Thursday, July 31, 2008
Anyhow, I somehow miraculously made it to the farm in time for the morning milking, despite a chronic inability to get out of the bed before ten and a tendency to get blissfully lost on country roads. And what a great day it was! There are so many things to say!
I will limit myself to ten: A gorgeous sunrise drive west past Charlottesville, misty and winding unpaved roads, the sun bursting through and shining down in perfect, painting-worthy beams, getting lost (and thankfully un-lost) on the way there, walking with the goats in the woods and realizing that they are such incredibly endearing creatures with such fantastic personalities, trying in vain to remember all their names, getting to wear a sexy pair of coveralls and a hair net to make cheese, actually getting to scoop curd and tend to aging cheeses for the first time, thoroughly enjoying the good company and conversation while doing so, sitting down mid-day for a wonderful, leisurely, homemade lunch, tasting all sorts of delicious cheeses, and, wait, is that ten things? Hrm. It appears I have listed a baker's ten. Ah, well...
The most important thing is that in addition to all these great experiences, I have a bunch of Caromont cheeses that I brought back for all of us. Ample supplies of herbes de Provence dusted Old Green Mountain rounds (carefully wrapped by yours truly), cups of fresh lemony-delicious farmstead chevre, and a new one to try, the Alberene Ash. This is the cheese we had over the delicious slow-cooked-with-country-ham beans that Gail made for lunch -- yum -- and I hear it is THE cheese to have with beets.
In addition, the cheese case has become a showcase for over a dozen other American made cheeses. I'm feeling downright patriotic, people! More Tumbleweed is on the way, I have a half-wheel of Mountaineer from Meadow Creek Dairy, some velvety-rich Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, oodles of Gootessa Mountain Valley Sharp, and so many more! Come on by and check it out. And, if that's not reason enough to come to the tasting on Friday, it also happens to be our 10th anniversary. You should definitely come help us celebrate. I'm sure there will be bubbles...
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Needless to say, there are a few things in this world I love: Gin and Bubbly are in the top 5. So of course I've been thrilled to be the guinea pig for Kerensa's recent experimentation. What have we learned? Hendricks is the best gin. (Of course). Gruet NV Blanc de Noir* is the best bubbly, both from flavor and price standpoint. Orange slices are the best garnish for balancing flavors, but a garnish of fresh cherries with stems (and a splash of OJ) is more entertaining for an audience. Organic lemons have the sweetest juice which further reduces the need for sugar (this household leans dry--the only time I can say that with a straight face). And finally, according to the superior techniques of Mr. Jason Tesauro (Modern Gentleman author and certified, London-trained gin mixologist), 'washing the ice' "super-cools" the concoction before it hits the glass. This is important because who wants to water down heavy artillery? We probably should, since K pointed out, "Funny things happen when your mixer is more alcohol." Indeed. One is perfection. Two is decadent. Three is a dance party. Here's to being old enough to know to stop there.
*A fabulous, traditional-method bubbly from New Mexico, of all places. Affordable, balanced, beautifully made, it almost seems a shame to mix it with anything except oysters on the half shell, until I remember that true Champagne now starts at around $40...so here's a modified recipe for you to try.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (organic is best)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (we prefer superfine)
2 ounces gin (we prefer Hendricks)
3 ounces plus 1 tablespoon chilled Champagne (we prefer Gruet sparkling wine)
lemon peel for garnish (or orange wedge)
In cocktail shaker (after washing your ice in cold water), combine lemon juice, sugar, gin, and ice cubes and shake to chill. Strain cocktail into Champagne flute (we prefer wine glass, on the [washed] rocks) and top off with bubbly. Garnish with citrus and serve.
What is a French 75?
according to wikipedia:
French 75 is a cocktail made from gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. There is some controversy over whether the cocktail was originally made with gin or with cognac and champagne. If Vodka is substituted for the gin it may be referred to as a French 76.
The drink was originally concocted by the Franco-American World War I flying ace Raoul Lufbery who was part of Escadrille Américaine air fighting unit. Legend has it that he liked champagne, but wanted something with more of a kick to it, so he mixed it with cognac which was readily available. The combination was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm howitzer artillery piece, also called a "75 Cocktail", or "Soixante Quinze" in French. The French 75 was popularized in America at the Stork Club.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
There were oodles of beautiful bovines, I took some 650 pictures (photo glutton that I am), I witnessed the magic of turning milk into cheese (can you say PH, temperature control, timing and hard work?), and was thoroughly warmed by the generosity of the Feete family and all who work with them at the dairy.
I suppose the best place to start would be with a giant THANK YOU for allowing this cheesemonger to get in the way for a couple days in an attempt to soak in as much cheese as possible! And believe you me, there was an abundance of knowledge, experience, humor, and a willingness to share that was simply great to be around. I must say that in this day and age, it was lovely to be in the company of folks who truly care about quality over quantity. They care about the land, the cows that graze it, the quality of the milk, the resulting cheeses that we ingest, the people that work there, and even the novice/visitors such as myself.
