A Cackalacky Creation

I’ve been back in the States for a few weeks, still fondly thinking back on the delicious fromages, formaggi, und käses I discovered and hoping it won’t be too, too long until I can return both to Europe and its turophilic bounty.

In the meantime, I made an impromptu trip down to South Carolina to see my brother Anster in a play. Before the show, I had dinner with my cousin Rubi, who was visiting from Scotland and one each of our parents, who are siblings themselves. Anster had recommended that we dine at Cribb’s Kitchen on Main Street in Spartanburg.

ctmy108-grilled cheese bite exteriorI’d previewed the menu to deem it veggie-friendly. It not only passed that test, I also saw a particular dish that made the turophile and Southerner in me simultaneously begin to shout ululations: Pimiento cheese fritters! I insisted that we start the meal off with them. When they came we found these hush puppy sized balls filled with pimiento cheese that oozed when one bit into them. ctmy109-grilled cheese bite interiorMy mom remarked that she didn’t see any real pimiento pieces, but I dismissed her disdain as the flavor of this appetizer still had a kick. There was also a tomato “jam” on the side into which we could dip these delectable creations.

I was happy to share with the table and we all enjoyed them, though perhaps not as much as Rubi did her shrimp & grits! I don’t eat seafood, but I do make a pot of grits (with cheese, of course) almost every Sunday morning, so I can easily relate to a fellow grits lover. If you’ve not had grits before, come to my house and I’ll make you some. If that’s impossible, then the thing to remember is that for them to be truly gooood, they need a lot of butter, salt, and cheese stirred in, though Jarlsberg would beg to differ with me on this interpretation. 😉

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Ich Liebe Käse!

Willkommen wieder in Deutschland! I flew back here two nights ago, traipsed about Munich for a day, and then left on a bus transporting me up to Frankfurt in a mere 6 hours (and for only €19!) My Eurotrip is almost over but quite by chance I happened to squeeze in a bit more cheesy fun.

In Frankfurt, I met up with the female half of the dynamic Striegistaler-Zwerge duo, another gal from my college years in Georgia. Striegistaler hails from Tennessee herself, but met Zwerge, a German lad at Tech. They eventually married and were initially based in Munich where I last saw them almost 10 years ago, but had moved to the much more economically friendly Frankfurt am Main (did you know there are actually two Frankfurts in Germany?)

ctmy106-frankfurt cheese shopToday, Striegistaler had a friend in tow with her, Zengarry, a raw food enthusiast from Belgium. We three enjoyed drinks and chatter at a small café. After he finished work, Zwerge tracked us down in the compact city, and we strolled about town. Lo and behold, we stumbled across this cheese shop.

ctmy107-so viel käseStriegistaler saw how my eyes lit up when I spied it and insisted that we go inside. The owner was a very friendly guy who offered us countless samples. I should’ve taken more careful notes as there was one Cheddar in particular that had us all swooning. It was sublime. We got some of it and a few others that were recommended, along with a bottle of fizzy wine.

eu16-227-frankfurt-rooftop-viewNext, we had drinks at a rooftop bar with an impressive view of the city, and were eventually joined by another American ex-pat Nicasio, a wildly entertaining drummer. After sunset, we all headed back to the Main (pronounced Mine) river, snuck into a picnic spot by a popular bar, and feasted upon our cheeses there. Nicasio had run home and brought along her sweet pooch to join us. Thankfully, he was not the begging type, so the cheese consumption was reserved to humans.

It’s funny to think that my 10-day trip throughout these five European countries started and ended with unexpected cheese finds. I wonder if the cheese seeks me out even more than I look for it? I can’t say when I’ll be back over this way, but in the meantime, I’m sure I’ll discover some more lovely imported wheels of deliciousness in the States. And I’ll be sure to share all the details right here.

