Archive for February, 2009
Don’t you miss it! Don’t you miss it! Some of you people just about missed it.

Ballot Box Monster! “Don’t you miss it! Don’t you miss it! Some of you people just about missed it…” [Born Under Punches; The Talking Heads]

Saturday, in the Bay Area of California, was perfect. This was mainly because the rain which was due held off one more day allowing for two cheese-oriented events to take place. At Cheese Plus in San Francisco was the Winter Artisan Cheese Fair, not only were excellent artisan cheeses being sampled, there was also the opportunity to meet four cheese book authors. Pictured are Laura Werlin, author of Cheese Essentials, Jeanette Hurt, author of The Cheeses of Wisconsin, Clark Wolf, author of American Cheeses. Not pictured is Janet Fletcher, author of Cheese & Wine.

Cheese Authors: (L to R) Laura Werlin, Jeanette Hurt, Clark Wolf Although I rushed from a meeting in Petaluma to San Francisco for this event, I missed seeing Janet Fletcher; she had to leave prior than my arrival. Kathy and I bought a copy of Cheese Essentials which Laura signed. I admitted to her that we had only previously been checking it out from the library. Since one of Laura’s other books (yes, all four of these authors have multiple writing credits to their names) is Great Grilled Cheese, I asked if she’d be making it to the Grilled Cheese Invitational Competition in San Francisco. The Cheese Plus event had her busy enough, but her sister was to call with a report to advise if she should make it out there, late or not… So many cheese events, so little time! A major component of the Winter Artisan Cheese Fair, as I mentioned on Friday, were the tastings organized by Sheana Davis. If there’s anything I’d like to get across in this post today, it is that it is NOT too late to get to the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference, which is still happening today and tomorrow [Mon. & Tues. Feb. 23rd and 24th, 2009]. Don’t you miss it!

 Cheese Plus' Corner (Polk & Pacific, San Francisco) Cheese Samples at the Winter Artisan Cheese Fair” width=

Grilled Cheese Insanity

Ballot Due to attending the event at Cheese Plus (which, as with all of their events, was wonderful), I was late getting to Mission Dolores Park to witness the Grilled Cheese Invitational Competition. Kathy headed to a friend’s “High Tea” birthday party, and I caught the very end of the event. Although ballots had just stopped being excepted when I arrived, enthusiastic throngs of people were still there waiting for the official results. 

The mood of it all was a little like a miniature Mardi Gras, in which people were dressed in funny costumes, drinking beer from paper bags, and clamoring for attention… A $2 (suggested donation) Cooking Area wristband gave you the right to judge the grilled cheese offerings, but as there were not enough for everyone in attendance, it was those who begged, pleaded and showed spirited enthusiasm that were rewarded with a piece to try and the right to then fill out an “official sammich ballot.” I witnessed the tail end of this when I arrived, and although I didn’t see exposed body parts, you’d think the crowds were pleading for Mardi Gras beads, not grilled cheese sandwiches. Too late to even get a photograph of any of the sandwiches, I did overhear someone saying about the piece they were trying; “It’s grilled cheese, avocado and Vegemite. It’s awful!” I guess that was in the “non-traditional” category. Looks like it was a fun event, one that attracted large groups of competitors and friends… maybe next year. Meanwhile, so many other cheese events not to miss.

No Rain! (Dolores Park, San Francisco) Tabulator's Table” width=

Cheese events Sat. Mon. & Tues. not to miss!

Hope you are ready to enjoy some cheese over the next four days!

There’s a lot of busy people in California’s world of artisan cheese, and not the least of which is Sheana Davis. Not only is she part of The Epicurean Connection (she is the owner and driving force behind it), has begun her OWN line of cheese (Delice de Vallee Cheese) but is also the creator and host of the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference (7th year this year!).

