Kimball’s Cheese Does Please

Tonight, I went out with two college chums, Harbourne Blue and Hamakua, to the highly recommended Kimball House, located in the depot across the street from our old stomping grounds. We could’ve eaten on campus, but I think we made the much better choice to visit one of Decatur’s finest, hippest eateries.It will come as no big surprise that I opted to get the cheese plate as my main entrée. Starting from the left, there is Caña de Cabra, a Spanish goat cheese; then, Belletoile, a triple cream brie; next, Deer Creek’s 7 year Proprietor’s Grand Reserve Cheddar; and finally, the Sweet Home Perdido, from yes, Alabama.

As you can see I also had quite a few accompaniments, too: a tangy mustard, some pickles, microgreens, chopped nuts, and my absolute favorite, a homemade strawberry jam. I was licking the ramekin at the meal’s end–I kid you not.

The cheeses were all delightful, and I was kind and shared some with Harbourne & Hamakua. Beyond my rapture with the jam, which caused a Proustian style flashback in me to freezer jams from my childhood, I can’t say that I had a favorite cheese. Probably the cheddar went best with the jam?

Kimball House supposedly changes their menu every day, so I look forward to going back and seeing what new cheeses are available to sample.

Wh(e)y Not?

When my cousin Rubi was visiting a few weeks ago, she was raving about this cheese they had at her Thanksgiving table called Black Betty. I looked it up and turns out its an exclusive, seasonal hunk, but luckily I work in just the city where these sorts of fancy things can be easily sourced.

It turned out that Lucy’s Whey, which I had previously visited, sold this rare gem, so I hightailed it up there on my lunch break to get some before it was gone. They also happened to have Perlagrigia in stock and since I figured I’d be enjoying these cheeses with my work colleague who was given this cheese name, well, we had to try that one, too. Oh, and some gourmet rye crackers.

Black Betty is at the top wrapped in a black wax, which distinguishes it from the younger, less mature cheeses, made by the same company. The flavor of this goat gouda was intense, but in a good way–it paired perfectly with those rye crackers. Perlagrigia has a dusty rind coated with truffles, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mmm, mmm, good! I’m not sure we were able to pick a favorite between the two–let’s just call it a tie. They were both equally delightful. If you’re ever in a cheese shop (particularly round the holidays) and see them, snap them up. These are not-to-be-missed!

Brought to You by the Letter K

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I am in Rhinebeck, New York for the Sheep and Wool Festival. To celebrate 10 years of making this annual pilgrimage upstate, I am staying here for the whole weekend with some friendly female knitters who are mostly based in the city.

Do you know what else sheep give us besides their woolly coats with which we can make yarn? Their milk can be turned into cheese, glorious cheese!

Last year, I picked up some of the cheeses that were sold on the grounds. On my first afternoon in Rhinebeck, we took a saunter into the cozy village. We poked our heads into a variety of fun shops, but I was most excited when I discovered Grand Cru, a Beer and Cheese Market. They had my favorite cheese, Kunik, in stock, and also a seasonal beer that I had been on the hunt for recently.

I took them back to our rental house where I discovered that my meandering walk meant that I had missed the excursion to dinner. But I didn’t mind at all because I had my cheese and beer! Dinner is served. Giuncatella, who had earned her name because she grew up in Italy, had chosen to stay behind as well and she had some Greek cheeses with her, Kassseri and Kefalotyri, so we shared them along with some salad and fruit.

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Everything was delicious. Of course, my beloved Kunik was the most adored, but I was also glad to have the opportunity to try the Greek cheeses. Interestingly enough, I had dubbed two folks mentioned on the blog with these names as they have strong Greek ties, but at the time I didn’t anticipate that I’d get to try the cheeses so soon.

Then, day one of the big event arrived and I spent all of Saturday running around the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, like there was about to be a yarn apocalypse. I tend to postpone lunch as long as possible since the lines at the various food vendors can be long and time is of the essence. Finally, I had a moment for a quick break. In years past, this is one of the occasions when I allow myself to indulge in disgusting but delicious carnival fare such as cheese fries, but today, I saw that there was a new option this year: poutine!

