Chocolate & Cheese: A Pairing to Please All Your Senses

By Rainer Burrow

“I don’t like to be gratuitous with chocolate.  I like for it to be meaningful.”  Chef Sarah Langan explained her philosophy on cooking with chocolate to a full tent as she and her assistants gracefully whipped up a 3 course cooking demo on a beautiful Vermont summer day.  The theme for the tasting: chocolate and cheese; what 2 things are easier to love?

Chef Langan is the chef and educator at South End Kitchen in Burlington, Vermont.  South End Kitchen is a café located in Burlington Vermont owned by Lake Champlain Chocolates, a chocolate producer that has been in operation on Lake Champlain since 1983.  Lake Champlaign Chocolates is a top- quality producer, and a true gem in the state of Vermont.  The company uses local Vermont products to make their chocolates, doesn’t add preservatives or additives, are committed to sourcing non-GMO ingredients, and are champions of fair trade.  These factors combine to make high-quality chocolates, which are featured in various ways at South End Kitchen.

For the first course, Chef Langan chose to do a very simple chocolate and cheese pairing using Lake Champlain’s Blue Bandana 70% Guatemala Chocolate and Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche.  Both products are beautiful and intricate on their own, married very well on the palate to completely enhance the flavor experience.  The chocolate was chalky, fruity, and initially sweet with a solid acidity.  The Cheese Was acidic and moldy, mild with a great funk presence.  Eating them together brought me back to Ratatouille swirling colors around his head as he is pairing scraps on the yard of his farm.  Together the acidity and mold went down, the fruit notes really shined through, and both products mellowed out a little bit.  It was an excellent pairing and an excellent start to the demo.

As Chef Langan segued into the second course, she introduced a reflection on how we as humans react to the five tastes (sweet sour salty bitter and umami).  She stated “When you can have all 5 tastes in one dish, you will satisfy yourself.  When your palate is missing one, you will crave more.”  It was with this philosophy in mind that she created her second course, a rustic tart consisting of arugula, pancetta crisps, Vermont Creamery’s Cremont, Fig & honey spread, lemon vinaigrette, and a chocolate emulsion all over a tart dough.  With sweet from the fig and honey, salty from the Cremont and pancetta, bitter form the arugula and chocolate, acidity from Cremont and the vinaigrette, and umami from the pancetta, it was perfectly complete.  I felt distinctly happy and satiated after consuming it.

Finally, for the third course (and dessert), Chef Langan severed a Chocolate Chevre Cheesecake.  It was a beautiful conclusion to the cooking demo: woodsy, tangy, fatty, soft, great in acidity, and rich in chocolate.  Of the three courses, this was definitely my favorite, but I have a sweet tooth and I love chocolate.

I left the tasting feeling educated, satiated, and happy to be alive.  There’s nothing better than great cheese and expert culinary execution.  If the food at South End Kitchen is anything like the tasting, it’s definitely worth a visit.

http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/

http://southendkitchenvt.com/

http://www.vermontcreamery.com/

 

 

 

 

Turophile Heaven: The Festival of Cheese

by Walshe Birney

 

The American Cheese Society’s 2014 conference in Sacramento was a whirlwind of fantastic panels, networking events, and, for some of us, the CCP exam, a difficult test of all that we’ve learned throughout our years in the cheese business. On the second to last day, these experiences culminated in the Awards Ceremony, where the best American cheesemakers were honored for their outstanding products. As exciting and emotional as the Ceremony was, the real fun occurred on the last day of the conference, the Festival of Cheese. Here, every entry to the Awards Ceremony was available to taste, not just those that won a ribbon.

Stretching as far as the eye can see, the conference hall was filled with towers of Alpine-style cheeses, smorgasbords of oozy bloomy-rinds and mountains of meaty, pungent washed rinds. Entire rows devoted just to flavored cheeses, smoked cheeses, hispanic-style cheeses; the Festival was truly a turophile’s heaven. As a buyer at Murray’s, I am lucky to have the opportunity everyday to try all manner of tremendous cheese from across the globe, but it’s staggering just how many fantastic new and established American cheeses were present, especially when seeing them all in one place. There is no doubt that our domestic industry is robust and healthy, and leading the way globally in innovation and quality.