I’ve had the pleasure to meet Sheana on several occasions now, and am amazed by all the cheese events that she is involved with/creates/hosts, etc… The Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference is being held THIS MONDAY and TUESDAY in Sonoma, CA (February 23rd and 24th, 2009). The breadth of seminars and talks is fantastic, and if you have the opportunity to attend, you should. Details, details details: here! Thanks to the kindness of Sheana, and Gordon Edgar, I’ll be participating on a panel discussion about cheese blogging on Tuesday at noon at the Conference in Sonoma. [Tuesday, Feb. 24th, 9:00-10:00 "Blog Talk" with Tami Parr, Bryce Allemann & Sara Marcus moderated by Gordon Edgar].  …this is your opportunity to ask a panel, all who blog about cheese, anything you’d like… about cheese blogging. “Why?” as a first question comes to mind, perhaps… If you’re reading this, you may be tired already of hearing me drone on, so come to the Conference for all the other incredible cheeses, cheesemakers, cheese experts, chefs, etc…

Yeah, sounds great Bryce, but what if I have to work on Monday & Tuesday?

Glad you asked, “inner-cheese voice”! If you’d like a mini-preview PLUS a whole lot of FREE cheese samplings, cheese talk and book signings; you can’t miss the free event on Saturday (Feb. 20th, 2009, Noon until 4pm) at Cheese Plus: Winter Artisan Cheese Fair I’m going to steal DIRECTLY from owner Ray Bair’s e-mail about it, and give you a hint of what you can enjoy there—
The line-up includes:

If you still need any convincing to go to Cheese Plus on Saturday, know too that you can register to win a raffle prize of a 10 person tour of Harley Farms Goat Dairy [here's a previous post about Harley Farms]

Monet - Harley Farms

Wirey Cheese…

Here’s a quick post to let you know about some cheese-related artwork.

C.W. Roelle, drawing and wire sculpture artist of Providence, Rhode Island, has a display of 200 cheese sculptures on display (in Providence). Like the one seen displayed here (picture used by permission from the Tiny Showcase Galley), all of the 200 sculptures are for sale (at a reasonable price, I believe) and may be bought on-line. CLICK HERE for Tiny Showcase’s on-line gallery of the works.

I noticed that even Califonia’s own Humbolt Fog (from Cypress Grove Chevre) is one of the sculptures…

Thanks to local San Francisco artist and friend Tofu for bringing this to my attention.

…and while I’m mentioning/talking about Providence; greetings to Pete & Rebbecca who live there. Had any R.I. cheeses you’d like to tell us about?

What drives an artist to make 200 wire sculptures of cheese? Don’t know, but perhaps the nicely produced video below about C.W. Roelle might give some clues. Enjoy.

Would you like cheese on that?

Roth's Private Reserve This weekend I had a real craving for a Croque-monsieur,  and I wanted to make one “right” (”right” being entirely relative; here’s a previous post in which I was unhappy with a restaurant’s Croque-madame). Which meant, this time, combining a few recipes. What I wanted was a Croque-monsieur that would also have a Béchamel on top of it.

Another reason I’ve been thinking about wonderful grilled sandwiches, is that Kathy and I visited with a friend of ours, Cynthia (Librarian Extraordinaire; Masters in Library Sciences), and she mentioned that this coming Saturday (Feb. 21st, 2009) there is a Grilled Cheese Invitational Competition in San Francisco. No, not going to enter or anything like that; I can cook, but I’m no chef… Talking about it made me crave a Croque-monsieur like nobody’s business, however.

If you’ve got about forty-five minutes to an hour, and the right ingredients, I strongly advise making one for yourself. The recipe and my notes follow. Primarily, I desired a Croque-monsieur with a Béchamel sauce on the top, but to make it extra cheesy, I made a Mornay sauce, which is basically a Béchamel with cheese added. Don’t be afraid of this recipe; it’s fairly easy, but takes a little time due to clarifying butter and making the Béchamel… I did as many simultaneous steps as possible, I’ll try to point them out.

