Our Cheeselog

Am I blue…

In our cheese classes, I often speak of the magic and wonderment of blue cheese. The blue mold, mixed into the milk or curd before pressing, proliferates throughout the cheese (often assisted by piercing the cheese with steel needles). However, what many people don’t realize is that the “blue” part of blue cheese is really not very blue until it is exposed to a flush of oxygen when it is cut. This morning, we were able to capture this phenomenon. The first photo is a piece of Maytag Blue after just being cut in half. Notice the veins are yellowy-green.

A mere 10 minutes later, the same piece of cheese has exploded in color. Its mold, once lying sort-of-dormant, is now a sea of blues and grays. Even more color will develop as more time passes.

 

Amazing what a breath of fresh air can do!

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Menu Changes at Cheesetique

There are some new and exciting changes on the menu:

1. Back by SUPER-POPULAR demand: Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese! Rejoice!
2. The full menu is available ALL DAY on Saturdays. Order any item all day long (11am-10pm)!
3. We carefully paired each item with the perfect wine and listed it on the menu so ordering is simple (and delicious).

We hope you enjoy the additions!

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Sustainable Fun at PASA!

On Thursday, February 4, I was lucky enough to attend a portion of the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture conference in State College, Pennsylvania. I was asked to attend so I could offer feedback to cheese makers about the quality, presentation, and price of their products. First, let me say that the cheese makers I had the pleasure of meeting were some of the most entrepreneurial, experimental, hard-working people I’ve ever come across. I was proud – and honored – to share a room with them. And to think – they were asking my opinion.

All in all, I and my co-judge Jenny Harris of Tria in Philadelphia, tasted about 30 cheeses. Arduous, huh? We tried new products from established and newbie cheese makers alike. Of all of the cheeses I tried, most would have a welcome spot on our shelves. In fact, you can watch for a number of them to be arriving soon. Of course, there were some cheeses that needed work. What amazed me was that these artists (and scientists) wanted honest feedback. They were incredibly eager to make their cheeses tastier, more attractive, and more approachable price-wise.

One of my favorite cheeses overall was from a young Pennsylvania Dutch couple from Nittany Valley Organics. They showed a wonderful Pepper Jack, Baby Swiss, and Smoked Cheddar. The best story, however, was the “experimental” cheese that they formed into a wheel and allowed to age (at an odd angle) in their cave. This cheese was one of the ugliest pieces of food I’ve ever seen and I say that with great admiration. He had aged this wheel sort of on its side so if you can picture a huge wheel of cheese (about 18 inches across) that was round except for one side. It looked like a flat tire. But my was it delicious! Just goes to show you – you can’t judge a cheese by its cover 🙂

Look for some new creations to head our way from Chapel’s Creamery, Yellow Springs Farm, Gootessa, Keswick Creamery…. the list goes on and on! I’ll let you know when they arrive.

Before the judging began, I sat through a lecture on various bacterial cultures. I knew there were myriad cultures to choose from when making cheese and that each one would have a different effect on the final product, but when I say I had no idea how intricate this science was, I mean I HAD NO IDEA! I will be writing about the two educational sessions (this one and another by Peter Dixon about food safety for the artisan cheese maker) separately because I learned so much that I must dedicate another entry to it.

Till then, signing off!

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Sunday Afternoon Musings (Pre-Class)

Ah…. the sloth of a Sunday afternoon. Except Not. Today I prepared for a private cheese class for the Northwestern University Alumni Association. While researching Northwestern I learned that their mascot is a Wildcat named Willie. However, their original mascot was Furpaw, a bear cub. Obviously, someone realized that a bear cub was not in fact very ferocious and pushed for a new mascot to be adopted. Cause really – when you want to intimidate your opponent, the last thing you want to be is a bear cub, whose only tactics are to: A) snuggle; or B) sic my momma on you. So, go Wildcats! Certainly better than my school’s mascot (what the heck is a Maroon anyway?!?!?!)

After prepping for the cheese class, I attended my first ever preschool open house. I’ve waited in lines for Metallica tickets that were more touchy feely. I sure hope we get into this school because it’s the only place I want to send my daughter. And I can’t go to another open house. Please.

