Archive for September, 2008
Can you find the cheese in this picture?

Can you find the cheese in this picture? OK, yeah, it’s a martini, and I didn’t mean to get your hopes up; there’s NO cheese in the Martini. It is, actually, a savory Martini from the pages of Gourmet Magazine (recipe link here). This is a lead-in, however, about how even when you don’t know what to make for dinner, you can almost always incorporate cheese. It was the Martini which inspired me to bake some Cheddar Biscuits.

Yesterday I mentioned to a friend that I was low on cheese in the fridge at home. Low meaning that I was down to just some Gorgonzola, some extra sharp cheddar, Parmesan, and Sapsago (and I later discovered we also had some pre-sliced Asiago too). But what to make for dinner? I also had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts I had thawed that would need to be used. What we ended up having was this:

Black Tie Martinis with Cheddar Biscuits (more like a savory cookie)
Lettuce Wedges with Roquefort Dressing (yeah, it was actually Gorgonzola Dressing)
Braised Chicken and Mushrooms on Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

We could have had some of the Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Cake that Kathy had made the day before for dessert, but we were stuffed.

I’d already found the chicken recipe on the Internet before going home yesterday, and I knew we had all the needed ingredients. When I got home I grabbed a paperback that used to belong to Kathy’s Great Aunt Frieda, Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook (1977). The first page I turned to had the “salad” recipe, which hearkens back to the mid-1970’s when just about the ONLY lettuce used for salads in the United States seems to have been iceberg lettuce. Funny thing though, I still had half a head of iceberg in the fridge from when I used it in a Burmese Fermented Tea Leaf Salad. The Roquefort dressing, which takes all of five minutes to make, is not only creamy and decadent, but incredibly easy and fresh tasting. Kathy commented that we should continue to make only fresh salad dressings at home since they’re always pretty easy. 

The cheese biscuit recipe I dug out of tall thin paperback; Cheese Cookery (1980, published by HPBooks). It is very similar to another recipe I sometimes make, except that it calls for regular butter instead of unsalted, doesn’t require pepper (which our Martinis already had), and doesn’t call for walnuts (which I was out of). The extra-sharp cheddar cheese (produced by Cabot of Vermont) I had I picked up at Country Cheese, which has a location in both San Francisco and Berkeley. County Cheese always has a large, international, selection of cheddar cheeses at reasonable prices, and it’s also where I buy my Sapsago (a dollar cheaper per cone than at the Cheese Board). They naturally carry a lot of other cheeses too, and as the blogger “SF Ordinary Girl” pointed out to me at the Blogger Mixer, they also carry an excellent Italian Buffalo mozzarella.

Below I’ll copy the two cheese recipes I made last night since I don’t think I’ve had the chance to post any in awhile. One last added note about the Cheddar Biscuits; you don’t have to bake all of them; you can cut off what you need from the log, tightly wrap the remainder, put into a freezer bag, and keep it in your freezer. When you want to make the rest, thaw the log in your fridge, and then bake up the remainder.

Lettuce Wedges with Roquefort Dressing (for two)

 

·         ½ cup sour cream

·         ¼ cup crumbled Roquefort or other Blue Cheese (about 1 ounce)

·         ½ teaspoon lemon juice

·         ¼ teaspoon salt

·         2 lettuce wedges

 

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients  except lettuce wedges. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors. Add small amount of milk or light cream if necessary for proper consistency. Spoon onto lettuce wedges.

 

Little Cheddar Biscuits

 

·         2 cups all-purpose flour

·         1 teaspoon dry mustard

·         1 teaspoon paprika

·         ¼ teaspoon baking powder

·         1 cup butter, room temperature

·         2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (8 oz.)

·         1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

 

Instructions:

Combine flour, dry mustard, paprika and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside. Beat butter in a large bowl by hand or with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly beat in cheese and Worcestershire sauce. Gradually add flour mixture, stirring with a fork until combined. On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into a long roll about 1 & 3/4-inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil. Place on a platter. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 325º F (165º C). Slice dough about 1/3-inch thick. With hands, roll each slice into a ball. Flatten slightly. Place on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 8 minutes in preheated oven. Biscuits will only brown slightly on bottom, Makes about 36 biscuits.