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Of course, I had to try it and I’m glad I did. The vegetarian version I selected came with the upgrade of a truffle sauce–yum!

I was in sheep heaven and I look forward to finding more turophilic delights on future visits to this woolly, and often cheesy affair, in the years to come!

In Search of the Ideal Cheese

Some months ago Perlagrigia told me about a sweet deal available for Ideal Cheese. Of course I signed up, but it’s a bit off my beaten path, so getting there required some careful planning. Suddenly, the expiration of the discount coupon was fast approaching, and that helped me get my cheese-lovin’ tush in gear.

I had actually visited this cheese shop some years ago, long before this blog was but a twinkle in Jarlsberg’s eye. I think I got some rare cheddar then, because I had recently returned from Scotland and was craving a certain Western Isles cheese.

Anyway, on my return visit I was more adventurous. I had perused their virtual shop in advance and made a list of the most appealing cheeses I’d read about. I couldn’t get all of them, but I queried the counter clerk about each and he steered me towards this one and away from that one. I took home six different cheeses in all, which felt like an impressive haul.

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Then, yesterday afternoon and today, Perlagrigia & I feasted upon these beauts on the patio at work. Starting in the lower left is Paski Sir, a sheep milk’s cheese from Croatia. I urge you to read about it, and perhaps you will see why I had to try this one. Also, my conservation teacher in Florence was a Croatian named Nenad (it’s probably the equivalent of Bob, but it sounds exotic to Anglocentric ears). Ultimately, this one didn’t exactly live up to its mythical description, but we didn’t absolutely hate it.

Above Paski Sir is Testun al Barolo, an Italian cheese made from a blend of cow and sheep’s milks. When it’s ripening, its exterior is surrounded by smushed Nebbiolo grapes, which are the same ones used to create the celebrated Barolo wine, thus it acquires a burgundy-dyed rind. We liked this one a lot, even though it wasn’t that boozy, more fruity.

I had a couple of different truffle-infused cheeses on my list, but I decided to try the Truffle Gouda this time. It did not disappoint.

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On day two, we tried the Ubriaco al Prosecco, which translates to drunk on prosecco–yep, that can happen very quickly and easily! Like the Testun al Barolo, the rind is coated with the Prosecco grape skins imparting an “intense and delicate scent, with a fragrant and fresh flavor”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Above the drunken cheese is Jersey Girl from Autumn Valley Farm, which is actually made in upstate New York. I guess its name comes from Jersey cows? This one was wonderfully creamy.

Finally, there is the Quadrello di Bufala–clearly I was on a kick to try all the Italian cheeses with lyrical names! Described as a buffalo milk taleggio, it was one that I knew we would love and we did.

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But wait, there’s more! Because my opportunities to visit Trader Joe’s are somewhat random, I never can pass by the cheese section when I’m there. On my most recent visit, I got an old favorite, Italian Truffle, which makes fantastic grilled cheeses. I also tried a new one, Formaggio Lagorai, which hails from Trentino, a region of das Boot near and dear to my cuore. Not only was its origin appealing, but this one is going on my top 10 list. It’s rather delicate, but quite tasty. After being a Spotlight Cheese, I think it has become popular enough to be a regular on their shelves, so I urge you to check it out for yourself.

Now, I know you’re wondering, who wins out of the eight we sampled over a few days?? Well, I’m not sure we can declare a sole winner. Paski Sir was the only real miss, I’d say. The others were all intriguing in their individual ways and I expect I would try them again, but first I need another coupon to materialize!

Down in The Cellar

I’ve been wanting to go down into The Cellar, the basement of Beecher’s NYC shop, ever since I discovered it on a walk several months ago. I thought Jarlsberg & I might check it out when she was here last May, but we ran out of time. 😦

Thankfully, Hamakua was in the city for a conference and she was totally into visiting Beecher’s. She was, in fact, the person responsible for introducing me to my original favorite cheese restaurant, Artisanal.

ctmy125-hipster-lighting-cheese-makingOn the first floor, there is a glass-walled room where you can see folks making Beecher’s flagship cheese.

ctmy124-cheesy-decorThere are wacky paintings on the walls in the cellar featuring the animals that make the milk that becomes cheese.

