Archive for November, 2008
Can I bring cheese on the flight?

It’s that time of year; the time of year when you’re flying off to visit friends or family for the holidays and the biggest concern you have is whether you are allowed to bring cheese with you or not. What? That isn’t your biggest holiday concern? Well, it happens to be mine (today at least).

Kathy and I have just about everything planned; people to apartment-sit and watch over Nikita (the cat), plane tickets, ride to the airport, and I’m worried about cheese. We’re traveling up to Seattle again where a great many of my cousins and their families are, my brother and sister and law are there, my parents will make it, and even my sister and nephew who live in New Zealand. I’ve a great desire to share some California cheeses with everyone…

You can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you still can’t take liquids (more than 3oz) -OR- food with you into the waiting areas for flights as carry-on luggage. It is for this reason that I’ll be doing what I can to safely store, in my checked luggage, the cheese that I plan to bring. What I have is a small semi-insulated bag, and some non-toxic frozen “bricks” which are often used to mail cheese. I doubt it’ll be more than eight hours that the cheese will be away from proper refrigeration, and since we’ll most likely be eating it the same day that we arrive in Seattle, it should be fine.

I called our airline to assure that my assumptions about packing cheese in this manner, in checked luggage, would be alright. I got the green light, but I’ll admit, I’m still a little nervous about it. When you spend a fair amount on holiday cheese, you want to be assured that it’ll make it to your destination with you and not be confiscated by security connoisseurs.

So far, the only cheese that I know, without fail, I wish to bring is Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove Chevre. I’m open for additional complimentary choices of your favorite Californian cheeses (preferably Californian, this time around) that I should bring to our relatives. Use the comment section to give some suggestions/favorites.

Also, Tami Parr, of the excellent cheese blog, Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, gave me some great suggestions of cheese-related stores, restaurants and some out-lying creameries in and near Seattle. I hope we’ll make a few cheese-related destinations during our short trip. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and don’t forget to serve some quality cheese at your feast!

Comfort Food (yeah; with cheese) for cold weather.

Sure, TODAY a mini-heat wave has started in San Francisco, half-way through November. It’s 62 degrees (F.) outside as I type this, and yet, regardless of how cold it is (or not), it is always a good time to indulge in warm comfort food accompanied by cheese. First thing I did yesterday when I got up was dig out the crock pot and throw in the simple, easy to have on-hand, ingredients for an excellent, satisfying, slow-cooked tomato soup. Less than 10 minutes of preparation, and along with a loaf of bread and some cheese, you have a full meal waiting for you when you get home whether you’re gone for eight hours or twelve.

But it’s the cheese that can really make a meal, and last night it did. “La Tur” is a soft cheese from Italy which is a triple delight since it uses milk from goats, sheep, and cows. All of the milk is pasteurized, since as a young, soft cheese, it is typically only aged about ten days. The bloomy rind of La Tur barely holds the cheese together at room temperature; the gooey, yet viscous, interior can’t wait to burst out of its confines. Typically when you buy La Tur here in the States it is contained by a plastic container, and the cheese rests in a large paper cupcake liner-like paper. This additionally gives you the impression that you are about to have a confection. Whether you are like me and select savory foods when given a choice, or perfer sweeter foods, this cheese nearly bridges a gap between the two. It is more savory in overall taste than sweet, and yet I’d have no complaint enjoying this as a post-meal dessert.

Creamy La Tur

Kathy and I ate the entirety of cheese, but I admit that 75% of it was consumed by me. Kathy opted for ice cream, whereas I finished the La Tur.

Cheese and bread are a perfect accompaniment to the simple tomato soup recipe (below), but do your best to pick up some good quality cheese, and some good quality bread. I bought a bagette of crusty sourdough in Northbeach (the traditionally Italian district of San Francisco).

Oh, one last note before I give you the tomato soup recipe; the heavy whipping cream you see being artfully slid onto the surface of the soup is a tasty “trick” I learned one summer when I was living and working in Weinheim, Germany. A café I frequented served their tomato soup in this manner, and since then I’ve almost never served tomato soup without an “oil slick” of heavy whipping cream on top. The trick is to keep it on the surface.

So the meal would be twice as cheesy, I also grated some of the remaining Serena we have from Three Sisters Farmstead Cheese to be put into the soup at will.

Do you have some favorite cheesy cold weather/comfort foods? Let me, and everyone, know in the comment section. Here’s that recipe:

Flavor-Filled Tomato Soup [for Crock pot]

Taken directly from Rival’s “Crock Pot Cooking”

 

·         1 can (46 oz.) tomato juice

·         8 oz. tomato sauce

·         3 beef bouillon cubes

·         1/2 cup boiling water

·         3 peppercorns

·         1/2 bay leaf

·         1/4 tsp. leaf basil

·         1/2 small onion (sliced thin)

·         3 Tbsp. sugar

·         2 whole cloves

Stir all ingredients together in Crock Pot.   Cover and cook on low 5-10 hours.  If thicker soup is desired, turn to High setting and remove lid for last hour of cooking Strain before serving. 

 

6 servings (about 1½ quarts).

[Rival Brand Cookbook] 1975. Crock pot Cooking. Golden Press. New York, New York.