 

After being presented with a plate and wine glass (everything one needs for a successful cheese tasting), our first stop took us to the Alpine-style table to taste the winner for best-in-show, Spring Brook Farm’s Tarentaise Reserve. Modelled after the Alpine cheeses of eastern France, such as Abondance and Beaufort, Tarentaise has long been a staple on Murray’s counter, and the 2-year extra-aged version is a thing of beauty: a pronounced and lingering sweetness, an underlying current of roasted hazelnuts and brown butter, and satisfying crystallization. Truly a world-class cheese, on par with the best extra-aged Comtes and Gruyeres. Look for a special Tarentaise aged in our caves to hit our counters at the end of August, with a profile between the reserve and the original, exclusive to Murray’s.

After refilling our glasses with some terrific dry cider from Oregon’s Aengus Ciderworks, we visited our own Murray’s award winners, Hudson Flower (our collaboration with Old Chatham Sheepherding Company) and Torus (our collaboration with Vermont Creamery). These cheeses mark our first ribbons at the festival, taking second place in their respective categories. While we’ve long been known for our cave-aging, this marks the first time that affinage-specific collaborations have been honored at the festival. These partnerships with some of our favorite creameries have been very successful, and we can’t wait to roll out more Cavemaster Reserve cheeses soon. And hopefully we’ll have wins for Greensward, our collaboration with Jasper Hill, and Barden Blue, our collaboration with Consider Bardwell, next year!

With the multitude of choices on offer, at this point we started bouncing around from table to table, trying whatever caught our eyes. Some of the best cheese new to me were the amazingly nuanced washed rind goat cheeses from Briar Rose Creamery, and Bleating Heart’s stunningly sheepy tommes and blues. We also had a chance to nibble on goodies from some of my favorite charcuterie purveyors, Olympic Provisions and Fra’mani, whose cured meats provided perfect counterpoints to mountains of dairy products filling the conference hall.

As our stomachs grew full and the conference wound down, I began to reflect on all the amazing experiences our team had at the conference this year. We had our wills and knowledge tested in the CCP exam, learned a tremendous amount from the stellar panels, and had a lot of fun relaxing and hanging out with our colleagues from around the country, but what will stick with me the most is the incredible talent, passion and love that American cheesemakers and retailers have for these amazing products, and the change they are affecting across the American culinary landscape. The Festival of Cheese was the perfect encapsulation of this, and a fitting end to an unbelievably successful American Cheese Society conference. I can’t wait for next year’s in Rhode Island!

 

 

 

Vertical Pairings at the Vermont Cheesemaker Festival

Vertical Pairings at the Vermont Cheesemaker Festival

By Caitlin Bower

 

Let’s get vertical.

Vertical tasting explores the history of a cheese: how it starts (as milk, as curd, as a fresh cheese, as a toddler) to how it ends up in its final expression. It is the most immediate and accessible way to taste and understand affinage. By eating a cheese at different stages of its development, you taste the flavors that can develop with careful treatment, age and time. While attending July’s Vermont Cheesemaker Festival, I attended a seminar in which three featured cheesemakers chose a different way to explore this process, and with different milk types.

1. Fresh Curd vs. 1 year old (pasteurized and raw cow) – Plymouth Artisan Cheeses

Granular curd cheesemaking is the rare, work-intensive process that Plymouth Artisan Cheese owner, Jesse Werner, was able to showcase with his fresh curd and year-old Plymouth “The Original” side by side. From an 1890’s recipe, the curd was squeaky, delicious and a tiny bit tangy. The “Original” is made with those same curds and has a bright, acidic, cheddary flavor, much altered by age and process.

The Mozzarella Making class at Murray’s also offers the opportunity to taste both curd and cheese, with a fun, hands-on addition of making your own mozzarella in the classroom.

2. Young Bloomy vs Aged Alpine (sheep) – Woodcock Farm Cheese Co

This vertical pair explored the same milk type expressed in two styles: one younger and soft, one older and hard.

