Friday, November 30, 2012

Stilton Stuffed Dates - Yum!

Hello everyone!

As promised, I am going to be showing another recipe that you can use for your holiday get togethers. This particular recipe is a really simple yet extraordinarily satisfying appetizer. That's right, I'm talking about dates stuffed with blue cheese - specifically Stilton from Colston Bassett dairy. The ingredients you need are simple..

To make 24 tasty bites you will need:
12 dates
1/4lb of Stilton or any other blue cheese you like

The recipe itself is not too difficult and won't break the bank. Another great thing about this recipe is that it is fairly rich, so you don't need to worry about making a large amount. Just a few "bites" will satisy any guest.

Now for the step by step instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, take the cheese and cut off the rind. Crumble up the cheese as shown above (sorry for the mysterious shadow in the picture, not sure how that got there...). Don't worry about having different size crumbles, they will all work just fine.

Then, take the dates and cut them in half. I like to cut them in half in between the two ends, but if you prefer to slice them longways, that's up to you.

Most dates that you buy at the grocery store are going to have seeds (they look kind of like pecans and are pictured above), so be sure you take those out before proceeding to the next step.

Take the blue cheese and stuff it in the middle of the half piece of the date. Dates are pretty gooey and sticky, so don't be afraid to get your hands dirty during this process.

Once you've stuffed as many pieces of dates as you would like (with this recipe, you'll end up having 24 pieces), put some parchment paper down onto a baking sheet, place the dates on the paper evenly spaced and pop these bad boys in the oven. I let them cook for about 10 minutes. A couple minutes longer won't hurt, but make sure you keep an eye on them if you decide to do so.

Once you pull these out of the oven let them sit for a minute or so to avoid burning any of your guests' tongues with the molten blue cheese. After sitting for a spell, they are ready to be served to your eagerly awaiting guests.

You can substitute other blue cheeses depending on your taste and the taste of your guests. I like Stilton because it has a nice earthy flavor, isn't too strong or salty and melts very nicely. The tang of the blue really contrasts nicely with the sweet, chewy date. You won't be disappointed.If you want an extra treat, try wrapping them in prosciutto or bacon... amazing!

I almost forgot to mention that my amazing coworker Paty will be holding a class on how to make recipes like this one on December 5th from 6-7pm. Call the store to RSVP at 408-266-3700 if you want to attend.

I'm planning on posting a few more fun cheesy recipes during this next month, so keep an eye out for them. I hope you enjoy this recipe! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Goat Cheese!

I realize that in my last post I talked about a goat cheese, but I received another goat cheese today that I was able to try and it got me so excited I just had to write about it. The cheese I am talking about is the Bucheret from Redwood Hill Farm - a creamery located in Sebastopol, CA just a couple hours north of where I am. 

Here is the Bucheret in all of its 5 oz glory - a bloomy rind cheese made of 100% pasteurized goat's milk.  The cheesemakers at Redwood Hill Farm wrapped this cheese in a very nice cheese paper that they mean for you to reuse when you want to rewrap the cheese after taking a nibble. An interesting thing that I found out about this farm is that it is totally sustainable and the only reason why it isn't considered an organic farm is because they don't have access to organic feed year round. Besides that, all of their practices are organic and sustainable. They were also the first goat dairy in the US to be certified humane. 

When you see this label, it means the product "Meets the Humane Farm Animal Care Program standards, which include nutritious diet without antibiotics, or hormones, animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors". (For more information on the the Certified Humane program please visit Not only is Redwood Hill Farm Certified Humane, but they are working to have all of their sister farms become certified as well. I think that they have done a fantastic job and though I loved their products before, I now have even more respect for them. 

Now the cheese...

Behold... Bucheret! Quite a cute little pillow of cheese that is not much bigger than a shot glass. This particular piece pictured is a little on the young side so when I squeezed it there was not too much give. But I wouldn't describe this cheese as firm. As it ages and ripens it just gets softer and softer and the flavors more pronounced. 

