Cheese and Wine 101

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I’ve had a busy couple of weeks at the Cheese School of San Francisco. Alas, I’ve finally found a day off to write a post about the few things I’ve come to learn while working here. Included are my notes on selected cheeses as well as a variety of miscellaneous, fun cheese facts.

The wine (taken from course handout):

NV Scharffenberger Brut (North Coast, California) Sparkling Wine: The wine is two-thirds Pinot Noir which produces a red fruit (cherry and plum) forward nose combined with one-third Chardonnay which adds the tropical expression of litchi nut and mango. The 100% malolactic fermentation adds a vanilla cream character producing a round and full-bodied wine. After approximately two years on the yeast lees, there are notes of freshly baked bread and pastry that enhances the more fruit forward style of the wine. Finally, after several months on the cork the wine develops caramel and hazel complexes. 

2011 Broadside “Wild Ferment” Central Coast Chardonnay (Edna Valley, California): Broadside Wines is a new, artisanal project that combines the winemaking talents of Chris Brockway (Broc Cellars) and Brian Terrizzi (Giornata). Their goal is to make natural, terrior-driven wines that are balanced and food-friendly. Their 2011 “Wild Ferment” Chardonnay succeeds on both accounts. Made from organically farmed Edna Valley fruit from 30-plus-year-old vines, fermented with native yeasts in 90% stainless steel and 10% neutral French oak. Aged sur lie, but with no battonage, the result is a wine with texture and lift, spice and fresh fruit character that would pair perfectly with Santa Barbara Spot Prawns or Red Rock Crab. 

2010 Fleur du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch, South Africa): The 2010 Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon is a robust wine that is dark ruby in color with aromas of blackcurrant, dark chocolate and mocha on the nose. This full-bodied wine has a good tannic backbone supported by cherry and plum flavors complemented by a spicy oakiness. 

2011 Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spätlese (Rheinhessen, Germany): The George Albrecht Schneider estate has been in the Schneider family for seven generations, with three generations still hard at work producing excellent wines. The steep Hipping vineyard, known as the red slope, der rooter Hang, is rated as one of the best in Germany, producing Riesling with spicy mineral flavors, exotic and pronounced ripe fruit with excellent maturing potential. 

My note on the wines: I’m usually one for dark red wines, but on this list I have to say that my favorites would be the Broadside Central Coast Chardonnay and the 2011 Georg Albrecht Riesling. Broadside Chardonnay is incredibly light with a hint of sweet. I’ve found that it pairs well with triple cremes (if you’re not going to pair with bubbly) as well as more full-flavored cheeses such as Comté. The Riesling is of course very sweet, as dessert wines tend to be, but it’s also much lighter than most. Still though, a little goes a long way.

The Cheeses:

Again, “√” symbolizes my general liking of each cheese.

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Bonne Bouche, Vermont Butter & Cheese
Provenance: Websterville, Vermont
Type: Pasteurized goat’s milk

My notes: This soft cheese is incased in a blue-wrinkle rind. The rind is caused by “Geos” bacteria during the aging process. The cheese itself is extremely creamy and tangy. If you’re not one for strong flavored stinky cheeses, eating the rind actually reduces the “tanginess”. Bonne Bouche pairs well with the Cabernet Sauvignon, or other full-flavored reds. The cheese is best served at room temperature.

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Brillat-Savarin √√
Provenance: Burgundy, France
Type: Pasteurized cow’s milk

My notes: Brillat-Savarin has easily become one of my favorite triple-cream cheeses. It’s also tangy, but very light. Reminds me of a strong creamy butter. I’d suggest pairing it with the Chardonnay and some crusty bread. It would make for the perfect starter. Remember to take this cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before serving.
The cute package may look like a cake, but be sure to not skip this little guy when you’re browsing the dairy section!

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Abbaye de Belloc √√√
Provenance: Pyrénéese, France
Type: Pasteurized sheep’s milk

My notes: Oh French cheeses! I don’t think I’ve met a French cheese that I haven’t loved yet. Abbaye de Belloc (I still have to figure out how to say this properly) is an oily cheese. Oily cheeses are indicative of sheep’s milk. This hearty cheese smells like potato chips and browned butter. Lo and behold, it actually tastes like them too! It’s light, nutty and, really, quite perfect enough if served alone. You won’t go wrong serving this guy up at the next get-together.

