Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Not-So-Gloomy Blues (Cashel Blue)

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Cashel Blue
Region: Tipperary, Ireland
Milk: cow milk

Another fabulous Neal's Yard cheese...Cashel Blue is Ireland's original artisanal blue cheese. It was first developed in 1984 by a husband and wife couple (Jane and Louis Grubb). It is entirely handmade by a single family on a single farm, and with each purchase it feels like taking a bit of Ireland home.
I particularly love the texture of this cheese, which is creamy but with body, and a bit inconsistent....which tends to remind me that it was made very far from any sort of factory. The flavor is wonderful: a bit salty, a bit sweet and somewhat mild. Mine was gone in a flash, but I had thought of trying it with something fruity (...maybe apricot jam on fresh bread?).
Surprisingly, the cheesemaker has an incredibly informative website, ( Some interesting tidbits discovered: The wine pairing should match the maturity of the cheese: Less mature Cashel Blue works well with acidic, sweet and fruity wines such as a Geweurtztraminer or Pinot Grigio. More mature Cashel Blue works well with Sauternes or Tawny port. (Great! My intuition worked well, though the apricot jam pairing was perhaps taking it a bit too far). They also mention that the cheese gets creamer and less mild over time. (Mine was creamy and mild, which they conclude is at medium maturity level...I conclude that it was perfectly delicious!)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Holy Cowgirl!

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I was in San Francisco this past weekend....
A city brimming with expression, one has to appreciate that all angles are accounted for - Whether it is marching down a major street in leather chaps, or promoting the benefits of organic farming...San Franciscans know how to live. This was particularly evident with a visit to the Ferry Building (a place I like to think of as home to the most amazing treasures a foodie can find). The highlight of the journey....the Cowgirl Creamery shop.
I have lived in Los Angeles for fourteen years and experienced many a' star sighting. I swear nothing compared to the reaction I had when out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sue Conley standing in front of her shop. (For those of you who don't know, she is one of the proprietors of Cowgirl Creamery.) I mustered the courage to say hello....within moments, there was a swarm of camera crewmen and a very-makeuped newcaster who began (spotlight on!) interviewing Sue, and her partner Peggy Smith. At this point, the opportunity for a quick meet-and-greet seemed out of the question. Nevertheless, I was still very excited about checking out the shop...which was fantastic.
Our cheesecutter / salesperson was very down to earth and especially helpful. (Maybe this had something to do with the fact that she was not assisting the man next to us, who seemed intent on sharing his opinions about Manchego with the crowd.) Anyway, she suggested some varieties that were a bit more unusual and out-of-the way. 
After walking around the rest of the shops in the building (mostly all amazing), I noticed Sue again. Not wanting to miss another good opportunity, I let her know I was a huge fan. No, didn't ask for an autograph...but you can damn-well bet it crossed my mind.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Makes for Weekend Fun (Mitica Monte Enebro)

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Mitica Monte Enebro
Region: Spain
Milk: goat's milk

Yesterday morning, R. took his Jetta to the repair shop (again), and when the rental agency handed him the keys to a brand new, tomato-red Volvo S40...we figured it was a perfect occasion for an around-town excursion. We decided to head to a newly-discovered cheese shop in Studio City called The Artisan Cheese Gallery. Perhaps because of the generic-yet-stuffy name, or the fact that is was in the valley, we weren't expecting to be wowed. Much to our surprise, it turned out to be a wonderful find.
Bustling on a Saturday morning, this shop had several tastings happening at once and so many cheeses in the cases and stacked on the counters that I had never heard of or seen before, and many things were without labels. Making it a little less overwhelming,
we decided to try a couple of cheeses by makers we had become familiar with. The first was made by Cowgirl Creamery, and was called "Sally Goat". (Essentially, it was a very, very fresh-tasting goat cheese wrapped in grape leaves.) It was very subtle and quite good, but we expressed that we were interested in something with a bit more bite. The next two cheeses we tried were both Neal's Yard...Cashel Blue and Adrahan...both were fantastic. Since these two ultimately made the final cut, I will post details about them soon.
I do want to go back to Mitica Monte Enebro for a moment, and just mention that although it was not part of our findings this is a cheese worthy of an excursion. The rind is quite ashy, and looks almost like waves of lava rock. The best way I can describe the taste is something between a clean, flowery fresh goat and a sharp pungent blue cheese. It is really wonderful with crusty bread...and although I have not yet had it with wine, I think it would pair nicely with a full-bodied white. (a reader suggested trying the cheese with walnuts and lemon honey, which sounds incredible.)