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Right behind us was wheel after wheel of cheese being slowly aged in the cellar.

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There was a happy hour special going on when we arrived, so our first cheese plate featured some stock choices. They were good, but I didn’t take careful enough notes about what they were–sorry!

Our afternoon reunion underground ran on, but Hamakua and I were quite happy to order more cheese! We got Humboldt Fog from California that we knew we liked and then I proposed Pleasant Ridge Reserve, made in Wisconsin, which is where Hamakua’s mother lives and also, it’s the Cheese State!

We were washing everything down with some delicious drinks that happened to be the happy hour special. I think we might have had 3 a piece . . . thus not the greatest notes exist on our afternoon! But in the name of cheese, I happily volunteer to go back and do more turophilic research. Who’ll join me?

Tea & Cheese? Yes, Please

I had plans in the city this afternoon but before they began I met up with Menage Cheddar at Harney & Sons teahouse in SoHo. We hadn’t been there in ages and I don’t think I’ve ever featured it here on the cheese blog, but I believe it’s where I first tasted Kunik, so it holds a special place in my heart. Also, tea is always a nice accompaniment to cheese. Coffee and cheese–meh. Tea & cheese, yes, please!

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I think this bag, which was on sale in the boutique adjacent to the teahouse, requires no further comment.

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Of course, I got the cheese plate. These days there’s no Kunik (alas!), but from the left, we have the Coach Farm triple cream, the Tomme de Savoie, and two triangular slabs of the Harpersfield tea cheese, made with Harney’s own Lapsang Souchong! They also make another tea, well tisane, cheese with the Raspberry Herbal blend, but in the past, I have found this one too sweet, so I always ask for more of the robust L.S. variety. I usually get a pot of the smoky Russian Country to go along.

I enthusiastically inhaled everything before me. Menage stayed busy with her usual order of sweet scones. Her taste runs to the more delicate, though she bravely had a taste of my sampler. All in all, it was a delightful way to spend an afternoon on a steamy September day in the city. I expect we’ll be back.

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.

Un Tour de France, avec Fromage

Bienvenue à Paris! I landed here this morning. Unfortunately, I don’t actually have time to leave the airport before my next flight, but I’m making the most of my brief layover in this country by inhaling some buttery pastries and sampling from this petite basket of fromages fantastiques.

ctmy95-les fromage de CDGWhen I first spied it, how could resist?! And when I opened the cooler in the duty-free shop, the aroma that wafted out let me know that I was in a country that takes its cheese creation and consumption seriously.

While I did not take pictures of each individual portion as I unwrapped them, I did take notes as I sampled each one. Let’s begin with the blue-boxed (Mini) Caprice (des Dieux), which means “whim of the gods”. Isn’t that a heavenly sounding cheese? It was oval in shape, designed to look like the Calisson, a French almond candy. This cheese was a very creamy, like a Brie, but there was no bitter aftertaste that you sometimes get with that famous French fromage.

Next comes the slice of Comté, one of Jarl’s all-time faves. I’ve had this cheese on several occasions before and I like it, I do, so I’m not sure I’ve ever actually bought some, until today. I’ll try to make more of an effort to remember that it is “strong, in the right way” and make more of a habit of tucking it into my basket on future cheese-shopping days.

ctmy96-pave x deuxOn either side of the basket are mini Pavé d’Affinois varieties. The white one is the standard; the other with the orange rind is called Brin. Like the Caprice, I found them both similar to a Brie, though perhaps somewhere between those two on the bitter-sweet scale. The Brin did not taste remarkably different, just slightly so.

Below the blue Caprice box was another packaged slice, this one called Emmen France. I can’t find any specific information online about it, so I’m going to guess that it’s simply a French version of the Swiss Emment(h)aler. I did discover that one can download an app to point out key spots whilst cycling through the Emmen valley of Switzerland, original homeland of this cheese. It’s very mild, by the way, perhaps like the inhabitants of this valley?

Société Crème at the bottom of the basket was a creamy, but undoubtedly strong spreadable cheese. The blue-green veins still visible in this more processed miniature version hinted at its derivation from a Roquefort. I first tried this cheese in a dish of pasta in Belgium and I remember it knocking my socks off, almost literally!