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IMG_4521Comté
Provenance: Jura/Franche-Comté, France
Type: Raw cow’ milk

My notes: It actually took me some time to get used to this one, but the more I have it the more that I come to really enjoy it. The flavors are strong yet subtle at the same time. It’s a rather mild, creamy cheese and has a hint of bitterness at the end. Comté is the most famous mountain cheese, besides gruyere. It’s still made in 80 lb. wheels (in the States, most wheels today are only produced in 45 lb. wheels). This cheese is made from the milk of pastured cows, which means it consists of a heaping amount of healthy minerals. Comté is a great cheese for fondue, it’s easy to melt and has a great consistency. I’m thinking grilled cheese sammies the next time I shop for this one! It also pairs well with the Chardonnay.

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Clothbound Cheddar, Cabot Creamery
Provenance: Cabot, Vermont
Type: Pasteurized cow’s milk

My notes: This clothbound cheddar is a very sharp cheddar that’s also light and creamy at the same time. The acidity and grassy flavors are due to the cloth binding process as the cheese is produced. If you’re an extreme lover of cheddar, give this one a go and pair it with the Cabernet Sauvignon or any other hearty red wine.

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Cave-Aged Marisa, Carr Valley Cheese Co. 
Provenance: La valle, Wisconsin
Type: Pasteurized sheep’s milk

My notes: This cheese, when eaten, gives you an “itchy-tongue” sensation. Rumor has it that to get rid of that effect, rub the cheese with apple cider vinegar. Rumor has it. However, I’ve come to like that sensation so I’m going to do without. The crunchy bits that you may find in this cheese are due to amino acids. Since bold flavors tend to complement one another, I found this to pair well with the Cabernet Sauvignon. The people at Carr Valley Cheese Co are 4th generation cheese makers. They know what they’re doing.

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Red Hawk, Cowgirl Creamery
Provenance: Pt. Reyes, California
Type: Pasteurized cow’s milk

My notes: This cheese may look cute and innocent, but take my word for it when I say it’s not! This “stinky” cheese has a very salty, buttery popcorn-like flavor. I paired it with the Chardonnay to tone down the saltiness of it. It would be great if served at a dinner party, but don’t be insulted if not everyone at the table takes to it. Extreme cheese lovers needed.

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Bay Blue, Point Reyes Farmstead √√√
Provenance: Pt. Reyes, California
Type: Pasteurized cow’s milk

My notes: I am and have always been a blue cheese lover. I have, however, found blue cheeses that I really did not enjoy. Bay Blue is definitely not one of those. This creamy, fruity cheese has become my all time favorite blue. It’s strong, pungent and absolutely delectable! Along with this also came a new favorite fact. I used to think that bold always complemented bold. I’d usually pair a blue with a nice, strong red wine. Pay attention folks! You’re going to love this. The best pairing for a tangy blue cheese is… dessert wines! The sweetness of the Riesling compliments the salty blues like no other. Seriously, give the pairing a try. I promise you won’t disagree. Another plus: your friends that usually don’t favor blue cheeses will love you for it!

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Miscellaneous fun cheese facts:

  • Cheese and wine pairing, when it doubt — go with bubbly!
  • Wax rinds are the only rinds you want to avoid eating. Every other rind is a go! Keep in mind, you may or may not like the way the rinds change the overall flavors of the cheese.
  • Moldy fresh cheeses (i.e. mozzarella, feta, ricotta, etc.) are no longer good to eat. Discard them. Moldy hard cheeses, however, are O.K. Just cut off the moldy bits and the rest is still edible!
  • As soon as you slice into a new cheese wheel, it’s no longer aging, it’s dying.

Get cheesy!!!

“Icky” foods. What’s yours?

“Icky” foods. What’s yours?

What’s a food that you absolutely-under-whatever-circumstance cannot stand?

tofu

In my recent discovery of my passion for food-writing (because let’s face it, my passion for food in general has always been known), I’ve gotten to reap some pretty amazing benefits. One such benefit has been getting to taste an incredible variety of different foods and beverages while wearing a press pass. Thank you Taste Terminal! I’ve gotten good feedback from family, friends and other bloggers. Getting to answer How’s it going? How’s the food? Have you gained any weight from it? with a Heck yes, I’ve gained weight… and it’s AMAZING has been pretty great. However, one question that still bothers me is, What’s the least favorite thing you’ve ever eaten?

How can I answer that?

