I think we must have the busiest bees on the planet because after only a couple months, they completely filled two hives with layer upon layer of honey-filled comb. In fact, they made so much that our “bee whisperer” Stefano told us we could take just a bit for ourselves. Thinking we’d have to wait another year, we jumped at the chance!
My intrepid bee-wrangling husband, Jeff, did the honors with our 5-year-old in tow.
Step 1: Fire up the smoker. This will confuse the little winged beauties just long enough for you to get in and out in relative comfort.
Step 2: Wearing oh-so-attractive bee hood (a step he neglected last time, much to his peril), Jeff removes the hive cover and identifies which frame of comb will be easiest to remove.
Step 3: Once the frame has been removed, gently-oh-so-gently encourage the clinging bees to clear out. This involved a lot of blowing on them like they were hot food. None seemed too distraught by this entire process, which surprised me. I have to think that if someone came into my house, took my food, and then blew on me like I was hot food, I’d be a little miffed.
Step 4: Once the frame was bee-free, Jeff quickly cut out the comb and returned the now-empty frame to the hive. Knowing our bees, it will be full again tomorrow. The result of the comb removal was… the most beautiful piece of golden honeycomb ever collected. Here’s just a small sample.
Step 5: Gawk at the amazingness that is honey. I mean, just look at its drippy, unctuous perfection! Gently pressing on the comb caused the honey to ooze out and we spread it on pretty much anything that would stay still. Bread? Check. Crackers? Check. Cheese? Check. Fingers? Check.
Now we have enough honey to last us a couple weeks and the bees will be left in peace until next year when we can enjoy the fruits of their labor yet again. All in all, I was truly in awe of the entire process, though I did feel like a little bit of an evil tax collector. “Here – we’ll let you do business in our yard, but we will forcibly extract a portion of your labor for the privilege.” If only it didn’t taste so good…
Just in case you need 10 reminders of why cheese should be your favorite food, please read on.
#10. Cheese is your friend. It will never judge you or post unflattering photos of you on Facebook.
#9. Cheese comes in every imaginable shape, size, color, and flavor. The proof is in your local cheese case.
#8. Cheese gives you great breath. Honest.
#7. Cheese will make you stronger, smarter, and more popular. I have scientific evidence of this somewhere.
#6. Cheese pairs perfectly with what should be your second favorite food: cured meat.
#5. Feeling sweet? Feeling salty? There’s a cheese for you, no questions asked.
#4. Cheese is made from the milk of the mommies of really cute baby animals. And any time baby animals are involved, it’s a win.
#3. Cheeses tend to have funny names, like Stinking Bishop, Lambchopper, and Halloumi. The same cannot be said for vegetables, except for the Fiddlehead Fern. And now that I think of it, that should be the name of a cheese.
#2. Cheese requires almost no effort to make you look like a culinary rock star. Thank you, dedicated and creative cheese makers.
#1. Cheese tastes friggin’ awesome.
All this week, I will focus on mommies. Mommies here. Mommies there. Mommies Mommies everywhere. Just to ease into things, we will begin Day 1 with some warm and fuzzy mommy/baby moments. No relevance to cheese, but much relevance to mommies rockin’ it!
[As a side note, I dare you to search for "photos mommy baby animals" on Google. It's. Just. Too. Much. Cuteness. This was my experience as I sought inspiration for today's entry.]
Conclusion #1 – Even non-cute animals have way cute babies. Don’t believe me? Please see evidence below. You will notice that I didn’t go for the easy choices like koalas, penguins, or giraffes. That would just be unfair.
Donkeys. Ugly? Or totally snuggleable?
Anteaters. Not cute, or are they???
Hippos. Also ugly but cute.
Conclusion #2 – The baby’s dopiness quotient is inversely proportional to the mommy’s boredom quotient. I think we can all relate to this – the weirder your kids act, the more you try to act nonchalant.
“This grass is delicious. And it’s made so much more so by the pony on my back.”
“Of course I’m totally relaxed. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I swear, if I drop my keys right now, I’m going to FREAK OUT.”
Coming tomorrow: Cows, Goats, Sheep, and… Buffalo??? Our milk-producing mommy friends in all their glory.
My husband, Jeff, and I never wanted pets. Ever. And so our story begins…
One day, Jeff discovered on a great local site called DIY Del Ray these really cool under-counter worm-assisted composters. It’s a whole “circle of life” thing – we eat food, we share the food with the worms, the worms make nice fertilizer for our plants. It seemed simple enough. What I didn’t realize is that the composter people are also beekeepers. And they like to teach others how to be beekeepers.
It was not long before Jeff proposed the bees. My first response was something really poetic like, “HELL no!” After months of mentioning it – and promising that I wouldn’t have to work and could still reap the honey, he won. The gears were put in motion with AzureB and before we knew it, our bee delivery was scheduled. Jeff casually asked me one day, “Hey – do you have any idea how many bees will be in each hive?” My response: “About a hundred?” His (laughing) response: “About a fifty THOUSAND.” Per hive. And we were getting two.
Our first delivery date was postponed because the weather had been cold and rainy – apparently, that makes the bees “ornery,” according to the bee whisperer, Stefano. And even I know that the last thing you want is ornery bees.
On a Tuesday afternoon, Stefano arrived to set up our beautiful hives, which he had built and seasoned himself. Honestly, they were really pretty even without the bees. But then he brought them in… two bountiful boxes of buzzing beauties. The first step was to check that the queen was content – she seemed pretty cool to me, especially since she came equipped with her own attendants in a little “queen cage.” The next step is what I like to call, “pour the bees into the hive” because he literally turned the boxes over and poured the bees like molasses into the hives. It was the single coolest thing I have seen in a very long time. At this point, the bees were really buzzing. We all stood around, utterly fascinated, and watched as they swarmed around harmlessly and settled in. In the days since, the activity level is impressive, but I doubt we will ever see that same surge again. You can read the step-by-step process on DIY Del Ray, where Leslie captured the experience so beautifully with words and photos.
