Category Archives: Who Moved My Cheese?

Photo Friday: De Kaaskamer Cheese Shop

As I’m sure many of you know, my family loves cheese, enthusiastically and nearly unconditionally. So it was that I flagged De Kaaskamer Cheese Shop in our guidebook on our recent trip to Amsterdam. It turned out I didn’t have to. As if by homing device, we managed to sniff out this haven of cheese (the name translates to “Cheese Chamber”) and spontaneously beeline to it almost the minute our luggage hit the floor of the hotel.

We adored much about Amsterdam, as we wandered its pretty streets and canals, admiring antiquarian books and handmade shoes, art, music, beer, and the citizens of Amsterdam themselves, most of whom seemed to roll upright and speedily on two wheels apiece, in all weather and clothing, carrying paintings, floor lamps, babies, friends, and yes, food.

In De Kaaskamer, we sampled Goudas of various ages and a delicious crunchy Beemster, which is very similar to the Saenkanter cheese that is a family favorite. The clerk told us that Gouda simply designates the “wheel” shape of the cheese, rather than a type. Gouda cheese originated from the Gouda region of the Netherlands, but apparently the name is not protected by terroir (place), and all kinds of cheeses can be referred to as Goudas. We satisfied ourselves with visions of pastoral Dutch farmland, portable cubes of wonderful 3-year Gouda, and a large baguette, and took to the Amsterdam streets.


Bonus pic: Willig Cheese Shop at Night or One Can Long

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Photo Friday: Carnival in Venice
Cheese of the Week: Mossfield Farm Organic Gouda
Cheese of the Week: Hirtenkase
Rogue Creamery: Noordhollander Gouda and More

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Slow News Day: Are the French Losing their Cheese Edge?

While some American farmers are just discovering the joys and products of old-fashioned, methodical cheesemaking — employing ones own cows, sheep and goats — some in France are rigthfully worried that that country is losing its traditional methods, along with some of its long-time producers. One family that has been making cheese since Charlemagne’s 9th century rule, is in its last generation of cheesemakers.

Blame increasing globalization of both palate and distribution. Near-ubiquitous use of pasteurization has also moved the French away from unique raw-milk cheeses and toward blander packaged fare. As a result, the very people who coined the term terroir (meaning that the food reflects the region in which it was produced, say as a result of specific grass munched by local cows) are in danger of losing their most unique geographically-based cheeses.

Why should we care? If you love cheese, of course, you likely treasure the small-batch, hand-made varieties from the farmer’s own hands and farm. They’re more special and rare; they taste more distinct, reflecting the land and the care — sometimes two years of processing and storing — that went into them. This trend extends beyond cheese, of course, and represents a loss of long-time tradition and craftsmanship as well as a diminishment in the appreciation of a fine product, which leads to the demise of that product itself. Remember when cars were more stylish? Clothing better made?

This fine article explains the cheese situation in more depth.

The only thing one can do on this (or any) side of the pond? Gather up a good French cheese, like the Comte Les Trois Comptois (a nutty, floral raw milk gruyere), a sturdy baguette, and a bottle of wine, and do your part to keep unique, terroir French cheeses alive.

Photos: Keith Weller, Susan Sachs Lipman

Be a Farmer for a Day at McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma

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When Anna was small, she used to love both to go for drives and to look at cows. The 45-minute drive from our house to McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma also happened to provide the perfect mid-day nap time. So it was that we took plenty of drives to McClelland’s, to watch the cows being milked in the dairy barn.

Now you can do this, too, even without the nap.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a farmer, or if you just want to spend the day on a pretty farm, enjoying farm life,  McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma is offering families and others that chance, with a special day filled with activities at their family dairy farm.

Participants will start with morning chores — feeding the baby calves from bottles in the nursery, mixing grain for the “mama” cows, and then milking cows, with one-on-one instruction from the farmers. You can sign up for a guided tour, where you’ll learn the history of the multi-generation family farm as well as more about the nursery and cow-milking barn. You can also experience making your own butter from milk.

There are lunches for sale, or bring your own and picnic at the farm.

McClelland’s “From She to Thee Farm Days” will take place Sat.-Sun., September 5-6 and September 26-27.

For more info about events, pricing, and the farm, see: The McClelland’s Dairy Farm web site.

Photo by Keith Weller

Slow News Day: Rogue Creamery in SF Chronicle

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Oregon’s Rogue Creamery and its award-winning Rogue River Blue Cheese just got mentioned in Janet Fletcher’s wonderful cheese column in the San Francisco Chronicle. She also noted Cowgirl Creamery‘s Red Hawk Cheese, which took second place overall in the recent American Cheese Society competition and has won Best of Show in the past.

In addition to the traditional dairy states — Wisconsin, California, Vermont, New York  — that are associated with award-winning cheese, Fletcher noted that ACS ribbons were spread around to some relative newcomer states, like Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Utah. Good news for U.S. cheese production (and enjoyment)? One can only hope.

Rogue Creamery’s Blue Wins Top Cheese Prize

It would be achievement enough to be crowned Best Blue Cheese, but the Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Oregon did even better, winning Best of Show at the 26th annual American Cheese Society competition, which was held recently in Austin, TX. The blue cheese beat an astonishing 1,326 other entries in what is often billed as “the Super Bowl of cheese”.

Cowgirl Creamery, in Point Reyes, CA, took Second Place in the competition, for its superb Red Hawk washed-rind cheese.

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Days before the win, we visited Rogue Creamery in Central Point, OR, on our return from our road trip between San Francisco and Portland. We got a chance to chat with talented and passionate cheesemonger Tom Von Voorhees and to taste tons of special, hand-recommended cheeses.