Cheddar Cheddar ShreddedButter & CheeseLog of Biscuits

Now that my cheese larder is near empty, do you have a suggestion of a favorite cheese I should try?

Teleme, do bloggers like cheese?

No, the title of this post is not misspelled; just a bad excuse for a pun. Two subjects for today; the third cheese I had picked up at the Cheese board that I’ve been hinting at (Teleme), and a little bit about the “Blogger Mixer” I had attended last Thursday.

First; Teleme.

Gordon Edgar, Cheese Monger extraordinaire of Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, wrote some excellent advice the last time that I had written about Teleme (view posting here). Naturally he was right (I mean, hey, the guy’s got 12+ years as a cheese expert), but I guess what I wasn’t expecting was just how INCREDIBLE the difference was. California was lost, and then saved again, by Franklin Peluso.  Peluso had sold the name of his family’s Teleme (which is the type I had tried in my other Teleme post), and moved to Maine where he worked on marketing Teleme to the East Coast as well as worked on developing some new cheeses. Thankfully for us in California, he returned with his family to our warmer climate, and we can once again buy his Teleme, Teleme as it is meant to taste.

Look at the picture I posted of the slice we enjoyed. Click on it so that you’ll get the full resolution in a pop-up screen. Now resizethat screen so that it is displayed as full screen. The picture was taken before it even had the chance to get to room temperature, so please be amazed by the creaminess… Even the rind of this cheese, which is dusted in a fine layer of rice flour (flavorless on its own), adds to the entire enjoyment of this cheese, offering a fun “coating” with which your tongue can break through, intermingling the rind’s texture with the cheese’s creamy goodness. You’ve been to parties, I imagine, at which there’s some Brie, but everyone is cutting off/around the rind? Well, if you’re the type who does that, who has not yet developed a taste for the edible rind of soft-ripened cheeses, then enjoying Franklin’s Teleme will be a good starting place for you. The rice flour acts as an edible protection to the cheese, not unlike the rice paper on a piece of Boton’s Rice Candy. At the store, the complete large square loaf of Teleme was on display on a plate, the cheese’s sides were bulging outwards, yet thanks to the dusted rind, it was maintaining its basic shape. This cheese acts like a siren (the mythical Greek type), calling out, begging to be consumed. I’ve noticed on Franklin’s Cheese website that he also produces a type with pepper added. Mmmm.

Bloggers? Do they like cheese?

Well, obviously I do, since I blog about cheese… Others? Yes. This past Thursday I was very fortunate to be invited by Brittney Gilbert, editor of KPIX’s (CBS5) “Eye on Blogs“, to a Blogger Mixer. What a great event. There were between 50 and 100 people in attendance, primarily bloggers from the San Francisco Bay Area, who blog about anything and everything from politics, to raising children, to proper etiquette on MUNI (San Francisco’s public transit system), to, well, cheese.

The station put out a nice spread of food including beer, wine, water and sodas and made us all feel very welcome. It was interesting to learn that thanks to bloggers in the area, the station has gained story leads that the news would otherwise not have discovered or reported.

The best part of the evening, for me, was the chance to meet such a diverse group of bloggers and learn what they blog about. I’ve got a stack of blog business cards which I am trying to systematically go through, but again, thanks to Gilbert’s “Eye on Blogs” there’s always a daily pick of excerpts, with links, to get an overview of what people are writing about.

I’d taken a picture of our host, Brittney Gilbert, as she addressed the gathering, but I caught her mid-sentence, and with eyes half closed.  Were I to post it, I doubt I’d ever be invited again! Fortunately, an associate of hers, Arturo Riera, filmed the welcome speech, as well as a great many of the visiting bloggers talking directly to the camera about their blogs. I’m in there somewhere too. It’s about 15 minutes long, and if you watch it, you’ll see (and hear) why I was hoarse after the event [Here's the link].

Both of my friends Dana (who also blogs) and Sang tagged along to the event, and were warmly welcomed. Kathy regretfully had to work that night.

Bryce, was there cheese at the event?

Yes, yes there was. There was a LOT of tasty food at the event, including some Safeway catering platters with cheese; domestic provolone, swiss, brie, cheddar, pepper-jack and smoked gouda. May have forgotten a couple. Brittney asked me how the cheese was, and asked me to be honest. “Serviceable,” I responded with a smile. Always remember; cheese, whether “fancy”, domestic, or even mass-produced is always better than no cheese.

Blogger Cheese and Food Spread  Blogger Cheese and Food Spread

Thanks again to KPIX and Brittney Gilbert for the wonderful event, and greetings to all the wonderful bloggers I got to meet.

Cheese that tastes like the Earth.

While at the Cheeseboard last Friday, one of the three cheeses I picked up was Sottocenere al tartufo. I hadn’t specifically planned on getting that cheese, but had asked the cheesemonger to suggest a; “raw cow-milk cheese which tastes Earthy.” She was obviously up for the challenge, because she suggested this excellent Italian cheese, laden with truffles and its rind covered by a layer of ash.  Talk about food of the Gods; I’m certain this would have been Hephaestus’ favorite cheese. There’s no “kick” to this cheese; it is smooth and creamy, and yet “earthy” is the absolute best way to describe it. Its taste is a deep, soul satisfying contentment. If there was an adult version of eating dirt, this is it, and I mean that in the most gourmet of ways… in case I haven’t made myself clear; you should try this cheese!

Besides enjoying a large piece just on its own, I surprised Kathy with this wonderful cheese by packing our work-day lunches with thick-cut smoked bacon and cheese sandwiches. The semi-soft/semi-hard (I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle) creamy texture of the cheese was a perfect pairing for the crispy, salty nature of the bacon. THIS is how you make an ordinary sandwich extraordinary; use quality cheese.

You’ve covered TWO of the three cheeses you said you bought, Bryce, What about the third?

That’s right, inner-cheese voice, there was the P’tit Basque, today’s posting about the Sottocenere al tartufo, but you’ll have to wait to read about the third. I will mention, however, that today I am going to a “Blogger Mixer” at the Bay Area’s CBS Channel 5 station (KPIX). Although I’d like to think that I do, and will, blog about cheese from the entire world, my perspective is rooted here in the Bay Area of California where I live and work. Brittney Gilbert, is a writer and blogger who has been blogging for nearly a decade, and now additionally works for KPIX in San Francisco on their website, artfully pulling together and commenting on blogs of the Bay Area. “Eye on Blogs” is her near-daily on-line feature,  which acts as a wonderful portal for blogs in the Bay Area. I find this to be an excellent service of KPIX since yes; local, national and international news is great (and necessary), but sometimes, to get to the heart of the news, you need to see what locals are thinking and writing about (even if it happens to be about cheese). I’m looking forward to meeting other local bloggers tonight, and I hope there’s cheese amongst the “light snacks”.

Please stuff some cheese in that chicken. Thanks.

Chickens in Fair Oaks This past weekend Kathy and I wanted to do something/go somewhere to celebrate our wedding anniversary. As you already know (if you read yesterday’s post), for dinner on our anniversary we enjoyed a fondue which was new to us. For the weekend, well, it was going to be mainly unplanned. We’d find something interesting to do.

Using Google, I did some searches such as; “CA festival September 20 2008″. This resulted in discovering the Third Annual Fair Oaks Chicken Festival. The town of Fair Oaks, California, is a town between Folsom and Sacramento alongside the American River. Besides already having a Spring Festival each year, as well as a theatre festival, Fair Oaks has embraced the fact that their old downtown area (named “The Village”) has chickens which run wild in the area, and has decided to celebrate the fact.

Chickens; yeah, yeah, what about cheese Bryce?

Despite enjoying some wine, looking at the various arts and crafts booths, and listening to some live bands play, we found no cheese. Actually, we didn’t even eat any chicken. The website for the event mentioned that food vendors would be featuring chicken, but we ended up having some barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches. Perhaps we just wanted to protect our friend’s feelings (seen pictured with us). We’d driven about two hours to get to the festival, and as we finished up there, I realized that South Lake Tahoe was only about two hours away, and that that town certainly had cheese. Specifically, I had in my mind a Swiss restaurant I had always wanted to try.

So we did drive the two hours…

Just for cheese, Bryce?

Well, not just for cheese; Lake Tahoe is beautiful, the drive there would be nice, and if we felt like gambling at all, we could cross over the borderline into Nevada and go to a casino. But yes, I was thinking about one of Switzerland’s national (and regional) dishes; Röschti . Röschti is a potato dish, which can have a lot of variations, depending on what you add to it. My favorite? Any type of Röschti which involves cheese (of course).

