Georgia on My Palate

This afternoon I had the opportunity to explore the newish Ponce City Market, one of those fancy food courts (with a few shops on the side) that seem to be springing up in every major city. This one happens to be in the old City Hall East, which before that was the Sears Roebuck building. In other words, it’s got a lot of history.

One of the numerous eateries that immediately appealed to me was Bellina Alimentari. After having fun looking over their Italian import products, I noticed that they also had a carefully curated cheese selection as well, so I picked out two homegrown hunks, Thomasville Tomme from Sweet Grass Dairy and Southern Aged’s Georgia Gold. The Tomme was probably my favorite, because it’s so easy to eat and eat and eat! The GG cheddar is actually the only cheddar made in Georgia which makes it pretty special.

I also requested a half loaf of the impressive schiacciata (aka Florentine focaccia) on display. It was about 2 inches in height, very fluffy, and required a hand washing or wipe down after each little bit I tore off from it, as it was quite oily, but in a good way! There were big crystals of salt atop and every single bite was a pure delight. When married with either of these delicious cheeses, it was even more heavenly.

I also selected a third cheese, Out of the Ashes, based on the intriguing label alone. It was made by a couple who call themselves, Woodsman & Wife.

This one definitely packed a punch! As you can see below, it had a very ashy rind and a super creamy interior. The flavor was quite strong and to be honest, it was not my favorite, definitely an acquired taste. I wondered if, like my beloved Kunik, there was certain window in which to purchase it before it became overripe.

We ultimately didn’t eat that much of it, and I didn’t take it back with me on the plane, for fear of wiping out everyone with its growing aroma. So, I guess the moral of today’s cheese story is don’t pick your cheese based on its label. Though knowing me, I’ll likely do this again anyway.

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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.

Goo Goo Tots

I got to Atlanta just in time for The Vortex‘s 25th birthday bash. My ATL bestie Idiazabal had initially mentioned going out for Indian, but when we heard about their big day, we knew we couldn’t miss it. Plus, tots! We ordered some of their Cheesy-Cheese Goo to go along with them, and it was delish. The only unfortunate thing was that I’d forgotten that the Vortex is pro-smoking and being in a restaurant clouded by smoke just seems weird in this day and age. Even in Europe, where smoking is so much more common, the smokers have to go outside in almost every country. So, the atmosphere wasn’t the greatest, but the food was still delish, if a tad disgusting. I’m not gonna ask what exactly makes this cheese so gooey.

Also, you can get pimiento cheese here on your burger, including a damn fine veggie one. So, two points for cheese minus one point for smoke. Yep, I’ll be back, but maybe doing takeout next time, if Georgia still hasn’t caught up with the rest of the world.

National Beer (& Cheese) Day

Today is National Beer Day. I don’t know who decides these things, but on my way through Grand Central this evening, I saw that Murray’s had some cheeses on sale that reputedly paired well with beer. So, I picked up a small hunk of the Swiss Challerhocker. I also got some of Effie’s (effin’ amazing) crackers. I think I got the rye variety this evening.

Anyway, back to the cheese. Challerhocker is described as being a sort of super Appenzeller with extra cream mixed in and being given more time to ripen. I’ve tried a few basic Appenzellers before (pre-blog) and they were fine basic Swiss cheeses, but this one was extra yum. I found myself continually cutting off “just one more piece” and then another and another. It’s a very friendly cheese that your palate will adore. Do yourself a favor and take this “cellar-sitter” home with you. Your taste buds will thank you. And pop open a brewski on the side. Ahhhh….

From Cheddar to Leicester

My fridge’s cheese drawer is overflowing with options, so it’s time for a dinner of cheese, crackers, and clementine. Just to the left of the Triscuits (smoked gouda flavor, no less!) is TJ’s Mull of Kintyre Cheddar. Very creamy, that one. Then below it is Millport Dairy‘s Smoked Cheddar. I’ll confess I bought this one because I initially confused it with Milton Creamery and their amazing cheddar. The Lancaster County blend is nice and I know it’ll be best when melted for mac ‘n’ cheese or a grilled sandwich.

Finally, almost matching the clemmie in color is the Red Leicester that I picked up as a cheese orphan. It has a very sharp, distinct flavor, so I recommend eating it with a cracker, not just on its own. It needs something to cut the intensity.

Interestingly, all of these cheeses draw their names from English towns. So I decided to look them up on a map. Leicester is northwest of London in the Midlands and Cheddar lies almost directly west of the capital. Cheddar is also close to the sea, so I’ve started to fantasize about a little day trip from London whenever I’m next there. If my dream comes true, you know where to look for a report on my adventures there!

Turnstyle Truffle Shuffle

While MeltKraft had been on my list of truly cheesy places to check out, fate decided I needed to get there sooner than later because this afternoon when exploring the options in Turnstyle, an underground upscale mall near Columbus Circle, I happened upon this branch of the local chain.

And they even had a special that was especially appealing, the Turnstyle Truffle Shuffle made with Tartufo Shepherd cheese, sautéed shrooms, shallots, garlic and parsley butter, fresh arugula, and truffle oil! Every single one of those ingredients is on my “yes, please” list.

I took my freshly grilled sammie over to one of the seating areas that scatter the long hallway. There was the perfect slogan on the table in front of me. I did eat it and it was as delicious as you think. If you find yourself in the city and most particularly meandering through the SW corner of Central Park, wander out and underground for this mouth-watering treat. You won’t be disappointed!

OMGruyère!

I was shopping in this gourmet grocery when I came across the most amazing thing: behold a cheesy caramel, more specifically, a caramel truly infused with the essence of Gruyère cheese.

Hitting that perfect note between salty and sweet, this caramel is a wonder. Sea salt caramels have been a thing for a couple of years, but this idea kicks the salty-sweet marriage up a notch. And it works, really well. Don’t believe me? Order some for yourself. If you aren’t sold, you are welcome to send them to me. I am.

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!