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The blues were indeed a highlight, and we had many generous samples. Choosing a favorite was immediately impossible — it was always the last cheese tasted. The Oregon Blue, made with raw milk, was robust, bright and creamy, with lots of wonderful classic roquefort taste. The Oregonzola was also very tasty and had a harder texture. If pressed, I’d say my favorite was the Crater Lake Blue, which was very creamy, with an even stronger and more complex blue flavor than the others.

They’ve all won their share of awards.

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The new Caveman Blue, below, was also outstanding and flavorful and extremely creamy.

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Along with the cheese tastes, we enjoyed splendid Carpenter Hill wine from the nearby Carpenter Hill Vineyard. We especially liked the Tango Red, a warm, fruity mix of merlot and cabernet, and bought some to take home. Syrah leaves from Carpenter Hill are used to wrap the Rogue River Blue for aging up to one year. Lee Mankin from Carpenter Hill explained how the Syrah leaves are macerated in Clear Creek Pear Brandy made from locally picked pears, so that the cheese is a complete example of local terroir. We moved to the cheese counter, where we got talking to Tom about all things life and cheese, and we never tasted the ACS award winner! Based on the array of Rogue Creamery blues, it has to be terrific. I can’t wait to try it.

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We first tried the 4-year Noordhollander Gouda, which offered an extremely tasty mix of caramel sweetness and tangy bite, along with a wonderfully rich, crunchy texture.

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We really enjoyed Pholia Farm’s Pleasant Creek and Covered Bridge goat cheeses, which are made locally in Rogue River, OR. Both had a superb, strong goat taste and, were we not traveling by car in a heat wave, we would have picked up a bunch. If you are lucky enough to live near Pholia Farm, they offer farm tours and cheesemaking classes.

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From the Willamette Valley Cheese Co. in Salem, OR, comes this Perrydale cheese, a cow/sheep mix that was wonderfully sweet and delicately fruity.

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We were very impressed with this raw-milk Emmenthaler from Edelweiss Creamery in Wisconsin. It had a terrific taste and is made the traditional way in huge copper vats.

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I must mention that Rogue Creamery is also known for its cheddars. I was personally nearing my limit — Yes, there is one — so I didn’t cheddar up, but here’s a sampling, along with Rogue’s famous curds, which are very good, and the Caveman Blue.

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We snapped up some curds and the hardest (hardiest) cheese for the journey, along with some Rustic Bakery crackers, which come from our home county of Marin. They are extremely tasty. We first encountered them at a local Wine and Gourmet event, and fell in love. Rustic’s flatbreads were originally created specifically to compliment the complex cheeses being produced by artisan creameries.

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Rogue Creamery was started in the 1930s by Tom Vella, of Sonoma, CA’s Vella cheesemaking family. He learned blue-cheese-making techniques in Roquefort, France, and in 1957, produced the first cave-aged Blue Cheese west of the Missouri River.

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I was very enamored with both the creamery and the picturesque Rogue River Valley and plan to return to sample other local artisan foods. Congratulations again, Rogue Creamery, on your most impressive win.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Cheese of the Week: Comté Raw Milk Gruyere

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In a world in which many cheeses are easy to eat, this one is especially pleasing and delightful. I practically dare anyone not to like it. (A cheese gauntlet.) And, yet, it’s by no means bland. In fact, it’s quite flavorful — sweet and nutty, with hints of caramel, vanilla and flowers. The flavors are not bold or overpowering; Rather they are subtle and complex. The taste lingers nicely in the mouth, and even invokes a little extra tang after a moment. The Comté has a great mouth feel, too. It’s buttery, without being overly soft. This all makes for a very likable package.

A true terroir cheese, Comté is made by the Les Trois Comptois cheesemakers in the Jura mountains of eastern France, an area of rolling hills and plateaus on the Swiss border that is also known for its wines. (The region is also called the Franche-Comté.) The Comté is one of the 40 or so (out of 500) French cheeses which get to bear the designation, “AOC”, or “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée”. This means that the cheese was made in a specific region, using local cows and codified production methods. It’s fun to know that those were Jura Mountain flowers I was tasting.

The Comté has certainly earned its AOC: It’s an ancient cheese that’s been in production since the time of Charlemagne. It’s made from the milk of just two types of cow — Montbeliarde and Tachete de L’est. And it endures a long maturing period (called “affinage”), in which it is cleaned and rubbed with salted water.

Comté makes a great nibbling cheese, or a welcome addition to a cheese plate. It works with a variety of nuts and fruits. A Jura wine would make an excellent pairing. Short of that, a dry white or a light red, like a Beaujolais, would be lovely.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Cheese of the Week: Mossfield Farm Organic Gouda

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One look and you can’t fail to notice the protein crystals on this amazing cheese. It’s got them all right, and from the first bite on, the Mossfield Farm 12-month Organic Gouda has everything else one could want in a gouda-type cheese. It’s a flat-out fantastic cheese.

First, this Irish cheese has a superb, rich taste. There’s not a lot of added culture, and you can taste that, too. It’s bursting with a complex flavor that contains hints of caramel, cherry, nuts, and earth. It is tangy, with a hint of sweetness. The mouth feel is very smooth and a little buttery. And the taste just goes on and on.

Mossfield Farm engages in small production, from a single cow herd. The County Offaly farm, run by the Haslam family, has been organic for 10 years. They’ve already won a bushel of awards. They just do what they do exceedingly well.

This is a cheese to savor. I wouldn’t pair it with another cheese, or much else. It doesn’t even need a cracker. You may want to visit a grape, cherry, almond, or dried apricot between delicious bites, but you’ll be back. The strong taste and caramel overtones do beg for a big red wine, such as an oaky Zinfandel or a Cabernet. If you are a port drinker like me (or even if you’re new to port), try the Mossfield with a rich, tasty, special bottle like Dow’s 20-year Tawny.

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman