Archive for October, 2008
Worst house for trick or treats (That crazy cheese guy…)

Happy Halloween.

Trick or Treat!

     “Ooooh! Batman and, um… Hannah Montana? Here you go Batman, here’s a wedge of cave-aged cheddar, made from Amish goat’s milk in central Wisconsin. I hope that the cave theme appeals to you, and that as you consume it you might reflect on the the Amish’s religious beliefs such as their rejection of Hochmut. Yes, I know this is complex for a seven year old, but just roll with it.  …And for you, Hannah, a square brick-like package of Kraft Singles representing the pre-packaged, pop nature of your marketing. Opening each individual slice will feel like a new surprise until you discover that they are always exactly the same, and fairly tasteless. Don’t be too discouraged however, your 15 minutes will be up soon…”

Alright, alright, just kidding. But could you imagine it? Although, I guess cheese would be a treat to me, but a trick to kids expecting candy.

In all honesty though, I hope everyone has a fun and excellent Halloween today. There are not many people at work today (my day job); has a lot to do with the first rain that San Francisco has had in quite awhile. At home, the steam heat in our building has yet to be turned on, so due to the colder, rainy weather, Kathy made an excellent cheese and beer soup for us last night. Kathy had picked up some aged cheddar cheese imported by Kerrygold from Ireland. We didn’t happen to have any Parmesan at home, so I helped her out by grating some Serena from Three Sisters Farmstead Cheese for the soup.

This simple recipe is very tasty, and is not unlike a soup version of Welsh Rarebit (with vegetables added). It initially tastes deceptively light as you take a spoonful, but then you experience a deep warmth in the back of your throat caused by the interplay of the cheese with the beer and chicken broth. This soup is as gourmet as you care to make it; depending primarily on the quality of cheddar that you use. If you have a favorite cheddar, use it. If you desire a lighter tasting soup, you can even use a mild cheddar from the super market (although, as I always say; use the best quality cheese you can for your budget, and to your personal taste). Recipe follows. I’ll have more cheese-related events to report on after the weekend. Oh, be sure to use the comment section if there was cheese at any Halloween parties you attended, let us know what was served from mundane to exquisite.

Cheddar and Beer Soup

Copied directly from: “The Best of Sunset Weeknights; 122 Quick, Easy Meals, 2004”. Although many of Sunset’s recipes can be found on-line, I could not locate this specific one, and am thus copying it verbatim from their magazine-book.

 

Prep and Cook Time: About 30 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Notes: Serve this hearty soup with whole-wheat bread or biscuits and a salad of escarole and radicchio. Wheat beer, also called hefeweizen, is available in well-stocked supermarkets.

 

·         ¼ cup (1/8 lb.) butter

·         ½ cup thinly sliced celery

·         ½ cup diced carrots

·         ½ cup chopped onion

·         ½ cup all-purpose flour

·         ½ teaspoon dry mustard

·         ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

·         4 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth

·         1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz.)

·         3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

·         1 can or bottle (12 oz.) wheat beer

·         Salt and Pepper

 

1. Melt butter in a 4 to 5 quart pan over medium-high heat; add celery, carrots, and onion and stir often until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in flour, mustard, and thyme; cook for 1 minute. Gradually add broth, whisking until smooth. Increase heat to high and whisk until mixture is boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender when pieced, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. Stir in cheddar and Parmesan cheeses; when melted, add beer and heat until steaming. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls.

Formage

Do I have cheese every day/night? No, not necessarily… I love Thai food, for example, and I have yet to encounter a recipe or dish with cheese in that culture’s cuisine. If, however, you know of a Thai dish/recipe which calls for cheese, PLEASE let me know in the comment section. I do, however, incorporate cheese into many of the meals we make at home.

Recently, I posted an excellent recipe of what you can do with extra cheese that you have, and that you are worried will go bad before you get the chance to eat it [click here for that posting/recipe]. After making it, you might be asking yourself; “now what do I do with this spread?” If you’re anything like me, you’ll eat it almost every morning (despite the raw garlic and white wine in it) on your morning toast. Another great thing to do is serve it up at a party (if you have one/are going to one), but you can also use it as a substitute in a lot of recipes which call for a small amount of cheese.

Tuesday night I prepared three things for dinner; broiled steak, Wilted Spinach Salad with Balsamic-Honey vinaigrette, and Nutty Brown Rice [I'll copy a couple of these recipes below]. The Spinach Salad called for two ingredients I did not have on-hand; mushrooms and blue cheese. A couple substitutions were easy. Instead of mushrooms I used some jarred roasted red & yellow bell peppers, and I used some of the Formage Fort cheese spread instead of blue cheese. The Formage Fort was also excellent on top of the broiled steak.  …and last night (Wednesday), I boiled some baby Dutch potatoes, and we finished the last of the Formage Fort on that.

