Thursday, February 26, 2009
Carl starts by pressing Golden Russet, Golden Delicious and wild apples and collecting the juice. Then he sets the juice outside in the Buffalo winter cold (see, Buffalo winters are good for something!) until much of the water in the juice freezes. The vast majority of the sugar in the apple juice falls to the bottom, while the ice forms at the top. Carl then pours off the heavier, sweeter and more flavorful juice that remains and repeats the freezing process at least once, sometimes twice.
Carl then ferments the concentrated juice that results from this process of 'cryoconcentration.' Because there is less sugar in apple juice than there is in grape juice, the fermentation process goes more slowly than for ordinary wines. Carl doesn't add any extra sugar to speed up the process. He uses only the natural sugars found in the apples. It takes about two months for the fermentation process to transform enough of the apple sugar into alcohol.
Because Carl wants enough sugar to remain in the wine so that it can be a dessert wine, Carl stops the fermentation at a certain point simply by taking wine back outside for a "cold shock." Carl lets the cold Buffalo weather kill the yeast responsible for fermentation but does not allow it to freeze again.
Once back inside, Carl takes the wine through a series of three 'rackings.' In this process Carl allows the solids in the icewine (including the dead yeast) to settle to the bottom of the large jugs it is stored in and pours off the clearer liquid above the solids. Gravity thus acts as a filter or clarifier. The racking process takes several months.
The result is a wonderful and unique icewine that not only tastes great but makes for some interesting after-dinner conversation as well. Carl also suggests serving it as an apéritif or with lightly sautéed foie gras, a fine piece of chèvre or warmed apple tart. I can't recommend this one-of-a-kind apple icewine highly enough.
Friday, February 20, 2009
The show, Canada's largest of its kind, will be held at The International Centre (6900 Airport Road, Mississauga) Fri., Mar. 20th 12pm - 10pm, Sat. (Mar. 21st) 12pm - 9pm, and Sun. (Mar. 22nd) 12pm - 6pm.
The Toronto Wine & Cheese Show features a variety of Wine Appreciation Seminars offered by internationally and locally recognized wine professionals. Seminar topics include tips on pairing wine and cheese, the basic dimensions of wine appreciation, top Chilean wines, and big, bold Italian reds. A full list of seminars can be found here. Seminar tickets include tastings during the Seminars as well as $18 admission to the Wine and Cheese Show.
The show also features cheese tastings hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. More than a dozen live cooking shows featuring hosts from the Food Network will also take place at the Gourmet Kitchen Theatre. Live jazz and other entertainment will be provided throughout the event.
A fully detailed list of all events will be posted on the show's website Mar. 5th. Attendees must be 19 years of age or older. Infants and children are not permitted.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Purists, however, have long maintained that requiring pasteurization renders the "bries" and "camemberts" available in North America nearly tasteless. Connoisseurs of soft-ripened cheeses maintain that these cheeses reach their peak aroma and flavor after 21 to 30 days of aging and that pasteurization destroys harmless but essential microbes that give the cheeses a unique, rich flavor.
The rationale for allowing cheeses that are aged for more than 60 days to bypass the pasteurization process is that if there are any harmful pathogens in the cheese, they will reveal themselves during the aging process in visible cultures. The tainted cheese can then be safely discarded. Because cultures of harmful microbes may not show up after only a few days of aging, there is some risk that potentially harmful cheese will be sold to consumers.
In order to alleviate concerns about the safety of the new raw-milk cheeses, Quebec is instituting a new set of strict rules that govern milk production and veterinary inspection of dairy herds.
Quebec has long been the capital of artisanal cheesemaking in Canada. I may have to take a cheese tour of the province in the near future.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I attended the Wine Day event last Aug. and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I discovered there was more to the Niagara (NY) region's winemaking industry than I was previously aware of.
This year's Wine Day features lectures on a variety of topics, including proper storage of wine, etiquette for pouring and serving wine, the history of barrel usage in winemaking, which woods make the perfect wine, what happens to a wine while it ages in a barrel and why this is desirable, and how to decipher the individual components of wines' aromas and flavors.
