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/

 

 

 

 

Murray’s Takes a Field Trip: Twin Maple Farm

Elizabeth Chubbuck is the Associate Director of Wholesale at Murray’s Cheese. If you’ve eaten a delicious cheese at a restaurant, chances are she had a hand in getting it on your plate. Her passion for all things cheesy is rivaled only by her near encyclopedic knowledge of the same. She recently visited Twin Maple Farm and learned the fascinating story behind the cheese we love so much.

A photo of Twin Maple Farm should be printed in the dictionary next to “bucolic.”  The land, continuously farmed since 1801, is rolling, green and tucked away on a narrow, winding road in New York’s Hudson Valley.  The old farmhouse still stands upright and resolute, and the hills are dotted with Jersey Cows. It’s also where Hudson Red, one of our favorite cave aged cheeses, is made. We’ll get to that later… first, a story!

Two years ago, childhood friends Matt Scott and Dan Berman bought Twin Maple farm and retrofitted the original red dairy barn to accommodate cheese production and aging. Not content to sit back and enjoy the view, they embarked on a larger project to help rebuild the rural landscape and economy of the Hudson Valley.  Armed with a vision of supporting family farms, they created The Pampered Cow, a company dedicated to providing sales and distribution solutions for farms throughout the region.

Sales and distribution solutions, you say?  Sure, it might sound a bit city-slicker when paired with the rural beauty of the land, but for small-scale, family-owned dairies outside marketing and distribution solutions can allow them to focus energy on creating better cheeses, slowly increasing production, and eventually moving from Farmer’s Market-only sales into a slightly larger arena where more people can enjoy their cheese.

Increased production also means more jobs in rural communities where opportunities can be scarce.  It means that more cows are out to pasture, which means more fields are green with grass and hay farmers stay in business. Starting to get the picture? With time, cheesemakers no longer have to work around the clock, 7 days a week, just to scrape by. It’s still hard work, but their lives become more balanced and sustainable, their cheese more delicious and reliable.

So, where does that delicious Hudson Red fit into all of this? About a year after the Pampered Cow started working to improve the lifestyle of local farmers, Hudson Red came into existence.  Their original cheese maker spent time in Italy working with Italian producers before returning to the Hudson Valley to make cheese at Twin Maple.  Inspired by Italian Taleggio and Alsatian Munster, Hudson Red is a funky, washed-rind, raw cow’s milk cheese.  The dense, fudgy paste becomes silken and pudding-like with careful washing and aging in our caves. The funky, wild flavor that develops echoes the rugged, rural landscapes that inspired it. Wash it down with a glass of New York Riesling for the Empire State’s quintessential terroir-based pairing. You’ll make Matt Scott – and a lot of local farmers – proud!

Nettle Meadow Chevre Recipes

Sheila Flanagan, Cheesemaker and Owner at Nettle Meadow Farm, was kind enough to share some of her favorite uses for their delightful fresh chevre spreads. Perfect for everything from a casual nosh to a fancy cocktail party, these recipes will help you make the most of one of our favorite springtime products!

Order any flavor individually, or buy all four and save!

Stuffed Mushrooms with Garlic & Olive Oil Chevre

20 Large White Mushrooms
1 ½ cups dried stuffing mix
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup dry white wine
3 shallots
1 five ounce cup garlic & oil chevre
1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Heat shallots in butter and oil.  Pull stems off mushroom caps and heat in oven for ten minutes, stem side down.  Add chopped mushroom stems and wine to shallot mixture.    Add stuffing and chevre to shallot mixture.  Heat on low heat till soft.  Add Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Place mixture into mushroom caps and baked for another 20 minutes.

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Pumpernickel Squares with Horseradish Chevre, Fresh Dill and Grape Tomatoes

A sleeve of pumpernickel squares, or pumpernickel bread cut into 1″ squares
One cup horseradish  chevre
Grape tomatoes cut in half
Fresh dill

Spread horseradish chevre on each pumpernickel square and top with two halves of a grape tomato and fresh dill.  Serve immediately so bread does not get soggy.

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Chevre Salad with Bacon, Dried Cherry, and Port Dressing

1 ¼ cups dried tart cherries
½ cup tawny port
5 ounces bacon, chopped
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
5 to 8 ounces chevre
5 ounce bag of salad greens
½ cup toasted pine nuts

Combine cherries and port in heavy small saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and let stand till cherries swell, about 15 minutes.  Sauté chopped bacon in skillet over medium low heat until crisp.  Add shallots and garlic and cook 2 minutes.  Add oil, then vinegar and sugar until sugar dissolves.  Stir in cherry mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat over to 350 degrees and place spoonfuls of chevre on rimmed baking sheet and warm for 10 minutes.  Combine salad greens and toasted pine nuts in a bowl.  Re-warm dressing and pour over salad.  Toss to blend.  Top with warm goat cheese and serve.