Swiss Chalet Postcard The Swiss Chalet Restaurant in South Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place, very well maintained, excellent ambiance, and a lot of authentic dishes and decorations. What we were surprised to find, however, was that there was no Röschti on the menu at all, of any variety. When we asked out waiter, he explained that they will make it, by special request, if they get a 24 hour warning. Kathy and I joked, a little at their expense, about why the dish would take 24 hours preparation. With the exception of baked potatoes with some of their menu’s dinners, we have to surmise that they like to use a particular type of potato for their Röschti [did you know, for example, that the Inca Civilization grew
over 200 kinds of potatoes?], and perhaps they needed the time to get them. With no Röschti, my attention went immediately to the fondue, but we had just had fondue the night before (not that it should matter), and for cheese fondue the Chalet was only offering the “traditional”-style Swiss fondue, and the menu did not even identify the types of “Imported Swiss Cheeses” they use (that made a difference to me). So, I opted for the “Specialty the Swiss Chalet is Famous for”; the St. Moritz Schnitzel, which is a Cordon Bleu but with veal instead of chicken (I never DID have any chicken on Saturday!). I was NOT disappointed. From the fried breading, to the interplay between the Gruyère, ham, and veal, the dish was so perfect that my toes were curling.


So, Gruyère was the only cheese I ate on Saturday.

Well, in that case, did you gamble at all?

We did step into a casino, looked around for a blackjack table which would be $5 or less. Found only one; completely occupied complete with a boisterous, somewhat portly guy (about our age), “holding court” as he played and smoking a cigar… As we passed by I heard him saying to another player; “Me, I’m married, so I’m not making a pass at your wife, but…” Didn’t hear how that ended. Kathy and I both played at some one-cent slot machines for about 10 minutes (my $1 yielded $7.36), and as we were leaving, the very same man with the cigar was on the floor, surrounded by paramedics and obviously in pain. Stroke? Passed out? Something else? I went to the gym the next day. Sometimes you need these over-the-top reminders.   …enjoy your cheese, and your chicken, but always in moderation, and do what you can to stay active and healthy.

Model Chickens Swiss Steins  Chicken Festival in Fair Oaks

New Fondues!

Sure, I already own at least 12 fondue books (perhaps more, but I lost count). Kathy, however, brought me home a new one (published in 2007), and I’m really pleased that she did. Named simply; “Fondue“, this cook book is excellent since it is distinguishes itself by having NEW fondue recipes. The book not only is published in Berkeley, but is written by Lenny Rice & Brigid Callinan, who are both local to California’s Bay Area. Lenny Rice happens to be the head cheesemonger at Cowgirl Creamery’s Tomales Bay Foods. It makes me wonder if perhaps we’ve been in the same room for a cheese event or two. I hope that at some point we will be though, so that I can thank her in person for this wonderful new fondue book. Although “local” in many ways, this book brings to mind that not everyone is living here; Rice & Callinan provide an excellent resource section so that you’ll know where/how to order cheeses and ingredients which you might not find in your area. Another great feature of this book is that with each of the 50+ recipes are “Cheese Notes” side-bars which take the time to explain a little something about the cheese, or at the very least, some historic trivia about the cheeses. Informative and fun to read, I look forward to trying (over time) just about every recipe in the book.

Which fondue recipe to start with, that was the real challenge. It happened to have been Kathy’s and my anniversary this past Friday. After checking in with Kathy to be sure that fondue would be OK for dinner (we also celebrated over the weekend, even attending a Chicken Festival), I decided to go with a fondue which utilized a sheep’s milk cheese. Named; “Pyrenees Pimentón”, this sheep milk cheese fondue called for a pound of P’tit Basque or Ossau-Iraty, or; “other semi-firm sheep’s milk cheese, rind discarded and grated.” I’d seen P’tit Basque, but had never picked up a round of it before, now I had a perfect opportunity. I got off work early enough to walk from BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the Cheese Board in Berkeley. I’ve said before that any and all cheese stores and cheese counters in the Bay Area offer their own feel, selection, expertise and cheeses, but for me, the Cheese Board is kind of the “El Dorado” of cheese for me (except cheese instead of gold, naturally). When at a cheese shop I always have to remind myself a rule of thumb about buying cheese; buy only an amount that you know you can eat within a reasonable amount of time (I ended up with three cheeses anyway). Back to P’tit Basque, however; local cheese expert/columnist Janet Fletcher has already written so eloquently about this cheese that I’d like to link you directly to her article about it here. What I was disappointed to discover, though (and, for me, after the fact), is that Fletcher regards this creamy semi-soft cheese as a “starter” (for beginners) in the Pantheon of semi-soft sheep cheeses. She suggests Ossau-Iraty (which was also suggested by the fondue book’s recipe) for a “sheepier” taste. Well, that will have to wait until the second time we make this fondue, and with so many other recipes in the same book to work through, it might take awhile.