Nutty Brown Rice (Sorry; no cheese in this one…)

by Andrea Albin

Copied directly from Gourmet Magazine, November 2008.

 

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Active Time: 10 min

Total Time: 1 hr

 

Ingredients

·         4 cups water

·         1 1/2 cups short-grain brown rice

·         3 tablespoons unsalted butter

·         1 1/4 cups mixed nuts, chopped

·         1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

 

Preparation

Bring water to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Add rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Drain in a sieve.

Heat butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add nuts and cook, stirring, until butter and nuts are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

Add rice and nutmeg to skillet and toss to coat.

 

Wilted Spinach Salad with Balsamic-Honey Vinaigrette

Copied directly FoodNetwork.com, Direct Link to recipe HERE.

 

Ingredients

·         1 pound baby spinach leaves

·         1/4 cup olive oil, divided

·         1/4 pound prosciutto, cut in strips

·         1 garlic clove, minced

·         1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced

·         1/2 red onion, cut in rings

·         3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

·         1 tablespoon honey

·         3 ounces Gorgonzola

·         Salt and pepper

 

Preparation

Trim, wash and dry the spinach thoroughly and place in a salad bowl.

Coat a saute pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and put over medium heat. Fry the prosciutto and garlic for a minute to flavor the oil, and then add the mushrooms and onions. Saute the mushrooms and onions until they are slightly brown and tender, about 3 minutes.

Scrape the mixture on top of the spinach, return the pan to the stove. Add balsamic vinegar and scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pan. Add remaining oil and honey. Swirl pan around for a minute to warm the vinaigrette.

Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, top with Gorgonzola. Season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve immediately.

 

Do YOU have favorite things to do with left-over cheese? Let me/everyone know by using the comment section.

Pumpkins and Cheese? More of Fall…

Here in the Bay Area of California we typically have an Indian summer, but right about four weeks or so beyond the autumnal equinox, fall starts to set in. Thanks to our friends Anna & Jeff, we finally made plans specific to the season, and went to a pumpkin patch this past Sunday. Arata’s Farm just south of Half Moon Bay has one of the larger “pumpkin patches” along this part of the coast (pumpkin patch is in quotes, because I believe Arata’s Farm brings all their pumpkins in from elsewhere). The weather was perfect for a fall outing; a light fog off the ocean, yet warm enough to only need a light jacket.

Pumpkins, Hay Bale Maze, etc. etc… Where is the cheese!?

Knew I’d hear from the inner-cheese voice soon enough. The cheese was with the picnic lunch we had packed. If, like us, you need to watch how much you spend, taking a picnic is pretty much always an option on the weekend. Particularly if you have cheese to share. Cheese, in colder months, is very easy to bring along. We had three types with us; Pedrozo Black Butte Reserve [prior posting about Pedrozo here], some Swiss cave-aged Gruyère, and some Purple Haze goat-milk cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre. Along with crackers, salami, some mustard, mayonnaise, a loaf of sweet French bread we bought in downtown Half Moon Bay, and some Triple Chocolate Almonds from Charles Chocolates, we had quite a feast.

If there’s a point to this posting at all, it’s that you should take a moment this coming weekend to enjoy the season, and bring a picnic lunch with cheese, no mater where you go. I guarantee it’ll be more satisfying then any fast food you might pick up.

Jeff at Lunch Anna; Did I leave the oven on?

Below is a video clip of us attempting to make our way through the Hay Bale Maze (while avoiding running into the Minotaur).

Below is a video clip of members from the Western Circle of Swordfighters in one of their demonstration spars. It was an added free bonus of Arata’s Farm.

Having any specific cheese this fall? Plans for cheese on Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comment section.

Fall has arrived. Time to try new cheese.

If you were unable to drop over (in San Francisco) to the Cheese Plus 4th Annual Fall Harvest Artisan Food Festival, I wish you could have. There was perfect weather on Saturday [this past Saturday; Oct. 25th, 2008] for the event, and not only were we offering up incredible cheese samples for the California Artisan Cheese Guild (CACG), there were also some other amazing artisan foods represented. Cheese Plus obviously has a large number of loyal and regular customers, but since this festival was open to the public, there were people visiting from all parts of the Bay Area (as well as from out of state/country).  There were also a lot of lucky people who merely chanced upon the event.

Our thanks again to Ray Bair, owner of Cheese Plus, his staff and volunteers, for gathering up such a great group of vendors and products for everyone to sample. Amongst the various artisan vendors was Chuck Siegel, founder of Charles Chocolates. I had the opportunity to speak with him as we were setting up for the event, and get an insider view of various quality chocolate operations in the bay area [I was asking for his opinion about the affect Hershey has had on Scharffen Berger Chocolate after having purchased them in 2005]. Charles Chocolates are amazing, and he was serving up freshly made confections as part of the festival. Coincidentally, the next day we were visiting with our friends Anna & Jeff and they offered us some Charles Chocolate Triple Chocolate Almonds.