If you look closely you can see the outer edges close to the rind look smoother than the chalky inside. This is why I describe this piece of cheese as young. As it ripens, the chalky inside will yield to the smoother, gooeyness that you see closer to the rind. When I tried a piece of this cheese I was amazed at how balanced the flavors were. I was able to taste the tang of the goat, but it was muted with a beautiful creaminess and a slight bitterness from the rind. This is not so common in goat cheeses as a lot of times the goat milk tang takes over any subtleties in the cheese. With the Bucheret I was able to get nuances of mushroom and a little bit of grass. As it ages, these nuances become even more pronounced producing a gooey, flavorful, yet balanced cheese. 

Now take a quick peek back at the first picture with the label. Look at the right side and you can faintly see that it says "Delicious drizzled with honey". So... I decided to try it. I opened up one of our Orange Blossom Honeys that we sell at the cheese counter and drizzled it on the second piece I was trying (ok, maybe it was the third or fourth piece...). When I put the combination in my mouth I was blown away! The sweetness and high viscosity of the honey really mellowed out the slight bitterness of the rind and and made the chalkier interior of the cheese so much more lush and decadent. The honey just added another level that really helped this cheese find its voice and sing. I had two of my co-workers try it tonight and all they could say was "wow". I can't recommend this cheese or this combination more. You won't be disappointed. 

If you want to learn more about Redwood Hill Farm visit their website at They not only offer amazing cheeses, but they have goat milk, kefir and yogurt as well!

I hope you enjoyed this post! In my next post I'm going to be partnering with my friend Raschel and we will be sharing some yummy recipes that you could use in your upcoming holiday parties... 

Until then, eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Rolls the Fog...

Mmmm... Humboldt Fog... this is a cheese that holds a very special place in my heart. The cheesemaker, Mary Keehn, was one of the amazing people who contributed to our training while we were preparing for the ACS Certified Cheese Professional test. She led a conference call and live meeting and went over all there is to know about Humboldt Fog and goat cheese in general. Her information was invaluable and I really love to support Cypress Grove whenever I can. It's an added bonus that the creamery is local. Now on to the cheese!

Humboldt Fog was one of the first artisan goat cheeses released in the American market and as a result, has become a cheese that most everybody knows. Mary explained that she first thought about making this cheese when she was flying back from France. She says she was dreaming of Morbier (a French cheese that has a line of vegetable ash running through it like what you see above) and of her home in Humboldt county where the fog looks like this:

This is where the idea to run the vegetable ash through the middle originated. Pretty cool right? (I borrowed the picture from the PowerPoint presentation that Mary gave - thanks Mary!)

Now, the flavor of Humboldt Fog is quite spectacular. It is so fresh and creamy, light and inviting. With your first bite, you get the flavor of the goat's milk (a little tangy, yet creamy) and then it mellows to a bit of an earthy flavor from the ash and the rind. It is a fun cheese because at different ages, you get different flavors. The longer it ages, the more gooey and herbal and earthy it gets. Humboldt Fog definitely has a personality of its own. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the outer edges have begun to get a little gooey and this is a result of proteolysis, or the break down of proteins. When left to ripen more, the cheese starts to get even more gooey along the edges and even starts to get soft towards the middle. This particular cut of the Humboldt Fog is a little young. I typically like it aged a little bit more because the flavor gets more earthy and less acidic.

You should be able to find Humboldt Fog at cheese shops all around the country. But I'd invite you all to come by and try a piece at my counter. A nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Pale Ale would pair beautifully with this cheese.

Well that's all I have for now... I hope you all get a chance to try this amazing cheese if you haven't already. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Step by Step Fondue

Hello all,

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving - I know that I did. I enjoyed it so much that I was remiss in writing a new post before the holiday. But here I am to make it up to you! I've had more than a few requests for recipes on how to make fondue, so I figured I'd do a step by step post so you can have this in your host/hostess arsenal for the upcoming holidays.

First things first - ingredients. For my fondue I use:
1/2 cup Gruyere
1/2 cup Emmenthaler
1/4 cup dry white wine (I use Sauvignon Blanc)
2-3 cloves garlic
Cornstarch as needed

Rub the inside of whatever pot (can be a fondue pot, crock pot or just a little sauce pot) you will be using with a clove of garlic. I like to cut the garlic clove in half and then use that to rub on the inside.

After you have done the garlic rub, pour the wine into the pot on the stove and turn on the heat to medium high.

Once the wine starts to steam, add a handful of each cheese to the pot (don't add all the cheese at once, just a handful at a time). I like to cut the remaining cloves of garlic in half and toss them into the pot because I really like garlic...