Until the next time, dear Europe: Addio, ciao-ciao, Auf wiedersehn, Good-bye…
(hint: you can sing these words to a familiar tune from a famous movie)

Auld Stinky

Fàilte gu na h-Alba! Aye, it’s taken more than a mere train to get me over to this isle. I left Germany (temporarily) and my pace will slow a bit over the next three days as I soak up all thing Scottish, and you know if it’s not Scottish…

ctmy104-drunk on cheeseI had a full day to explore Edinburgh and made sure to pop into Iain J. Mellis’s shop. When I lived here briefly in 2007, I learnt the nickname for this place was “Smellis” because it does indeed have quite the aroma wafting out its door.  I had a good look over the plethora of cheeses available and with advice from the counter clerks, made a selection of three.

I remembered that my cousin Rubi (who was coincidentally visiting the States at present) had told me that she was more a fan of British Bries than French ones, so I decided to try the Clava Brie, made in Inverness-shire. I think she said there was less of an ammonia-like flavor to the local ones. With this one, though, while it was fine, I did not think it was as good as other Bries I’d previously sampled.ctmy105-smellis cheese trio

Bonnet, a goat cheese of Ayrshire origins, proved to be definitely reminiscent of other goat cheeses in its flavor, even though it had a much more firm texture. There was a light bite to it, which is generally the case with these types of cheeses.

Finally, there was Auld Reekie, which references Edinburgh’s nickname of old, from when the stench of the sewers and smog overwhelmed the capital. I believe I can tolerate some stinky cheese over that smell any day. How about you? In spite of its pungent name, this was my favorite of the bunch as it had been smoked up in Aberdeenshire. Obviously, its reeky quality comes from its smokey aroma rather than anything to do with sewage–thank goodness! There is even a sort of whisky-like flavor to it, which in my mind makes it all the more Scottish. (Note: Scottish whisky is spelt without an e between the k and y, unlike its Irish counterpart).

These cheeses were consumed over a few meals during my stay out at Rubi’s place, which lies between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Then, on my way back to A’ Ghearmailt, I grabbed a simple tea from M&S and I thought to myself that Wallace would approve of it as the sandwich featured his beloved Wensleydale cheese!

In general, I find it both easy and exciting to be a cheese-loving vegetarian in Scotland. The options are abundant and all quite tasty. I relish every opportunity to sample their wide variety of turophilic tidbits. I hope it won’t be too long until I find myself back in this auld stinky, in all the right ways, land.

Crazy for Käse

Jetzt ich bin in Deutschland! An overnight bus whisked me through the Swiss Alps and after a brief pause in Munich, I made my way out to Pfaffenhofen, a Bavarian suburb to visit a shop catering to one of my other obsessions. Completing that fabulous fibrous pilgrimage sooner than expected, I found that I had a bit of time before I had to return to Munich, so I wandered into center of this charming town where I found a Saturday market in full swing.

ctmy101-Käse von PfaffenhoffenGuess what? There was not one, but two, cheese stalls! I perused the offerings at each, but ultimately decided that the one pictured had the most intriguing options. I told the counter girl that I was eager to stick to local cheeses and it just so happened that they were featuring a sale on one, Allegäuer Emmentaler.

ctmy100-german cheeseThis is the German version of the famous Swiss cheese. As you can see,  it does not have holes, but the color and texture is that classic creamy yellow associated with the well-known variety. I would describe this Alpine specialty as sweet, but with a mild bite.

ctmy102-leafy german cheese The other cheese I tried was called Blaümflor. Unfortunately, I can’t find any information about it, so it’s either incredibly rare or more likely, I didn’t copy the name down quite right. The translation device says it’s simply “pale green”, which I guess might refer to its rind? It was coated in leaves and flowers. Overall, this was my favorite of the two I sampled, for it had a mild, but sweet, leafy, but not too grassy, flavor. If you sprechen Deutsch and can figure out my error in transcribing the name of this cheese, Gib mir Bescheid–I’d love to find a way to maybe track it down again!

These cheeses were enjoyed as a picnic lunch on the train back to Munich. I also indulged in some of my beloved mohnstrudel, and later I even found one with poppy seeds and cheese. I failed to document it, but trust me, it was köstlich. 

In the afternoon, I took another train over to Austria. Are you keeping pace with me? Yes, it’s only day three and I’m covering some serious ground with my limited vacation allotment. There, I met up with my friends, the Mondsee family. The Mutter is an American friend from college, who married an Austrian yodeler, and together they have a 10-year-old daughter.