So, back to tonight’s cheese class. It’s always fun to prepare for one of these because even though the basic topic is one I have taught many times, the cheeses and wines always change. It’s fun to select them and then pray that they taste good together. In general, there are rules for pairing wines and cheeses, but once in a while, you happen upon a really unpleasant combination. When that happens in a class, you have to pretend like to did it on purpose in order to illustrate the importance of careful pairing. Remember: every mistake we make is totally on purpose.

Tomorrow night is the last session of our Evening in Uruguay Wine event. 8 Wines. 6 Cheeses. A bit different from tonight, where we are tasting 11 cheeses ranging from Buffalo Mozzarella to Beemster 4-year Gouda to Honey Goat. For wines, we have a wonderful Kabinett Riesling from Germany and a yummy Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. The best part of my job is that I get to drink as I teach (it’s only responsible to experience the class with the students).

So, bring it on, Wildcats! Cheesetique is ready to rumble!

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Alexandria Restaurant Week and This Month’s Wine Event

Join us for Alexandria Restaurant Week January 15-24, 2010. Cheesetique will offer Dinner for Two for $35. It includes a Dressed to the Tens cheese/meat board (you select your cheeses and meats), two glasses of wine (red or white), and a chocolate mousse to share. It’s a great way to try our wares and save a buck or two.

This month’s wine event is An Evening in Uruguay. Check out details on our Events page! Sign up quickly…

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New Year’s Eve Dinner at Cheesetique

Want to keep things local? Don’t want to be on the road at midnight? Hoping for a truly special, intimate evening celebration? Have we got an idea for you! 

Cheesetique will be hosting a special New Year’s Eve dinner party this December 31st. We are featuring a special menu of decadent small-plate delights. In addition to our usual wine list, we will also have “guest star” selections available that evening only.

There are two seatings: 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM. Reservations are required. Please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to reserve your spots.

A few notes about New Year’s at Cheesetique:

  • Seating is available at our upscale bar or at tables. We will try our best to accommodate special requests, but seating is limited, so please be flexible.
  • We ask those of you in the 6:00 seating to please be sensitive to those diners who will be joining us at 8:00.
  • A credit card is required for all reservations. Unfulfilled reservations will incur a $50/person charge.

Again, check out the special menu here.

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And the Winners Are…

It’s time for the winners! We received over 40 emails, each with a number of recommendations of places to hit while in New York. Naturally, we could not visit them all, but that didn’t stop us from trying! I had hoped to select three finalists and one winner, but I coudn’t narrow it down, so we have four finalists instead.

Finalists (each gets a $25 gift certificate to a great little cheese shop I know):
Finalist #1: B. Kyle, who ardently recommended Doughnut Plant. Good call!
Finalist #2: E. Grossman, who sent me to the best breakfast place ever, Norma’s.
Finalist #3: A. Massey, who pushed for Veritas, source of one of our excellent dinners.
Finalist #4: A. Kim, who promoted both Pickle Guys and Doughnut Plant for snack-time.

The Winner (this lucky person will receive a $25 gift certificate and dinner for two at the Cheese & Wine Bar):
A. Massey, step right up!!! Your recommended experience was our favorite of all. Veritas was a beautiful restaurant with a massive wine list and a warm, outgoing staff. Thank you for sending us there – we’re still talking about our dinner!

I want to send a huge thank-you to all who sent in recommendations. Also, major thanks to our dear friends, David and Grace, who weathered through what felt like 5000 food places with us. Here’s to great friends who will do anything for you, including eat themselves sick!

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Keep on Rockin’: Installment 6

Our last day was spent back in Manhattan. We had seen so many places, but I still felt like my job was unfinished. We badly needed breakfast, so we walked (in the bitter cold, mind you) to Landmarc in the Time Warner building. Eggs Benedict were delicious. Fresh juices. Yummy coffee. Super-nice service. The perfect recover-from-last-night breakfast.

Then we walked some more.