Cheese, Bryce?

Yes, inner-cheese voice, I was getting to that… Volunteering with CACG board member Lynne Devereux, we were serving up five cheeses from Guild cheese-makers.

Original Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove Chevre
Serena from Three Sisters Farmstead Cheese
Pepato from Bellwether Farms 
Fresh Chèvre from Laura Chenel Chèvre

Two of these were new to me, not having had the chance to try them before. The Pepato is made of sheep’s milk and has a rich, deep taste. Scattered throughout the three and a half pound wheel, that we were serving from, are peppercorns which give the cheese a nice bite to counter-balance the rich texture, and provides the cheese with a nice snap. According to Lynne there are only two farms in California producing artisan sheep’s milk cheeses. Bellwether Farms, where the cheese is produced is in the town Valley Ford, which is in the Sonoma County area of California.

Bryce & Lynne

The second cheese which was new to me was the Serena of Three Sisters. Days before the Harvest Festival I was an opportunity to buy a couple pounds of this wonderful cheese online at wine.woot [a website which sells wines and wine-related products, such as cheese, at discounted prices, and always with only $5 shipping], but didn’t, planning instead an eventual pilgrimage to their farm in Tulare County, California. -Made of raw Jersey cow’s milk, Serena is aged between twelve and eighteen months, making it a hard cheese. The wheel we had to offer samples of on Saturday was around 18 months old, and if I had to compare it to something, I’d say that it is not unlike a Parmesan, but it has a certain creamy taste not unlike a similarly aged Gouda.

Concerning serving the cheese samples;  …According to Kathy (who took all the photos for me of the event), I was beaming the entire time I was there serving up cheese to everyone. I can’t say I am surprised by this comment. You have to realize that my love of cheese extends out to hoping/having others enjoy cheese too. This is one of the main points of Canyon of Cheese. Giving the opportunity to others to also know about/try cheeses which are new to them provides a real satisfaction. As an example of this, many people in the SF Bay area are already familiar with Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, [a soft-ripened goat milk cheese which has a thin layer of edible vegetable ash dividing the top and bottom half of the cheese. The ash gives a taste and texture contrast to the otherwise creamy nature of the cheese.] but not Truffle Tremor. Truffle Tremor has quickly become one of my favorites that Cypress Grove produces, and they have only been making it a little over a year. The Italian truffles which are infused through this cheese gives it a deep earthy intensity. The reaction to this cheese (as well as the others, based on each person’s personal taste) is so satisfying to watch. Comments like; “cheese is the best thing in the world,” and “oh, WOW!” were not uncommon as we served up samples to hundreds of people who came through to try some of the guild’s cheese. I even received a fist bump from the owner of Dell’uva (a relatively new Wine Bar in the North Beach area of San Francisco), since he was so overwhelmed by Truffle Tremor. He told us that he already carried a few other cheeses which are part of the CACG, and it is the because the Guild (and Cheese Plus) would be serving up samples that he attended the Harvest Artisan Food Festival.

As you know, I’m a real fan of cheese. Not only from California, but the world over. If the cheese is made with time and care (and quality ingredients) for the best possible taste, then the chances are I will like it. Many people, however, don’t realize what they are missing since the extent of their cheese knowledge might be what is mass-produced and marketed towards them. The CACG, as part of their mission, desires to help educate people about just how amazing the artisan cheeses that California has to offer are. At events like the one on Saturday, people discover what they may have been missing, or learn of new and different cheeses that they haven’t had before.

Speaking of which, there were other cheeses to be had too. Ray and his staff of Cheese Plus had excellent samples inside. I’d love to talk about some of the other artisan food vendors which were present for the event, but my inner-cheese voice would start chiming in, so instead I’ll mention that we were serenaded by Duo Gadjo, and everyone was having a great time. If you don’t want to miss the 5th Annual event next year, I suggest you either sign up for Cheese Plus’ mailing list, or for all things cheesy, artisan and Californian, become a member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild.

Do you have a new/current favorite cheese you’ve discovered? Use the Comment section to let me and others know about it.

Chance to try Artisan Cheeses, FREE? In SF?

Alright, I’d admit that the title of this post sounds a little over the top, but it is true nonetheless. It is the type of reaction if I heard about this event since I LOVE artisan cheese, and when its possible to sample a variety without having to pay for each one, then I’m there (then I end up buying the ones I enjoyed the most).

Now YOU can be there, because several members of the California Artisan Cheese Guild (CACG) will be taking part in the Cheese Plus 4th Annual Fall Harvest Artisan Food Festival tomorrow [Saturday, October 25th, 2008 from 11am until 6pm]. I’ll be volunteering with the guild, helping slice up cheese samples and pass them out. There’s music and other foods too… Here, let me just link you directly to the details on the Cheese Plus website.

I’ll be volunteering during the morning shift, so drop by early to the CACG’s tables and say hello as you try some cheese.