Wine Day presents a wonderful opportunity to learn not only about wine in general but also about the unique wines of Niagara County, NY.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Heartland also offers a chèvre log blended with dried cranberries, chopped pecans and a touch of cinnamon. This is the one I bought. It is a very pleasant blend of creamy, sweet, tangy, sour, fruity and nutty flavors.
Heartland Creamery is located in northeast Missouri. Their goat cheeses are made from the milk of 750 grass-fed, hormone-free Saanen goats. With their herd of 6000 Holsteins, they have become the largest dairy in MO in a very short period of time.
I don't usually buy "cheese-with-stuff-in-it," but I was initially attracted to the cheese because it had the most interesting packaging in the cheese case (cf. picture above). I don't know why more American cheesemakers don't utilize interesting and stylish packaging to showcase their products.
Another unique feature of Heartland Creamery is that all of the profits from the sale of their milks and cheeses go to support the faith-based recovery work of Heartland Ministeries. They provide housing, education, recovery programs, group homes, and vocational training for troubled adolescents and adults. I don't remember ever buying a cheese before that helped people.
Heartland also takes a lighthearted approach to its religious roots, playfully naming its habanero and jalapeño Gouda "Brimstone" and its aged Gouda "Methuselah" (after the oldest person mentioned in the Bible). I encourage you to try the interesting cheeses from this relatively new cheesemaker.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Midnight Moon is a pale, firm, cheddar-style goat's milk cheese that is aged at least six months. It has a wonderully rich, creamy and nutty flavor.
The milk comes from a dairy in the Netherlands and does much of its aging in Europe before coming to Cypress Grove's northern California headquarters. The curds are cooked during the cheesemaking process, which accounts for much of its firmness.
The cheese was awarded the Best New Product in Show prize in 2002 at the International Fancy Food & Confection Show and was a Finalist for Best Cheese there a year later.
If you want to find out what high quality artisanal cheese tastes like, sample this or any other fine product from Cypress Grove. (Cf. here, here, here and here for my reviews of other Cypress Grove products.)
I enjoy Midnight Moon most on a slightly buttery cracker. Cypress Grove recommends pairing it with cured meats, fresh fruit or fig preserves. It pairs well with a variety of wines, including Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, dry Sherry, Gewurtztraminer, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The only negative thing about Cypress Grove products is that they are more expensive than most other cheeses in my local cheese purveyor's cheese case. I understand that this is often a necessary feature of high quality food products, but I would eat a lot more Cypress Grove Chevre if it were cheaper.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Every year the Icewine Festival features two outdoor icewine bars furnished with chairs and tables made out of ice (pics here). Sound interesting? Don't bother. Every year the icewine bars are crowded into tiny little tents not fit for the enormous volume of patrons crowding into them.
Each year that I've attended the Icewine Festival I've pushed and elbowed my way into the icewine bar located in the middle of the street in Niagara-on-the-Lake, only to wait in an extremely long line inside the tent for a sip of icewine that I won't get to enjoy to its full because someone will hit my elbow and make me spill half of it. Then I won't be able to enjoy any of the potentially interesting ice chairs because they are always--trust me, always--taken by people who are going to be sitting in them for a very long time.
My recommendation is that you go to the wineries themselves. You'll find shorter lines, friendlier service, cozier atmospheres and no crowds. A map of all the Niagara wineries can be found here. See p. 14ff. of the festival guide for a listing of events that will be taking place at each of the area wineries.
If you're in the area but can't make the Icewine Festival, consider coming out to the Niagara wineries during their "Days of Wine and Chocolate" weekends during Feb.
Ontario icewine is a unique and interesting beverage. If you can't make it to Ontario, look for icewine in the dessert wine section of your local wine shop or ask your wine retailer to order some for you. You won't be disappointed.
Friday, January 2, 2009
After aging for at least 3 months, this raw cow's milk cheese is cold smoked for 16 hours over smoldering hazelnut shells. The result is an interesting blend of sweetness, sharpness and smokiness. The smoky flavor of the cheese is not overwhelming and balances (if not mellows) the sharpness of its blue veins.
Smokey Blue won the 'Best New Product' Award at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) Food Show in 2005.