The other key ingredient was the Pimentón, which is basically a smoked paprika. The fondue had a dry white wine base to it, garlic, the Pimentón, some ground cumin, some flower, and some sherry. I’d like to copy the recipe here for you, and I might at a later time, but since I hope to meet Lenny Rice some day, I think I’d best get her permission to reprint it. If you see it at the end of this posting, then I did indeed get the permission granted. The fondue was wonderful. The creaminess of the cheese paired so well with the distinct smokey flavor of the Pimentón… it felt as if the taste rolled across your tongue in three stages. The only criticism we had was that both Kathy and I wished the fondue had some kind of bite to it; some kind of last spiciness to take you slightly by surprise. I wonder if I had used Ossau-Iraty instead, if there would have been a bit more of the “snap” I was looking for.

We ate the fondue with bread (for tips on cutting bread properly for fondue, re-read my earlier posting; “Glarner Fondue with Kat“), and cooked shrimp. Drank the remainder of the sauvignon blanc which was used in the fondue, and although Kathy brought home some sorbet for dessert, we were too full to even consider it (and I’ll admit; I most likely ate three-fourths of that pot of fondue).

You said you bought THREE cheeses at the Cheese Board. What about the other two?

Yes, ever-present inner cheese voice, I did get three cheeses. You’ll just have to wait until I have the chance to discuss the other two… Meanwhile, if you have comments or questions about this fondue or anything cheesy, use the comment section below!

Bryce and Fondue Kathy & Fondue

One last post about New Mexico trip

White Sands, New Mexico where the land mingles with the horizon.

White Sands, New Mexico where the land mingles with the horizon.

As you already know, I’m partial to any meal which includes, or at least incorporates, cheese. As we traveled through New Mexico, we ate a lot of New Mexican Mexican Cuisine, but rarely encountered anything too different from basic cheddar cheese added to the dishes. The food its self was great, but just not very diverse when it came to cheese.  

If there’s anything to be learned from this, I guess it is that we should all not take our local cheese choices for granted. Living in the Bay are of California gives me a huge, almost unfair, advantage to other parts of the country; we have a great many excellent artisan cheeses in this state, and excellent places from which we can buy cheeses from all over the nation and world.

Bryce in Cloudcroft Kathy in Cloudcroft

Another excellent stop on our trip, however, was the town of Silver City, NM. Initially we stopped at the outskirts of the town at a ranger’s administrative office before traveling to the Gila Cliff Dwellings (the Gila National Forest happens to be where Smokey the Bear was originally rescued in 1950). I hadn’t had enough coffee that morning and asked at the office if they could recommend a good place for coffee nearby. “Well, there’s an Arby’s up the road, and if that’s closed, there’s a Wendy’s not too far…” –This was not quite the best first impression for the town. When we returned to Silver City after hiking around the Cliff Dwellings, we considered driving right through it. Fortunately we didn’t. We quickly read a couple of our Southwestern guide books, discovered that it was the birthplace of Billy the Kid, and also there was a highly recommended restaurant.

Silver City charmed us. Everyone there was friendly. We found an excellent large cafe which was relaxed, filled with mismatched furniture, a great many of locals of all backgrounds conversing… really it was like all the “best of” elements from all our favorite cafes in the Bay Area. Also in town was an independent toy store filled with fun curiosities. The proprietor of the toy store suggested the Palace Hotel across the street there in downtown if we were going to say.  This was  a perfect suggestion since it met our aesthetic; funky, historic, slight run down, and yet clean.

Um, Bryce…? Cheese?