I brought back one of their fine cheeses for us to sample at this Friday's tasting, the Mountaineer. This raw cow's milk cheese is carefully tended to as it ages on wooden shelves for at least six months. The cellar is damp and cool and the scent upon entry is certainly more intense than I anticipated (who knew?). The room holds cheeses in all stages of development - from the day before yesterday's milky, yellow-white, rind-less newbies to the just-about-legal, reddish-gold, brushed-rind adolescents. I wish I could have stacked them all one on top of each other so you could see the different stages for yourself as they transform. (Perhaps I should have gone that extra mile and taken 651 pictures. Ha.) The resulting cheese however, is delightfully reminiscent of Alpine cheeses - semisoft, nutty, earthy, with a tiny hint of brine and butterscotch. Delicious.
There is so much more to tell and so many more pictures to show but it is 2:30 in the morning and I have a busy day tomorrow! I'll get to some blog entries and photo-uploads while I'm on vacation for those of you who want to know more about my trip. Oh, and keep in mind that we are doing an All-American cheese class the first Monday in August and I'm sure that Meadow Creek Dairy will be included in the line-up. Hope to see you there!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Got to Murray's Friday night. Met the crew and fellow classmates, power-tasted some cheese (dinner): St. Nectaire, Quicke's Cheddar, Pyrenees Brebis, Comte, Roomano [sic], Gorgonzola Cremificato & Roquefort. Washed it all down with Prosecco and Merlot. Finally I walked back to Waverly and smuggled a glass of Bas Armagnac out of the hotel bar and into my room, hunkering down with my 800 page study guide...and promptly fell asleep.
I would love to take a minute and wax rhapsodic about NYC, the Village, Murray's, etc., but there's cheese waiting. Suffice to say the City gives me energy, and Murray's gives me inspiration. The old shop was the size that RCC is now. You came in, you turned sideways to pass those before you, you waited. And it was always worth the wait. Now it's the same, but with the eye-widening addition of a glass-walled classroom looming above the sales floor, and the "oh, I wanna see!" cave-teaser below the sidewalk. So the next morning I was confronted with delicious cheese and daunting chemistry. Being a former English major, I was expecting some high school level "food science" rather than full-on biochemistry. But I dug in because I *like* these teachers! Anyone who can make Proteolysis fun gets my vote--yes, that graphic says "variable matrix for biochemical aspects of cheesemaking and affinage." People, these women (Taylor, Liz & Zoe) made me understand cheese from the inside out! Thanks Ladies! Oh, and we made ricotta in class. Pretty cool. And tasty with honey. So, for the next umpteen hours we discussed chemistry, politics, history, religion, animal husbandry and economics. If I had a to sum up cheese in a term that had nothing to do with gastronomy, I would say, "Resource Management." Breakfast? Vermont Butter and Cheese Crottin, Jasper Hill Farms Ayreshire, Jasper Hill Farms Winnemere, Pecorino Ginepro, Hoch Ybrig.
Then we took a break for lunch. Here I have to comment on the diversity of the Murray's BootCampers: a CPA, a freelance writer, a gourmet educator, a chef, dairy farmers and various aspiring entrepreneurs. All were equally cult-like in their interest in cheese. What a great group to learn alongside! At lunch just six of our 20 peeled off for "August"--a lovely, tiny French (Alsatian?) bistro two blocks down. The kitchen was smaller than mine (10x10) mirrored by a cold station where the cook, if he wasn't careful, would burn his arm hair off in the pizza oven. The beauty of this place was a four-way tie: service, wine lovers' by-the-glass list, decadent brunch menu & atrium. Our group ended up ordering salads (only because we were so full of cheese), and then eventually extra sides of bacon and homemade chorizo because we could. Then back to Murrays for more cheese tasting and (yay!) the cave tours.
Saturday night was spent drinking whiskey (Scotland Yard) and eating enchanting Malaysian food with my new friend Marissa, then closing down Babbo's with ever-flowing Fruilian Amaro and cheese-curious bartenders. We spent Sunday sampling MORE cheese, then had a cheese pairing competition with wine vs. beer. On the docket? Vermont Butter & Cheese Coupole (now in at RCC), Langres, Pecorino Foja de Noce, Extra-Aged Mimolette, Jasper Hill Bayley Hazan Blue, all pitted against Muscadet, Riesling, Torrete, Champagne, Madeira, Montborgeau Chardonnay, followed by Bahnhof Weisse, Kriek Lambic, Ommegang Hennepin, Chocarrubica, and Eggenburg Samichlaus. I'm starting to get embarrassed at my gluttony here but it gets much worse (or better, actually).
Sunday night found me at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar with two old Richmond transplants, Alan (formerly of Acacia, now bartender at Blue Ribbon) and the lovely and talented Hilty Hazzard. Somehow over the course of (ouch) six and a half hours we managed to eat and drink, um, nearly everything on the menu. No, really: charcuterie, egg shooters, rillette toasts, smoked trout salad along with 3-up flights of Grower's Champagne, Josef Fries Riesling, "Gang of Four" Morgon, and off-the-beaten track dessert wines. That wasn't enough, so after Hilty was responsible and went home, I hung out with Alan and Sefton, the chef from Blue Ribbon Bakery across the street, who gave me a 2am tour of the underground open flame ovens, which were surrounded by bustling armies of diminutive men lugging giant sacks of flour and peeling loaves from million degree, rock-hewn fire pits. That sight made me want a drink. So we went back across the street for a (small) sample of their special Manhattan made with "home-made" bitters (heaven). When the Scotch came out I headed back to the hotel. After all, one has to draw the line somewhere! Needless to say I had fruit for breakfast and slept the entire way back on the train, no longer a size XS. Long live NYC!!!