We ended up at Obika Mozzarella Bar down the street (yes, I realize we had just eaten, but I couldn’t pass this up). The place is in the lobby of a big office building and feels a little oddly placed. They serve a few types of mozzarella. The name means something in a southern-Italian dialect, but if you didn’t know better, you would swear it was Asian. The outfits look Asian. The writng looks Asian. It was a really weird culture clash thing. Anyway, the mozz was tasty, but for a place that’s a self-professed mozzarella bar, I would have like to see more mozzarella.

I love me some French fries. So what better place to grab a snack than Pommes Frites in the East Village? Much like Pickle Guys, Pommes Frites is very appropriately named. You order a size. You order a sauce. That’s it. No whistles and bells (that is, unless you consider like 50 sauce choices to be whistles and bells). Fries were potatoey and delicious – super hot and fresh (they are all cooked to order). The sauces were excellent, particularly the Irish Curry.

Finally, we were at our final destination for some soothing brothy goodness: Momofuku Noodle Bar. It was so cold and we had eaten SO much food over the past couple days that nothing sounded as pleasing as a light soup. HA! I should have remembered that as I kept ordering stuff. It’s never a good idea to look around at other customers too often because if you’re like me, you will continue to order everything that they get. The rice cakes were little chewy/crunchy pillows in spicy sauce. The pickled veggies came in their own jar. The Brussels sprouts were cooked with porky bacon. The soup was steaming and delicious.

No wonder this guy has his own cookbook. I can’t stress to you how absolutely perfect this “last supper” was for us.

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Keep on Rockin’: Installment 5

Man, we visited so many places in Brooklyn, they had to stretch over two installaments.

After our visit at Mast Brothers Chocolate, we moved onto Marlow and Daughters butcher shop. This chock-full-o-tasty meat shop was just the right size. The front display cases had all sorts of beautifully displayed cuts. The back of the shop had a huge butchering table where the butchers were doing a heck of a lot of butchering. In particular, they were taking apart a new cow they had just received. The butcher with whom we spoke marveled at the dark, almost-purple flesh. He said the steaks were so earthy and attributed it to that darkness of flesh. I couldn’t help but gawk at the display, but that’s all before he invited us into his walk-in. OH MY LORD! Every shelf was covered with cuts of meat, many in various stages of dry aging. Additionally, there were entire half-pigs hanging from hooks (see photo).

The most amazing thing, however, is that with all this gooey meat lying around, you could have eaten dinner off of the floor, it was SO clean. Not a drop of blood or a piece of steak out of place. After purchasing a t-shirt, I left Marlow and Daughters humbled by the excellence that surrounded me.

The next stop on our Brooklyn tour was right next door at Marlow and Sons. Sadly, we only had time for a cocktail at this beautiful locale. We ordered the most interesting sounding ones – all old fashioned recipes with Marlow and Sons’ own twist. Service was warm and friendly. Appearance was dark and cozy. Very brown in a snuggly sort of way. I felt as if I’d gone back in time, except that everyone in the place was dressed really hip. Wish I could have stayed for dinner. Next time!

Final stop after a LONG day in Brooklyn: dinner at Rye. Have you ever had one of those nights where all the stars just align and you wind up with the perfect melding of great service, great ambiance, and great food? This was one of those nights. Our lovely server, Catherine, made us feel so incredibly welcome and took care of our every need. The food was sensational, the steak for two being quite possibly the best steak I’ve had (and I don’t say that lightly).

The cocktails were perfectly crafted and the wine perfectly chosen. Such a beautiful, old-fashioned “joint”. When we got there, it was a little quiet, but when we left at about 9:30, it was slammed. Good for the folks at Rye!

All in all, Brooklyn was a sight to behold. I only wish the weather had been more forgiving so we could have roamed around more freely. But I guess that’s just my excuse to go back!

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Keep on Rockin’: Installment 4

After a high protein breakfast of eggs Francaise at DB (Daniel Boulud) Bistro Moderne, we were off to Brooklyn.

