Q: What does AOC stand for and why does it matter? A: Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, or AOC, is a French food-labeling term that protects the style, ingredients, and origin of a product. Many of Europe’s oldest food products are protected by similar designations, such as Italy’s DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and Spain’s DO (Denominación de Origen). So you can appreciate the value of such labels, let me put AOC in context. As a child, I often heard my parents order “Roquefort” dressing on their salads at their favorite restaurant. While I knew then that Roquefort was blue cheese, I had no idea it was a specific AOC-protected blue cheese made exclusively from raw sheep’s milk and aged in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in southern France.
In the Winter 2010 issue of culture, our recipe for NOCINO MASCARPONE CHEESECAKE uses this cookie recipe to create the shortbread-like crust for the bottom of the dessert. The cookies, adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, (Artisan, 2007,) echo the flavor of the nocino (walnut liquor) while adding a little zip of coffee. They’re great all by themselves too.
Mighty mechanical helpers have become part of the artisn cheese movement.
Nothing seems more antithetical to the world of artisan cheese than robots. They might build cars and microchips, but cheese is the product of a bucolic natural world, all happy dairy herds and rugged farmers. There is something mystical about turning milk into cheese, harnessing bacteria, molds, and enzymes invisible to the naked eye. Indeed, in my imagination cheesemakers are the Jedis of the gastronomic world, communing with the Force to intuit their interventions. Of course, in reality, control of the process relies on sophisticated technical skill, and increasingly, many of the world’s very finest hard cheeses come to us by way of the hard work of those aforementioned robots. After all, even Luke Skywalker needed R2D2.
Brooklynites are famously proud of their borough, a sprawling space that covers some 71 square miles and counts 2.6 million residents, making it the most populous borough of New York City. After all, they have trees, parking spaces, a beautiful bridge, famous authors (Gary Shteyngart, Paul Auster, and Colson Whitehead, among others), the Wonder Wheel—and plenty of cheese.
Press a local hard enough and he or she may admit to the occasional pilgrimage across the bridge to Murray’s or a dip into Saxelby Cheesemongers. But when it comes to cheese, there are few reasons to leave the borough. In fact, there are many reasons to stay. Here are 17 of them.
I’m not much of a joiner. I’ve got a AAA card, sure, but I gave up on the dance class. I’m not on the alumni committee, either. And this column? Strictly freelance.
But in the cheese world, we Bowling Alone types are far from the norm. With the exception of Kurt Timmermeister, that one-man-dairy from last issue’s Centerfold feature, cheese is a team sport—one of those things that begs for organization.
Beer history tells us that the first brewers had very little to no concept of yeast. Belgians would boil up some grains and leave the resulting liquid (called wort) in large open-topped vessels to sit overnight. And before calling it a day, they’d open all the windows of the brewery—an invitation for any airborne microflora to come feast on the sweet wort. In the morning, fermentation would have begun, and after a few weeks of aging in oak barrels, they’d have a sour, fruity, tart, acidic start to a refreshing beer.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with aluminum foil and coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Crush the biscotti into fine crumbs. (You should have about 2 cups of crumbs; adjust the number of biscotti as necessary.) Combine the melted butter with the biscotti crumbs and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, until just slightly golden with a sandy appearance. Set aside and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
The Great Pyrenees dog, or the Pyrenean Mountain Dog as it is known in Europe, belongs to a group of livestock-guarding dogs whose origins can be traced back 10,000 or 11,000 years to some of the earliest known domesticated canines. From their origins in Asia Minor, the predecessors of the Great Pyrenees followed their masters west into the Pyrenees mountain range of southwestern Europe around 3,000 BC. Once there, it wasn’t long before the animals’ size, strength, and stock-guarding prowess endeared them to the Basque shepherds who spent their days tending flocks in the high, rugged mountains.
Thanks to the region’s relative isolation, the Great Pyrenees developed in parallel with other modern dog breeds, rather than descending from them. As a result, the breed remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years.
Make a bite of the best go a long way with these easy-to-assemble cheese nibbles.
Buying lots of great cheese for a party is thrilling if you’ve got unlimited funds. But if you’re like many who are feeling the crunch, specialty cheese prices can be akin to a “do not enter” sign. Still, which of us penny-pinchers wants to accept defeat and roll out the string cheese at the next dinner party? There’s a better solution: serve glorious cheeses—like the three California cheeses featured here—in appealingly tiny portions. Our frugal yet fab serving ideas can turn a little indulgence into a lasting good time.
Valley Ford Cheese Company
Raw cow’s milk