Although I’ve spent heaps of time in Australia over the years, I’ve never really spent any of it in the Yarra Valley. Due east (and slightly north) of Melbourne, this wine region is only an hour’s drive from the big city through horse and pony-laden pastures and undulating hills with a backdrop of the Dandenong ranges. Affluent but unpretentious, the wineries are not only welcoming but still free for tastings…and the wines made my big, fruit and alcohol-laden Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz palate SO HAPPY! Lean, expressive Chardonnays and Pinot noirs layered with dry spices pair so well with cheeses of all kinds. I swilled my way all over that valley and made sure that the local economy was in an upturn. Next blog will detail the wineries specifically and the wine/cheese pairings we found.
When spring starts, I always get a sense of relief and surprise that it really is happening again. Now it’s May, that initial disbelief is replaced by complete amazement at how much life, growth, wild energy suffuses everything I can see.
Every hedgerow has gone crazy, sending out the cow parsley that grows visibly day to day, suddenly the lanes are too narrow for cars to go down without the delicate flowers stroking the sides. The thorn hedge that I laid, worried it would kill the blackthorn and hawthorn, is flowering for England on its side. Pairs of birds fly flirtatiously together, absorbed in each other, oblivious of predators for the only time in the year. The dazzling succession of greens in the woodland deepens and starts becoming one great motor of growth as all the leaves have unfurled from their delicate winter protection and open themselves, like photovoltaic cells, to harvest the sun’s energy.
I spent my entire senior year at Emerson College in a turmoil of stomach pain before it dawned on me that I might have an allergy to something. As a rabid consumer of coffee, mostly in (iced) latte form, there were zero minutes in the day when milk was not in my system. Therefore, lactose intolerance never crossed my mind. Finally, a friend recommended I avoid dairy for a day. This was excruciating (hello, my COFFEE!), but I went with a black americano and voila! It was the most amazing feeling. Peace in my stomach!
Clearly, foregoing dairy was not a long term option for someone like me. I despised the chalky aftertaste of soy, and had absolutely no interest in venturing into the world of rice or almond milk. I NEEDED a way to get back to eating cheese, ice cream, and drinking iced lattes (believe it or not, I’m not obese).
During my study abroad year at UC Davis, I have made many American friends as well as international. Two of my closest friends here in Davis are from Spain. They are particularly proud of their food traditions. I have enjoyed a fair amount of Jamon Serrano, Rioja and many, many Spanish omelettes (some with the addition of chips… not the healthiest of student meals!). As much as I have enjoyed these Spanish products, I have taken a particular liking for the almighty Manchego.
While at the Craft Brewers Conference, Lassa and I stumbled into the Pink Boots Society, http://pinkbootssociety.org/, annual meeting. Quite unlike the 5/1 men/women ratio in the rest of the conference, the room was jammed with women in brewing; brewmasters, QA specialists, pub owners, marketers, retailers, distributors, etc. There were seasoned pros and newbies.
Sebbie Buhler of Rogue Ales (and label model on Rogue Chocolate Stout) introduced us as culture founders, and urged all pink booters (ies?) to discover cheese. And afterward, we got the chance to meet many of them.
I just can't get the image out of my head of shoes made of cheese, so I've just GOT to blog about it.
The MailOnline posted this piece yesterday: A fashion student from Bath Spa University designed and made a pair 'Jimmy Cheese' shoes using bread and West Country cheddar, and they will be displayed at the 2011 Royal Bath & West Show to promote the region's cheese.
"The budding fashionista sculpted ablock of cheddar to make the heel, and a stale cheese sandwich was used for part of the platform sole. The front of the shoe was moulded from more cheddar and extra cheese was melted and shaped to embellish the design."
I'm so impressed...and I am dying to try them on. Of course, I can't stop wondering if they do smell and if they are comfortable...and if they actually would stand up to a night on the town (not in rainy London, I'm guessing...) At any rate, it's certainly peaked my attention and that was what it was the point, right?
April is bright and blowy, warm like summer, cold like winter - plenty of weather. We all cheer up as the days get longer, the light gets brighter, nature fizzes with the wild dance of high spring. Birds everywhere take on the business of breeding, endless feeding. The ravens in the wood on the hillside spend all their time scolding - who? Each other? Badgers are about a lot at night: all ours look healthy, fat: we see the guardian boars, who roam the edge of the territory keeping their families safe. The wild boar sows have piglets, making them off limits: each one producing 6 -12 young. They will defend their young vigorously, so walkers need to keep dogs on leads, you don’t want the dog running back to you with a stroppy mum in hot pursuit.
Yesterday, I attended my second event with Culture: The California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma, California, what a fabulous event it was.
My eyes were overwhelmed by the selection of cheeses on display. There were towering cliffs of delicious blue from Point Reyes, brand new Wagon Wheel melting cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery, award-winning cheddars from Fiscalini, plenty of creamy goat cheeses from Laura Chenel and of course so much more.
Amongst the stunning array of fine cheeses, I came across some remarkable new finds. Goat milk fudge, wine infused cookies, olive oil chocolate, peanut butter sandwich cookies, mini lemon meringue pies, exclusive olive oils, bacon bread, an exciting new product called “glop” (made from a selection of oils and cheeses), and I was thrilled about bumping into a familiar item that I fell in love with at Cochon 555 – my beloved toffee bacon lollipop! (I bagged myself three little piggies! Does this make me a big piggie?!)
No need to bleat on about quality or style, just keep a case around and Mom and Baby will both perk right up!