Now is the time where you start stirring and basically not stop until it's done. If you leave the cheese unattended, it can burn pretty easily, so pour yourself a glass of wine and stir :).

Once the cheese starts to look like this, you keep adding your shredded cheese a handful at a time until it is all in the pot.

When you have all the cheese in the pot, I like to add a little cornstarch to make sure that the consistency is nice and creamy.

Stir, stir, stir some more and you'll know the fondue is ready when it looks like this:

If you're not getting the consistency you like, try adding a bit more cornstarch. That usually does the trick. Once your fondue is done, you can transfer it to a fondue pot with a little sterno underneath to keep it warm or if you don't have a fondue pot, a crock pot does the trick.

And that's it! I like to dip crusty bread, veggies or even meats into the cheese. Anything is better with melted cheese on it!

Now keep in mind that this is just a basic recipe to get you started. Don't be afraid to get creative! Add some heat by chopping up some jalapenos or adding a little bit of paprika. Green onions and chives are also fun to throw into the mix.

I hope this helps you prepare for any holiday parties you have coming up. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I'll try to answer to the best of my abilities. I'd also love to hear what some of your favorite additions are to your fondue.

That's all for now.. I wish you all a speedy recovery from your Thanksgiving food comas. :) Until next time - eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Rare Occurrence

Being a cheesemonger has its perks. I get to try cheeses of all different varieties on a daily basis but today was a special day for me because I got to try a cheese that I have heard and read about but have never tried! This doesn't happen to me too often and I was so excited to take this cheese home and try it. The cheese I am talking about is O'Banon from Capriole, Inc in Indiana. This cheese is an American rendition of the Banon from Dauphiné or Provence, France. It is not a cheese that I carry all the time in my cheese case, but it is one that we rotate in when we can.

This picture above isn't really the best and I do apologize. This is what the cheese looks like in it's whole form. It looks like a little cheese present! Wrapped in chestnut leaves that have been soaked in bourbon, then tied off with a bit of raffia, it is really an interesting cheese and is quite a treat.

When I first opened up the cheese, I was hit with the scent of the bourbon but this dissipated very quickly. I then cut into the leaves - which were a lot thicker than I thought - and revealed the chalky white paste inside. The first flavor that I tasted when I put the cheese on my tongue was a bit of salt followed by the wonderful goat tang that us goat cheese eaters know and love. Consistency-wise, it is a really creamy cheese while still being slightly chalky. The bourbon soaked chestnut leaves add a little bit of a zing that you wouldn't get with any other fresh goat cheese. While typing this blog, I have eaten half of the 6 oz wheel because the flavor is so unique compared to any other goat cheese that I have had and it keeps me coming back for more!

Steve Jenkins talks about this specific cheese in his book Cheese Primer and says that the Capriole, Inc O'Banon "...are much, much better than any I've tasted in France." This to me says that while I would love to try the French Banon whenever I have the opportunity, I am blessed with a cheese where the American version is just as good or better than the European original. 

When it comes to pairings, this cheese is great with a Pinot Grigio (what I'm drinking now) or the good ol' stand by - Sauvignon Blanc. I could also see it working with some of the sweeter whites like a Riesling or Viognier. 

That's all I have to say for now, I hope everyone is getting excited for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday! I am cooking this year for my family and am really excited to see everyone. I'll try to squeeze in one more post before Thanksgiving. Until then... eat, drink and be happy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mt. Tam-alicious!

As we get closer to Thanksgiving I'm thinking more and more about what cheeses are the biggest crowd-pleasers. I'm almost embarrassed that I haven't talked about this cheese yet in my blog, but I am rectifying that now...

That's right, it's the one, the only... Mt Tam! This is the signature cheese from Cowgirl Creamery - a wonderful creamery located in Sonoma County, CA - named after the gorgeous Mt Tamalpais. This cheese is a delectable triple cream, bloomy rind cheese that is 100% organic made from the organic cow's milk from Straus Family Dairy also located in Sonoma County.

