Archive for September, 2009
Friday, after (cheese) school…

Sara Vivenzio and Gordon Edgar The Meet the Cheesemakers event at the Cheese School of San Francisco this past Friday night (Sept. 25th, 2009) was everything you might hope for from either a hosted cocktail party or a cheese tasting event in San Francisco. Interesting, sociable people, quality wines and beers, artisan cheese and many of the cheesemakers who produce the cheese, ready, willing and able to People Enjoying Cheese answer any and all questions.

If you were unable to attend, regrets, but I’ll try to outline a little of  something of the atmosphere so that you can feel as if you were there, as well as link the dairies, creameries and other artisan products which provided the samples which were available in abundance to enjoy. I’ll also include a LOT of pictures this time around… The first picture, somewhat blurry, of Sara Vivenzio (founder Lenny Rice and Kathy and director of the Cheese School) and Gordon Edgar (professional cheesemonger extraordinaire) captures, I feel, some of the fun and camaraderie that Guild members share. You’ll also notice a few pictures with Lenny Rice (co-author of the book “Fondue” which is one of Kathy’s and my favorites); she helped organize the event, and to all the others who worked hard to make this happen, I hope to have at least included a photo…

Humbolt Fog The Cheese School of San Francisco’s facility is an excellent space just downhill from North Beach as you approach the Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf area. Once upon a time (actually twice) I worked in this neighborhood for a dot.com company which became a two-time loser. The neighborhood, on the other hand, particularly the corner where the Cheese School resides, is quite nice; far enough away from both the tourists and North Beach to have its own feel. A steep  flight of stairs (typical for San Francisco two-story buildings) brings visitors to the well appointed classroom and office space which are adorned with beautiful cheese-related photography. For cheese lovers, it is like a nearly hidden gem in SF, one that needs to be experienced. This is the second time I’ve Fra' Mani Handcrafted Salumi had the privilege to attend this event (this time volunteering for the California Artisan Cheese Guild), and just like last time, the attendees were of every walk of life and level of cheese appreciation. “All I know about cheese, is Cheese Whiz,” boasted one gentleman early in the evening (I’m certain his horizon has expanded insurmountably), whereas others have been taking classes on cheesemaking from the Cheese School. One such couple that I met, both blog about their Justin and Stephanie lives, food and, when it intersects; cheese as well. I encourage you to take a look at both Justin and Stephanie’s blogs by clicking on their names (I have pointed Stephanie’s link directly to her/their most recent cheese making experience). Also in the realm of cheese and blogging, and in attendance, was Colleen Levine of Cheese + Champagne, which I was unaware of until only about a week ago (I obviously haven’t been googling cheese enough as of late). She and her friend have been; “tasting our Colleen of Cheese and Champagne way through the Wine Spectator ‘100 Great Cheeses’ list…” all the while, doing an amazing job blogging about it. Colleen rushed off a plane to make it to the last third of the Meet the Cheesemakers event (she had flown into town for a blogging conference).

What about the cheese, Bryce?!?

Sorry, “Inner-Cheese Voice”; this time I’m going to Marcia Barinaga allow the links of all the places involved speak for themselves (below), with the exception of one cheese Barinaga Ranch Baserri that was new to me, a new-comer to the Guild, Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch joins alongside quality sheep’s milk cheeses which we’re so fortunate to have in California. Her four to five pound Baserri tomme, was a wonderful taste surprise to me due to the slightly nutty flavor it had… but enough on that particular cheese until I can really sit down with a large piece someday soon. Meanwhile, here is what I hope is a complete list of every place which was represented:

Mariano Gonzalez and Jennifer Bice Barinaga Ranch
Cowgirl Creamery
Cypress Grove Chevre
Laura Chennel Goat Cheese
Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese
Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Salumi
Sara Vivenzio and Chef Gary A. Bottarini Rustic Bakery
Redwood Hill Farm
Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese
Valckenberg – The Riesling Source

Bryce at the Cheese School That last link, Valckenberg, was also an incredible part of the evening; importers of fine German wines, wines that you typically wouldn’t be able to find, but thanks to Valckenberg, were availible at the event.

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but I’m going to also put some photos of people who attended. If you stumble upon yourself here, thanks for attending!
Meet the Cheesemakers 2009 Collage

Is that cheese porn on your coffee table?

Comté Galette up close Culture magazine, the cheese quarterly, is well, almost pornographic. At least to those of us who love cheese. They, the wonderful editors and publishers, know it too; they include a cheese centerfold in each issue. Since I have been blogging, I take a lot more photos then I used to, and try to always remember to bring our camera around with me, ‘cause you never know when you might run into some cheese… Now if you flip through our snapshots on our computer, the number of shots which are cheese is starting to approach that of people…

You were saying something relevant about cheese, Bryce?!?

Yes, sorry “Inner-Cheese Voice”! I was. Culture magazine; like an indulgent guilty secret… a thick quarterly meant to be looked at again and again, and unlike Playboy Magazine in the 1970’s  (“I read it for the articles!”), you can leave Culture out on your coffee table without the risk of reproach. This is the first time I have tried one of the magazine’s recipes, and I tried it in part because I had, on-hand, the two primary ingredients; potatoes and Comté. Comté is a French cheese which has a huge production, but don’t get the wrong idea; it is highly regulated by the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée). Without going into a history of the AOC (my inner-cheese voice is already tapping its toe with impatience), let’s cut to Comté and potatoes the quick and say that it guarantees that it has been made in a specific region of France (mountainous region of the Jura in this case), and that it meets and/or exceeds specific high quality conditions to earn it the AOC label of quality assurance. Can you imagine what it would be like if American cheese manufactures were required to attest to where their milk is from along with where their cheese is actually made? This immediately brings to mind the huge “mozzarella” cheese manufacturer in Roswell, New Mexico that I had wanted to visit. But to Comté its self; it is not unlike Gruyère, but tends to be less nuttier, and slightly more sweet in taste. Fact is, when the AOC grades the quality of this cheese, if it doesn’t meet certain specifications, then it is sold as a Gruyère. Made from raw cow’s milk, it is aged at least 90 days, and is formed into 100 pound wheels. It takes 140 gallons to make one wheel of Comté (that’s about what 30 cows can produce in a day!).

Our good friends Anna and Jeff came over for a combined effort dinner and board games, and since we were going to be playing Clue, they brought Mystery Meatloaf! “Mystery Meatloaf” (the photo should reveal the concealed mystery). They grabbed it off the web from the Food Network, and it was pretty tasty. Kathy made a side dish of spinach with garlic, accompanied by freshly grated Italian Parmesan that we had in the fridge. I had been wanting to do some baking, so I made a two-layer chocolate cake that involved stout beer and coffee (was in the latest Bon Appétit), and the simple, and delicious, Potato and Comté Galette. Thanks to the kind folks at Culture magazine, I’ve been given permission to reprint the recipe here on Canyon of Cheese (below), but if you’re ready for a lot of in-depth cheese articles, information and recipes, I can’t recommend the magazine more highly.
Jeff & Anna Collage
Jeff and Anna are seen above turning Japanese and playing the 1990’s board game, NOTEability.

 
POTATO AND COMTE GALETTE

Reprinted with permission from Culture magazine. Directly copied out of Autumn 09, Volume 1 Issue 4 page 81

To preserve the natural starch in the potatoes, do not soak them in water. To prevent darkening, use the potatoes immediately after they’ve been peeled and shredded. The coarse shredding blade attachment of a food processor will make fast work of preparing the potatoes.

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

Shredded Comté 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups coarsely shredded Comté.

Heat the oven to 450°F. Set a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat and melt the butter. Transfer half of the melted butter to a small bowl. Brush the remaining butter evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Keep warm over low heat.

Coarsely shred the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Workings quickly, make an even layer in skillet using about one-third of the shredded potatoes. Sprinkle with ½ Galette after baking. teaspoon of the salt, a grinding of black pepper, and a light grating of nutmeg. Top with one-third of the cheese. Layer with another one-third of the potatoes. Drizzle with reserved melted butter and press down on the potatoes with the back of the spatula. Sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, a grinding of black pepper, and a light grating of nutmeg. Top with an even layer of the remaining cheese.

Set the skillet on top of the stove over medium heat. Cook about 10 minutes, until the potatoes sizzle and the edges turn brown.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake 25 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and the potatoes are tender when tested with the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Cut into wedges, and serve hot.

