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!

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?

St-Albert’s Sampler & More

I have returned from my roadtrip through the Adirondacks, across the Canadian border, and behold the terrific turophilic souvenirs I brought back with me!

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This is the St-Albert‘s sampler featuring so many different varieties of their homemade cheese. I loved all of it! Maybe the smoked was my favorite? I’m just always happy when there’s cheese at hand.

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And this was the other thing I figured could travel pretty well. Yeah, it’s processed cheese, but I’m not that much of a snob, except when it comes to that sawdust in a green can. Also, I couldn’t resist the fun packaging and the flavors: bleu, mushroom, and onion. I was spreading them on whatever crackers or bread I had available, sometimes just popping the little cubes whole in my mouth. Delish.

Merci, St-Albert, j’espère retourner bientôt pour une autre visite!

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.