Yes, yes, I was almost there! Dinner in Silver City. We went to the highly recommended Diane’s Restaurant. The story of the restaurant (see “about” on their website) is an encouraging tale, and they also run an excellent bakery in town. The decor, food, service and quality were all on par with a good independently owned restaurant in San Francisco, minus the pretension and exorbitant cost (don’t be misled though; I’m certain that the prices at Diane’s are higher than many locals may care to pay). On their appetizer list was indeed a cheese plate, but I ended up not ordering it (if you can believe that). Why? Because neither the waitress or the chefs could tell me exactly where the cheeses were from (name of the company and/or location).  I don’t doubt that the quality was excellent, but if you don’t know specifically what you’re having, then what’s the point? A cheese plate is often an opportunity to try new cheeses. If Diane, the owner was there, I feel we would have found out what the cheese plate consisted of. The meal we did have, however, incorporated cheese, and well. Kathy ordered the lasagna (The waitress politely asked; “you realize there’s no meat in it, right?”), and I ordered a special they had; Filet Mignon. It was cooked perfectly and had a fresh slice of mozzarella melted on top, having been placed briefly under a broiler. Excellent. Our meal at Diane’s was really perfect. Our waitress even took the time to answer all our questions about the town she lives and works in.  Although completely different from the meal we had in Santa Fe with Anne and Ethaan, this meal in Silver City was another favorite of the entire trip (the third restaurant favorite being Sushi in San Diego with German friends).

It’s Saturday tomorrow and I’m hoping to make it to one of my favorite cheese stores since we live here in the Bay Area, and can. Although we really loved what we saw of New Mexico, if we were to live there, there would have to be a good cheese counter in the town where we live. If you have any favorite cheese that you’d like to suggest, or are curious about, please let me know. Use the comment section at the bottom of this post. Thanks and have a great weekend!

 Kathy & Bryce at White Sands  ICE!

More of friends and cheese in New Mexico
Google Route Map of New Mexico Trip
Google Route Map of New Mexico Trip

While we traveled to, in, and around New Mexico on our vacation, I think I had expected to encounter a lot more Mexican-style cheeses than we actually did. Though I had done my best to seek local cheeses out, we did not encounter as many as I had anticipated. It could be that in warmer climates there is less cheese consumption, but as I had mentioned in my last posting, New Mexico does boast about processing a LOT of milk into cheese in their state.

As you can see in the Google Map image above (click on it for a new window with a larger view; then make the new window full-screen), we really went to a lot of places in the Southwest. The list left of the map is not complete of all the stops we made, but it is the overall route we took. One of our major destinations, and where we stayed the longest, was Santa Fe, New Mexico. Friends of ours moved there from the Bay Area of California, so it was great to get their perspective of both Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico. 

Santa Fe is a beautiful town, and despite being the state’s capital, it only has a population of 73,000. This makes it both picturesque and friendly. For many years it has been an attractive mecca for artists. Our friends Anne and Ethaan, in fact, are an actor and artist respectively. Yes, they also have day jobs, but their love of, and talent with the arts affords them a very culturally rich life in Santa Fe.

Aside from any and all touristy highlights of the town that we took in, we also had the chance to relax at the Ten Thousand Waves spa, treating ourselves for all the hours of driving we had already put in by the time we arrived in Santa Fe.

Kathy & Anne Kathy & Anne

Yeah, yeah, yeah Bryce; culture, art, architecture… where’s the cheese?!?

Well, as I had mentioned, I was surprised to find less cheese then I’d have liked during our travels. When there was cheese, it was inevitably good, however. We’d often heard of the pride that New Mexico has for its Mexican food and local cuisine. In brief, the major distinction boils down to is the chiles. Honestly. The fact that they are locally cultivated adds an unbelievable freshness to New Mexican cuisine, causing a toe-curling zing to just about every dish. Ethaan and Anne brought us to a New Mexican restaurant they’d been wanting to try; Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen. The multi-room sprawling restaurant was an excellent sample of New Mexican cuisine done right. To start with, there was a menu just for margaritas and tequilas which was longer than the food menu (four densely packed pages worth). We ordered a variety of dishes, all excellent (look at the picture of the red chile coated pork that Kathy had). Surprisingly we were served only one type of cheese during the meal. An excellent aged Cheddar was used for each dish which integrated cheese. I half expected to find a dish I have enjoyed in Mexico to be on the menu; melted cheese with chorizo, but with so many other excellent local recipes, I didn’t miss it.