Président Change [of cheese; NOT politics]

Thanks everyone for your patience during a delay since my last post… the excitement of the recent election, a few trips out of town, and my continued search for new employment [need a new day job; in Information Technology (IT)], has kept things pretty busy… and yet, I have continued to be eating a lot of cheese, and documenting it as I can. A lot to say today about Brie…

Président Cheese is part of the global company  Lactalis International, which manufactures soft cheeses in 140 countries, has $150 Billion in sales and employs around 35,500 people world-wide. Chances are quite good that if you have been near a cheese isle in a grocery store (any store that sells more than just block cheeses and processed cheese), then you have seen the familiar red-lettered logo of Président camembert and brie. As mass-produced brie goes, Président does pretty well. Despite the milk sources being different in each country, Lactalis seems to manage to keep a consistent level of quality with their mass-produced cheeses.

Recently a marketing firm, working with Président Cheese, contacted me and offered to send me a sample of Président’s latest product; Brie produced and sold in “log” form. Although the company did not require, or even specifically ask me to review the product on Canyon of Cheese, it should be assumed that they hope I will/would. I’m only too happy to, and to give it my honest evaluation. I do, however, wish to avoid a biased review (either pro or con), so I will do my best to give full disclosure.

Some Qualifiers to Keep in Mind:

  • The sample was sent to me, free of charge, thanks to the kind promoters of Président Cheese.
  • Although I like to claim that I am not a “cheese snob” (see my FAQ section), you may notice through my postings, as well as my association to the California Artisan Cheese Guild, that I tend to gravitate towards farmstead/small production cheeses.
  • Despite the preceding comment, there are occasions for which I buy and consume mass-produced cheeses.
  • I love cheese, and will try just about anything.

I have been reading a variety of my cheese books, looking up Brie and its history. Summarizing in brief; Brie originates from the French region of Brie (known in modern times as the  département of Seine-et-Marne), and had been chronicled as having been enjoyed by Charlemagne as early as the year 774. The Brie area stands only roughly 60 miles from Paris, so as its popularity grew along with the population of that metropolis, the majority of Brie was traditionally produced for and sold in Paris. Nowadays, “Brie”-style cheeses are made worldwide, and yet (according to Wikipedia); “Despite the variety of Bries, the French Atlantic government officially certifies only two types of Brie to be sold under that name: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun.”

Where does this place Président Cheese’s Brie Log? Well, naturally it is a Brie-like cheese, since it; A) is not produced in the Brie Region of France, and B) it is in a non-traditional log shape. Does this affect the taste? That was going to be the test. Fearing I might have preconceived notions, we brought the Président Brie Log to a DVD viewing for the cast of “Serve by Expiration(2)“. For comparison, I brought a wedge of Brie which was from France, a moderately priced wedge from a wheel; Tour de Marze Brie. I asked everyone in attendance to give their honest opinion.

The result? The Président Cheese’s Brie Log was favored over the Tour de Marze Brie. Hands down, as a matter of fact. From a taste perspective, I agreed. In defense for the wedge from France, it may have not been ripe, however.  Brie is commonly sold (in Europe) in one or two kilogram wheels – That’s either 2.2 pounds, or 4.4 pounds. Here in the states, you’ll often buy a pre-sliced wedge of a wheel. Brie stops aging (properly) when you cut it, which is one of the reasons you should try to buy entire wheels of brie if you can afford to, and/or get it from a reputable cheese seller who has just cut into the wheel. For more proper Brie handling, here’s a good link. The familiar and inviting earthy, mushroom-like, taste which is often associated with Brie was missing entirely from the Tour de Marze Brie, and nicely present in the Président Brie. Both cheeses had been served properly, at room temperature.

Why a log?
Président Cheese would LOVE to sell as much cheese as they could. To this end, they are hoping that a log-shaped Brie will help. How/why? You’ve been to a party with Brie. It’s often picked at by party-goers, who may be unfamiliar with Brie, and who are avoiding the thin white rind. By the end of the evening there’s nothing by a destroyed shell of the cheese, only the rind remaining. The white exterior is a tasteless surface mold, necessary to help preserve the interior’s taste development over the four to five weeks that Brie ages. Personally, I always eat the rind, since it is part of the cheese. It adds texture. The idea behind the Brie Log is primarily convenience, however. Since it is possible to slice the log into individual cracker-sized pieces, each person will either eat an entire piece Brie, rind and all, or not at all.

But is it Brie?

No. It is a cheese, made in the United States, with a taste that resembles French Brie. It is mass-produced, and shaped and packaged for ease of consumption. Again, however, I must say that we were all impressed with the taste. Personally, I am too much of a traditionalist to want to buy this cheese when I want to enjoy some Brie, but I encourage anyone/everyone to try it for themselves if they see it in the super market. Perhaps a domestic Brie in log-form is what you have always been waiting for. Or, you might feel that log Brie is akin to freeze-dried ice cream (the type that astronauts enjoy). If you try a cheese, whether in the form of a log, a wedge, a pyramid or a block, and you enjoy it, then that’s what is most important. Just as I try to do, keep your mind and taste buds open to new cheese experiences.

Do YOU have a favorite Brie, or an opinion on the new Brie Log? Let everyone know and use the comment section. Thanks!