Our Cheeselog

The Cheese Lady’s Favorite Cheese

Wedge of Piave, complete with photobomb by Ballston Server, Kouamy.

Over thirteen years ago, I tasted a cheese called Piave Vecchio and it opened my eyes to the wonders of hard-aged cheese, which could be both bold and incredibly nuanced.

After opening my own cheese shop, I began to taste hundreds of different cheeses, assuming that as my palate developed, Piave would lose its luster. Amazingly, all these years (and thousands of cheeses) later, Piave Vecchio is still my favorite cheese. Before we talk about why, let’s get a little background.

Piave Vecchio (meaning “Old Bridge” in Italian) is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from the Veneto region of Italy. Aged for at least 12 months, it is similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, but its texture is more tender and smooth, making it easier to eat straight.

So, how can one cheese remain a favorite for so many years? Simply put, because Piave Vecchio is really a bunch of cheeses rolled into one.

1) Its texture is dense and chewy but also creamy, something very difficult to achieve. This makes it an ideal eating cheese, but also perfect for grating.

2) Its flavor is muti-layered. At first, you taste salty then fruity then butterscotch-y then nutty. All of this complexity means that the cheese never tastes the same twice. How mysterious! Plus, its flavor holds up to heat – even more reason to cook with it.

3) Its crystals are crunch-tastic. Piave is filled with crystalized proteins that only the finest aged cheeses possess. These crystals have no flavor, but boy do they make chewing fun!

Eat it straight, grate it on pasta, cook with it, or dip chunks in honey as a quick, rustic dessert. And as if you needed more reason, Piave pairs beautifully with red or white wine.

Piave Vecchio: the perfect cheese.

Filed in: Blogging

A Cheesy Moment… Del Ray’s Scott Freestone

Today, we focus on Del Ray’s Front of House Manager, Scott Freestone. What he writes about cheese is moving and, frankly, poetic. Scott LOVES cheese, the people who make it, and the people who appreciate it. Read on!

1. How long have you worked at Cheesetique?

It will be three years this August.

2. What advice would you give to a cheese novice?

Taste. Taste. Taste. The only way to know what you like is to try everything, and that means finding out what you don’t like as well. It’s easily the best thing about cheese from a consumer’s standpoint. Forget country, milk type and style when you taste things so you’re not hoping for something you’ve had before and so you can take every cheese at face value. Soon enough you’ll have a solid idea of what you do and don’t like and the rest will come naturally. Finding great cheese is like searching for a great record or bottle of wine, you have to hunt for it and work for it! You should try to be as adventurous as your palate will allow (and then go a little bit further).

3. How do you know a great cheese when you find it?

A great cheese will tell YOU it’s great, not the other way around. It plays such an important part of the human experience, not simply as a food but as a cultural and regional tradition that can stretch back farther than we’ll ever probably know. It connects people to not only their personal upbringing but the history of a specific region and the collective experience of the people that created it. Great cheese always makes me imagine people sharing that same wheel long before I was alive and gives you a small connection to that past and to why makers work so hard to keep a traditional cheese’s integrity. At the bottom of it, I think a great cheese simply highlights the animals, land and people that made it, and you can truly taste all of those things in the best of the best. When you can’t decide why exactly, but you know you have to have just a few more tastes, you’ve most likely found something really special. 

4. You will be participating in The Cheesemonger Invitational in New York this year. What are you most nervous about?

Other mongers that have participated in CMI have been so open and excited about their experience that it takes some of the fear out of it. I’m really nervous about what to expect, just the unknown. OK and the written test. Having a chance to sell a cheese to the person that made it is both really exciting and makes me sweat a little bit just to think about. I’m really excited to get a chance to absorb as much experience and knowledge as possible while getting to meet a ton of energetic and accomplished mongers. This is the greatest profession in the world if you want to meet people that are passionate about every step in the process from maker to counter that even the most knowledgeable are still seeking new info and experience to make them better day-to-day. The community is so supportive that the competition is really just for fun and bragging rights compared to the chance to learn from acclaimed makers from around the globe.

5. Cow, Sheep, or Goat?

Sheep. Period. All day every day. Sheep are stingy with milk, but what they give is so pure, earthy, sweet and specific to a place. They start smooth and grassy and age out to a beautiful nutty and caramel-y earth flavor with the most unique texture. Not only that, but adding just a little bit of sheep’s milk to a cow- or goat-dominant wheel brings out the best that the other milk has to offer. All milks are so unique and specific that every meal, drink, or snack calls for something different, so who could really choose?

Filed in: Blogging

4 Steps to Make Grilled Cheese Great

In order to transform your Grilled Cheese from “good” to “great,” follow these four simple steps:

1. Most importantly, a great Grilled Cheese starts with… great cheese. Sometimes we are tempted to use “easy-melting” artificial cheese. I’ll let you in on a little secret: most cheese is “easy-melting” when you shred it first. So, pick a great cheese (nothing too aged, as its moisture is so low), shred it, and spread evenly on the bread.

2. Use olive oil, not butter. Many recipes recommend butter, but in the time it takes to properly toast the bread and melt the cheese, butter tends to burn. Ick. I use olive oil instead – its higher smoke point is your friend here.

3. Cover the pan and cook over low heat. Once you place your sandwich in the hot oiled pan, give it a little press with a spatula and then cover the pan and cook on low until the bottom bread is nice and toasty. Then, flip the sandwich, press again, and cover again. Your cheese will melt nicely without burning the bread.

4. Let it sit for a minute after removing from the pan. This allows the melted cheese to settle in a bit before cutting. And remember – your cheesy creation will be HOT, so bite carefully.

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Brebirousse, a Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing?

Brebirousse d’Argental is one of my all-time favorite cheeses, not least of all because it’s kind of sneaky. Why? At first glance (and sniff), one might think this is a washed-rind cheese. But unlike cheeses that are rinsed in brine to foster the growth of orange-hued, stinky bacteria, Brebirousse is a “simple” soft-ripened cheese with natural color added to the rind.

Sheep’s milk makes Brebirousse sweet and rich, and its mold-covered rind creates an unctuous texture and heady fragrance.

But it’s NOT washed. Let’s just call it a sheep in wolf’s clothing!

(Pair with Champagne or lightish-reds like Red Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone).

 

Filed in: Cheeses

Burrata Beautiful

Burrata is a cloud of creamy goodness – a palm-sized purse of fresh cow’s milk Mozzarella filled with creamy curd. When you cut into Burrata, it is super-squishy, like cutting into a water balloon (see video below). The taste is all fresh cream and luxurious simplicity.

Burrata with Roasted Red Peppers

Burrata with roasted red peppers, chopped pistachios, olive oil and sea salt.

 

Feel free to adorn your Burrata with olive oil and Balsamic – or roasted red peppers and chopped pistachios as we did here. But honestly, eating it straight with a spoon is also lovely!

Filed in: Cheeses

5 Reasons Halloumi is One of the Coolest Cheeses on Earth

Halloumi cheese (sheep & goat milk from Cypress) is one of the coolest cheeses on earth. Here’s why:

1. It has a crazy shelf-life (brine-soaked, it almost never goes bad)
2. Its salty flavor and chewy texture make it a perfect substitute for bacon (vegetarians rejoice!)
3. It squeaks when you chew it (yes, really)
4. Cook it in a hot pan or on the grill and it won’t melt (it just gets toasty and tender)
5. It’s been made the same way for over 1,500 years. Wowzas!

Watch our video for an intense slo-mo Halloumi flipping experience!

Filed in: Blogging, Cheeses

New Class: Springtime in Spain

A culinary tour of Spain with a bountiful tasting of Spanish cheeses, cured meats, wines, and traditional accompaniments. EARLY-BIRD DISCOUNT THROUGH SUNDAY 3/26!

Ballston, April 2

Del Ray, April 9

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MarCheese Madness is ON!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behold: the brackets!

Submit all three to TRIPLE your chances of winning a fantastic Cheesetique gift bucket!

 

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Del Ray & Shirlington OPEN; Ballston OPEN at 5pm

Cheesetique Del Ray and Shirlington are OOOOOOOOPEN all day today! Cheesetique Ballston will be OPEN starting at 5pm. Please join us so we’re not lonely!

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A Cheesy Moment: Ballston’s Chef Andrew

How long have you worked at Cheesetique?
It will be 4 years in June.
Why did you want to work at Cheesetique?
I grew up on an organic dairy farm in Wisconsin where our milk was turned into cheese. I loved the menu at Cheesetique, cheese-focused with a European flair. It was exactly the direction I wanted.
What is so special about cooking with cheese?
Whenever you specialize in one thing, you have to do it well. That’s what we do. Cheese is unique because you can use it in so many ways, whether raw or cooked. Each has its own characteristics and can pair with different things. The possibilities are endless.
Is there any cheese you WON’T eat?
Baked Lemon Ricotta. It’s super-popular, but I just Don’t. Like. It. Too sweet.
Cow, sheep, or goat?
Definitely goat. My favorite cheese is fresh Chèvre. The tangy flavor is so unique – and simply spread on bread, it’s the best.

Filed in: Blogging