Where to mingle amongst cheese…

Don’t be a guy or gal who is dumber than cheese! So, you live in/near San Francisco and you’ve got a date, or a significant other, or a spouse, or a friend, or even a parent, AND you love cheese…where are you going to take them so that you can share your love of cheese, be able to SAMPLE a lot of amazing artisan cheese, have a great time even try some beer and wine too? A restaurant? Sure, but will you be able to turn to your neighbor and and openly discuss the cheese you just tried with them without them looking at you like you’re crazy? Not likely. Equally, are you going to be able to turn to the person handing you the cheese and ask them in-depth questions about the cheese and learn that they are the cheese maker themselves? Also not very likely!    There are, however, opportunities where you can do exactly this,  and it is time once again.

Meet the Cheesemakers - The Annual California Artisan Cheese Guild event at the Cheese School of San Francisco.

September 25th, 2009 from 6pm until 9pm

 

 2155 Powell St. (at Francisco) in San Francisco, CA

MAKE A RESERVATION, however, ’cause this is a very popular event. As described by The Tablehopper e-newsletter of Sept. 8 (thanks Gordon);

~THE CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ is hosting a special evening and fundraiser for the California Artisan Cheese Guild called Meet the Cheesemakers on Friday September 25th. The event will be in a cocktail party format, with a selection of cheeses, wines, and accompaniments. Guests willLink to The Cheese School of San Francisco be able to mix and mingle with several of California’s most celebrated cheesemakers (like the makers of Humboldt Fog and Cowgirl Creamery) during an intimate tasting where artisans will share their very best standbys as well as new creations. $35 per person. Advance registration is required. Call for more information or to make reservations at 415-346-7530. The event is from 6pm–9pm. 2155 Powell St. at Francisco.

 Hosted by the CACG and The Cheese School

Although this is an excellent description, I cannot stress how great this cocktail party is due to the incredible atmosphere at the cheese school, the cheesemakers on hand and all the great people there to enjoy the cheese, wine and beer samplings. Yours truly will be volunteering, so say hello if you make it!

Cheese or Font?

Real quick this time; thanks to actor and musician Dana Goldberg (pictured on stage alongside actor Rob Hermann, photo by the male Dana; Dana Constance), I was given this link to a fantastic quiz website which challenges you to see whether you know a name to be the name of a cheese, or a font. Thanks Dana!

Here’s the Link.

Talking about Velveeta…

Mascot of the Cheese Festival in Monroe, New York Well, perhaps I wasn’t talking about Velveeta per se, but I did mention it in this linked article. This has, however, brought up a desire;  to be in the Village of Monroe, New York on September 12th, 2009 (tomorrow).
That is the date this year when Monroe celebrates their village’s heritage of cheese; the birthplace of Velveeta. Before you go screaming about how Velveeta is not a cheese, or ask yourself; “why is Bryce mentioning Velveeta at all?!?” I’d like to defend… no, not Velveeta, but the subject. There are two very distinct things about Monroe, and both were brought to my attention by my sister-in-law, Janet (Kathy’s sister). She had been hoping to find a place to live not too far from New York City when she visited Monroe for the first time. Monroe is a quaint village (as they prefer to be called) in the Hudson Valley area of New York State. However, it didn’t always bear the name Monroe. The village’s original name? Town of Cheesecocks. Nope, I’m not kidding. So far I have only been able to find information about this on Wikipedia (and I haven’t had the chance to go to my local library), but for Wikipedia’s account, here is the link. It is under the History section.

Much more thorough and interesting, is the history of cheeses, and cheesemaking in Monroe, which led up to Velveeta. It is very nicely documented on the Monroe Cheese Festival’s Website, written by James A. Nelson, and can be read at this link. I encourage you to read it, as it illustrates the many twists and turns that can occur for cheese makers over decades of ownership changes… What, I wonder, might have Emil Frey’s Liederkranz tasted like? As to commenting about Velveeta its self. Sorry to disappoint; I’m not going to broach that one today. If YOU have comments that you have to make, use the comment section in the lower right of this posting.

Oh; a quick disclaimer: Although I have written to the Monroe Cheese Festival website to secure permission to use the graphic of their mascot, I haven’t actually heard back yet, so I’d like be sure to credit them, and their website, as being the rightful owners of the graphic, and say that I hope by linking to them that more people learn of their Cheese Festival.
May I have extra cheese with that please?

It is still fig season in California, and I LOVE figs. Besides their texture, taste and juiciness, I also love that they go so well with cheese. As you may have noticed in the last post, we used some for to dip into our blue cheese fondue. The pictures you see here are of a quick summer salad that was easy to make; red and green leafy lettuce, green onions, cherry tomatoes, roasted pine nuts, figs and cheese. The cheese is a semi-soft goat’s milk cheese which has been soaked in red wine from Spain. Supposedly it is from the same town that my sister-in-law is from, Murcia, Spain, which also happens to be where Charo was born. Not that either of these facts have anything to do with this velvety smooth cheese with a slight Salad with figs and Drunken Goat Cheese spicy tang. The Spanish name for this cheese is, yes, you’ve guessed it: Queso de Murcia al Vino. The cheese is only aged 75 days, and is made from pasturized milk.

What, you say this isn’t quite enough cheese for you today? I’ve been trying to convince myself that it is alright to write shorter posts (and then I might get them up more often; I certainly consume enough cheese), but I am a long-winded fellow. What I will do today, is post a link to an article I wrote concerning Chico and cheese for the weekly publication, the News & Review. This was published today… Consider it like an extended blog post if you will, it may be found here at this link. Many thanks to editor, writer, musician and all around great guy; Jason Cassidy for requesting the article. I have, and will again, go on about Chico, but I hope the article gives you some additional insight to that wonderful town.

Blues to melt for (with?).

Slicing cranberry and walnut bread Even for someone like me, who can enjoy fondue anytime, there were portions of this past summer that it was just too warm. In the Bay Area, however, things are starting to cool off, and thanks to Kathy, we had a couple friends over for another delicious cheese-based dinner. Once again turning to Lenny Rice and Brigid Callinan’s book, ”Fondue” (one of, honestly, about 20 fondue books we own), we tried a recipe we hadn’t tried before; Bavarian Blue with Roasted Garlic.

Utilizing a milder type of blue cheese, Cambozola, this fondue is excellent if anyone you are serving it to anyone who doesn’t enjoy strong tasting blue cheeses. One of the Cambozola mixed with flower features that Rice & Callinan’s book that I admire, are the small side-bar notes such as this one (verbatim): “CHEESE NOTES: From Germany, Cambozola is a mild and creamy blue-veined cheese with soft white mold coating. Created in the 1970s as a hybrid of Camembert and Gorgonzola, Cambozola is one of Germany’s most popular cheeses.” Truth is, from my own experience, Germans are wild for Camembert in General; a popular dinner treat in Germany is a breaded hockey-puck sized cakes of Camembert (per person) which is then either baked or fried so that the contents spill out when the exterior’s shell is pierced by each diner. This is served well with a nice bit of Figs, Apples and bread cubes Preiselbeeren Jam (that’s lingonberry to you!) For the Germans to have combined this smooth, soft cheese with the likes of blue cheese is a natural progression. Used in the fondue, German Cambozola needs very little other liquid since it is moisture-rich soft cheese. In fact, besides only requiring 1/4 cup of Gewürztraminer wine, the recipe has you coat the cheese chunks in flower as seen in the picture, to help separate the pieces so that they’ll melt more evenly, as well as give a little more viscosity to the final blend. Kathy had already prepared the cheese and roasted garlic before I got home. One additional step I took was to mash the roasted garlic cloves (which are often almost a paste when roasted in an oven with olive oil) with some of the cheese and wine so that when it is introduced to the fondue it would spread more evenly throughout the pot.

Which Hand is it in? This fondue has a wonderful earthy tone to it which makes you (OK; me at least) want more and more of it as the pot empties. Excellent accompaniment were the figs, apples and cranberry-walnut bread that Kathy sliced up for the dinner. Better yet was the wonderful and comedically engaging company we shared with our friends Christine and Sang (not pictured; sorry C&S; you’d have killed me if I posted bad pictures of you). Amongst discussion was Christine’s website that she has been just recently building and developing, as well as a discussion of whether music, with no frame of reference can be funny on its own. I’ll leave that to you to consider this as you go out and try a blue cheese which is new to you, but I will say that as Sang brought up a subject from the world at large (popularized and discussed in articles such as this one) that; “Adding the Benny Hill Theme to Anything Makes it Funny”.