Summer Snow vs. the Wheston Wheel – you can even hear it in the name; the first cheese is a delicate, exuberant, young, soft cheese with a tender, slightly squeaky rind while the second is nuttier, sweeter, complex and more robust.

 

3. Fresh vs. Mold Ripened (goat) – Vermont Creamery

crottin, a super-fresh goat milk button

bijou is lightly aged, which gives it time to develop its silk rind

From fresh chèvre to brain like and acidic, the Crottin’s final form is the Bijou. The first cheese has a tiny amount of the geotrichum, which adds a slight yeasty flavor at a day old, develops into a full rind by the second week to become an entirely different cheese. This vertical pairing is a perfect example of how much a cheese can change in just two short weeks, and how both can be delicious in their own right.

 

 

 

 

 

Try out a vertical taste test on your own!

Cellars at Jasper Hill: Harbison vs. Cavemaster Reserve Greensward

1 year Comte vs. 2 or 3 year Comte

And for a triple-header, go for the Murray’s Cavemaster trio: Kinderhook Creek vs. Hudson Flower vs. C Local

 

What To Expect from Nina Planck When You’re Expecting

Nina Planck is the wife of Murray’s Cheese proprietor Rob Kaufelt. Nina is a food writer and activist, who has written two books about the benefits of eating “real” or traditional food.  Real Food for Mother and Baby focuses on the kinds of food that expecting or new mothers and their children should be eating. Join Nina for a special class at Murray’s, on Sunday, May 19th, at 4pm. 

Real Food for Mother and Baby // Sun May 19 4:00-5:30 pm

“The modern pregnant woman cannot be blissfully happy,” writes obstetrician, surgeon, and midwifery muse, Dr. Michel Odent.  “All of them have a least one reason to be worried.”  Blood pressure too high or too low, weight gain too rapid or slow, anemia, gestational diabetes, too old, too young, too active, too sedentary.  Plus the long shopping lists for the new, unnecessary nursery, the bedding, the bouncy seats, the dishes, and most of all, the toys to “entertain.”  The true message of the ad copy serving the Pregnancy Industry is two-fold: First, “What to Worry About When You’re Expecting” and second, “How to Spend All Your Time and Money Easing Your Brand New Worries.”

The woman carrying a new life has some decisions to make, yes, and now is not the time to pick up a heroin habit, but her time would be better spent in wonder at her wonderful and maddening years before children, because she has no idea how wonderful and maddening will be the years with children.  No idea whatever.  The pregnant woman is one of those rare creatures: an innocent one. I include the woman who is pregnant for the second or third time, because she has no idea that the next baby she meets will be quite unlike her last.

Still, a woman has to eat, and as Ashley Montague wrote in 1962, “Were they called upon to name the most important factor in contributing to the healthy development of the human conceptus, most authorities would unhesitatingly declare for the good nutrition status of the mother.” I agree. There are many ways to serve your baby, but the chief one, now, is via your physical health.

You’re in luck. You live in a world of ample food and likely have the means to buy it.  Starvation and glaring deficiencies will not plague you.  Still you might wonder what’s best to eat, and why.  Most women, it seems, bend their ears to experts more than to their own mothers, sisters, and other sources of traditional wisdom, if such a thing exists in (say) New York City, where I live, in the 21st century.

So I’ll be your expert advisor, if you must have one, but here’s the bad news: I have no expertise other than a basically scientific mind, wide reading on food and babies, a farming background, twenty years in the kitchen, common sense, two pregnancies, and three children.

Much of what you’ve read about nutrition in pregnancy and baby’s first foods is bunkum.   You can eat raw milk cheese; in well-made aged cheeses there is very little risk.  You can eat fish – and should.  Avoiding salt will not reduce swelling and will diminish your ability to raise your blood levels, a vital condition of pregnancy. You can have the occasional cocktail, beer, or glass of wine.  No, there is not too much caffeine in a piece of dark chocolate for your little one.  Even a cup of coffee is okay.  In other words, you can eat like a normal person.

Of course, it’s wise follow some general rules of good eating.  Practice moderate omnivory.  Eat whole foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Eat traditional fats (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, lard) rather than modern oils (canola, soy, corn) and manmade fats (all trans fats). When you eat high up on the food chain, take more care that the food is clean. Grass-fed meat is preferable to feedlot beef; organic or pasture-raised milk preferable to powdered skim milk reconstituted with water.

