One of my favorite restaurants used to make a lip-smacking Grasshopper Pie. It was so good that my husband and I would get it to-go even if we were full so we could eat it later. It was so good that we would hide it from our children and eat it after they went to bed. Then one day, I went to eat with some friends and told them, “just wait till dessert – you’re going to die when you taste the Grasshopper Pie.” When we ordered it, I almost did die – but only because they said they no longer had it on the menu. WHAT?!?!?!?!
I briefly considered taking the loss in stride, quietly mourning a sweet held so dear. But as luck would have it, I own a restaurant… and we began developing our own version days later. Now that it’s on the menu at Cheesetique, I can order a delicious Grasshopper Parfait whenever I want. Which is way too often, frankly.
So, to that other restaurant, I still love you and dine with you often. But when I want the best Grasshopper in town, I hop down the street to Cheesetique, where necessity was the mother of dessert invention.
Tonight we are cooking a beloved Mario Batali recipe – Spicy Black Pepper Drumsticks. It calls for a blue cheese dipping sauce and Batali recommends Gorgonzola. At which point my husband puts his foot down.
Jeff is very particular about his blue cheese. Not a fan of the “soapy” flavor which he claims some blue cheeses have, he avoids Gorgonzola and pretty much anything American and instead leans toward traditional “earthy” blues like Stilton, Shropshire, Valdeon, and Bayley Hazen. Basically, if it’s cave-aged, it’s right up his alley. In contrast, the only qualification I have for a blue cheese is that it needs to be heading toward my mouth.
But when it comes to a dipping sauce, I start getting all picky. I like my dipping sauces zingy and fresh (or “bright” as I often call it), nothing with overly-earthy notes. And I don’t want an off-putting gray color, which can result from mushing up super-moldy blues (ahem, Valdeon).
So, we compromise. And this is where Cashel Blue comes in. No one would call Cashel timid. It is creamy and luscious, perfectly salty without being to heavy. And the best part? It has bright notes of flavor while being earthy enough for even Jeff’s palate. You could say it’s a choice made in cheese heaven.
Signing off so I can drink the resulting Cashel Blue dipping sauce with a straw.
What is Marcheese Madness?
We have selected 32 of our top cheeses for an epic taste-off! These are the cream of the crop, with a couple underdogs thrown in (because who doesn’t love an underdog?) Every day, two cheeses go head-to-head in each Cheesetique location, with the day’s victor chosen by the customer vote. Winners from each day advance through the rounds until the leaders from each location compete for the 2015 Marcheese Madness championship!
How do you participate?
Between now and this Friday, PRINT (or pick up in person) your blank Marcheese Madness Bracket. Fill it in and drop it off at either Cheesetique location by Friday, March 20th. The tastings (and voting) begin on Saturday, March 21st, so come in every day to sample that day’s cheeses and cast your vote. Winners will be announced on Monday, April 6th.
The bracket winner from each store will receive a massive gift bucket worth $200. Yes, $200 of cheesey goodness could be yours!
Print your blank bracket here: Marcheese Madness Bracket 2015
Her: “What do you do for work?”
Me: “I own a cheese shop.”
Her: “Wow! I just LOVE tea!”
Me: “No… it’s a CHEESE shop.”
Her: “Yeah, I know. Like Teavana!”
Me: “Yes, exactly.”
Well, it’s only three weeks into the new year, so now’s about the time for me to post my top 10 Cheese Resolutions for 2015. Some are personal and some are Cheesetique-related.
1. Travel more to cheese-centric places. (With a newborn in the house, this might prove the biggest challenge. But I’m willing to try!)
2. Get creative with alternatives to Parmigiano Reggiano. (Aged Gouda on truffle pasta? Yes, please!)
3. Eat some form of cheese every day. (No, I do not currently do this. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble.)
4. Add brunch on Saturdays at Cheesetique. (Oh wait – we already did that! YAY!)
5. Eat more raw milk cheese. (Enough is never enough.)
6. Eat more sheep’s milk cheese. (So much calcium and other goodies. Plus, sheep are really cute and I want to support them.)
7. Eat more raw sheep’s milk cheese. (Ossau Iraty, I’m coming for you!)
8. Begin making our own Mozzarella every week. (This has been a years-long desire that JUST NEEDS TO HAPPEN ALREADY!!!)
9. Drink more beer with my cheese. (Or without my cheese. Really, just drink more beer.)
10. Have another cheese-tastic year at Cheesetique. (Shouldn’t be too hard with all our our amazing customers and staff!)
A new Cheese-mas installment from our ever-creative Asst. Front of House Manager, Dave Vaala.
Twas the holiday season
And all ’round our store
the Mongers were scurrying
about the retail floor
The servers had set
All the tables with care
In hopes that our customers
Would soon sit there.
The white wines were nestled
Right next to the reds
And the cheeseboards were stocked
With New York Flatbreads.
The kitchen was prepped
With mountains of macs
Our wine glasses polished
On shelves and on racks.
Then all of a sudden
There arose SUCH a clatter
The managers hurried
To see WHAT was the matter!
They flew from the office
And right to the bar
And caught sight of our owner,
Getting out of her car.
Over her shoulder
Was a red sack made of wool
That caused her to wobble
(cause it was so full)
She jumped from the sidewalk
threw open the door
Her bag tumbled over
And onto the floor
Out spilled wedges
And wheels of cheese
Beemster and Daffinois!
And Prairie Breeze!
Jill sprung back to her car
Quick as a flash
And off through the streets
We saw her drive past.