Here’s a Map to Cheese Plus in San Francisco. Their address is:

Cheese Plus
2001 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109

See you on Saturday for cheese!

“Board of cheese?” – “No; NEVER bored of cheese!”

Melted cheese, excellent friends, what more could you need?

Five fantastic friends came over for fondue Saturday night, and Kathy and I hope (ok; we believe) they enjoyed the fondues. Obviously we were having such a great time visiting with our friends that I forgot to take any pictures during dinner, only before. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First off, we had to prepare for the meal.

Initially six friends were going to be coming over, but one (a composer friend whose day-job has her surrounded by high schoolers) caught a cold at work and had to bow out on Saturday. Melted cheese isn’t a cure-all for sinuses, I’m sorry to report. Seven people for fondue, however, is still plenty enough that making two different types is well worth it, and as I always do, I had the ingredients for a third type on-hand, should everyone be hungry enough. Thanks to our visit to Pedrozo, and Mandy’s father’s recipe for Black Butte Reserve (I’ll copy it again in this post, below), we already knew one of the two fondues we’d be making. As to the second, we thought it best for some of our fondue novice friends to make at least one more traditional Swiss-style fondue, so we decided on one of our favorites; Glarner.

To prepare for the dinner we got to make a pilgrimage to one of my favorite “Meccas” of cheese stores; The Cheeseboard in Berkeley. It is located on Shattuck in the “Gourmet Ghetto“[location of the original Peet's Coffee, and also where Alice Water's  resides]. I’ve got to say, there’s a lot of fantastic cheese shops in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, but one of the reasons I enjoy The Cheeseboard is due partially to the adjoining bakery, and the personalized service you receive. Busy? Crowded? YOU BET! However, by taking a playing card as a number when you first get in will assure you’ll get personalized service in just a short while. The cheese mongers at The Cheeseboard are knowledgeable and can help you discover cheeses which are new to you if you give them a little direction. Typically when we visit The Cheeseboard I easily drop $40+ on cheese, if I’m not careful, so it’s always good to have Kathy with me (although she too often chooses some cheeses which are new to her). This time I knew exactly what I wanted and needed; 8oz of Gina Marie cream cheese [produced nowadays by Sierra Nevada Cheese Company of Willows, CA. I've been to the facility where Gina Marie is made; Sierra Nevada is the third company to own the name and recipe and maintain the quality. In fact, they just won a Gold Medal at the 2008 California State Fair Commercial Cheese Competition (Mandy, of Pedrozo, brought this to my attention)], 1/2 of a pound of Emmenthaler, and a pound of cave-aged Gruyère. These, along with our pound of Black Butte Reserve would allow us to make up to three fondues. We also picked up freshly baked bread at The Cheeseboard for the dinner.    …although I personally like the layout and service at The Cheeseboard, I was fortunate to hear a different perspective recently. It turns out that a cheese buyer for our local Whole Foods Grocery lives in our building. She saw me wearing my “cheese is good” t-shirt, and, naturally, we got into a conversation about cheese. Her take on The Cheeseboard was that she did not like how the cheeses are primarily behind glass, and that you must wait for assistance. She’d rather be able to touch and examine the cheese, read the labels, et cetera, and do so in a less assisted manner. Although I’m certain she is not the only one who feels this way, we agreed that this might be a preference due to her being both knowledgeable and a professional when it comes to cheese. Others, myself included, occasionally desire, or even need, a guide to navigate through the amazing amount of choices at a well-stocked cheese store such as The Cheeseboard.

Dinner Table Snacks & Cheese Spread Black Butte Reserve Fondue ready to be Melted

About the dinner, and the fondues: The Pedrozo fondue recipe called for caramelized onions, so that’s one of the first things I started working on since they take about an hour to an hour and a half to make. My recipe for Caramelized  Onions I get straight out of “The Joy of Cooking” and although it takes awhile, it is quite easy [since the recipe only called for one onion's worth, I made a lot, and then froze the extra for future use]. The other way to prep for this meal was to shred the cheeses in advance. If you have a good quality food processor, this is pretty easy, but remember for harder cheeses, you must use the chopping blade, and only after you have cubed the cheese with a knife to 1/4″ to 1/2″ cubes. I’ve burned out the motor and broken the drive belt in the past on at least two food processors because I didn’t heed the instruction manual. Oh, I also want to point out that hard natural rinds on cheeses such as the Black Butte Reserve is part of the cheese, and so that you don’t waste any, the hard rind should be used as well. Since I didn’t want to risk breaking yet another food processor, I got out my Microplane and grated the hard rind into snowy-soft shavings which I weighed as part of the pound I needed for the recipe.