I had fun catching up with them as the last time we had seen each other the tween had been but three! We toured the serpentine streets of Salzburg in the rain. Thankfully, my college mate is a certified tour guide, so we were never lost. We stopped at one point and enjoyed some eis, and when I saw that topfen was a flavor, I knew I had to try it. Cheese ice cream? Yes, please. I tried it combined with aprikose, and so did my pal. She declared that the swirl reminded her of peaches ‘n’ cream. Indeed. Apologies for the lack of documentation–it was too complicated to manage umbrellas, ice creams, and a camera.

ctmy103-käsespätzleLater on, we stopped for dinner at a beer hall. The menu was extensive but thankfully, my English-speaking friends could help me figure out what was both veg-friendly and cheesetastic. Their daughter and I both went for the Käsespätzle, the Austrian version of macaroni-and-cheese. Served in individual skillets, you can see that it was an ample portion and I was sorry that I couldn’t finish it, as I didn’t have a fridge handy to hold the leftovers.

I parted ways with the Mondseer family–they returned home and I stayed over in Salzburg that evening. Arriving in the middle of a weekend meant that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to patronize a charming cheese shop that I’d read about in my guide book. I guess I will just have to make plans to come back soon, for it’s clear that I’m crazy for any and all käse I encounter.

On the Bitto Trail

Sono in Italia! I’m only here for 36 hours (damn those American vacation limits!), but I’m making the most of it. I’m in the Lombardy region around Milan. When I told Perlagrigia, my cheese-loving, Italian-speaking colleague from work that I would be in this area, she urged me to seek out a particular cheese, Bitto. In doing a bit of preliminary research, I learnt that it is one of the most rare, and therefore more expensive, cheeses in the world!

Thus, I was surprised to find it featured on a pizza at the restaurant where I dined with my Italian friend Philadelphia–I am cheesening her with this name because she’s the one who first told me that in Italy, La Philadelphia is the name used colloquially for cream cheese! However, Philadelphia is actually much more of a meathead than a cheese fiend like me. For proof, just take a look at her pizza pictured in the background.ctmy97-la pizza con bitto!

But back to my pie . . . I think it was called the Alpine Pizza, or at least I recall it having a name that spoke to it featuring local ingredients. In addition to Bitto, it also came with porcini mushrooms, and there had been meat on it, but when Philadelphia placed our orders she requested that they hold it, due to me being a veghead. Anyway, my notes say this pizza was “delish”, or rather delizioso?

I’m very glad I happened upon it, seemingly by chance, in Lecco. Later that afternoon, I was back in Milano and I stopped into the decidedly gourmet grocery Peck. It’s so fancy that one has to pay for one’s purchases before picking them up. I went to the cheese counter and told the man there in my stumbling Italian that I had been urged to try the Bitto. I was hoping that he’d offer me a sample.

ctmy98-peck foilAlas, he did not pick up on my hint. He told me that the Bitto Storico (aged for 10 years and thus the more costly) would crumble to bits if he cut off a slim portion. Honestly, I’d’ve not minded that, but I guess he didn’t want to sell me “broken” cheese. So, I settled for a sliver of the younger Bitto 2015. It was wrapped up in paper-lined foil, emblazoned with the sunny Peck logo (look left), which I imagine is factored into the price of the cheese?!

ctmy99-bitto 2015When I unwrapped the Bitto later that evening, I found a sweaty, Parmagiano-like texture. It was a tad disappointing that after all the build-up, the cheese itself was ultimately undistinguished. It tasted like “cheese”, but did not have any particular flavor that made my taste buds come alive in rapturous song.

Perhaps it should always be melted atop a pizza with porcini mushrooms? Or maybe I need to channel my sassy inner New Yorker and be more insistent that Peck’s cheese counter give me what I want? Whatever it takes, I’ll keep trying and hopefully one day, I will sample the historic Bitto and come to fully understand why it is so admired.

Where am I off to next? Über die Alpen!