My cousin recently told me that she hoped I stumbled upon something absolutely repulsive. Or rather, Jealous!!! Until you have to try something nasty lol :). She said that jokingly of course. At least I hope so. I’m happy to say that I have yet to encounter this. I haven’t found a food that I particularly dislike. I’m a firm believer in trying everything once. All the foods that I’m not the biggest fan of, I make sure to give a “second chance” at some point.

For instance: tofu. I despised tofu as a child. tofu-catagoryIt’s mushy and tastes gross! I believe that it was sometime in High School that I eventually gave it another go. To be honest, I think I tried it just to “fit in” with all the other girls trying to be healthy, going vegetarian and what not. I went on a tofu-eating binge to make myself like it. I tried this coagulated soy milk in every which way. I found that fried tofu, served in agedashi sauce works best. It stuck.

Another example: lamb. I could not for the longest time truly enjoy it while my family members devoured the sizzling rack in front of me. I’m not sure what it was. Maybe the taste of herbs and grass? Maybe the image in my head of the countless cute sheep I had wanted as pets at the State Fair petting zoos? Who knows. A little less than two years ago is when I gave in and stopped giving a bahhh about those damned sheep.flat,550x550,075,f

It was when I had first signed up for the teaching program in Greece. How was I going to survive in a country where lamb was one of the main staples? Again, binge. This time on lamb chops and gyros. Eventually, it stuck.

Lo and behold, I didn’t end up going to Greece. Instead it was Spain where it was ham in lieu of lamb. Did I mention I was never a big fan of porky meats either (besides bacon, of course)? Barcelona came and I got used to it. ¡Melón con jamón, por favor! Seriously, yum.

mare_spiced_lamb_chops_vTwo years ago, answering that question would have been a breeze. Today though… it has me completely stumped! What food(s) would I never try again?

I can’t…. really can’t think of one!

My mom let me know on numerous occasions what a weird kid I was growing up. Whereas many children my age would prefer pizza and fish sticks as their dinner of choice, my requests would be raw onions and steamed clams. What???
Once this foodie thing really kicked in I had my mind set on trying more exotic foods. Try everything at least once, right? So I picked snake. Why? Probably because as a kid I was obsessed with Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom. Alright, that’s a lie. I’m still obsessed with that movie. That dinner scene when they’re presented with a huge boa constrictor? Yep. I wanted to eat it. Temple-of-Doom-Snake-Dish

Three years ago on a family trip to the motherland, Cambodia, I got to finally try snake. I just wanted to be more of an adventurous eater. I didn’t think I’d actually like it. Neither did my mom. I thought, hey at least I’ll be able to say I tried it! Right. Instead, to my mothers disdain, I smiled and said, tastes like chicken, Ma! I have to say that on this same trip I also got to taste fried tarantula and actually enjoyed that as well.

So, there you have it. I’m S-T-U-M-P-E-D. Maybe that’s just cause to travel more? To get to see, smell and taste different dishes that I haven’t gotten to yet. One day.

Today though, I ask in all seriousness… What is/was your least favorite food? Where’d you have it? Would you ever eat it again?
And more importantly, what would you recommend that I try?

Delicious when fried

Good eatin’!!!

Note: All photos featured were found via the “interweb”. Except the one of my pops with the tarantula. Boss.

Foodies Unite! Ravenous for Ravioli.

Foodies Unite! Ravenous for Ravioli.

Homemade lemon-pepper ricotta-stuffed ravioli with sage butter sauce – Chef Julia Mallon.

I’ve always had this irrational fear of making things from scratch. Why spend 5 hours making pasta when you can go out to the stores, pick up a bag and whip up a dish under 30 minutes? Convenience, right?
Sure. But if you’re one that truly enjoys cooking — you’ll understand the pleasure of putting in a bit more effort into what you cook. The satisfaction you get from getting to say, Hey, I made that! I actually made that!… well, really can’t be beat.
What’s more is just how simple and easy making fresh ricotta and pasta is. Not joking even in the slightest bit. The daunting task of making things from scratch? No big deal.

Thanks to my newfound Chef of a friend, Julia (I am incredibly excited to finally have found a buddy to get nerdy about food with), two easy-peasy recipes that have got me smiling:

Ricotta

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1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon of salt

In a large pot add milk, vinegar and salt. Bring the milk’s temperature up to 185-200 F. Stir occasionally. The milk will curdle (this is your ricotta!). Remove from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes to continue curdling.
With a slotted spoon, transfer ricotta to cheese cloth in a colander. Let the cheese drain for a dryer product.