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Baked Apples with Raisins and Maple Walnut Chevre

6 apples
10 ounces Nettle Meadow Maple Walnut Chevre
½ cup raisins

Core apples and spoon out circular cavity in center.  Combine goat cheese and raisins.  Spoon into hollowed apples.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Murray’s Sojourns at Nettle Meadow Farm

by Chloe Zale, Murray’s Summer Intern

Greek yogurt with honey, steaming coffee, and the excited faces of Murrays’ employees Sascha, Louise, Michael, and Jason eased my pain at the Saturday at 7:30 AM meeting time for our trip to Nettle Meadow goat farm. It was early, especially for a college-aged intern on a Saturday, but don’t get me wrong – I had been looking forward to this Whey-cation for weeks. I literally dream about the farm’s famous bloomy-rinded, milky, oozy, sweet and just-tangy-enough goat and Jersey cow milk cheese, Kunik. Well, at least I had the night before the trip.

The forecast was dubious for our final destination of Warrensburg, NY, and sharp streaks of rain decorated our coach bus’s windows as Sylvester, our devoted driver, escorted us up the Hudson River. Jason (Murray’s Director of Wholesale) and I (Summer Intern) concentrated on manifesting good weather for the rest of the day, and before we knew it we were without rain and at our first stop of the day:  New World Home Cooking, in Woodstock, NY, the proud establishment of locavore Chef Ric Orlando and his media-hyped blackened string beans. The café sits on the foundation of an old Olympic-sized swimming pool and features brightly-colored décor and a light-flooded back room that looks out onto Chef Orlando’s two-acre property.

We were immediately greeted with berry bellinis and generous portions of the green beans. The beans. Were. Otherworldly. (I really wish I could upload tastes to this blog). Dipped in a dusky orange paprika-dijon sauce, the spicy, crisp veggies were, as Jason put it so eloquently, “like crack.” Next on the menu were a few different options, including a ripe strawberry and basil crepe, a local egg frittata with seasonal vegetables, and smokehouse ham with grits and a fresh pea salad, which was the most popular dish of the morning. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat any more, we were presented with a parade of delectable mini cheesecakes made with Nettle Meadow’s fromage blanc (unsalted fresh goat cheese) and graham cracker crust, garnished with fresh peach compote. They disappeared. Quickly.

Rapidly descending into food-coma-heaven, we stumbled back to the bus and promptly passed out for the second leg of our journey, the star of the show, Nettle Meadow farm, where happy goats make great cheese. And are those goats happy! We awoke to Sylvester backing our oversized coach into the farm’s dirt driveway (at an impressive 90 degree angle to the road, I might add), and pampered goats, sheep, and even a llama or two perked up their ears in excited anticipation of their new playmates-to-come.

Lorraine and Sheila, who run the farm, showed us around their multiple barns and waited patiently as we cozied up to their prized herd. Some of us got perhaps a little too friendly with our new companions – one unnamed Murray’s employee almost lost her shirt to a curious goat’s overzealous mouth.  But all order was restored when Sheila led us through the farm’s cheesemaking and aging facilities. We were privileged to see almost all the stages of the cheesemaking process at once, from pouring the first fresh curds into their perforated containers to sorting through the crisp, white cheeses as they age. Sheila also reminded us that although cheesemaking as a profession seems like a bucolic paradise, it is, in truth, a job that demands eighteen-hour work days. But when a passion like Sheila and Lorraine’s is the foundation for such a job, the result is truly astounding.

After our cheesemaking lesson, an array of savory and sweet chevre delights brought us to the end of our stay at Nettle Meadow. It seemed that each whey-cationer had his or her own personal favorite, since I overheard accolades of the ginger snap, walnut, and goat cheese cookies and the juicy figs with chevre and pepper, but I and a few others went gaga for the crunchy pancetta/Kunik/sweet pear/fresh thyme concoction that completely redefined my conception of finger food.

Bellies full and legs tired, we mounted the bus once more for an epic four-hour journey back to Murray’s. As the country landscape morphed into urban skyline, we began already to reminisce about our magical day at the farm and to look forward eagerly to our next Whey-cation at the Vermont Cheesemaker’s festival!

The Murray’s Crew at Nettle Meadow