Ales are the order of the day at Trappist monasteries
Brewing beer is a democratic endeavor. Given resources and time, any skilled brewer can craft a bitter India pale ale or a coal-colored stout. But it takes more than talent to create a Trappist ale, an honor reserved for select pious men. Globally, there are more than 170 Trappist monasteries. To earn money for their orders, monks make and sell goods such as clothing, cheese, and, at a handful of abbeys, some of the world’s rarest, most revered beer.
Aging and ambient yeast makes for cheese-worthy wine
Just as there is Swiss cheese and there is Appenzeller, there is Beaujolais Nouveau and there is Beaujolais. If you want Beaujolais for your cheese anytime other than the third Thursday of November, when the markets are flooded with the Nouveau stuff, you might as well go hardcore, searching out those made with no added yeasts or any of the other interventions common to commercial Nouveau. David Lillie, who stocks an immense array of great Beaujolais at Chambers Street Wines in New York City, explains why: “In Beaujolais in particular, there’s an immense difference [between wines made with ambient yeasts versus cultured yeasts]. The cultured yeasts selected for [Nouveau] Beaujolais give the wine aromas of banana, exotic fruit—all these horrible, unusual aromas,” he says, shuddering.
Fergus Henderson’s St. John is the restaurant that launched a thousand pig logos—and many imitators. Since it opened in 1994 in a whitewashed former smokehouse next to London’s wholesale meat market, St. John and Fergus Henderson have become much-copied gastronomic icons.
With his unique personal aesthetic, Henderson’s dishes can sometimes read like a stark list of ingredients. But underneath everything is formidable technical skill. There must be—the complete lack of superfluous garnishes on each plate gives the cook nowhere to hide. Each ingredient must be scrupulously sourced and sensitively handled. The same mentality is reflected in Henderson’s approach to cheese. St. John has no compendious cheese trolley with “too many little bits of cheese, all arranged in a circle.” Instead, Henderson prefers to offer four scrupulously kept cheeses. “Cheese is human, too,” he says. “It needs to be looked after.”
Our perception of flavor transcends the tongue
You’ve snagged a blue-marbled wedge of real English Stilton, aged and semi-soft. The stink is intense and, defying all logic, appealing. You pop a piece in your mouth and what happens next—sensorially, biochemically, neurologically, and even emotionally—is so complex that scientists are still trying to figure it all out.
To learn what they do know, I contacted the Monell Chemical Senses Center, an independent nonprofit research institute in Philadelphia that studies taste and smell. According to its experts, most of what the general public views as fact is only partly true—or flat-out wrong.
A microbiologist explains how to keep cheese safe from bad bacteria
Catherine Donnelly is a research professor in microbiology, associate director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese (VIAC), and an expert on the subject of Listeria monocytogenes—a microorganism that has recently been in the news as the cause of several creamery closings. Culture recently caught up with Professor Donnelly to ask her about the nature of this pathogen as it relates to cheese.
culture: So what exactly is Listeria, and is it a serious concern for us cheese lovers?
This recipe is a twist on Spanish olive oil crackers, known as tortas de aceite. The herbed sugar-salt mix creates a sweet and salty crackly caramel surface in the high heat of the oven. The flatbreads are irresistible on their own but would pair well with an oozy Camembert.
Fergus Henderson’s St. John is the restaurant that launched a thousand pig logos—and many imitators. Since it opened in 1994 in a whitewashed former smokehouse next to London’s wholesale meat market, St. John and Fergus Henderson have become much-copied gastronomic icons. It is easy to see why Henderson is held in such high regard by fellow chefs. With the restaurant’s commitment to nose-to-tail eating and food that is unadorned, almost to the point of stark minimalism, the menu at St. John does not compromise. It is true to itself.
Making a new cheese through trials and tenacity
Sometimes when a new cheese is born, it is purely a child of happenstance. But at other times it is the offspring of painstaking and prodigious work by a gifted cheesemaker. Or a whole team of them. Such was the case in the making of Flora Nelle, a new blue cheese darling from Oregon’s Rogue Creamery. Challenged to push beyond the boundaries of their already acclaimed lineup of blue cheeses, the cheesemakers at Rogue, led by Jason Garcia and co-owner Cary Bryant, proved their fortitude as much as their skill in making Flora Nelle.
Take a cue from creative retailers and serve your cheese with some playful prose
Cheese descriptions generally don’t make for exciting reading: nutty, buttery, creamy, stinky, yawn. But there are signs, quite literally, that cheesemongers are shaking up such ho-hum cheese talk with clever, offbeat tasting notes that reference everything from pop culture to proposals.