These striking cheese platters and plates, designed by Jamal Ait Hammou, are cut from fossilized stone found in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Hammou started his business four years ago to employ his impoverished family in rural Morocco—olive, apricot, and almond farmers struggling against drought. Living in close proximity to a wealth of fossilized stone, the Hammous' relatives cut and polish the dishes, comprised primarily of squidlike orthoceras fossils trapped in stone some 350 to 400 million years old. Also prevalent in this fossil mix is ammonite, a brown invertebrate marine creature, about 65 million years old.
Working out of their Ohio home, Paige and Larry Koosed create wood carvings and watercolor images with a common aim. “We try more than anything to put a sense of humor into our work,” says Paige. Her watercolors are painted on Bristol board before being framed by Larry. Her subjects often include dairy animals and elderly; the painting featured here is dubbed Old Bo Peep.
Both Larry and Paige design the wood carvings, which are hand-cut into jelutong and painted with acrylic. Every carving is an original. The one featured here is titled Milk Please.
Paige and Larry Koosed, 419.878.8835, koosed.com
Bulgarian-born Boyan Moskov, a master in ceramics, is based in New Hampshire, where he works with his wife and business partner, Anna. Moskov throws these seven-inch-high beer steins on a potter’s wheel for the base shape and then uses handmade rollover patterns and wooden stamps to imprint the handle and mug surfaces. The 24-ounce steins are dipped in two glazes, fired, and then colored using a bulb syringe. Available in a variety of colors, Moskov’s pottery is microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Just fill with your favorite cheese-friendly brew.
Pamela Dalton is a well-established scherenschnitte artist who follows in the early Pennsylvania-Dutch tradition of papercutting. An expert in her craft, Dalton has been recognized for her creations, most notably in 1999 when her work graced the White House Christmas tree. Scherenschnitte, an intricate, silhouetted art form, was used in the 1600s for birth certificates, marriage proposals, and love letters and was customarily centered around Biblical, rural, or patriotic themes. Cut with an X-Acto knife entirely from one sheet of paper, each of Dalton's designs is a hand-drawn original, and framed with wood that is treated with a traditional stain technique involving vinegar and corn. Based in Harlemville, New York, Dalton accepts custom orders by phone.
Located in western Massachusetts, John Manikowski is a painter-artist turned knife-maker who crafts fishing, hunting, chef’s, and fillet knives, as well as letter openers and, yes, cheese knives. In the creation of his handmade, embellished tools, Manikowski uses high-quality stainless steel from Illinois and a wide array of handle materials including walrus jawbone, warthog ivory, giraffe and sea cow bone, moose antler, and woolly mammoth ivory. Many of his bronze and pewter pieces are made with lost wax carvings—designs cut into hard wax, which is then dipped in plaster and cast in metal, allowing the wax to melt away. He favors bird’s-eye maple, box elder burls, and Scottish briar for handles; Manikowski also grinds and sands the steel blades himself.
Formerly the maitre d’fromage at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Brandon Weeks manages the cheese cart at the Urban Farmer restaurant in Portland, Oregon.
Heat bacon fat or oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, salt, and pepper; cook until shallots are very tender and caramelized. Add the Port wine, reduce heat to low, and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated to create a viscous syrup around the shallot pieces. Cool the mixture and store refrigerated up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.
Pair with: Beaufort d’Alpage, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Monte Enebro, Roomano, Stilton.
By Brandon Weeks
Puree the pears in a food processor and transfer to a saucepot; simmer gently with salt, stirring often with a rubber spatula. Cook until the puree becomes smooth and thick, like peanut butter—about 45 minutes. Add the ground caraway seed and cider vinegar and allow to infuse overnight. Serve at room temperature. (Apples or quince may also be used in this recipe.)
Shredded Comté quickly bakes into these thin wafers of delicate crispy cheese. Like the Italian cheese wafer, called frico, these wafers can be served as a snack with a glass of wine as a garnish for salad, or as an accompaniment to a steaming bowl of soup.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with nonstick liners or parchment paper.
Use a rounded tablespoon to measure out mounds of shredded cheese on the prepared baking sheets, positioning them about 1 inch apart. Using your fingertips, spread the cheese into a mounded oval about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long.
Bake the cheese 12 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a paper towel, carefully blot the oil around the edges of the cheese. Let the wafers stand about 20 minutes, or until cooled and firm.
To preserve the natural starch in the potatoes, do not soak them in water. To prevent darkening, use the potatoes immediately after they’ve been peeled and shredded. The coarse shredding blade attachment of a food processor will make fast work of preparing the potatoes.
Heat the oven to 450°F. Set a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat and melt the butter. Transfer half of the melted butter to a small bowl. Brush the remaining butter evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Keep warm over low heat.
Typically, the region’s famous vin jaune (yellow wine) is used to make the sauce for this chicken. But because this wine of the Jura can be difficult to find in the United States, a full-bodied chardonnay can be substituted.
Sprinkle the chicken lightly with the salt and pepper. If the breast is large, cut it in half crosswise. Use the ½ cup flour to coat the pieces of chicken; shake off the excess flour and set the chicken aside.