Using the Microplane for the rind

Kathleen & Max volunteered to bring dessert, and we warned that it should be something light, or at least with no milk products (fruit deserts are always excellent after so much cheese). Kathleen made Jasmine Risotto Spring Rolls with Vanilla Dipping Sauce for everyone and brought it to the dinner. Incredible. She found the recipe in a copy of Vegetarian Times, and sent us a scan of it, but you can also find the recipe HERE on the Vegetarian Times website. Our friends Jing & Mark brought a gift of cat grass for Nikita (very culinary in its own right). Dan, who is also involved in Independent Theatre in San Francisco, brought CHEESE, which I’ll need to write of in another post soon…

Sorry there are no pictures of the meal being consumed. Very little of the fondue was left over, and we didn’t need to resort to a third, but I’ve been using what was left over on my morning toast this week.

I highly recommend the Pedrozo fondue recipe. It can be made in a crock-pot if you don’t have fondue equipment, so you’ve got no excuse not to start enjoying some fondue tonight. Recipe follows.

Pedrozo Black Butte Reserve Fondue

(Recipe by Jim Pedrozo of Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company, with thanks to Mandy Johnston)

 

Ingredients:

·         1 Pound. Black Butte Reserve Cheese, grated

·         8 Ounces of Gina Marie cream cheese

·         1 Caramelized Onion

·         Sparkling Rose Wine – 1/2 to 1 cup, based on desired consistency


Directions:

Either heat in fondue pot, and melt blending as you would other fondues, or place into a crock pot and melt, stirring often.

Of Human Bondage (and cheese). Listen to your Maugham; treat everyone with respect!

Sorry for the terrible pun in today’s post title, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity… [I can hear our friend Sang groaning from here].

It is not every day that cheese makes national news, but it did yesterday. I was listening to NPR last night while making dinner [no recipes today since I made a French recipe of chicken with olives and tomatoes, some wild grain rice, and steamed green beans. The only cheese with the meal was an appetizer of the cheese spread I had made on Wednesday]. It seems that Durrett Cheese Sales of Manchester, Tennessee had both mistreated and withheld pay of workers in their factory who were of Latino decent: “These workers were subjected to a hostile, intimidating and abusive work environment, where they were referred to as “stupid Indians” and “donkeys.” Non-Latino workers did not experience the same delay in their paychecks, threats or derogatory remarks.” LINK TO ENTIRE ARTICLE.

This does NOT sound like a company that I would want to buy anything from. Furthermore, it just goes to show that when/as you can, you should know a little something about the cheese you buy (and the companies which produce, package and/or distribute the cheese). I love how on their website they proudly show that they are members of the Better Business Bureau, and have a couple awards (2002 & 2003) for Excellence in Food Safety. However, it seems that their human resource practices lack far beyond that of common decency.

There are a lot of well-written, often opinionated, and socially responsible websites on the Internet that take on huge issues. Canyon of Cheese will not necessarily help you decide who to vote for, or solve world problems, but if I can at least help you learn of cheeses which are new to you, and entertain at the same time, then I’ve succeeded in what I am hoping to do. Social responsibility, however,  is up to us all, as individuals. Intolerance, and subsequent bad behavior due to it, is something which does not belong in the world of cheese, or the world at large. With this in mind, shame on Durrett Cheese.

This is about as “political” as I’ll tend to get on Canyon of Cheese but if you’re curious about ethics and food, I’ll recommend “The Ethicurean“, a website dedicated to the subject (I met some of its authors at the Eye on Blogs Blogger Mixer back at the end of September).

W. Somerset MaughamOn a lighter, literary note, if you are not already familiar with the works of W. Somerset Maugham (B. 1874 D. 1964, works include; Of Human Bondage, The Razor’s Edge, Cakes and Ale) then it may be time to pick him up. My favorite remains; The Moon and Sixpence, which is a fictionalized account of Paul Gauguin’s life.

Um, Bryce… Cheese?

Right, right… Tomorrow, Kathy and I are having six friends over for fondue. I’ll make two different types to start with, and have the ingredients for a third on-hand if needed. Watch for a post about it after the weekend, and if you have a favorite type of fondue, let me know!

[Photo of W. Somerset Maugham is Public Domain. Photo of Manchester's City Square from Manchester's Chamber of Commerce Website and used by permission]
My turn to make dinner? Guess what; it’ll have cheese!

It’s been a busy week already, between enjoying a weekend-through-Monday visit to the Orland/Chico area (California), to the now-official merger of the company where my IT day-job is, with a larger company. This merger will effectively put me out of a job within two months (what a way to say; “Happy Holidays!” during an “economic down-turn“). But am I worn out, am I depressed? NO. Not when there’s cheese to be consumed.