The cheesemakers use both Penicillium camemberti and Geotrichum to create a really super thin rind that adds a little bit of a mushroomy flavor but doesn't have the bitterness of most other bloomy rind rinds. They designed this cheese to ripen and create a gooeyness close to the rind, but made it so the middle maintained a bit of firmness which doesn't become as soft as the outer edges of the cheese. I really like this because it gives the cheese some texture and body. You get the decadence of the creamy, buttery outer edges while still tasting the firmer lactic paste of the middle. This cheese is great with fruits like apples, pears, grapes or - my favorite - covered in Amarena cherries in heavy syrup... yum! I also really like having the Mt Tam with a nice, dry sparkling wine. The bubbles really help balance out the decadent creaminess of the cheese. 

Last month I had the privilege of taking a tour of the Cowgirl Creamery plant in Petaluma, CA. This was such a treat! Check out some of my pictures...

This is a picture of the cheesemakers putting the curds into the forms. The big steel drums at the top are where they put the milk and separate the curds and the whey. The hose that you see coming out of the bottom of the steel drum is how they get the curds into the forms. By using gravity they are being really gentle with the curds and not breaking them up to create a much creamier, more delicious cheese. Once the curds are in the forms they let them sit and drain out more whey under their own weight and then they add more curds and repeat the cycle under the forms are filled to their liking. 

This is a picture of the Mt Tams after they have come out of there forms. The picture doesn't really do it justice, but the rack on the right is Mt Tams that have not started to develop the bloomy rind, the middle rack has Mt Tams with a little bit of rind development and the rack on the left has the most rind development and are almost ready to be wrapped.

This is virtually the same picture, but if you look at the doorway behind these racks, you can see more cheeses in there. Those are the aging rooms where the Mt Tams sit and develop their rinds. Once the rinds are developed to the specifications of the cheesemaker, they move on through that red door to be wrapped individually (by hand!) and shipped. 

I had such a great time at during this tour and I recommend it to everyone. One thing to note is that you have to make a reservation beforehand, but believe me, it is such a blast! 

We carry the Mt Tam in my cheese case year round, so if you are ever in the mood for a nice creamy cheese, this is always a hit! 

I've also been asked to post a picture of myself so that if you are ever in my store, you can recognize me and ask me all your cheesy questions. I really don't like taking pictures much, but I had my picture taken today after the cheese plate building class I taught and figured I would share it... here goes...

So now that you know what I look like, feel free to track me down whenever you are at my store and I'll answer any questions you may have.

I hope to see you all soon, but until then, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Winning Cheese Plate

A few months ago, I was asked by the American Cheese Society to put together a cheese plate with pairings using ribbon winning cheeses from the American Cheese Society Conference this last year in Raleigh, NC. I thought that since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I would share these pairings with you. Check it out!

ACS 2012 Winning Cheese Pairings

Leah McFadden
ACS Certified Cheese Professional™
Specialty Team Leader
Whole Foods Market
San Jose, CA

Leah’s Winning Cheese Plate:

Harbison from Cellars at Jasper Hill
Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove Chèvre
Roth Grand Cru Surchoix from Emmi Roth USA
Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery
Oregon Blue from Rogue Creamery

The Harbison from Cellars at Jasper Hill is a cheese that I love to carry in my cheese case. It has such a delectable earthy and creamy flavor. I love when I first cut into a wheel; the cheese just starts to ooze out. I have to resist the temptation to dip my finger in and have a taste. To balance out the creamy richness of this cheese, I decided to pair it with the Fig and Olive spread from Jimtown Store in Healdsburg, CA. The acidity of the olives in the spread really cuts through the butterfat in the cheese and adds a slight taste of salt, while the figs add to the decadence of the cheese. If you are in a truly decadent mood, try adding a nice dry sparkling wine to the mix.  

Living in Northern California, I am very lucky to have Cypress Grove as a local creamery. The next cheese on my plate – Truffle Tremor – is a staple in my cheese case. The goat flavor in this cheese is bright and slightly gamey while never overpowering. The truffles bring a whole other dimension to the cheese by adding an earthy, woodsy quality that hits you little by little as you taste more of the tiny flakes of truffle throughout the cheese. To pair with this amazing cheese, I chose Brassfield Sauvignon Blanc from Clearlake Oaks, CA. Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese is a classic pairing and it’s a classic for a reason. This wine has a lovely sweet acidity that cuts through the slight gamey flavor of the goat milk. The wine is nice and bright and balances out the umami-ness of the truffles.

