When I got the call from Will officially inviting me to join the cheese tasting team, I was giddy. Having worked in some incredible cheese shops in the past, I have missed having privileged access to artisanal cheeses made with true attention and care. I quickly arranged for my neighbor to receive the package while I was away at work and started planning when and where I would do my first tasting.
I am so excited to be a part of the Birth of a Cheese tasting panel. Thanks to Culture and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese for making this a possibility. I’m by no means a cheese expert, but I’m working on it. In January 2010, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I actually kept—to eat more cheese. For several months, I visited some of the best cheese shops in Salt Lake City, Utah, shared my finds with a supportive but unexcited husband, and tried to chronicle these experiences on my blog. That July, we moved from the suburbs to our very small (population 500 or so) hometown, far from the cheese shops but close to our family. I work at a small college and hang out with my husband and my three-year-old son whenever I can. While my son is not a cheese aficionado yet, I’m hoping he’ll transition from string cheese to St. Andre in no time.
I've never worked with cheese and other than an adventurous palate and passion, don't have formal training in the fromage-arts. So I though what could it hurt to apply as a cheese tester? Worse case I'd be passed over like Velveeta on a cheese board and best case scenario, well, I could say I've been "paid" with CHEESE! How cool is that? By some stroke of luck, I was picked to be on the Birth of a Cheese Tasting Panel and what a tasty honor it has been.
My secret wedge was delivered by FedEx, although it felt like it should have been a dark suited man in sunglasses holding a metal briefcase. I carefully unpacked the precious cargo, each layer increasing my excitement and suspense until the last peeled away to reveal a freshly cut, foil wrapped wedge of cheese. Blue cheese to be exact, my favorite, my Kryptonite. With my brain shouting "must eat now!", I somehow managed a couple pictures before succumbing to the demands and digging in.
After only six months of living here, I am now a Californian. The evidence? Whole-wheat peach pizza with goat cheese, sage and red onion. That's right, I said peaches. The Scientist (aka Minda "no sauce" Berbeco) whipped up another batch of dough last night, and suggested we use a few of the fruits we'd picked up at Davis CA's infamous farmer's market.
It sure was one of the prettiest pizzas we've ever made. The uncooked pie (pictured) was cute enough to hang over the couch. And when we pulled it out, the cheese and herbs melded perfectly with the sweet peaches and onions, furthering my conviction that everything goes with just about everything. Which, I suppose, is a very California attitude.
I’m finishing up a week of traveling the fjords and roads of Norway, trying to scope out the cheese scene in this country better known for salmon and sweaters. One of the first things I discovered on my Scandinavian beat is that the average Norwegian refers to her/his cheese by color: they have their white cheese, their yellow cheese, some blue cheese, and plenty of brown cheese. Color indicts familiar supermarket cheese. They know, for instance, what to expect from a slice of white cheese.
Oh Canada…it’s your turn for national hurdles.
Last night we brought your Stanley Cup back to Boston after a 39 year absence (thank YOU!). Your postal system is shut until further notice, and Vancouver based Hootsuite has ticked off a few PAYING customers (http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/hootsuite-publisher-fail_b10216) with its latest upgrade. Ok. Not a good day.
But, you still have plenty of Canadian goodies right at hand.
I heard this morning with great sadness that Ig Vella of Vella Cheese (and the original owner of Rogue Creamery) died last night. One of the few elder statesmen in the evolution of both Californian cheese and the American artisanal cheese movement, Ig will be sorely missed for his incredible knowledge and perspective—not to mention his unique personality.
My first encounter with Ig was shortly after I moved to California from London, when I went to visit his cheesemaking facility in Sonoma. Upon arrival I was met by a large-framed, unsmiling man dressed in what I later learned were his trademark red suspenders and slightly-too-small paper hat. I was immediately intrigued – and smitten!
On this week’s installment of the Foraging Fairy (uhhh..) I’m running with my pasta making video debut and adding wild nettles for a robust, textural and, of course, healthy green pasta dish that can be accompanied with cheese and various other garden/ foraged treats.
Stinging nettles grow in the wild starting in early spring into the summer. (When you cook them the skin-irritating stingers dissipate so there’s no need to worry of indigestion). Although nettles aren’t as flavorful as ramps or asparagus they offer a lovely green color and texture similar to baby spinach or chard.
In LA this week, at the International Dairy, Deli & Bakery's annual convention, which draws doughnut-makers, mustard mongers, and, of course, cheese professionals from across the country and the world. This is a major industry-oriented event, so I was occupied mostly with the entirely humdrum and uninteresting chores the magazine demanded of me, like tasting Rouge et Noir's unreleased triple-cream brie with truffles:
And stalking poodle-skirted cheese-carver extraordinaire Sarah Kaufmann—note the earrings: