Archive for October, 2009
…bring that with a side of cheese, please.

There were only a few meals over this past weekend which did not involve cheese [Kathy made some Rainbow Chard With Pancetta last night, Saturday we had some Belgian-style Fries at Frjtz in the Mission District, and even indulged  Saturday night (Sunday morning?) at 12:30am with Chicken & Waffles at Home of Chicken and Waffles over by Oakland's Jack London Square]… so much food, but fear not; there was cheese over the weekend too…

Cheese Plus First off was the incredibly popular 5th Annual Fall Harvest Artisan Food Festival at Cheese Plus in San Francisco. All of the helpful employees, and the owner Ray,  were a good-natured blur as crowds of interested customers and on-lookers were trying samples of incredible cheeses and products. Yes, the California Artisan Cheese Guild (CACG) was aptly represented too, and since Kathy and I arrived a bit late, we missed the chance to once again enjoy samples of Sheena Davis’ Delice de La Vallee. We DID learn from her, however, that 72 hours prior she opened a store! She was as busy Crowds at Cheese Plus' Harvest Festival as everyone, so I didn’t get details, but we promised one another to catch up soon, and yes, I’ll blog about it as soon as Kathy and I make it out her way.

Naturally we couldn’t leave Cheese Plus empty handed, I struggled not to buy too much, or let Kathy know just how much we had spent (although she had agreed with all of the cheesemonger’s selections as well). Which cheeses? That’ll be another blog posting, hopefully soon.

John & Kim On Sunday we enjoyed an excellent brunch thanks to our good friends John and Kim in celebration of Kim’s birthday. We went to a popular French bistro restaurant in Berkeley; La Note. La Note specializes in rustic Provençal meals, and does an excellent job with them. Quality, fresh ingredients, excellent atmosphere, an attentive, friendly wait staff and excellent meals.

3 minute soft-boiled eggs You can’t please everyone all of the time, however, and La Note makes no claim of specializing in cheese. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed the meals that we have had there, I have, but it does mean that it is not the type of place I will go specifically for any kind of cheese dishes, for an emphasis on cheese, or cheese plates. The meal I ordered of soft-boiled eggs was prepared perfectly. Since the dish did not have cheese, French Toast at La Note I ordered some on the side. The waitress was very helpful and accommodating; sides of cheese are not on the menu, but she had it prepared for me upon my request. When I enquired what type of Brie I was served, she did her best to find out, but ultimately did not have an answer (it was suggested that I e-mail the owner to ask, which I have, but too recently to have heard back yet). The Brie was served at refrigerator temperature, and it wasn’t until the end of our leisurely brunch that it had warmed to a more appropriate room temperature (which is reccommended for a Brie’s delicate flavors to be enjoyed).

The point? The point, I believe, is that it doesn’t take much to bump things up an extra level, and this is Side of Brie with Breakfast fairly easy when it comes to cheese. Whether as an individual or a restaurant, if you care enough, you can find some cheese, in your price range, which can/will make the grade and allow you and/or your guests to experience tastes which remind you how sweet it is to live life. Go and try a cheese new to you today!  If  you want to share what you’ve been enjoying, write in the comment section.

When to be Fraîche…

Two quick things (and a recipe):

1) Bellwether Farms has a recipe contest for Crème Fraîche.
2) This Saturday Cheese Plus is having its 5th Annual Fall Harvest Artisan Food Festival.

 Mousse au Chocolat Amer Sure, you might be asking yourself; what is Crème Fraîche? It is not, technically, a cheese. Before someone who does believe it is a cheese yells at me, I’d like to point out that I am determining this after reading several of my cheese books, and offer two main reasons that I am in the; ”not a cheese cheese,” camp; 1) there is no separation of curds and whey, and 2) it is closely related to sour cream, and I just can’t bring myself to call sour cream a cheese either. What it is, however, is nothing short of wonderful, and Bellwether has some of the best that I have tried in California. Crafted artisan dairy foods in which the quality of the milk is considered with the utmost concern is going to produce some of the best possible cheese (or Créme Fraîche in this case). PLUS just as Bellwether’s website informs us about Various Products of Bellwether Farms Créme Fraîche, it;  ”never curdles while cooking.” In Europe it is difficult to locate the sour cream we are familiar with in the U.S. What is more easily found, however are products such as Quark and Crème Fraîche [and in Germany; Schmand, which is closest to American sour cream). To describe the subtleties between all of these various milk products (and heck; throw in cream cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk into the mix; why not?) would be a somewhat boring description of differences between preparation methods, consistencies and gradients of sweet, to sour, to tart tastes. Tell you what; go get some for yourself and I think you’ll find that Crème Fraîche is something that you could/would eat with a spoon given the chance, but it works best off-set with the taste of something else such as fresh fruit and/or chocolate. Below is a recipe that Kathy makes for us on occasion from a French cookbook we have. Créme Fraîche is used as a topping on it. If you, however, are excellent at coming up with recipes, then you should enter Bellwether Farms recipie contest for Crème Fraîche. You have until December 1st, 2009, and you may win $100 towards Bellwether products. Here’s the details at their website (until 12/1/09).