Undesired Mold Rinds Removed Ready for Processing

In fact, I had SO much cheese at home that I decided I’d better cut my losses and utilize that Jacques Pépin left-over cheese recipe that I copied onto Canyon a couple posts ago. As you can see from the pictures, I had a variety of older cheeses on hand, some of which were getting undesirable types of surface mold. Although cheese rind is typically part of the cheese and is meant to be consumed, I went ahead and trimmed off the cheese’s rinds so that the spread would have a smoother consistency. Also, this was an easy way to get rid of any bad mold which had started to grow on the rinds. One of the cheeses you see (the one in the lower left corner of the cutting board) is a fantastic and different cheese from Utah. “Barely Buzzed” is produced by the Beehive Cheese Company. My photo doesn’t show it too well, but the rind of Barely Buzzed has a rub of roasted coffee beans applied to it. There’s a short write up about the rub on their website [here]. The taste? Deep; satisfying. If, like myself, you enjoy having Emmentaler for breakfast along with coffee, that almost describes the satisfaction that this cheese provides, but without having to brew a pot of coffee. Since I was unsure, however, if the rind’s coffee grounds would taste well in the mix of the cheese spread, I removed that rind as well.   …the final spread? Marvelous. It is calling to me even now as I type this post. Be warned, however, if you are not a fan of garlic, you should either reduce the amount that Pépin’s recipe calls for, or cut it out entirely. Me? I LOVE fresh garlic.

Cheese spread isn’t dinner, however. What did you make?

Ah, inner cheese voice, you’re always there trying to keep me on track… Which means I either should listen to you, or go see a psychiatrist to get you out of my head… What I made for dinner was a savory tart using some fresh onions and tomatoes from Kathy’s Dad’s wonderful garden. While visiting Chico we benefited by receiving some of the end-of-harvest gems; tomatoes (red and some still green), red onions, jalapeños and both red and green bell peppers.

The recipe below is from Gourmet Magazine, but we have it also in Gourmet’s “Five Ingredients” cookbook (2002, published by Random House). It’s a very satisfying, fresh meal which is easy to make. If at all possible, be sure to use good quality ripe tomatoes, and don’t feel you have to limit yourself to Plum Tomatoes (which the recipe calls for). The main thing is to try to get some tomatoes other than the awful genetically modified stone-like ones which are bred for longer transport/shelf life (common at large chain grocery stores). Also, I cheated last night on this recipe, I used a sheet of puff-pastry I had in the freezer instead of pie dough. As you can see from the pictures, you do not necessarily need a pan with a removable bottom, but to assure that the tart would come out of the baking dish I used, I buttered the bottom and sides. The cheese I used was two types of goat-milk cheese; some OK quality crumbled feta, and some goat-milk gouda that I shredded.

Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Onion Tart

(From Gourmet Magazine, August 2002)

Active time: 20 min Start to finish: 35 min

Servings: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 (9-inch) prepared pie dough, thawed if frozen (not pie shells)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
6 oz crumbled goat cheese (1 1/3 cups)
1 lb plum tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise

Garnish: fresh basil leaves
Special equipment: a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom; pie weights or raw rice

PREPERATION:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

If necessary, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch round and fit into tart pan. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold overhang inward and press against side of pan to reinforce edge. Lightly prick bottom and sides with a fork.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in middle of oven until pastry is pale golden around rim, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake until golden all over, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack.

While tart shell is baking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook onion with salt and black pepper to taste, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat broiler.

Spread onion over bottom of tart shell and top with 1 rounded cup goat cheese. Arrange tomatoes, slightly overlapping, in concentric circles over cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil. Put foil over edge of crust (to prevent over-browning).

Put tart pan on a baking sheet and broil tart about 7 inches from heat until cheese starts to brown slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

27 cows; incredible cheese. Pedrozo of Orland.

Artisan cheeses, no, wait, scratch that. [Artisan cheeses]

EXCELLENT artisan cheeses are often not only about the taste alone which make them spectacular, but the time and care which go into them. For many years now I have been a big fan of the farmstead cheeses produced by Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company in Orland, California for these reasons. I’ve mentioned Pedrozo in past entries on this blog, but what I have not done is explained a little about what makes Pedrozo’s cheese so excellent on a consistent basis.

First and foremost, it is that Pedrozo uses milk from a single herd of Jersey cows, their cows, which are grass-fed on rotating pastures next to their milking and cheese-making facilities. In case you are asking yourself why that might make a difference, the reasons are many-fold; they know exactly what their livestock is eating, they can assure and maintain the health of their herd, with a single-source of milk for their cheese they can also have a much more consistent tasting product. There are additional benefits, such as cutting down on costs. Cheese makers which must buy their milk from other sources also have to pay for the transport of that milk, and the freshness of transported milk can naturally also then be compromised despite the higher cost. When, however, the milking is done directly next to the holding tanks and cheese-making facility, the cheese maker can utilize the freshest milk possible as he or she chooses. Also, the choice of whether to make cheese from pasteurized  or raw milk is easier to decide since producers who must have milk transported to them incur a higher “unknown” factor of risks [again; raw milk is only as safe as it is properly handled. If you feel you may disagree, or are confused, this prior posting about "Raw Milk Cheese Responsibility" may, or may not, clear up some things for you].

