Thursday, February 19, 2015

Le Maréchal

Hello everyone!

Happy Lunar New Year!!! I wish you all a very healthy and prosperous year.

Today I'm going to tell you all about a really delicious Swiss cheese called Le Maréchal.

Cheese: Le Maréchal
Producer: Jean-Michele Rapin and family
Location: Granges-Marnand, Switzerland
Milk: Raw cow's milk
Rennet: Microbial (vegetarian)

Le Maréchal was created by Jean-Michele Rapin as a nod to his great, great grandfather - a respected blacksmith (maréchal-ferrant in French) whose likeness is on the cheese's label above. The cheese itself is made in traditional Swiss fashion, but is then rolled in a mix of aromatic herbs (including oregano and thyme) and aged for a minimum of four months. The raw milk is delivered twice a day to the creamery from 14 local family farms. A fun fact about this cheese is that flax is added to the cattle feed, so this cheese is a great source of Omega 3s! Who said cheese wasn't good for you?!

To me, the rind makes Le Maréchal even more appealing. The herbs are extremely visible and really help make the cheese pop. When you cut into the cheese, you can see the areas close to the rind have really been permeated with flavor (notice the dark outline close to the rind in the picture below).

When we first unwrapped the Le Maréchal wheel, the smell was quite pungent. It smelled funky like a washed rind should, but had a grassy, herbaceous quality from the herbs. Cutting into the cheese you reveal a beautiful, slightly yellow, firm paste that has a delicious, nutty smell. Eating the cheese was even more of an experience... I was blown away by the complexity and how much of the flavor of the herbs came through in the paste! It was fudgy in consistency, with creamy, brown butter notes and a finish of herbs (thyme was the main aftertaste for me). I would absolutely cook with this cheese and well as feature it as a stand-alone cheese on one of my cheese boards. I'd probably pair a nice Sauvignon Blanc with this cheese to go with the herbs on the rind. The slight acidity of the wine would also cut the fudgy, heaviness of the paste. Mmmm... my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

We just cut a fresh wheel yesterday, so be sure to swing on by the Los Altos Whole Foods Market cheese counter (or any WFM cheese counter in Norcal/Reno) and grab a piece! Hope to see you soon. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Beecher's Flagship Reserve

Happy Valentine's Day cheese lovers!

Whether you're sharing today with your significant other, your family, or your best friends, I wish you all an amazing day filled with lots of love. And what could be greater than adding some cheese into the mix?! Nothing says "I love you" better than a piece of artisan cheese...

Today I'm going to talk about an old favorite that we recently started carrying again at our cheese counter - Beecher's Flagship Reserve.

Cheese: Beecher's Flagship Reserve
Producer: Beecher's Handmade Cheese
Location: Seattle, Washington
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Vegetarian

The Flagship Reserve is a clothbound cheese that is aged for over a year in open air. The cloth is continuously rubbed in butter during the ageing process to add more complexity of flavor. You can see in the picture above the cheese is on the dry side in terms of texture, but the taste is anything but. After letting the cheese come to room temperature, I took my first bite... At first it was slightly salty, but as it warmed up in my mouth it developed an earthy, nutty, buttery flavor. It was heavenly.

I had the opportunity to visit Testarossa winery yesterday in Los Gatos and got to try some incredible wines. I knew that I would be writing about the Flagship Reserve, so I went into the tasting trying to find a white and a red that would pair nicely with the cheese, and boy, did I find some good ones! The white wine I chose was the 2013 Sierra Madre Vineyard Chardonnay. I'm not typically a Chardonnay drinker, but this particular one was very fruit forward with only a hint of the oak and butter that I associate with Chardonnay. When paired with the Flagship Reserve, the wine tames the bit of salt in the cheese and brings out a wonderful, buttery flavor. This is an example of a pairing where both the cheese and the wine benefit from each other. The cheese got less salty and more buttery while the wine seemed to be a touch more acidic and bright. Quite a combination.

The red wine that I chose was the 2013 Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir. I have to say that I absolutely LOVE this Pinot. It's full bodied and slightly tannic while being extremely fruit forward. It is incredibly easy to drink... be warned! When pairing this with the Flagship Reserve, the wine maintained its fruitiness with notes of cranberry and pomegranate and the cheese became earthier and even more toothsome. So tasty!

The Beecher's Flagship Reserve is a very versatile cheese. You can use it in your cooking, shave it on a salad, make macaroni and cheese or just feature it on your cheese plate! You can also use it like I did today and experiment with pairings. I probably would have chosen beer to go with this cheese at first, but since I was heading to a winery, I wanted to find some wines specifically for this cheese and I'm so pleased with what I found! If you'd like to try a sample of the Beecher's Flagship Reserve, swing on by the cheese counter at Whole Foods Market in Los Altos and we'll give you a taste. I'll also point out the Testarossa wines we carry at my store if you're interested. I don't have every wine they make, so if you're in the Los Gatos area, be sure to swing by their tasting room and try some for yourself.

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day - until next time, eat, drink and be happy!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Valsassina Robiola

Good evening!

First of all, I have to tell you all that I'm really excited about tomorrow... we're having a massive sale (20% off!) on all cut in house cheeses at my store and all other Northern CA/Reno Whole Foods Market locations. I will be working during the day from about 8-4:30pm and would love for you to stop by and talk cheese with me! I'll be buying plenty of cheeses myself tomorrow... it's such a great deal! If you can, swing by the Los Altos Whole Foods Market location at 4800 El Camino Real and say hello.

Now, the cheese. We just got this cheese in a couple days ago and it's quite a fun one. The Valsassina Robiola.

Cheese: Valsassina Robiola
Producer: Dairies from the Valsassina. Aged and cared for by Guffanti.
Location: the Valsassina region in Italy
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The Valsassina Robiola is a younger, smaller cousin to the Taleggio. It is a washed rind, uncooked, unpressed cheese. Because of its size, it is supposed to age much quicker than it's relative Taleggio allowing it to soften and develop more complex flavors I think the square that I cut open was a bit on the young side and hadn't had much of a chance to ripen. BUT, from what I tasted, I can't wait to see what it will taste like after a couple more weeks of aging!

When I first unwrapped the Valsassina Robiola, I was surprised with the subtlety of the typical washed rind smell. It was very earthy and dusty smelling with a hint of funk. The paste is very mild with tastes of yeast, cream and salt. I can only imagine what it will be like in a few weeks! Both the smell and flavor will become more intense as the cheese ages. I'll probably buy a square for myself tomorrow during the sale and age it in my vegetable cooler myself to see it reach its potential!

As it was a little young, the salt was a touch overpowering... and all I could think about was how tasty this cheese, at this age, would be with a beer. I bought a piece for myself and paired it with the Hopocalypse Black Label Triple IPA from Drakes brewing. Unfortunately, this beer isn't available currently. My amazing beer buyer, Matt, bought me a bottle at the brewery during their Hopocalypse release on my birthday - thanks Matt! But have no fear, any other hoppy, delicious IPA would go amazingly well with the Valsassina Robiola.

Like I mentioned before, I would love to see you all tomorrow at my cheese counter! Be sure to swing by and try some yummy cheeses with me! Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!