Now that we’re all acquainted, every day we say good morning to the bees as they leave on their rounds. Every evening, we check in again as they begin to settle down. Often, I find that I sneak out there just to sit and listen. We haven’t gotten honey yet (it’ll be over a year) but our little colonies seem to be thriving.
So I guess we now have LOTS of pets. And they’re either slimy or they sting. Oddly, this makes complete sense. And at least I don’t have to walk them, right?
Our two hives on the day they arrived. In front of each are the bees’ travel boxes.
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. After nearly 10 years, Cheesetique Del Ray will now be open until 10 pm on Sunday nights. Need a late-Sunday cheese fix? Look no further!!!
a) Love cheese?
b) Love competition?
c) Love helping children and families in need?
Then OH BOY do we have the event for you!
Cheesetique is once again hosting the most exciting (and delicious) cheese competition IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. And this year, you too can have skin in the game (so to speak). Read on to see how…
How It Works:
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 YOUR VOTE. Yes, that means you can taste these cheeses and vote every day! Winners from each day advance through the rounds until the leaders from each location compete for the 2014 Marcheese Madness championship!
How You Participate:
Purchase a bracket between March 15th and March 21st for $5.00 and fill it out with your picks. The person from each location with the most correctly filled out bracket wins the PRIZE (see below).
And hey – even if you don’t purchase a bracket, come in every day to cast your vote for that day’s match up! Then, watch the results on our Facebook pages (make sure to follow both Shirlington and Del Ray to see all results).
How You Help Others:
100% of proceeds from bracket sales will go to SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), a Northern Virginia-based charity with whom we have worked for nearly ten years. On top of that, Cheesetique will also match 50% of the final total and donate it to SCAN.
The person with the most correctly filled out bracket from each Cheesetique location will receive a Cheese Lover’s Gift Bucket valued at $200, filled with everything any Cheesetique-loving person would want. Winners will be announced on Monday, April 7th.
Please join us in making Marcheese Madness 2014 spectacular! And help a VERY worthy cause.
Happy Bracketing, Cheese Lovers!
Good morning! I’m sorry to report that due to the huge amount of white fluffy stuff falling from the sky, Cheesetique will be closed today. Stay safe and warm.
See you all tomorrow!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that this Friday is Valentine’s Day, which I tend to group with other “pressure holidays” like New Year’s Eve. What I mean is that there is so much pressure to have a special experience that we work ourselves into a frenzy and ruin the whole thing. Sound familiar? If so, then we have the ultimate solution.
And of course, the ultimate solution is… cheese. Simply choose your scenario below and take our advice. Whatever you choose to do, may it be wonderful and full of love. Or not (see #3).
1. You didn’t plan and now you’re afraid that nowhere has reservations left.
The great news is that Cheesetique doesn’t require reservations (on Valentine’s Day or any other day). To top it off, we’re offering a special “Treats for Two” Valentine’s menu: two glasses of wine, a yummy Select-4 cheese board, and chocolate cheesecake… all for $35. Cheesetique is always considered to be the perfect date spot, but on Valentine’s Day it’s a no-brainer.
2. You like Valentine’s Day, but you just want to stay in.
Cheese is uber-romantic; it’s even classified as an aphrodisiac, with 10 times as much ooh-la-la as chocolate. Take that already-romantic substance, put it in the shape of a heart and… well, I’ll just leave it at that. We have many lovely selections, but here are a few mouth-watering examples. Simply pair with a lovey-dovey wine and you’re all set.
3. You have no interest in celebrating Valentine’s Day in any way, shape, or form.
If that’s the case, then the possibilities are endless! Eat from our regular menu in the Cheese & Wine Bar. Or take home a bunch of cheeses that look NOTHING like hearts. Drink wine called “Death to Love-Themed Holidays.” Deface photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.* You get the idea.
* No celebrities or photos thereof were harmed in the making of this post.
A wise man recently told me that there is a difference between being thankful and being joyful. In fact, sometimes the pressure to be deeply and adequately “thankful” makes us feel worse instead of better. After further thought, I agreed that we need an extra ingredient to transform genuine gratitude into pure joy… and that is reflection (something most of us have precious few moments of during the day).
This Thanksgiving, I hope each of you finds the time to invite thankfulness, reflection, and joy into your home. At least until your relatives arrive.
Got questions about how special dietary needs might affect your love of cheese? You’re not alone. Here’s some info to put your mind (and tummy) at ease.
Some particularly sensitive gluten avoiders have asked if blue cheese, sometimes made with mold grown on bread, is safe. The answer is yes. The gluten detected in blue cheeses that use grain to grow their mold is so low as to be undetectable. One type of cheese to avoid, however, is anything washed in or containing beer (example: Guinness Cheddar).
Most folks are ok with traditional rennet, which is derived from the stomach lining of animals (remember – no animal is ever sacrificed only for rennet). However, some choose to stick with “vegetarian” cheeses, which use plant-based or synthetic rennet to coagulate the milk. In actuality, most cheeses are vegetarian, as using animal rennet is much more troublesome. Just ask your cheesemonger to point you in the right direction.
Cheese is made from milk. All milk has lactose. The good news is that almost all lactose is washed away in the cheese-making process so very little ends up in cheese. Then, as the cheese ages, any remaining lactose breaks down very quickly. If you are severely lactose intolerant, focus on hard-aged cheeses. If those still bother you, perhaps you are cow’s milk intolerant, not lactose intolerant.