Tag Archives: Artisan

Q & A With Hook’s Cheese: More than just aged cheddar

Read any cheese blog or cheese enthusiast magazine (Culture or Cheese Connoisseur) and it is a sure bet there is some mention of Hook’s Cheese 15 year cheddar.  This seriously aged cheese was brought to market back in February of 2009 and has skyrocketed to one of the most sought after and highly praised cheeses in the country.

Prior to all the praise, many had never heard of Tony and Julie Hook.  Who are these pioneers of the cheddar world? Where did they come from? How did this 15 year cheddar come to be?  Is cheddar all Hook’s Cheese has to offer? I had the opportunity to speak with Tony recently and discovered there is a whole lot more to this Wisconsin creamery than cheddar. Continue reading

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Review: Beemster Farms’ Graskaas breaks out ahead of Spring

Spring is bustin’ out all over and the barn doors of  Beemster Farms are opening to the lush untouched spring pastures for the first time after the cold and windy winter.  The grasses of the Beemster Polder, situated 20 feet below sea level, have grown long and thick over the cold months and are now ideal for grazing. The cows eagerly gobble up this sweet new grass and produce milk that is  is the most coveted of the year. The lush young grasses give their milk a special creamy flavor and texture and is used to produce the limited edition Beemster Graskaas.

Beemster is an artisan Dutch cheese, a North Holland Dutch Gouda that is crafted exclusively in the Beemster Polder (a polder is a low tract of land enclosed by embankments with no connection to outside water sources). The cows graze only on pesticide-free pastures that contain rare blue sea clay. This clay contains minerals that give the milk a sweeter and softer milkfat, giving Beemster cheeses a softer and creamier texture than other Dutch cheeses. The name is trademarked: Beemster can only be made in the Beemster Polder. The farm is a co-op which was set up so that the farmers’ wives would no longer have to make the cheese on their individual farms. Over the years, this small co-op stood by its original recipe, fine tuning where improvements could be made. Continue reading

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Ohio makes cheese…really!

I am putting together a series on Ohio cheese makers (yes, we make cheese here in the Buckeye state) and am asking for you, dear readers, to put your two cents in.

Drop me a line in the comments section and tell me what your favorite Ohio cheese is, where you buy it, is it farmstead or artisan  and what dairy or creamery makes it. You don’t have to be from Ohio to offer a suggestion. So let’s hear it House Mouse fans!

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Whole Foods Parmigiano Reggiano cracking recap

On February 27th, Whole Foods stores world-wide attempted to break the Parmigiano Reggiano wheel cracking record set back in 2008. Did they do it? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. What I am sure of is this event was a major hit with staff and customers alike at the University Heights, Ohio location. One of the coolest things about cheese is that it unites all aspects of food as shown by the many tasting stations set up throughout the store. From wine and beer to dessert, this cheese let its versatility shine. Continue reading

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Bring in ‘da funk! Funky cheese tasting episode #1

Not all stinky cheeses are created equal. Some are overtly funky from smell to taste. Others smell intense yet have a delicious mild flavor. Hard and crumbly or soft and runny, I love them all. That being said, not all fumigating fromages are created equal. Here is the first of what I hope to be many compare and contrast tastings.

On the platter are two intense cheeses sure to please even the most timid taster. The first is a Swiss cheese called Chue Fladae (translates to “cow patty). Raw cow’s milk and a thick pastry-like washed rind, the aroma can be off-putting at the very least and just unbearable as it gets to room temperature. Continue reading

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Cheesy ebay contest…What the heck did I buy?

Ebay can be fun and exciting as long as the wallet doesn’t get too strained. While searching for cheesy items (and I don’t mean kitchy) I happened on hundreds of listings for cool stuff.  I love antiques and if they have to do with cheese, well, I’m all in.  Above is a photo of my first fromage find and it wasn’t too expensive. In fact, the shipping cost more than the item! So, here I am with this rockin’ cool wooden Kraft cheese box only to be stymied by my trusty Google and Bing in finding any information regarding how it was used or even when.

And so, dear readers, I turn to you all to help fill in the blanks. If anyone out there knows anything about this item send an email to thehousemouse1@gmail.com and the best (and most accurate) answer wins the box and a tip of the hat here on The House Mouse! Good Luck!

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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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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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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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