Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ovalie Cendrée

Hello everyone!

Well I'm getting really excited because next week I will be in Madison, WI at the 30th annual American Cheese Society Conference! I'm one of the two Official Conference Cheesemongers this year (a HUGE honor) and will be taking plenty of pictures to share with you all. Over 1700 cheeses were entered this year, so I'm going to be exposed to some pretty awesome North American cheeses More to come next week!

As for the cheese I chose to write about today, this cheese is actually on national promotion (that means most Whole Foods Markets in the country should have this cheese) right now for about one more week. The cheese is the Ovalie Cendrée from one of my favorite affineurs  who works closely with Whole Foods Market - Hervé Mons.

I forgot to take a picture of the cheese in the whole form before I started eating it, so the whole wheels are in the photo below :)
Picture courtesy of Hervé Mons

Cheese: Ovalie Cendrée
Affineur: Hervé Mons
Location: Produced at a small artisanal goat dairy in the Poitou-Charentes
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The name comes from the fact that it is oval shaped and the word Cendrée literally means "ashy". You can see in the pictures above that the rind is pretty grey and that is because the cheese is coated in vegetable ash. The ash mellows out the goat flavors, reduces the acidity and really helps make this cheese super creamy, earthy and balanced.

When I originally unwrapped this cheese, it had a bit of a musty odor to it, but leaving it out for 10-20 minutes quickly took care of that. That time also allowed for the paste to soften and by the time I cut into the cheese, the paste came oozing out. It was glorious. I typically expect a cheese like this one to be pretty gamey and goaty, but the Ovalie Cendrée was the complete opposite. When I had my roommate try it, she was completely surprised that it was a goat cheese because it was so creamy.

Needless to say, with the flavor profile and spreadability of this cheese, we made quick work of the near 8oz round. Laure, our representative from Hervé Mons recommends having this cheese with any chilled white wine from the Loire Valley or any one of the many Rosés currently available in the stores. Another yummy option would be to cut up some peaches, apricots or other stone fruit that are in season right now and serve then along side the Ovalie Cendrée with a drizzle of honey. Yum!!

As I mentioned before, this cheese isn't on sale for very much longer, so swing by your local Whole Foods Market and pick up a round for yourself! I'll try to get another post in before I head to Madison, but no promises :). Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fiorito with Cherry Leaves

Hello everyone!

The other day I stopped in at my old store and this cheese caught my eye... (thanks Teresa!)

Cheese: Fiorito with Cherry Leaves
Producer: Giovanni Samela, owner and cheesemaker at Pietra del Sale
Location: Basilicata in Southern Italy
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The picture above is actually only half of the cheese. The Fiorito actually comes in a small square that is completely and beautifully wrapped in the cherry leaves. It's like a little cheese parcel or present. Super cute and super delectable! And when you cut into it, the paste just oozes out and you get a whiff of the funky, gamey, goaty goodness that is inside. Wow.

If you take the leaves off, it looks something like this. It's a soft, bloomy rind goat cheese that looks innocent but sure packs in the flavor. When you take your first bite, you start off with a milky, slightly goaty tang and then it develops into this bright acidity with a touch of funk and not a little gameyness. If you also include the rind when you're tasting this cheese, you really get the woodsy flavor the cherry leaves add.

I warn you, this is not a beginner goat's milk cheese. If your friends are hesitant when it comes to tasting goat cheeses, this probably isn't the cheese to start with. But, if you're a goat cheese lover like myself, you'll fall in love with the Fiorito. Most if not all Whole Foods Markets in Northern California are carrying this cheese right now, so stop on in and ask for a sample! While you're there, grab some sour cherry preserves as well as some fresh cherries to go with this cheese. You won't be disappointed.

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guffanti's Sola Val Casotto

Hello everyone!

I was lucky enough to attend a Guffanti cheese training/tasting a couple weeks back and had a blast. Here is a picture of the wonderful spread we had...