NUMBER 2: Don’t know about you, but I am on the e-mail list for Cheese Plus in San Francisco. This Saturday (Oct. 21st, 2009) is their 5th Annual Fall Harvest Artisan Food Festival. What does this have to do with cheese? PLENTY! Can’t believe it has been a year, but here’s the Canyon of Cheese post about last year’s. Can’t recommend this event more heatedly: chance to try some excellent cheese, gourmet products, hear some live music, and heck; bring your knives and have them sharpened while you look around.

OK; the recipe (with no baking!):

Bitter Chocolate Mousse (Mousse au Chocolat Amer)

Use the darkest chocolate you can find for the best and most intense chocolate flavor.

Serves 8

8  Mousse au Chocolat Amer ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp orange liqueur or brandy
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 eggs, separated
6 tbsp heavy cream
¼ tsp cream of tartar
3 tbsp superfine sugar
Crème fraîche or sour cream and chocolate curls, to decorate

1. Place the chocolate and water in a heavy saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the liqueur and butter.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks for 2-3 minutes until thick and creamy, then slowly beat into the melted chocolate until well blended. Set aside.

3. Whip the cream until soft peaks form and stir a spoonful into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining cream.

4. In a clean grease free bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites slowly until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed and continue beating until they form soft peaks. Gradually sprinkle over the sugar and continue beating until the whites and stiff and glossy.

5. Using a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites, cutting down to the bottom, along the sides and up to the top in a semicircular motion until they are just combined. (Don’t worry about a few white streaks.) Gently spoon into an 8 cup dish or into eight individual dishes. Chill for at least 2 hours until set and chilled.

6. Spoon a little crème fraîche or sour cream over the mousse and decorate with chocolate curls.

How to get a free plate of spaghetti.

Below is perhaps my favorite sign from the state of Oregon:

Wash your hands...
Sure, sure, perhaps I’ve altered it slightly by adding the caption, but wow, what a result you can have from just washing your hands well!

Uh, Bryce; cheese?

Right you are, “Inner-Cheese Voice”, what is missing from the spaghetti is some Parmesan. Now don’t think for a moment that I would use something like the pictured Kraft Grated Parmesan, since despite Kraft’s claim that the product is; Kraft Grated Parmesean “KRAFT 100% GRATED PARMESAN Cheese”, it is not actual Parmesan. Is it grated? 100% grated? Why yes, it certain is, but that does not mean it is Parmesan. Confused? Well, first of all, it’s about the name its self. Parmesan (and/or Parmigiano Reggiano) is a name of specific cheese(s) which are made in the northern area of Italy (in/near the towns of  Parma and Reggio Emilia). In Europe, the name is legally protected, but since those specific laws don’t make it to our shores, Kraft calls their product by  the name Parmesan (in Europe they call it; Pamesello Italiano; their own trademarked invented name for the product).

Secondly, let’s talk about the ingredients. Here’s the ingredients of Kraft’s product: “Parmesan Cheese (Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Salt, Less than 2% of Enzymes, Cheese Culture, Cellulose Powder to Prevent Caking, Potassium Sorbate to Protect Flavor).” Do you notice any ingredients which aren’t typically added/specifically part of Parmesan? If your answer was Cellulose Powder and Potassium Sorbate; you’re correct. Now I’m not going to spend time here vilifying Kraft, I have definitive opinions on the matter, but instead will suggest that if you do happen to have any of Kraft’s product (or similar American-made grated Parmesan), go buy yourself a small piece of actual Parmesan, from Italy, at a cheese counter (there’s a large variety, and at different amounts of aging; buy one which fits your budget and is recomended by the cheesemonger), bring it home, grate it fresh (grate it fine, similar to the Kraft stuff if you happen to have a grater that can do this), and try a fourth-teaspoon of each. If you are a cheese-novice, this is/can/should be an eye-opening, taste-bud awakening experience which may change your life (or at least make you more aware of what Kraft loosely based their product on).  …then (or preferably before) if you wash your hands really well, and just in the right way, you may just get your very own magical plate of spaghetti to put the cheese on!

Oh; p.s. also try shaving thin curls of your Italian Parmesan with a cheese planer if you have one; this is another great way to serve actual Parmesan and have it retain a certain taste and feel that grating does not always allow for.