Pedrozo happens to make raw-milk (and aged more than 60 days), semi-firm cheese with their high-quality milk. While Kathy and I were visiting their dairy this past Sunday, cheese maker Mandy Johnston, spoke to a tour group of visitors taking part in the “Passport Weekend” (a tour of farms and agricultural producers in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley). She commented that; “with as few as four basic ingredients, there are over 4000 varieties of cheese.” So, before you feel that I am trying to single out Pedrozo’s cheeses, or raw-milk cheeses, or even cheeses with a single-herd milk source as “the best”, it always comes down to individual taste. The taste of the cheese, and what YOU think of the taste of the cheese is what maters most. Starting with fresh and high-quality ingredients, however, will always be to the benefit of the final cheese.

John & Mandy Just as I have heard said of wine, the story behind the quality of a cheese can further accent your enjoyment of the final product. Pedrozo has such a story, and they so willingly share it with their customers and anyone who is interested. So that I don’t simply paraphrase their website, I encourage you to read the “Our Family/About the Pedrozos” page of their site. This time around, while visiting, Kathy and I got the opportunity to talk with both Mandy and her boyfriend John (who is also an integral part of the business… oh, but wait, you already know that ’cause you just read their website), and felt both honored and flattered that they gave us so much of their time despite the busy “open farm” weekend going on. Truth is, however, that these two (as well as Tim & Jill Pedrozo) are genuinely nice people. Their pride of their cheese is evident in that they are excited when it is enjoyed.

Kathy and I listened in on Mandy’s tour one and a half times (again; I’m the geeky guy who has more questions than anyone else wants, or needs, to have explained), and her enthusiasm for her work, and the dairy’s end product, shone through. Also, the great many visitors were fascinated, since it is not every day that people get to see, first hand, how cheese is actually made.

There is a love and fortitude (along the line of strength of character) necessary to be a cheese maker, particularly in the size of operation that the Pedrozo’s Dairy maintains. Jill Pedrozo had once said that she was the perfect person to be a dairy farmer’s wife since she’s both willing and able to remain at home (and make cheese). As you’ve read, she has handed the duties of cheese making to Mandy. Imagine, if you will, the scheduling of cheese making:

Each day at Pedrozo Diary 27 cows need to be milked twice a day, once at 6:00am, and once at 6:00pm. I’d say that it was “like clockwork”, but it IS clockwork. The cows know when it is time to be milked, and each has formed the habit of using the same, specific, milking station. Mandy’s father, Tim, is the primary milker and tender of the cows, but so that he’d have the opportunity to have some time away from it, it is another set of skills which Mandy can and does utilize on a near-daily basis. Cheese at Pedrozo is made once a day, combining milk from the the evening before, and the morning milking.

While on the dairy tour, the care of the cows was being discussed when someone noticed a radio near the milking area. “Do you play Mozart for the cows for better milk production?” a gentleman had half-joked. Mandy responded that her father tended to tune in Rush Limbaugh, whereas Mandy plays NPR, so the cows hopefully get a well-rounded perspective while being milked [there's been no scientific study at Pedrozo of how this effects the milk].

Nowadays, besides selling and distributing their cheeses both locally and throughout the state to cheese shops and restaurants, Pedrozo’s cheese can be bought on-line and they have been shipping to individuals across the entirety of the United States. Since cheese is a mater of personal taste, I encourage you to try some. Kathy and I may be biased due to the Orland connection (we have relatives in Orland), but Pedrozo’s cheeses are excellent. Ask your local cheese store to carry it if they don’t, or get some online. Kathy bought a Pedrozo T-shirt while at the diary, and picked up some Black Butte Reserve, which I’ll be using a large amount of in a fondue this coming Saturday [Mandy; if you see this, I'd love to have your Dad's fondue recipe for the Black Butte Reserve. Could you post it in the comment section so everyone can get it?].

So, apparently you like this cheese, Bryce?

Yes inner cheese voice, I do. Plus, I feel that farmstead cheeses of this quality should have a wider audience. Don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty of cheese produced in large facilities that I enjoy, but as I always encourage; try as many cheeses as you can!

Completely unrelated; also while up in Orland Kathy and I got my old ‘67 Volkswagen Camper out and running. It hadn’t been started in about 4 years (this time; it’s been stored for 12 to 13 years all together). Though I’d love to turn it into a “Canyon of Cheese”-mobile, we may soon need to make some “adult” time & money decisions about the car’s future. It’s nickname is “the Toaster” and it had belonged to my grandparents.

Can we be of assistance? Into the light of day… The TOASTER after a wash

Co-Ops make me melancholy (and French cheese helps me through it).