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Add some lemon and pepper. Salt to taste of course. The outcome is marvelous alone.

If you’re using it to make ravioli, add one egg yolk to the ricotta. It will help bind the cheese when you’re stuffing it into the pasta.

Ravioli (good for two people)

1/2 cup Semolina flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 egg
Olive oil

On a flat surface (a counter top in our case), mix the Semolina and all-purpose flours. Create a little hole in the middle of the mound to add egg and oil.

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Mix the ingredients together and form a nice round ball with the dough.

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Set it in a bowl and cover it with saran wrap. Let it sit in the fridge for at least half an hour.

After letting the dough sit, cut it into portions. With your hands, shape the dough to fit into whatever sized pasta maker you might have. Since we’re making ravioli, a small rectangular shape works best. Roll through, setting the levels each time. Julia’s pasta maker had grades of 1-7. Thus, first start with level one. Roll the dough through and on to level two! I am an amazingly talented poet. So on a so forth until you’ve got yourself a long strip of fairly translucent pasta!

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Add the ricotta by the dollop. Make sure that you don’t add too much so that it ends up spilling out the ends when you cut the pasta into pieces. We learned that the hard way. Made for some pretty sad raviolis.

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Using just egg whites (the yolk is incorporated into the ricotta), brush around the ricotta dollops. This will keep the two layers (assuming you’ve made two layers of pasta already. Did I forget to mention that? Yes, make two layers) together.

Add the second layer, pressing down and around the ricotta. Using a ravioli “stamp”, as I like to call it, cut out your cute little pastas!

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Really, how adorable is that?

Place ravioli’s one at a time into salted, boiling water. Once they start to float you know they’re done.

For the sauce, add butter and fresh sage leaves to a sauté pan. Once the butter has melted, reduce the heat and let it continue to brown. The ravioli should be finished at this point. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the raviolis directly into the sage-butter mixture. And presto! Get ready to dig in.

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I realize how much work this would actually be if you were having a large dinner party, but for two ladies on a Sunday night with time to kill, this simple dinner was amazing and definitely worth the wait. Julia and I, needless to say, devoured every single bite. We were pretty famished at 22:00. As I said before, I am thrilled to have befriended another foodie. So what that it took almost 4 hours to finish. Mind you, all of it shouldn’t take nearly as long. We spent most of that time in the kitchen drinking some nice vino while gossiping. Oh and of course taking about (and maybe drooling, just a bit) over foods and dishes we’ve had in the past. For some girls, yoga is the go-to therapeutic form of exercise. For us, it’s cooking!
buon appetito!!!

Gettin’ Cheesy.

As you all may (or may not) have been aware, I’ve taken quite a bit of time away from this. A blogging no-no if you want to retain a group of nice followers. Has it really been 3 months since my last post? Yikes!

Anyway, I’m back! And hopefully with more frequent updates. I’ve been busy these past couple of months with my transition up to the Bay Area, because yes, I’ve finally made it up here! Loving it thus far. The food culture is amazing and I’m incredibly excited to be a part of it. I’ve started interning at The Cheese School of San Francisco. First job in the city, yay! With this job comes great perks. 1. I get to taste an unlimited and incredible variety of different cheeses 2. Pairing said cheeses with wines, beers and other spirits is encouraged and 3. It’s, for lack of a better phrase, ridiculously fun! As I get the ball rolling (excuse the excessive use of clichés) with this blog again, I thought what better to write about than my own life and the food that surrounds it? 

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Bare with me. My knowledge of cheese is very limited as I’ve just started. Onward and upward! Last week, we had a Springtime Cheese & Beer class. Beer and cheese? I for one had always thought cheese was accompanied strictly with wine. Good ole vino, right? Nope! In fact, some cheeses just pair better with beer. Skeptical? Try it out for yourself!