My next cheese is the Roth Grand Cru Surchoix from Emmi Roth USA. I was lucky enough last May to visit the Emmi Roth creamery in Wisconsin, and I got to see the huge rooms where they age their wheels of Grand Cru. It was inspiring to see what great care they took in choosing which wheels would make the cut to be called the best, or “Surchoix”. The name is by no means misleading. This cheese is another staple in my cheese case, and for the customers who are looking for a domestic cheese to use in their fondues, this is the cheese I point to. For this plate, I decided to pair the Wild Boar Salami from Creminelli Fine Meats from Salt Lake City, UT. The nutty, creamy flavor with little hints of fruit from the cheese is accentuated by the meaty, tangy, slightly sweet flavor of the boar, and the fat and salt from the pork belly used in the salami. On a textural level, the subtle crystallization of the Surchoix contrasts quite nicely with the smoothness of salami. The Tartufo Salami from Creminelli is another fun salami to pair with the Roth Grand Cru Surchoix if the Wild Boar variety is unavailable.

Another local creamery that I love to feature in my case is Cowgirl Creamery. The cheese I chose from Cowgirl is their Red Hawk – a stunning, 100% organic, triple cream, washed rind cheese they offer year-round. This is a cheese I like to use when introducing my customers to the washed rind cheese category. It does have the distinct aroma of a washed rind cheese, but the flavor inside is so rich and creamy that most customers don’t believe me when I say this is a “stinky” cheese. To pair with this unbelievably buttery cheese, I chose the Hazenut Brown Nectar beer from Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon. This is an example of a cheese really bringing out the best in a beer. The beer on its own has a wonderful hazelnut flavor, but when you add the Red Hawk, the creamy butterfat brings the richness that the hazelnut in the beer is calling for. When tasted together, the flavors you get are reminiscent of a hazelnut latte. Simply scrumptious.

The last cheese on my plate is Oregon Blue from Rogue Creamery. This is another staple in my case because of its approachability and hard-to-beat taste. The briny flavor of the cheese, along with the bite of the blue, does not overwhelm your palette due to the creamy notes throughout the cheese. I chose to pair the Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, CA with the Oregon Blue. The saltiness of the cheese and the sweet richness of the beer really balance each other out and elevate both flavors. The flavor I get is reminiscent of salty dates, and it keeps you coming back for more.

I am missing the Oregon Blue on the picture of the cheese plate above because I ate it all before taking the picture... oops! I currently have all of the cheeses listed above in my case except for the Harbison as it is a little harder to get on the West Coast. Whenever it's available we order it, but in the meantime I have lots of other yummy bloomy rind cheeses to recommend instead. 

I'm also teaching a "How to Build a Cheese Plate" class this coming Friday from 5-6pm at my store. If you are interested in attending, call my store at 408-266-3700 to RSVP. Hope to see you there!

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Monday, November 12, 2012

I've got the blues... :)

Mmm, there's nothing like a nice hunk of freshly cut Roquefort blue cheese... This Roquefort is made by Gabriel Coulet - the third largest Roquefort producer in France (and in the world!). We cut this cheese for our case yesterday and when I was able to try it I was reminded of why this is probably the world's most renowned cheese. The first flavor you get is a touch of salt followed by a beautiful creaminess, then slowly the bite of the mold makes its presence know. You get a little bit of a crunchy consistency where the mold veins are, and this contrasts nicely with the smooth, luscious paste. Roquefort is made with 100% raw sheep's milk and by using this milk you get a little bit of creamy nuttiness that is not present in cow's milk cheeses. As for pairings, try it with either a nice Sauternes or a Barleywine. The sweetness of these beverages pairs beautifully with the salty, tangy flavor of the Roquefort.

Roquefort is a very special cheese in that it was the first cheese to receive AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in 1925. This means that the name "Roquefort" is protected and in order for a cheese to be called Roquefort in needs to follow very specific guidelines. The milk must be raw and must be the milk of the Lacaune ewes that are raised within a specific area in France. The cheeses must be aged in the caves of Combalou for a minimum of three months and the mold used must be produced in the caves themselves. The way that the cheesemakers get the mold for Roquefort is that they leave bread in the caves and allow them to get moldy. The mold formed is the Penicillium roqueforti which is naturally occurring in the air in the caves. Once the bread gets moldy, they scrape the mold off of the bread and add it to the milk they will use to make this cheese! By using bread to produce the mold it is recommended that those who are gluten intolerant avoid this cheese.