Another in the know New Mexican practice is to know how to order your salsa; Green, Red or “Christmas” in which you get to enjoy both.

I might be able to squeeze one more posting about cheese and our trip to New Mexico in the next few days, but don’t hold your breath. Otherwise, I’ll continue my musings on cheese, as before, now that I am back in the Bay Area of California. Meanwhile please enjoy the pictures from the trip and our visit with friends.
 

  Anne Offers Up Sopapilla with Honey  Guacamole Appetizer  Ethaan’s Firecracker Tamale

Back from New Mexico! Brought Cheese!

Once again back in the Bay Area of California after a wonderful 10 day vacation. Kathy and I drove a total of 3,383 miles, averaging 45.5 mpg! [love our hybrid automobile] A quick overview of some of the places we went; Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Four Corners Monument, Santa Fe, Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, Cloudcroft, White Sands, Silver City, Tucson, Phoenix, San Diego, Huntington Beach… and plenty of places in-between.

That’s great Bryce; what about the cheese?

Didn’t forget the cheese, in fact, kept a keen eye out for it. Having done as much research as I could before our trip, I discovered two things; there’s several farmstead goat cheeses in New Mexico, AND, Roswell (yeah, the town of “Area 51” alien fame) boasts having the largest manufacturing plant of domestic Mozzarella cheese in the nation, and perhaps even the world.

I’d like to start by talking about Roswell and the Mozzarella. Leprino Foods owns the plant nowadays (see linked article above for details), and I’m certain that without knowing it, I must have had their cheese at some point or another. This is a mass-produced cheese, however, and although I’m certain that the cheese works fine for general purposes (American-style pizza, for example), I doubt very much that anyone buys Leprino’s Mozzarella for eat-at-home-and-savor-the-taste reasons. I was, however, very interested to see the plant in Roswell (much more interested in cheese then any of the local alien lore, which we skipped), but my kind e-mailed question to Leprino’s corporate site asking if it was possible to view the plant, or talk to anyone who works there, was met with a terse response stating that not only were “reporters” not allowed at the plant, but their practices and recipes are not made available to anyone. This seems much more mysterious than anything that Roswell could offer up in the way of aliens and/or Area 51. Whether this is due to safety and sanitary concerns, a desire to keep their mass-production methods a secret and/or the fact that their cheese is more of a “product” than a food, is any one’s guess. I’m certainly not here to vilify the largest producer of Mozzarella cheese in the United States, but I’m also certainly going to be watching for their label when at the store.

So, if that didn’t work out, what did?

The Farmer’s Market in Santa Fe. THAT was a gold-mine of wonderful foods. Our journey was planned partially around the fact that we’d get to go to the Tuesday morning market, which happened to have just moved into its new spot at the New Santa Fe Railyard. The indoor/outdoor home to the market was bursting with color; flowers, fruits and vegetables all calling out to us… I made a beeline to the single cheese stand, however, Sweetwoods Dairy of Peña Blanca, NM.

Sweetwoods Dairy produces several varieties of raw goat and sheep milk cheeses (most of which were aged over 60 days). At this time their growing business has only been offering their cheeses at farmer’s markets and some limited distribution, but according to the young man who sold us our cheese, they’ll soon have a web-presence as well.

The cheese I had bought from them that I was most excited about was their “New Mexico’s old fashioned queso de cabra.”  This fresh raw milk goat cheese (replete with “raw milk” warnings at the cheese table), is a fresh cheese (aged a day or two at most), and has a consistency like a drained cottage cheese, or a loose tofu. The taste? Amazing! Like a clear, fresh canvass to accent with other tastes, this cheese added an inviting texture to anything you added to it. It can be used for dessert OR savory meals. Since we were in New Mexico, which is known for its chiles, we also purchased some freshly fire-roasted local green chiles. These lasted us for days; we paired the chiles with anything and everything during several picnic lunches. The best, however, was the chiles, bread, and the Queso de Cabra. That cheese lasted only for one meal, which was our picnic dinner at Carlsbad Caverns prior the Bat Flight out of the natural cave entrance.

I have more to say about our trip, and the cheese we encountered, but for now I leave you with just a few images and the thought of the fresh Queso de Cabra we got to enjoy from Sweetwoods Dairy.