As always, using the best quality cheese, to your taste, is going to be your best bet. I  had on hand some Roth’s Private Reserve that I picked up at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. Since I’m about to launch into the recipes, I’ll let Janet Fletcher speak of Roth’s Private Reserve in her article here. In short though, I’ll say that it is not unlike an excellent domestic Gruyère.

First Step; make clarified butter and Béchamel.

Clarified Butter Cubed Unsalted Butter (copied from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker): Butterfat that has been separated from its water and milk and keeps about three times longer, does not burn in sautéing, and has a pure clean flavor. Straining Clarified Butter Cut unsalted butter into small pieces and melt over low heat without stirring and without letting butter to sizzle, and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain mixture well and let the clear yellow liquid cool before covering. When chilled, clarified butter becomes grainy. It should be used as a spread but only in cooking.

Sauce BéchamelHalf a Small Onion with Bay Leaf held in by Cloves
- 1 ¼ cups milk
- ¼ onion with 1 bay leaf stuck to it using 2 whole cloves
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Simmer gently for 15 minutes, uncovered, to infuse flavor into milk. Discard the onion, bay leaf, and cloves. Meanwhile, melt in a heavy saucepan over low heat:
- 2 tablespoons butter.
Stir in:
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula, over medium-low heat until the Milk Simmering for Morney roux is just fragrant but not darkened, 2 to 3 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, and return the saucepan to the heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking to prevent lumps, and cook, stirring often and skimming any skin that forms on the surface, over low heat, without boiling, until it reaches the consistency of thick cream soup, 8 to 10 minutes. Strain Roux for Mroney through fine-mesh sieve, if desired. Season with:
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste.

Sauce Mornay (Cheese Sauce)
Prepare Sauce Béchamel above, adding ¼ cup firmly packed fine grated cheese – 2 tablespoons Gruyere and 2 tablespoons Parmesan is traditional, but any aged cheese is very good, Sliding Cheese and Nutmeg into Sauce alone or in combination. Try Swiss, Cheddar, or blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Rouguefort and Stilton. Cook, stirring, just until the cheese is melted – the cheese can turn stringy. Season with salt, and, in place of pepper, a pinch of red pepper and a few grains of mace or nutmeg.

Nutmeg and Cheeses Note from Bryce: Just as the recipe above suggests, you can really try a variety of cheese for the Morney, so use what works best for you. I did the suggested “traditional” but added quite a bit of freshly ground nutmeg since Kathy likes it so much.

AS the butter was clarifying and the milk was simmering was the time that I spent constructing the sandwiches by Julia Child’s instructions below.

 Julia’s Croque Monsieur

This recipe below is directly from:

Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home

by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin

[Child, Julia and Pepin, Jacques. 1988 Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York.]

Yield: 1 Sandwich
Ingredients
–2 slices fresh, reasonably soft home-style white bread, removed from the loaf in sequence for accurate reassembly
–1Tablespoon mayonnaise, preferably homemade
–½ teaspoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
–2 or more slices Swiss Cheese (Gruyère or Emmentaler, 3/16 inch thick and large enough to cover each bread slice.
–1 slice excellent baked or boiled ham, 3/ 16 inch thick, trimmed of fat, and same size as cheese
–2 Tablespoons clarified butter

Special Equipment
A Frying pan that will hold one sandwich comfortably (probably about 8 inches), or a 12 inch pan for more sandwiches; a pancake turned; a baking sheet, if you are doing several sandwiches.

Mayo and Dijon Mustard

Forming the Sandwich
Lay the bread in front of you and open it up like a book so that when you close the sandwich the right and left sides will match exactly). Spread an even coating of mayonnaise – about a teaspoon – on top of each slice then a smidge of mustard. Lay a slice of cheese on the right slice, followed by a slice of ham, then a slice of cheese. Turn the left slice of bread over on top of the right, press firmly down on the sandwich with the palm of your hand. Layering Rotate and press several times to hold the sandwich together (that’s why you want the bread to be fresh and fairly soft). With a big sharp knife, trim off the crusts all around to form a neat sandwich. (If not to be cooked at once, wrap airtight in plastic – useful when you are doing several).