This is a staple for any cheese plate that you may be making for the upcoming holidays. I welcome you all to come by my cheese counter and try a taste! That's all I have for today, keep an eye out for more posts in the next day or so. Until then, eat, drink, and be happy!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fondue season is upon us!

I really love when the weather starts to get cold and you can really start to feel the chill of winter. (Mind you, this is coming from a native Californian, so cold for me is below 45 degrees F.) When it starts to get rainy and stormy there's nothing I want to do more than make fondue! A nice steaming hot pot of gooey melted cheese for me is the ultimate comfort food.

As I've been dwelling on fondue all day, I decided to feature one of the cheeses that is used in traditional Swiss fondue - Gruyere. This cheese is probably the most commonly mispronounced cheese at my counter. The proper pronunciation is "groo-YEHR". Say it out loud a couple of times and it becomes less and less of a tongue twister.

For the making of Gruyere, the practice of transhumance is very important. In the Swiss dairy world transhumance consists of farmers taking their dairy cows up to higher pastures to graze during the summer and before the winter hits, bringing them back down to the valley. As the cows are up in the high pasture grazing on incredible foliage, the butterfat in their milk increases and the milk takes on the flavors of the pastures they are grazing on. This is the milk that is used to make Gruyere. For one wheel of Gruyere, they take the previous evening's milk and let it cool down overnight and then the milk from the next morning's milking is added. From there they take the milk and start the cheesemaking process. In order for the cheese to be called Gruyere, one of the requirements is that the milk cannot be pasteurized, so all true Gruyeres will be made with raw milk. Once the cheese is formed, it is soaked in a brine and then off to the cellars. In the cellars, the affineurs (experts in aging and caring for cheeses) periodically wash the outside of the cheese with a salt water solution. This helps the rind form as well as attract good bacteria (like B. linens) and repel bad bacteria. The Gruyere that we sell at my counter has been aged for over a year and has really started to develop the nice nutty, fruity flavors that are associated with Gruyere.

If you're now in the mood to make some fondue after reading about this tasty cheese, just buy equal amounts of Gruyere and Emmenthaler cheese, some nice dry white wine, some garlic and cornstarch and you're ready to rock and roll! If you're interested in learning more about fondue making, I will be holding a Fondue 101 class at my store this coming Monday 11/12 from 5-6pm. You need to sign up in advance, so call the store at 408-266-3700 and put your name on the list! I'll also be going over how to make chocolate fondue as well. Hope to see you there!

That's all of the cheesy notes I have for now. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Winner of the Cheese Election

After watching the election results last night and hearing about all of the different states, I decided that I should pick a delicious cheese from across the pond to avoid reminding anyone of any one particular state. The cheese I chose to feature today is the Westcombe Raw Milk Cheddar. 

I know that this label is a little small, but if you look right above the "Raw Milk Cheddar" you can see the cheesemaker's name is Tom Calver from Westcombe Dairy in Somerset, England. The Westcombe Cheddar has PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin) as well as being only one of three cheeses allowed the Slow Food Designation "Artisan Somerset Cheddar". To borrow from the Westcombe dairy website, "To qualify for this real accolade, the cheese must be made in Somerset - where the damp climate is recognised as the best for growing lush pastures - from the milk of the farm's own cows, allowing control of quality from start to finish. The cheese must be made using raw milk and traditional starter cultures. By using raw milk, all the natural flavours come through in the final product, giving the Cheddar its full fragrant and earthy character." ( The cheese itself is a wonderful example of a traditional English clothbound Cheddar and has been aged for a minimum of eleven months, so it is legal to sell in the U.S. as it has been aged more than 60 days. 