The Beers (taken from course handouts):

1. Lagunitas Pils, Lagunitas Brewing Co. (Petaluma, California): This Czech style pilsner is crystal clear with a bright golden-straw color and aromas of toasted biscuit malts that float to the top with an undertone of something slightly metallic, like new copper pennies. A quick bite of bitterness leads right into toasted biscuit malts with a taste of honey and a soft, herbal finish. Straightforward an uncomplicated beer, it’s fresh and tasty — exactly what you want while hanging out on the back porch after a long day. 6.2% alcohol by volume.
2. Racer 5 IPA, Bear Republic Brewing Co. (Healdsburg, California): This hoppy American IPA is a full-bodied beer brewed American pale and crystal malts and heavily hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial. A fantastic IPA, with a cloudy orange/copper pour and a thick white head. The flavor is grapefruit and toasted malts with a woodsy finish. 7.0% alcohol by volume.
3. Velvet Merlin, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Paso Robles, California): This is a decadent Oatmeal Stout brimming with cocoa and espresso aromas. This beer features a rich, dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavor with a creamy mouth feel and wonderfully dry finish. The addition of U.S. grown fugues hops contributes the perfect amount of bitterness to this exceptionally balanced beer. 5.5% alcohol by volume.
4. PranQster Belgian Golden Ale, North Coast Brewing (Bend, Oregon): Belgian Ales represent the height of the brewers’ art. Sophisticated brewing techniques, yeast blends and unique flavoring elements have elevated the beers of Belgium to the status enjoyed by wine in other countries. PranQster follows in this tradition using a mixed culture of antique yeast strains that results in a floral nose, a full fruity flavor and a clean finish. 7.6% alcohol by volume.
5. Three Philosophers Quadruple Ale, Brewery Ommegang (Copperstown, New York): Three Philosophers is a limited edition strong ale brewed by Brewery Ommegang in response to a home brewer’s description of his dream beer. Realbeer.com, the internet’s largest beer website, hosted a contest called “Create a Great Beer.” Brewery Ommegang was chosen by Realbeer.com to brew the Belgian-style ale for the winning essayist. Noel Blake, a home brewer from Portland wrote the winning description or what his “dream beer” would be like. The result is flavors of sweet caramel malt and dark cherries. 9.8% alcohol by volume.

IPA’s are and will always be my favorite. Thus, Racer 5 IPA is definitely on top of my personal list out of this group. Another favorite of mine is the PranQster Belgian Golden Ale, which is surprising as I don’t usually take to lighter ales!

The Cheese (cheeses are plated accordingly, starting at 12:00 and moving clockwise):

* √ signifies favored cheeses

IMG_42721. Cameo, Redwood Hill Farm.
Provenance: Sebastopol, California
Type: Pasteurized goat’s milk

My notes: This soft cheese is incredibly creamy. It’s salty and has a very mild “goaty” or herby flavor. The rind is incrusted with peppercorns, rosemary and bay leaves. It pairs well with Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout.

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2. Toma, Pt. Reyes Farmstead  √
Provenance: Pt. Reyes, Califronia
Type: Pasteurized cow’s milk

My notes: Toma ages for about 3 months. It’s strong and tangy. It pairs well with either PranQster Golden Ale or Racer 5 IPA.

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3. Tarentaise, Spring Brook Farm √
Provenance: Reading, Vermont
Type: Raw cow’s milk

My notes: Tarentaise is aged for 10 months. It’s similar in flavor and texture to comté or gruyere. Smells like browned butter. It’s an easy party cheese, as it’s enjoyed by both cheese enthusiasts as well as party-goers just looking for something to munch on.

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4. Cave-Aged Marisa, Carr Valley Cheese Co.
Provenance: La Valle, Wisconsin
Type: Pasteurized sheep’s milk

My notes: Cave-Aged Marisa smells like lamb chops! Smooth, creamy consistency. Eating the rind is not preferred.

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5. Willoughby, Jasper Hill Farm √
Provenance: Greensboro, Vermont
Type: Pasteurized cow’s milk

My notes: Willoughby is extremely buttery… as in it’s tastes and feels like a stick of butter. But since when has butter ever been a bad thing? Spread it on some crusty ciabatta and you’ve got yourself a nice starter. Pairs well with Three Philosophers Quadruple Ale.

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6. Lincolnshire Poacher
Provenance: Lincolnshire, England
Type: Raw cow’s milk

My notes: Lincolnshire is very strong, tangy and fruity. It pairs well with PranQster Belgian Golden Ale.

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7. Big Woods Blue, Shepherd’s Way Farms
Provenance: Nerstrand, Minnesota
Type: Raw sheep’s milk

My notes: Blue Woods Blue is an incredibly strong blue cheese. I’m usually a big fan of blues, but found this one to be a bit much. For the extreme blue cheese lovers, this is your best friend. For others — to tone the flavors down a bit, I’d suggest accompanying it with some bread instead of just eating it by itself.

I hope you all enjoyed this and are eager to give these a taste yourselves! Cheers, good eating and remember to Get Cheeeezy! ’Til next time.

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