As the snow flurried
And as sleighbells all rung
The wind carried her voice
And the words that she sung:
On Stilton! On Cheddar! on Cambozola Blue!
On Gouda! On Grayson! And Ewephoria Too!
Her voice disappeared
As she drove out of Sight
With a Merry Cheese-mas to all!
And to all a goodnight!
This year, as with all years, I am hugely thankful. Family is well. Friends are near. Fromage is everywhere. Times are good. But wait! We are hosting 17 people for Thanksgiving weekend. And we have Baby #3 due about a week later. And this is our busiest time of the year at Cheesetique. What am I thinking??????
*Screeeeeech* (that’s the sound of the craziness brakes being applied). If you are feeling similarly overwhelmed, just remember that you are the host with the most. You have this totally in the bag. And keep saying that to yourself for the next two weeks. I wish each and every one of you the happiest and heartiest Thanksgiving.
Tips for Thanksgiving Sanity
We at Cheesetique have 10 Thanksgivings under our belts and therefore feel that we are “Thanksgiving Experts.” So allow us to impart some wisdom from the bottoms of our cheesy hearts.
Host Tip #1: Outsource It!
I recently heard that the key to professional happiness is to “only do what only you can do.” I think this applies to entertaining as well. Let us help you with the cheese course so you can focus on your specialties… you won’t regret it!Simply order a ready-to-serve cheese (and/or) meat platter from Cheesetique. Do this online
and you don’t even need to use the phone. Then, pick it up at your convenience!
Host Tip #2: Do It Yourself (with a little guidance)
Watch our 3-minute video on how to make a cheese platter at home. Then, pop by Cheesetique to pick up your cheeses/meats/accompaniments/whatever! Then, watch the video again just to brush up.
If you plan on following this route, we strongly recommend coming by a little earlier in the week (see the “Love the Line” section below).
Host Tip #3: Love the Line
Anywhere you shop in the days before Thanksgiving, you will encounter lines. When possible, make the line your friend: discuss your selections with others; share recipes; tell jokes. And if all else fails, ask us for a glass of wine while you shop. It can make all the difference.
We love the holiday buzz (line or no line) and we look forward to serving you!
A Side-Tip for Guests
It’s easy to be a great guest – bring cheer but do not bring anything that makes your host work harder. For instance, here is what a host does when a guest brings flowers:
1. Says “thank you!”
2. Finds a spare vase
3. Fills vase with water and that weird little packet of flower powder
4. Unwraps flowers
5. Cuts ends off of flowers
6. Arranges flowers attractively in vase
7. Finds a place to display the flower-filled vase
My advice to holiday guests is to bring something that can be enjoyed immediately (without using the host’s cooking surfaces, serving dishes, or refrigerator) OR something that can be easily kept for later.
What item will be appreciated, devoured, and remembered? A Cheesetique gift bucket! Again, you can order online (no phone required!) and you will heretofore be referred to as the best guest ever.
Our menu. Your schedule. No phone required. Access our full menu anytime and schedule your lunch or dinner pickup at either location. Even pay online. Wowzas!
Now available in Del Ray AND Shirlington.
Click here to for online ordering.
NOTE: the class on the 27th in Del Ray is already sold out. Luckily, there are a few spots left in the same class in Shirlington on the 20th. Join us!
Ten years ago this month, Cheesetique hosted its very first cheese class in our original location. In honor of ten years of teaching (and thousands of amazing cheese lovers attending), we will throw a true Cheese & Wine Extravaganza this month.
For two nights only (one in Shirlington and one in Del Ray), I will partner with one of our most beloved and genius-like wine experts to present the best of Cheesetique. We will learn about classifying cheeses while tasting eight of Cheesetique’s most popular – and that says a lot considering we carry hundreds. For perfect pairing, we will also enjoy eight of your most beloved wines from classes gone by.
All your favorites. All in one event. What a special evening to celebrate, while learning AND eating.
Date: Monday, October 20th, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: Cheesetique Shirlington
Instructors: Cheese Lady Jill Erber and Wine Expert James Kellaris
Yummies: 8 uber-popular cheeses and 8 all-time-favorite wines
Ah… New Zealand. Many will confess that their first thought when hearing the name is the Lord of the Rings. Images of Hobbits scampering about; mountain crevices filled with treachery; THE PRECIOUS!!! I’ll wager that after an evening spent with Carrick’s wine maker, Francis Hutt, our thoughts will shift from Mordor to Pinot Noir. Care to join us?
We will sample five of Carrick’s acclaimed wines, along with a bevvy of perfectly presented cheeses. But even more exciting is the opportunity to speak with such an accomplished wine maker who specializes in organic, by-hand methods. Just check out this excerpt from their website, which speaks about the challenges of remaining an organic producer with this region’s challenging terroir:
Situated on windblown loess soils the vineyards have low natural fertility encouraging the vines to grow their roots into the deep fractured schist layers resulting in wines of character and structure. Mindful of the special nature of the soils, Carrick is farmed using only organic practices. In order to produce exceptional wines; pruning, shoot positioning, shoot and fruit thinning, leaf plucking and picking are carried out by hand. There is extensive use of cover crops to encourage natural biodiversity and useful insects and we are rewarded by the numbers of beneficial birds that live in the vineyards. The “must” from the winery along with other organic material is composted and fed back to the vineyards. The compost heaps are also the territory of our free range hens who roam the vineyard and provide eggs for the restaurant.
Date: Sunday, October 5th, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: Cheesetique Del Ray
Instructor: Carrick wine maker Francis Hutt and the Del Ray Cheese Crew
Yummies: 5 acclaimed Carrick wines; 8 fabulous cheeses
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!