Finally, there is the Chavroux, with a little kid on the outside, to clarify its origins from goat’s milk. Not as strong as that boisterous bleu, not as mild as the Emmen, but with more of a kick (maa!) than the creamy, rinded varieties I sampled, this one was a nice finish to my three-hour tour, made without actually touching true French soil.

I do hope that I will get to make more than a mere layover here one day and soon, but for the moment, I can hint that the next post will be from a neighboring country that also takes its cheese seriously, molto serio . . .

Will Knit for Cheese

About a year ago, I made an arrangement with my co-worker Kasseri. She wanted me to knit her a hat. I really don’t like to be paid to knit, so we negotiated a trade. I made the hat, Kasseri wore it lots, and promised me that she would eventually deliver her end of the bargain. I put absolutely no pressure on her and the days marched on.

Much to my benefit, not too long ago Kasseri took in a new roommate who just happens to work for Murray’s! Feeling guilty, ridiculously so I’d like to point out, Kasseri told me that she had finally harassed her flatmate into bringing home some cheeses in exchange for the trade.

ctmy89-katie:kelly cheeseAnd just look at these beauts! Let’s start in the upper left, that’s Tomme Crayeuse, the latter word meaning chalky, but this fromage, thankfully reminded me more of a field of mushrooms than a dusty classroom. Across from it, is the Ewephoria Sheep Milk Gouda, with a very punny name. The flavor here was almost sweet, but in a good way. Below the gouda is a crumbly hunk of Clothbound Cheddar from Cabot Creamery. (I think Kasseri said this was her favorite; she told me that her roomie insisted she sample them before passing them along to me :-))

Anyway, this is no run-of-the-mill cheddar, but one that has real bite. And finally, there’s my new favorite, and perhaps Perlagrigia’s too–she was participating in the cheese feasting with me–Malghese! Falling texture-wise somewhere between a soft Brie and a not fresh mozzarella, this washed rind formaggio is likely most reminiscent in flavor of a Taleggio. In fact, I later read of it being described as “Taleggio’s better behaved little brother”. For some reason, it’s not listed on the Murray’s site, but you can definitely get it there if you can go to one in person. I recently went by the counter and bought another giant hunk to take home with me. Delish!ctmy90-murray's smorgasbordMy thanks to Kasseri & her Murray’s employed champion of a roommate for making my day, and especially for turning me on to Mr. Malghese. Mmm! Yes, I will happily “knit for cheese” any day of the week.

Queen Kunik

I can’t believe it’s taken me over a year to feature the mighty Kunik, my favorite cheese! This beaut was first mentioned in my brief bio. I think I first discovered her via Harney & Sons teashop in SoHo.ctmy83-kunik!

And then, the other day, I was checking out the impressive variety of cheeses on offer at my new & improved grocery in the country, and I knew I liked this place because they had wheels of Kunik. Even better, someone had accidentally priced it far too low, so I got a steal of a deal. Yee-haw!

ctmy84-white on the outside & yellow on the insideWhat makes Kunik so yummy? It’s a little wheel of cheese heaven from upstate New York that’s been made from goat’s milk mixed with cow’s cream. The best of both worlds! When you slice into it, the white mold exterior (typically edible, by the way) reveals this super creamy yellow interior.

ctmy86-kunik on bunny breadThen, you slather that onto a cracker, a piece of bread, or just spoon it up and stick it straight into your mouth. Mmm! This cheese does not disappoint. I took my wheel to work and shared it with the ever-eager-to-join-me-in-cheese-feasting Perlagrigia. She was an immediate convert. No surprise there. We continued sampling it for several days this week.

ctmy85-kunik on a crackerOne caveat I will give about this dear lady. Do not wait too long to enjoy her. She ripens quickly and when she does–pow!–she can go from a delicate, aromatic flower to the dreadlocked, deodorant-phobic hippie on the corner and then, well, it can be a little painful to sample her. Trust me.

So, look for a wheel (maybe start with one of the mini ones) that has a sell-by date with about a month to go, find some nice accompaniments, and get to smearing and mmming: the sooner, the better. You won’t be disappointed. She’s my Queen and she’s earned that prestigious honor rightly so.