I've decided to write about one of the cheeses that I tried that day  - the Sola Val Casotto. This cheese also happens to be on sale this month, so pay attention :).

Cheese: Sola Val Casotto
Producer: Dairies in the province of Cuneo and surrounding areas. Aged and cared for by Guffanti.
Location: In and surrounding Cuneo, Italy
Milk: Raw cow's milk (can also be found with sheep's milk and/or goat's milk, but the version we have in the stores currently is just cow's milk)
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Sola Val Casotto is a funky looking cheese as you can see above. It's gets the wrinkled texture on the rind from the cheese cloth that is used to drain the whey from the curds. While not super visible here, there is also a fairly large crater towards the top right of the cheese where the cheese cloth was gathered into a knot while the cheese drained. The way the cheese looks is jokingly compared to a shoe sole - hence the term "sola".

Last weekend I included the Sola Val Casotto with a cheese platter that I made for my family. The cheeses are (starting from the top left): Castelbelbo, Mimolette, Bayley Hazen Blue, Midnight Moon and last but not least Sola Val Casotto.

The Sola Val Casotto is a surprisingly soft cheese... not soft like a bloomy rind, but definitely in the semi-soft category. The rind is a natural rind that develops in the caves while it is ageing and lends a beautiful hint of musky earthiness to the cheese. The paste is super pliable and because the cheese is made with whole cow's milk, is super creamy! When you first put a bite in your mouth, you get a taste of the luxurious, lactic creaminess and then as you move it around in your mouth and the flavors develop you start to get hints of salted almonds and a little bit of grass. As it ages it can develop more piquant flavors and I saw this flavoring aptly described as "pinching" your mouth. It is one of those cheeses that you think is simple when you first taste it, but blows you away with the complexity of flavors as they develop.

I would definitely recommend this cheese for any summer cheese platter. It is luxurious and creamy without being rich, pairs wonderfully with almost any fruit you throw at it and would be perfect for any romantic picnic you may have in your near future. You can see the spread we had at my parent's house this weekend - there was a lot of fruit! The cherries were especially divine with the Sola Val Casotto...

Well, that about covers it! As I mentioned before, the Sola Val Casotto is currently on sale for the month of July at any Northern California Whole Foods Market. Don't miss out! Next time you're at the cheese counter, ask for a taste of this delicious cheese and bring some home for yourself :). Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Point Reyes Toma

Happy 4th everyone!

I hope everyone is having a fun and safe day! I'm currently sitting in 106 degrees at my grandparent's house in Lake Havasu City, AZ. We saw some pretty epic fireworks over the lake and have thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.

The cheese that I'm going to talk about today is a cheese that I actually had at the beginning of the week at the office. It's a locally made cheese in Point Reyes Station, CA and was quite a hit!

Cheese: Toma
Producers: Point Reyes Creamery
Location: Point Reyes Station, CA
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

In Italian, the word Toma means "cheese made by the farmer himself". This is a classic example of a farmstead cheese where the cheese is made from the milk of the cow's on the same farm. It has won a bunch of awards - most recently at the 2012 American Cheese Society in Raleigh, NC where it won a second place ribbon in the American Originals - Cow's Milk category.

The flavor of this cheese is pretty incredible. It is nutty and sweet with a nice salty finish. I especially like pairing this cheese with sweeter fruits because they cut the saltiness a bit. The day I served this cheese I paired it with some sliced apple and I totally loved the combination. The paste of the Toma is super smooth and would be perfect to melt and cook with. I could see it being incorporated into a macaroni and cheese or even a Philly cheesesteak in place of the tradition Provolone.

I served this cheese around the office and almost every single person came back to me asking me for the name of the cheese. Not every Whole Foods carries this cheese, but it is definitely worth a taste if you see it at the cheese counter.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday and I look forward to sharing more cheesy knowledge with you all in the near future. Until then, eat, drink and be happy!