Tag Archives: artisan cheese

Loud praise for Saint Felicien

Someday I hope to eat my way through all the delicious and diverse cheeses of France. Preferably I will do this in France, but for now I must settle for my local cheesemongers to guide me.  I am lucky to have several experienced mongers and the ones at Morgan and York in Ann Arbor, Michigan are some of the best.

On my most recent visit I had a chance to sample Saint Felicien, a soft subtle cheese from the Rhône-Alpes region (also known as caille-doux) and was pleasantly surprised.

Presented in a stone crock with a pale yellow rind, Saint Felicien hides a nutty, pillowy, slightly pungent flavor that is not normally found in a raw cow’s milk cheese.  Best served with berries and sweet nuts. Avoid citrus and sour fruits (I made the mistake of tasting with Granny Smith apples. Trust me, just say no!)

I have heard this cheese is similar to  Saint Marcellin however I have yet to taste it and cannot say for sure.  It is on the French cheese tour so I am sure I will get to it soon. In the meantime, I have a little crock of goodness to satisfy me…for about five more minutes when it will be all gone! Bon Appetit!

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Buffalo mozzarella mayhem in Italy (again)…

Italy’s prized Buffalo mozzarella is once again thrown into a negative light after the Italian food police found 25% of the samples from Campania had been cut with cow’s milk.  An embarrassment at the very least, and a heavy blow to a cheese still recovering from a cancer scare due to high levels of dioxin found at several dairy farms outside Naples back in 2008.  According to the National Post, Italy’s Agriculture Ministry has ordered the supervision of producing the cheese for the next three months to ensure requirements are met and no contamination occurs.

Buffalo mozzarella is produced throughout Italy, however, the Italian city of Aversa, Caserta is recognized as the origin of this prized cheese.   Italy produces around 33,000 tonnes ($430 million dollars worth)  of its trademark mozzarella from buffalo milk every year, with 16 percent sold abroad, mostly in the European Union. France and Germany are the main importers but sales have been expanding in Japan and Russia. This recent scandal could irreparably damage the industry and the Campania region.

Read more about this breaking story at the National Post.

Story reported by Ella Ide, Reuters

Photo source: tripadvisor.com

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A small town and a small cheese…both big on character

Ypsilanti, Michigan gets kinda a bum rap. Referred to as the “Brooklyn” to Ann Arbor’s more affluent “Manhattan,” Ypsi (as it is commonly called) has a small population ranging from artsy hipsters to “Ypsitucky” country folk. I personally  like Ypsi, especially the historic downtown area and Depot Town.  The Mayberry-small-town feel, local color, spectacular architecture, and artistic flair makes Ypsi a fun and funky place to hang out.

No surprise that Michigan’s own Zingerman’s created a cheese to honor this tiny yet spry town. The Little Ypsi is Zingerman’s newest crottin. What’s a crottin? Historically, a crottin is a small round of  pasturized goat’s cheese that starts off light and tangy while young, then hardens and becomes stronger and gamier with age.

The Little Ypsi I tasted was in its mid stage with a bit of a hard, yellow rind and cream cheese-like texture underneath.  I really liked the fresh, salty flavor with a bit of a nutty zing (no pun intended) as it warms to room temperature.  Granny Smith apple slices add the perfect balance of tart and sweet on the palate.

Available at Zingerman’s Creamery online or at the store location in Ann Arbor, I recommend giving both The Little Ypsi and its namesake town a visit.

Photo source: Flickr

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Mild and wild selections at Zingerman’s Roadhouse

One of my favorite places to eat in Ann Arbor is Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Jackson Avenue. Part of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, the Roadhouse cooks up amazing down-home goodness and even encourages customers to “try it before you buy it” by offering samples of menu items. Co-owners Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw bring in the highest quality of ingredients from around the country and the food is all the better for it.

Terry is my favorite waiter at Zingerman’s.  His love of cheese rivals mine and he always has the perfect suggestions. Looking for some lighter selections than I am use to (as you may have guessed, I love the pungent, stinky stuff) I wanted to see how the mild side tasted. Terry’s first recommendation was Creamery Great Lakes Cheshire. This is the only American-made Cheshire to date and like its UK brother, this cheese has a hard crumbly texture that becomes smooth on the tongue with a subtle, grassy flavor.  A bit of an acidic bite (most likely from the animal rennet) but by no means unpleasant.  Next came a Quebec Chevre Noir (center) and is the only Canadian cheese Zingerman’s sells.  This award-winning cheese has a  firm, dense and flaky in texture yet melts in your mouth with a nutty, herb-like essence.  Finally, a 3-year-old Asiago (top right) was a surprise. Usually aged for a year, I expected this Asiago to be sharp and intense.  Surprisingly, I found it to be smooth, sweet, and even on the palate.

All three cheeses were wonderful, but if I had to pick a favorite I would say it was the chevre. Next time you find yourself in Ann Arbor, check out Zingerman’s Roadhouse and ask for Terry. Tell him Robin sent you!