In pregnancy, protein is of prime importance.  Protein deficiency is the main cause of swelling, and swelling is a precursor to preeclampsia.  Eat as much chicken, fish, salmon, beef, eggs, and cheese as you like. (I could almost write, “as much as you can,” but it’s not a macho thing, merely an exhortation.  Only a woman carrying twins really has to pile on the protein.)  Know that no vegetable protein, even in combination, has the power of these foods.   As Kaayla Daniel explains in The Whole Soy Story, industrial soy foods – which includes most soy “health” foods, such as bars and drinks and cookies – are not wise.  The soy protein isolate in these foods contains high doses plant estrogens; lacks adequate methionine; and damages the thyroid. (Buy the book or see www.TheWholeSoyStory.com.)

Meanwhile, salt your meat and fish to taste.  Using unrefined sea salt in your home cooking and at the table is good for you and the baby.  As Dr. Thomas Brewer established decades ago in What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know, the lack of protein, not an excess of whole salt, is the culprit in swelling. (Buy the updated book or see www.DrBrewerPregnancyDiet.com.)

One overstated worry concerns mercury in fish.  Mercury is dangerous for the fetal brain, but it turns out that not eating fish during pregnancy is more dangerous.  The babies of women who eat fish – even fish containing mercury – are better off than the babies of women who do not. The answer is to eat plenty of fish, ideally fish low in mercury.  In general, smaller, oily fish such as herring and sardines are lower in mercury than larger fish, such as tuna. I recommend wild Pacific salmon in any form. If you buy canned salmon, eat the bones for calcium.

Eat traditional fats to taste. All the traditional fats, especially fish and butter, will serve your baby well. The old-fashioned farm fats (butter, lard, beef) are rich in fat-soluble vitamins, and the fish oil is vital for the baby’s brain and eye, as well as for your healthy (DHA-rich) breast milk and your new-baby mental health.

Get calcium from traditional, full-fat dairy foods (especially cultured and fermented foods, such as cheese and sour cream) and from bone broths made from chicken, beef, veal, and fish.  There’s more calcium in these foods than in (say) kale, and it’s more readily available to the body.

Avoid low-fat foods altogether. I don’t mean foods naturally low in fat, such as peaches and lettuce.  I mean foods engineered to be low in fat, like skim milk and chicken breasts without the skin.  They lack the good fats themselves (chicken skin is the Jewish penicillin) and the fat-soluble vitamins (especially A and D). Often these stripped-down foods reduce the total nutrition available. For example, saturated fat aids in the absorption of calcium, so pasteurized orange juice with added calcium is inferior to a piece of good cheddar.

It should be clear from the foregoing menu that a healthy pregnant woman can eat very well indeed. Lay the table with the finest foods and savor them all.  An omnivorous diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods, including fermented and cultured foods, such as the proverbial pickles and luscious crème fraiche, is the right diet for a pregnant woman, her baby, and indeed the rest of her family.  It’s also the right diet for a nursing mother and a baby starting to eat real food. But that’s another column – or two.

 

 

Coming to a Murray’s Near You: Fondue Nation

                                                                     

Saturday, December 15th, 2-6pm at every Murray’s shop nationwide

Warm up with winter fondue! Be a part of Fondue Nation, America’s largest fondue party. Hot, gooey, melt-y cheese for all. On December 15th at every Murray’s shop nationwide, you’ll find eager cheese experts ready to feed you a dreamy combination of cheeses and teach you how to be fondue fabulous. Free samples & recipes, activities for kids and a chance to win a trip for two in NYC*, valued at more than $2,000. To find a Murray’s shop near you, go to our store locator.

 

New York City Eataway Sweepstakes

 

 

 

 

 

Grand prize includes 2 nights at the Dream Downtown hotel, dinner at Murray’s Cheese Bar and a private tour of our cheese caves. Ten runners-up  receives a Boska fondue pot and three melting cheeses so you can continue the fondue cheese tradition year-round. Enter to win now through December 31.