Thursday, July 31, 2008

More of Sara's Photos from Caromont Farm

More cheese tales coming soon...

I Heart Goats! (Sara's Trip to Caromont Farm)

I have tales from another field trip to share with you this week! I went down to Esmont, Virginia early Tuesday morning to spend the day making cheese with the lovely folks and goats at Caromont Farm. I can't even begin to tell you what a great time I had. These trips I've been taking lately involving cheese, photography and travel are starting to change the course of my life, I do believe! I'm just so lucky that I can combine three of my all-time favorite things into one fell swoop, eh?

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

When Your Mixer is Alcohol--the French 75 Files

My lovely roomie, the Divine Miss Kerensa, is turning 30. While our parties are legendary, notorious even, this is one of those birthdays that takes leading up to, priming the pump of debauchery, so to speak. Casa Testarossa has a reputation to live up to, after all! And no, dear K, I will not reveal the events of the last 2 weeks but I will sum it all up here: once upon a time it was all about PBR and apricot jello-wrestling, now it's menu-planning and drink recipe-perfecting. Growing up isn't so bad after all!!

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 $ 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.