My father spent his formative years from approximately the age 9 until about the age of 25 in Berkeley, California (except for a couple years in the army, having been drafted during the Korean Conflict). When I was young, we drove to Berkeley every year for Thanksgiving to visit all of our relatives, and one of the many memories I have is of the Co-Op grocery store (one of three that was in Berkeley) which was at the corner of Ashby & Telegraph (it is now a Whole Foods). Having grown up in track housing of Orange County, visiting Berkeley was like being in a different country. The feeling was exemplified when at the Co-Op; there was a big bulletin boards of events, information, barters and trades, a day-care in the grocery store, and the odd concept of being asked for our “membership card” when we bought anything. Being so young, it took me awhile to understand that we WERE allowed to shop there, but that the price was higher if we weren’t members… The Co-Op branding is still etched in my memory too; it was on their newsletters, the milk cartons, bags of sugar, etc. I just scoured the Internet for a picture of the old Co-Op’s logo but couldn’t find it (if any of you reading this have an electronic copy of it, please let me know in the comment section and I’ll post it). THAT Co-Op is long gone; it folded in the early 1980’s unable to survive as distributors and large chain markets pushed them out of business (there are assuredly other reasons too; if you have a link to any articles about it, let me know, I’ll link it)…

Cheese Bryce? Where’s the cheese?

Yes, inner-cheese voice, I was getting to that… Where’s the cheese? The Cheese is at excellent current-day Co-Ops here in the Bay Area (and hopefully elsewhere in the nation/world too). I know I have mentioned it before, but let me say a few words about Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. It is a worker-owned cooperative, and if you are unsure what that means, exactly, here is their description [click link].

Are you getting onto another soapbox about responsible food buying or something?

No, I’m going to talk about two French cheeses actually, but all this is lead up to mention that Gordon Edgar, who I have mentioned in several postings in the past, is the cheese purchaser and expert at Rainbow Foods, and has been working there for over 12 years. Beyond just being a cheese expert, Gordon’s a Board member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild, is often a judge in a large variety of cheese competitions, and is generally just a nice guy. Best of all though, is that he shares his love and knowledge of cheese with Rainbow’s customers and the world at large. Yesterday I went to Rainbow to pick up some  Saint-Félicien cheese for a friend of ours, and was glad that Gordon was at the store. Rainbow has perhaps the largest, and best cheese counter of any grocery store in the Bay Area. Just as I mentioned in a earlier post, places like Safeway just don’t have anyone of expertise to answer any questions about the cheeses that they carry. Rainbow, however, has an excellent knowledgeable staff and Gordon. In the seven minutes or so that I visited, a customer asked about low-salt cheese choices, and another asked about organic goat-milk cheeses. It’s refreshing to see customers to get such personal attention in regard to their cheese choices. I asked Gordon if there was any specific cheeses that they currently had that he was excited about. “I’m always excited about all of it, actually… but let me see…” Gordon suggested some blue cheese and gave me a taste; French goat-milk Pyrenees Basque Bluette. Imported through the French company Onetik, this blue amazed me. When trying blue cheeses, I often brace myself for a very sharp taste which is common to many varieties. The Pyrenees Basque, however, has a smooth, creamy complexity which won me over immediately. As Gordon pointed out, there’s a slight fruit taste hidden amongst the complexity of this cheese, and yes, I bought a wedge.

The reason I had gone to Rainbow on Thursday, was specifically to pick up some Saint-Félicien for our friend Stephanie, a writer & musician in Chico, who had fond memories of the cheese from when she had lived in France. I’d never tried  Saint-Félicien, but in Stephanie’s e-mail, she had stated; “I haven’t had any since 2003 in France – they called it terrorist cheese because they said people who smuggled it back to the US ended up with such a stinky mess…” With that, I had to try it. If I could find it, I’d pick some up for our friend, and some for Kathy and myself. One call to Rainbow is all it took to locate some of this wonderful cheese.

Back at home, the only Saint-Félicien I could find in a book I have on French Cheeses is a Saint-Félicien De Lamastre, which is a soft raw goat milk cheese. The Saint-Félicien I purchased, however, is from milk which is both pasteurized and from cows. I don’t doubt that they are very similar cheeses, but now I’d love to try them very side by side. My guess is that as a soft cheese, for import purposes (aged less than 60 days), this cheese has to be from pasteurized milk. Slightly pungent, the cheese is incredibly creamy at room temperature (thus the little ceramic crock it is sold in), about the consistency of Nutella. Kathy enjoyed it, but I think I was the one who ate at least 70% of it (some for dinner and the rest the next morning for breakfast). Now you too can try it; it is (according to my book) seasonal, so call ahead to your cheese store to make sure they have some.

We’re off to Chico this weekend; a friend’s birthday party, have the cheese to deliver, and we also hope to drop by Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company in Orland, California, where there is kind of an “open house” this weekend thanks to the “Passport Weekend” tour along the Sierra Oro Farm Trail in the northern end of the Sacramento Valley in California. Expect a posting or two about that visit next week. Meanwhile, treat yourself; go try some cheeses which are new to you, and let us know about them in the comment section!