The Artisan Cheese Gallery
12023 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, California
owner: Fred Heinemann

p.s. - pick up a copy of Steven Jenkins' "Cheese Primer" while you are there!

*** I was corrected by one blog reader this week, who kindly let me know that Sally Goat is not made by Cowgirl Creamery, but rather Sally Jackson, in Washington. They also recommended the sheep's milk cheese wrapped in brandy-soaked chestnut leaves from the same cheesemaker. Thank you! ...a delicious treat for the holidays.

Tickle Me More, Ticklemore!

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Region: British Isles, England
Milk: goat milk

There are times when I am drawn to something so deeply and seemingly without reason that instinctually, I respond by spending hours on Google digging up as much dirt on the matter as time allows.... Ticklemore is no exception. Having quickly become one of my favorite cheeses for its odd shape, its sort of unique, dry consistency and tangy, flowery flavor, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the company behind the cheese...Neal's Yard (one of the most interesting cheese companies around, in my opinion). The story behind Ticklemore has made my heart grow fonder......
Ticklemore is made by a man named Robin Congden, who lives near Totnes, in Devon, England. (Totnes evidently, was an incredibly wealthy merchant town in the 16th and 17th centuries...and has evolved into a sort of modern-day hippie village.) Robin has been making cheese here since the 1970's, using a French Roquefort (a ewe's milk blue cheese) technique to instead produce a very unique (and vegetarian!) hard goat's milk cheese. Needless to say, Robin Congdon is seen as a bit of a rebel with a very good cause in the cheesemaking community. Further evidence of this....the crazy shape of his cheese is derived from the handmade molds he constructs out of baskets purchased at Woolworth's! The image below...a shapely Norman castle in Totnes, which I would like to imagine was the inspiration.

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photos courtesy of

¡Viva Zamorano!

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Region: Zamoran Province (northwest of Madrid), Spain
Milk: ewe's milk

A couple of weeks ago, my friends, Dan and Tony came over for dinner. Spain had been a recent destination for all of us, and so the meal became the perfect opportunity to revisit our memories and use one of our newest cookbooks, "My Kitchen in Spain", by Janet Mendel. This was our menu: Tempranillo, Zamorano, Spanish Olives and Marcona Almonds, Bacalao en Amarillo (Cod in Saffron Sauce), Pisto (Summer Vegetable Stew), Black Mission Fig Goat Milk Ice Cream.
Zamorano was a brand new discovery and of course, you know....I was a sucker for the packaging. Turns out, it tastes a lot like Manchego but slightly more buttery, sharp and flavorful....Delicious and enjoyed by all!

A Life Well Lived (Bucheron)

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Region: France
Milk: goat milk

Like many things, I was drawn to this product for its incredible beauty. (Many of you know that I am a self-described package whore, consistently willing to buy most anything if the exterior is well-designed.) My perception has always been that cheese is incredibly deceptive in this category, but I recently read in "The Cheese Primer" that it is entirely possible to figure out the character of the cheese according to its cover. I am quite sure this comment was specifically about the cheese itself, and not the paper, foil or waxed, falling in love with the look of Bucheron, only to find that its interior was just as gratifying as the exterior made this bit of knowledge all the more exciting. What's more is that while many goat cheeses fall flat and leave no mystery, Bucheron satisfies the senses. Pure white, it has a delicate and refined quality. Creamy at the edges and dry towards the center, it crumbles to the touch. Its flavor... fresh, tangy and cool, melts on the tongue. It is amazingly satisfying on its own, but I prefer it on a warm summer night, glass of white in hand and shared with an assortment of friends.

One Life to Live (Reggianito Argentina)

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Reggianito Argentina Region: Argentina
Milk: cow milk

With a nod to the lineage of winemaking, Reggianito Argentina was first crafted by Italian immigrants who fled their homeland for the pastures of Argentina. This version of the cheese is slightly saltier and a bit more bold than the original. Even so, it makes for a wonderful cheese to keep on hand at all times. On pasta?..of course! Also delicious... asparagus with some fresh lemon juice...Reggianito Argentina grated on top.