Sautéing
Preheat the oven to 300°F for final baking
Film the frying pan with a tablespoon of clarified butter and set over moderately Fried ib Clarified Butter high heat. When very hot but not browning, lower heat to moderate and lay the sandwich in the pan, pressing down several times as the sandwich browns rather slowly on the bottom – 2 minutes or so. Add another tablespoon of clarified butter to the pan, then turn and brown on the other side, pressing down upon the sandwich several times until its bottom, too, is lightly browned. (You may sauté 10 to 15 minutes in advance, and finish later.)

Final Baking
Baked Croque For a single sandwich set the frying pan (oven-proof frying pan) in the middle level of the preheated 300°F oven and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted. If doing several sandwiches, lift them onto the baking sheet to finish in the oven…

Next Step: Set the oven on broil as soon as you remove the baking sandwich(es). On top of each, spread an even layer of Morney Sauce Almost Ready your Mornay sauce, and slide under the broiler until either the sauce is reheated, or it starts to brown slightly.

Morney on Top Remove from broiler, slice in half and serve with a fresh green salad (meant to fool your body into thinking this is somehow a balanced or healthy meal).

DO YOU have an favorite Croque recipes, or grilled cheese? Let everyone know by commenting in the comment section. Thanks!

Serve Croque with Salad

Less is more…

Yes, I’ve been remiss [new work, an hour's commute each way, plus work helping coordinate California's Artisan Cheese Festival (March 20th - 23rd, 2009 in Petaluma)], but I’ve still been eating, enjoying and exploring cheese like mad…

Yeah, yeah Bryce; excuses. Where’s the cheese?

Yes, you’re right, “Inner Cheese Voice”; let’s just talk about some cheese.

Sap Sago (also known as Schabziger) is a hard herb cheese, which I think I may have spoken about in length on this previous post. While at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco several weeks ago, I was pleased to find an entire booth dedicated to this underutilized Swiss cheese. Due to its hard nature, this is NOT a snacking cheese, and yet, I always have some in my fridge. If you enjoy savory breakfasts as I do, or even if you want a snack, Sap Sago’s the stuff! Besides using it in Fondue, as Kathy and I often do, it is great to just grate into butter for bread. Remember though; a little goes a long way (less is more).

I spoke at length with the man running the Sap Sago booth at the Fancy Food Show, Yves, about where I typically buy Sap Sago in the Bay Area. It’s not always the easiest cheese to find, as there is little to no demand for it by most Americans. The Cheese Board in Berkeley carries it, as well as Country Cheese on San Pablo in Berkeley. We also spoke about how I found that the cost went up astronomically over the past five years or so; I used to get it for about $1.69 a cone, and now it’s closer to $5. We’re fortunate to have it at all, so I’m not complaining!   …since I had the opportunity to talk to someone about Sap Sago, someone knowledgeable, I learned something fairly interesting. I had been under the assumption that there were perhaps anywhere from 2 to 10 additional brands of Sap Sago in Switzerland that we just can’t get here. According to Yves, this assumption isn’t true. He told me that there are a great many farmers who sell milk, and/or curd to Geska (the cheese producing company), but unless these farmers merely keep some to make their own personal batches of Sap Sago, no one else is commercially making the cheese.

I’ve been sent the marketing flier as a PDF by Yves and his company, click on the picture from it below to see the whole thing. Although I encourage all of you to try Sap Sago, it is NOT a perfect Valentine’s Day gift cheese (unless he or she is into it), but I’m curious to know what cheese(s) YOU would like to get, or would give for Valentine’s day. Use the comment section below. Have a great President’s Day Weekend everyone!

 Sap Sago Flier