When I was cutting into the wheel today it was a fully sensory experience. I split the wheel down the middle and I could smell the mustiness from the cloth and a slight fruitiness to the paste. Further cutting down the cheese into smaller pieces revealed the different textures in the cheese. Parts of the cheese were so crumbly that they didn't want to maintain their shape while other parts had a nice firmness. Once I cut the pieces that we needed and after much anticipation I was able to taste it. First, I got a beautiful creaminess and was struck by the fact that this cheddar was not as salty as most of the other English Cheddars I have tried. This is due to the fact that the cheesemakers at this dairy mill (or stir) their curds before they form the cheese. While the curds are stirring they add the salt that they need for flavor and the salt gets disbursed very evenly. The next flavor I got was from the cloth - a bit of the mustiness that I had smelled after I cut into the wheel. This flavor may not sound very tasty, but it adds a depth to the cheese that you can only find from clothbound Cheddars. I promise you, if you try a piece, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about and how tasty "musty" can be! The finish had a slight nuttiness and a hint of fruit. For an extra treat, try pairing this cheese with a nice hoppy IPA. The creamy, fruitiness of the cheese will tame down the bitterness of the IPA while partnering nicely with the fruity, citrusy notes of the hops. 

Another fun thing about this Cheddar is how it changes after it has been cut. The picture above shows this Cheddar at two different stages. The piece on the right that does not have any mold streaks through it is a piece that I cut today. The piece on the left with the little hints of mold was a piece that was cut a week or so earlier. Once the interior of the Westcombe is exposed to the air, these little pockets of mold start to show up in the little cracks within the paste. Have no fear! This mold is completely fine and just adds more flavor -a little bit more of the mustiness that I mentioned above and a little more tang. So if you like cheese with a bit more funkiness, try the one with a little bit of mold. Yum.

As an added bonus, this cheese is on Weekly Special at my store! Today through 11/13 it is on sale for $14.99/lb (normally $19.99/lb). Come on by for a sample and a piece for yourself!

A quick note for all of you that happen to find yourself in front of my cheese counter and forget what cheeses I've talked about in the more recent posts, you can easily find them by looking for these signs in the case. My wonderfully artistic coworker Manny designed and made these little signs for me (thanks Manny!). Hopefully this will make it a little easier to find the cheeses that I feature on this blog.

Well, I think that's all I have to say for today. Come back in a couple of days to see what cheese I talk about next. Until then, eat, drink and be happy!


Monday, November 5, 2012

The first post! VBC's Cremont

Hello and welcome to Shootin' the Bries! First, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Leah McFadden and I am an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional as well as the Specialty Team Leader at the Whole Foods Market in San Jose, CA. I've decided to start this blog because I've had several people express interest and I figured this would be a great way to spread my love of cheese to the world. I plan on posting on a variety of cheeses and cheese topics every other day or so. I also want to note that all cheese that I talk about here can be found at the Whole Foods where I work in the cheese department :). Ok, enough talk, let's get to the cheese!

The cheese I am featuring today is the Cremont from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery. The creamery is located in - you guessed it - Vermont! I have to tell you, these guys really know their stuff. I have not had a product from them that I don't like. We recently got in a Maple and Sea Salt Cultured Butter from them as well as a Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche that I'm super excited about. They're incredible, but don't take my word for it, come on by and try them yourself!

As for the cheese, Cremont is named after the "Cream of Vermont". It is a delectable mixed milk cheese in which they use local cow and goat's milk as well as some Vermont cream. As a result, the folks at VBC have created a beautifully balanced and complex cheese. The goat tang sings at the first bite and then is brought back down to earth by the lactic creaminess of the cow's milk and cream. With a very thin geotrichum bloomy rind, beautifully creamy interior and lots of character, this cheese is perfect for any occasion. I also have to mention that the Cremont got a 2nd place ribbon in the "Original Recipe/Open Category - made from sheep's milk or mixed milks" category at the American Cheese Society Conference this year in Raleigh, NC. I was so happy for them! 

I recently brought this cheese to a party and paired it with the Brassfield Sauvignon Blanc and some nice plump holiday grapes. It was a smashing success. I often tell my customers that with this cheese it is far too easy for me to sit and eat the whole wheel if I'm not careful. I invite you all to come by my cheese counter (1146 Blossom Hill Road in San Jose) and try a sample! You won't be disappointed. As an added bonus, right now this cheese is on sale! Normally it's $9.99 per round but now it is only $7.99. I look forward to seeing you all soon - until then, eat, drink and be happy!


p.s. I LOVE feedback! If you have any questions or comments or have any topics that you would like me to cover, please leave me a comment or email me at Thank you so much for reading!