different. Where the Ogleshield has fruity, mellow flavors, the Ardrahan is much more assertive. Bacon, earth, leather and a smidgen of smokiness make this soft but not gooey cheese one of my favorites.

The next two are tricksy precious. Why? Because they're the same cheese. This is Montgomery's Cheddar. There are few things in the world I will commit an act of violence for. Cheddar is one of them. Montgomery's is at the top of that list. Keen's, Cabot Clothbound and Beecher's are also on the list. You know when you hear about people going crazy during some W**-Mart Christmas sale? That's me if you get between me and the last hunk of Cheddar. I won't cut you, but you might accidentally "trip".

Montgomery's Cheddar is what Cheddar should taste like. Traditionally made it is a huge cheese. Assertive in it's nutty, tangy, earthy, beefy flavors it's like a mini explosion in your mouth. Aged for a few years it develops these nice little crystals through the paste that add depth and a slight crunch. It has a bit of a caramelized, sweet flavor to it. Similar to caramelizing onions.

Dave asked us by show of hands which one we liked better. I picked number 2 (#4 on the plate). I was convinced that it was older. Significantly older. Older by at least a year. To my surprise I found out these cheeses were made weeks apart, not months or years. So what made the difference? Why did cheese number one taste like a good sharp Cheddar, and the second one tasted like a wild party in my mouth?* Different starters. One cheese was made with a Wednesday starter and one with a Saturday. That, and a few weeks time made all the difference.

I always try to get customers to taste the cheese. Sometimes when people come into the shop they say "Oh, I've had _____ cheese before. I don't need to taste it." I try to give them a taste anyway. Usually I'm successful. The Cheddar tasting is an anectode I'm going to use from now on to convince everyone to always taste the cheese. Always. Seriously.

I know it's the middle of summer, but in my opinion macaroni and cheese is a year round dish. My favorite dish in the world is a good macaroni and cheese. I love it so much that if taunted by grade school children I would let them know that I love it so much in face I want to marry it, but current laws in my state don't allow a woman to marry food. Instead of the Taleggio and Pleasant Ridge Resrve, I made this recipe with Ogelshield. For this dish, no mushrooms or roasted garlic are needed. Just stinky cheesy goodness. Warning! Although this cheese doesn't have a big foot on it, when you apply heat to it it makes a powerful smell. A very footy, stinky smell.

I'm going to try to do the second half of this post before I leave Tuesday morning. I don't know how much posting will get done during the week. If you're feeling bereft of cheese talk, I will be twittering a bit since it takes less time, and can be done from my phone. Follow me on twitter and see what's going on at Cheesewench's first ACS conference!

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.