The grapes pictured are oven roasted with a balsamic vinegar toss. Amazing and easy to make. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, toss grapes lightly in balsamic vinegar, roast for 10 minutes and enjoy. These sweet and savory treats pair with both intense and mild cheeses.

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All’s well with Berkswell

I’m a particular fan of cheese produced by Neal’s Yard Dairy.  From the intense Stinking Bishop to the tongue grabbing sharpness of  Lincolnshire Poacher this dairy does it all with amazing taste texture.  Not surprising that I became an instant fan of Berkswell.

Named for the village of Berkswell in the West Midlands, this earthy cheese is the epitome of rustic country living.  Made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk with either a vegetable or animal rennet, the cheese is hand molded and then aged for up to two years.  Flavor and texture can vary depending on the rennet.  The vegetable rennet has a hard texture with a smooth fruity taste while the animal rennet is milder with a savory palate and harder texture.

More of an after dinner cheese, Berskwell pairs nicely with an aged scotch or whiskey.  For wine lovers, a dry red would be nice.

Neal’s Yard Dairy work with seventy or so cheesemakers throughout England and Ireland, giving for one of the most diverse and exciting cheese collections I have yet to find.  Head out to your local cheesemonger or Whole Foods and get to tasting all this dairy has to offer.


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Ticklemore no laughing matter!

I was a pretty ticklish kid. So ticklish, my mother would just have to say “Tickle Tickle Tickle” in my general direction and I would be on the floor, rolling with laughter.  To be honest, it was agony and I have since learned to turn off my tickle button.  After tasting this rare treat, I may have to turn it back on!

Ticklemore cheese was originally made at Ticklemore Dairy by Robin Congdon, Ticklemore is now produced at Sharpham Creamery by Debbie Mumford (Debbie trained under Robin before taking over the cheesemaking).  This unique cheese is  made from vegetarian full-fat, pasteurised, goat’s milk and hand molded in small baskets and turned twice weekly during its three-month maturing phase. The rind retains the shape of the basket which has been described as having a UFO appearance.  While cold, Ticklemore has a flaky, pillow-y texture that “tickles” the tongue with light aromatic flavors.  As the cheese becomes room temperature, the airy bubbles and flaky texture become soft slightly runny.  The Camembert flavors from the rind are more pronounced and assertive as well.

I am more partial to the taste at room temp yet I can see the appeal of the airy texture. The grapes balanced out the flavor even more.

Ticklemore is difficult to find and the price reflects its rare status.  At $40.00 per lb. I don’t see purchasing large quantities anytime soon.  It is a cheese I would recommend trying (in small amounts) at least once, if you can find it.

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One woman’s fromage finds for 2009

As a self-proclaimed trivia geek, lists are like candy to me.  Top Ten’s, Best Of’s, and Most Interesting Finds can keep me transfixed to the internet for hours.  Seems only natural that I would seek out lists which consisted of cheese!

Janet Fletcher, author of  “Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying” and “The Cheese Course”  as well as contributor to The San Francisco Chronicle, has issued her list of diverse and intriguing cheese tastings of 2009.  I can hardly wait to head out to my local cheesemonger and sample some of her suggestions!  Out of the many cheeses named, I am surprised to have only sampled two.  The first,  Beecher’s Flagship Reserve (shown above) from Seattle,  was this year’s winner of the American Cheese Society’s Mature Cheddars, 25 – 48 months. The second,   L’Amuse Gouda from Holland, is a nutty, salty, caramel-y creation which matures in mild temperatures (unlike most Gouda which matures in cool environments).  Both were wonderful in their own right although I want to take a second taste before passing further judgment.

Check out Ms. Fletcher’s article at the link below and feel free to send any other cheesy list suggestions my way at thehousemouse1@gmail.com!

Image: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

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Eat Cheese and Lose the Fat!

How totally cool is this?  According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who eat full fat cheese gain less weight than those who abstained from dairy.  I cannot tell all of you how happy this makes me.  As most of us Fat Cats do each January, I have made my resolution to work out more, eat right, and exercise. I figured this meant saying bye bye to my beloved ricotta from Morgan and York (my guilty pleasure at the moment).  Nay nay, I say! Bring on the fromage!!!!!

source: Healthkicker

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Happy New Year

Wishing you all a cheesy new year!

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Cheese World

Growing up in Shaker Heights, the highlight of the week was my mother taking me to Cheese World at Van Aken. Upon opening the door, my nose was aroused by the aromas wafting of glorious artisan cheese being sampled and sliced behind the counter. This was my playground. My mother knew taking me here meant sacrificing a better part of her day, but she understood my love of cheese better than anyone so she indulged her little house mouse and let me go wild. The 70′s weren’t really known for cheese so my selections by today’s standards may seem rather pedestrian. Back then, Leerdammer, Camembert, Emmental, and Chevre were rather extravagant for anyone,especially a five year old. In a world of Ritz crackers I preferred stone ground wafers to accompany the various cheese spreads made on premises. My favorite was the sharp cheddar with horseradish followed by the red caviar and chevre. Continue reading

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