I felt like Miss Muffet—she of the classic cheesy nursery rhyme—the other day. While picnicking in the woods with some of my favorite curds (albeit no whey), a very big spider appeared and made its way straight for the cheese. It was an unappetizing move, but a curious one too. Do spiders really like cheese, I wondered? After all, aren’t cheese mites related to spiders? This six-legged visitor stayed quite some time on my slice but I couldn’t tell if he/she was actually eating it. For those who might be wondering the exact same thing (I know there are some of you out there), here’s what I’ve found out about spider sustenance:
Spiders eat live prey only. (Maybe cheese is considered live? After all it “ages.”)
Undeterred by loud thunder claps and torrential rain in the afternoon, day two at the Slow Food Festival in Bra, Italy saw thousands of people milling around the city, buying and tasting cheese, attending workshops and generally having a good time.
Our American cheesemakers were in high spirits and doing some brisk trading with a great deal of enthusiasm and interest from Europeans about the emerging American artisinal cheese scene. Its a great sight and the American crew are doing their country proud... Yay!
Also, very, very Happy Birthday to Cary Bryant of Rogue Creamery and Culture,s very own Editor, Elaine. Many happy returns and have a wonderful day!
The Slow Food Cheese Festival is even more amazing this year. With a huge turn out of producers from all over the world, there are many familiar faces and cheeses but also some new ones added to the mix.
Here are some of the scenes from yesterday as the Festival was warming up.. More to follow.
Continuing on the Austrian cheese tour, we paid a visit to Sennerei Hittisau.
Sennerei is an Austrian word for dairy or creamery - often referring to a co-operative. The cheesemaker at Sennerei Hittisau is Herbert Bauer, who produces a wonderful Allgau Bergkase, Bergtilsiter and Bachensteiner. In Austria and Bavaria, if "Bergkase" is preceded by the word "Allgau", it means that its a cheese made in the mountains during the summer months from the milk of cows grazing on the upper pastures. Equally, the same goes for Tilsiter in that if "Berg" (meaning "Alp") appears in the name, it is made in the summer in high pastures.
Here are some photos from the visit.
The end of this week sees the start of the Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy. Held every two years it is a spectacular event staged in the streets of this ancient town. Small scale cheesemakers and affineurs from all over the world converge to sell cheese, talk cheese, consume cheese and generally have a good time.
As if attending this event, wasn't enough of a privilege, the trip to Europe also affords many overseas visitors such as me, the opportunity to visit cheesemakers and producers in situ. This year, I have been spending time with my friend and colleague Norbert Sieghart of Kaeskuche. Norbert is a wholesaler and exporter of cheeses from Bavaria and the Allgaü region, a mountainous and spectacularly beautiful area reaching across from southern Germany into western Austria.
My apologies for this late post. I’ve been on a self-directed tour of Rocky Mountain goat dairies to get new ideas for my goat cheeses and to learn new techniques. In other words, I’ve tasted some excellent cheeses. If you have access to the cheeses from Amaltheia Organic Dairy in Belgrade, Montana, grab some, for goodness’ sake.
My tomme awaited me in the cooler of my son’s little bakery when I returned. Luckily, no one investigated the package or I wouldn’t be writing this at all. The cheese is the color of straw with a buckskin colored rind. Usually when I smell hard cheeses, they remind me of a cheese cave or cellar—dampish and sharp. The tomme, when held up close, fell into that category but when I held it farther away, it smelled mushroomy, like a forest floor (in Montana). When I tasted the cheese with the rind, I also definitely detected the sea.
Since hurricane Irene hit two weeks ago, upstate New York has been awash (pardon the pun) in bad news about regions and towns destroyed by floods. I have seen some of the devastation and it can’t be exaggerated. But thankfully, other areas came through the storm with their beauty and buildings intact. Like Washington County, just above the upper Hudson Valley, which hosted a local Cheese Tour this past weekend, inviting the public to visit five farmstead cheesemakers who are tucked away on the back roads of some tiny towns. With map in hand, I made it to the various cheese stops on the tour and came back with a bundle of exceptional cheeses I bought off the farms—plus a whole new appreciation for the bucolic county just an hour north of me. It’s a rare gem of agricultural charm and vitality. Here’s a little photo diary of my sunny Saturday spent visiting the cheesemakers (and an ice cream maker!).
I was shopping to prepare for hurricane Irene. I bought staple items like bacon and butter, as well as flour and other ingredients to make bread. The Point Reyes Tomme that arrived that day fit perfectly into my hurricane preparations. The letter that was enclosed said to savor it with a fine scotch or Tawny Port which suddenly made squirreling it all away impossible. So we set it out to warm up and poured the port.
It was Christmas in August when I received my Tomme from Point Reyes Farmstead in the mail. It is a hard cheese, not usually one of my favorite kinds of cheese but when paired with the suggested scotch (not a scotch fan, but the cheese made it very tasty, indeed), we found doing the research a real pleasure. My wing man (also known as the husband) and I had no trouble enjoying our task. Although this is a much milder cheese than the blues, the Tomme has its place in gastronomy. We liked the subtle after-bite when savored with a red wine. The crystals in the cheese definitely gave this cheese an extra zing. It was my favorite part of the cheese.
I was a little surprised when I got an email from Culture magazine saying that "something perishable" was going to be shipped to me in August. I was on a tasting panel for a blue cheese from Point Reyes cheese, but they said for sure is wasn't a new version of that cheese.
Let's see, something perishable from Culture magazine. What on earth could it be? Let's see ... bananas? Parsley? Or maybe it would be cheese.
Wow, I was right. It was cheese.
The cheese came with a letter. This is part of what it said:
"... we wanted to share a sample of some VERY special cheese that our cheese maker, Kuba Hemmerling, has been working on. Enclosed you'll find a sample of our Point Reyes Tomme. This hard cheese is pasteurized, aged about 18 months and similar to Tommes you would find in France or Switzerland. The aroma is very citrusy ad the texture is crumbly with definite flavor "pops" that are a result of crystalized proteins that form throughout the long aging process."