If I were to move to New York, I would definitely live in Brooklyn, except for one small thing: I’m not nearly cool enough to live in Brooklyn. And I mean that as a genuine compliment to the town. What an amazing collection of beautiful businesses and interesting people. The shops are not only uniquely conceived and designed, but in nearly every place we went, the owner was behind the counter. There’s nothing like it. The weather was abysmal (cold and rainy all day) but it could not dampen our spirits. Go Brooklyn!

First stop was Bierkraft, which has hundreds of beers to choose from, including about 20 on tap and three cask ales. We stopped here for lunch and I enjoyed the ultimate manwich – a hulking Italian creation on perfectly crusty bread. Paired with my Flower Power IPA from Ithaca Beer Company, this sandwich made one heck of a lunch.

Next stop: Bklyn Larder, which had an amazing cheese selection, lots of gourmet goodies, prepared foods, and a gorgeous custom-built cheese “cave” with a see-through window. So impressive. It also reminded me that I’ve got to find a better way to hang salamis behind the counter. Nothing like a bunch of salamis on hooks to get the tummy rumbling. Their cheese mongers were super-nice and helpful, taking lots of time to talk about cheeses and sample them out. Bravo!

Ah, Stinky Bklyn. Such a lovely cheese shop. The coolest part was the 5 or so hams displayed on the front counter. These artisan hams are sliced by hand. I spoke to the owner about the painstaking process and he explained that his customers understand they will get a more rustic (a.k.a. thicker) cut, but they just love it. Way to go! Very cool store – with a very cool name. A real treat.

We asked the owner of Stinky Blyn to tell us a couple places we couldn’t miss (nothing like local recommendations from the locals themselves) and he pointed us toward Los Paisanos butcher shop and One Girl Cookies.

Los Paisanos was everything a butcher shop should be. What a selection! Bustling and tight on space, mainly because there was just SO MUCH MEAT!

When I say that One Girl Cookies was one of the most visually pleasing shops I’ve ever visited, I mean it. Gorgeous baked goods (the whoopee pies were out of this world). When I asked the woman behind the counter if I could take a photo of their offerings, she insisted on rearranging it all to perfection first (not that it wasn’t already perfect looking to me). Based on her attentiveness, I asked if she was the owner. “No, I wish. I’m just anal.” God bless the anal people of the world.

It was so wet and gross outside, we ducked into the nearest cute storefront and were greeted with the most charming kitchen shop I’ve ever entered, Whisk. They had beautifully displayed every possible cooking device and kitchen gadget imaginable. The woman behind the counter was so amazingly pleasant. Not only did she recommend her favorite restaurant for dinner (see Rye below), but she even called and made us a reservation. Now that’s service with a smile. Thank goodness we listened to her recommendation because our dinner was one of the great highlights of our trip.

We had to pop into Bedford Cheese Shop because I heard they had expanded. I visited the shop before Cheesetique opened over five years ago. At that time, they were a teeny tiny spot with a small but special collection of cheeses. Now, in their expanded space, they have greatly added to their cheeses (a nice big selection) and have more room for specialty food accents. One of their pleasant cheese mongers allowed me to taste a Roquefort I had never seen: Mons. It was outstanding – it would definitely stand up to our Papillon brand. Just a beautiful shop.

Heading out from Bedford Cheese Shop, we briskly walked/sloshed to Mast Brothers Chocolate. I must admit that I was most nervous about this destination based on two things. First, anyone who makes chocolate by hand is a serious food person and must be seriously focused and seriously attentive to detail. In other words, they must be serious. Science and art blended into one, it’s not all Willy Wonka land, people. Second, once I visit the web site and checked out the matching bearded brothers, I thought, “these guys are way out of my league”. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I entered the shop. Not only was one bearded brother there, but both beards were present. Very quickly, however, I was made to feel completely at ease (see photo below).

I watched them sort beans, tasted some amazing exotic chocolates, and even got to peek at the chocolate-making room (a.k.a. the inner sanctum). Rick Mast explained how he worked with a local friend/engineer who built his machines. I took some beautifully wrapped bars home with me in order to select which flavors we will carry at Cheesetique. Watch for them soon.

I still have to cover a few more Brooklyn places, but I’m going to sign off for now. Check for updates tomorrow!

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