Smokey Blue pairs well with a variety of wines--from full-bodied to fruity reds (e.g., Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Merlot) to dry whites (e.g.,Pinot Gris, Chardonnay) to sweeter white wines (e.g., Gewürztraminer, late harvest Rieslings) to ports. Try a slice on your next burger or steak or serve it on your next party cheese tray.
Those who are not big fans of blue cheeses should definitely give Smokey Blue a try. It is a nutty, creamy delight.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
As people age, their brains normally shrink about 2% every 10 years. However, Paul's results show that the brains of heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks per week) were 1.5% smaller than those of non-drinkers. Moderate drinkers (8-14 drinks per week) also had smaller brain volumes than non-drinkers. Since decreased volume in certain areas of the brain is associated with memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease, these results raise some questions about the touted health benefits of moderate drinking. Those benefits are usually associated with the human cardiovascular system. However, it may be that what's good for your heart is not so good for your brain.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Our first video installment features iFoods chef Niall Harbison interviewing Sarah Furno, whose parents, Louis and Jane Grubb, invented Cashel Blue, Ireland's original artisanal blue cheese, in 1984. Henry and Louis Clifton Browne, nephews of Louis and Jane Grubb, invented Crozier Blue, a blue sheep's milk cheese, in the 1990s.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The insect sushi platter pictured above was created by Shoichi Uchiyama, author of a recent Japanese cookbook on bug cuisine. Featured insects include a spider, a cockroach, a cicada, and cicada larvae.
Mr. Uchiyama's says he especially likes to eat female spiders that are carrying young in their stomachs. He says they taste like simmered soy beans. (This must be the Japanese equivalent to "It tastes like chicken"--the most common line given by Americans eating some weird type of meat, e.g., alligator, snake, possum, rat, etc.)
There are apparently about 1,000 different kinds of insects that are considered edible. Mr. Uchiyama's wife insists that deep-frying is the best way to enjoy most of them.
When I was in China earlier this year, I looked far and wide for a snack shop that would sell me fried scorpions on a stick. But I wasn't actually going to eat them. I just wanted to have a photo of me pretending to eat them!
Mr. Uchiyama maintains that insects are nutrionally balanced and low in fat. He does, however, admit that anyone eating one of his cockroach recipes should probably not think about what they're eating. No kidding.
Photo credit: Rex Features
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The wine is made from nine different varieties of chilies, and is simply delicious. I've never tasted a wine that burned as it went down! The folks at Disaster Bay say that the wine leaves a "warm inner glow." That's one way to put it! They describe the heat level of the wine as being around 5/10.
The Hot Chili Wine has a sweet, citrus aroma and contains a fair amount of residual sugar. Carl believes that sugar from something besides chilies must have been added in order for fermentation to be possible. Regardless of what their secret recipe calls for, this is a sweet and spicy treat. Served ice cold, it is lots of fun.
If you can't find Disaster Bay Hot Chili Wine at your local wine shop, you can order it online here. Consider giving this as a holiday gift to that special someone who likes fiery cuisine.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
A true farmstead cheese, Alfred le Fermier is made from the raw milk of Holstein cows that graze in organic pastures filled with white clover, wild clover and alfalfa. After the heated, pressed curds are shaped into molds, it is aged for eight months on spruce planks. During that time its rind is periodically brushed and washed (with brine?).
Alfred le Fermier goes well on a cheese tray and with fresh fruit. I recommend pairing it with medium- to full-bodied red wines (e.g., Syrah, Cabernet). A recipe for a farmhouse salad that uses Alfred le Fermier can be found here. Fromagerie La Station also provides fondue and panini recipes on their website. I highly recommend this wonderful, rustic cheese.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Cuvée Léa has a very dark purple color, a fruity, crushed berry nose, and a peppery finish. The vines that produce the Cuvée Léa are an average of 30 years old, and the soil underneath their 49 acres of vines is a unique combination of crushed sandstone, grit soils, red clay, sand, iron and limestone clay. All of these components combine with other aspects of their terroir to give the wines complex, yet balanced flavors.
At $15 or less, the wines of Domaine de Givaudan are great deals.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Many of these cheesemankers united in 2003 to form the New York State Farmstead and Artisan Cheese Makers Guild in order to "foster a strong and vibrant farmstead artisan cheese-making sector in the state and to support its growth." The guild advocates the continuation and preservation of family farms and farm management practices that nourish and sustain the soil and the surrounding landscape and community.
The NY Farmstead & Artisanal Cheese Makers Guild has produced a downloadable brochure and map that shows where to find the state's artisanal cheesemakers. Consider taking the map along with you on your next driving trip across the state of NY.
Friday, October 31, 2008
This serious course of study is intended for serious cheese enthusiasts, chefs, culinary students, restaurant owners or anyone else who wants to have a strong foundation in the world of cheese. The Cheese U Boot Camp includes suggested readings, optional take home assignments, a final exam, and even a graduation certificate. The cost is $495.
Murray's also offers a slate of less intense, less expensive ($50), one-night cheese courses that cover the basics of cheese, wine and cheese pairing and a variety of other interesting topics. In March, New York magazine designated these courses as NYC's best post-secondary education opportunities. The third Saturday of every month they also offer $10 tours of their underground cheese caves for those interested in the process of cheese aging. The next time I'm in NYC, I'm going to try to work one of these classes into my schedule.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Tumbleweed is a very interesting and complex cheese. It has a creamy, nutty, sharp flavor with a slightly curdy texture. It is rare that one finds a cheese that is produced like cheddar (i.e., its curds are cut and pressed a good deal) but has a bloomy rind (i.e., a thin covering of soft, white penicilium molds.)
Most great European cheeses are made from raw milk. In America, USDA regulations require that unpasteurized cheeses be aged at least 60 days. This allows any potentially harmful bacteria either to die or at least to make itself obvious so that it can be discarded. Raw-milk cheeses are said to be richer, creamier, more buttery and more flavorful product than cheeses made from pasteurized milk.
Alan J. Glustoff, owner of 5 Spoke Creamery, says that because his grass-fed cows get to roam and pick and choose from a variety of grasses, herbs, flowers and weeds, the cheeses produced from their milk have a complexity of flavor that cannot be duplicated. Glustoff is a former dairy technologist who allegedly tired of testing yogurt and other products for big corporations. After becoming strictly kosher as an adult, he was frustrated that he could not find any kosher cheeses that were as good as the ones available to the non-kosher community. So, he decided to make his own "fantastic cheeses that just happen to be kosher."
Glustoff touts the following health benefits of raw milk cheeses:
BETTER DIGESTION: Only raw milk has the enzyme phosphataze intact which allows the body to absorb greater amounts of calcium and allows for the digestion of lactose.
STRONGER IMMUNE SYSTEM: Raw milk has all the beneficial bacteria and lactic acids found naturally in milk, which implant in the intestines and contribute to a stronger immune system.
FIGHTS ALLERGIES: Raw milk has a cortisone-like factor present in the cream, which aids in combating allergies.
THE RIGHT FATS: Grass fed, raw milk cheeses are one of the few foods that contain a perfect balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, a ratio ideal for your health.
CANCER PROTECTION: Grass fed, raw milk cheeses are very high in conjugated linoleic acid; five times more CLA than dairy products from grain-fed cows! CLA is among the most potent cancer fighters found in all foods.
BETTER CALCIUM ABSORBTION: Raw milk is rich in colloidal minerals and enzymes, which are necessary for the absorption and utilization of the natural sugars and fats present in milk. Conversely, heated, pasteurized milk becomes precipitated with minerals that cannot be absorbed, contributing to osteoporosis, as well as sugars that cannot be properly digested and fats in a form that contributes to a buildup of unhealthy cholesterol
The folks at Murray's Cheese, which claims to be NYC's oldest and best cheese chop, suggest trying Tumbleweed in your next melting pot of fondue. Recipes from 5 Spoke Creamery involving Tumbleweed can be found here. I recommend simply trying this uniquely flavored, delicious cheese all by itself.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Taste the Season is a wonderful chance to explore southern Ontario in the autumn.
Features Food and Wine Pairings:
Thursday, October 9, 2008
70% of what goes into Deco Chocolate Port is a young, fruity California port that is made from Syrah and Zinfandel grapes and is aged only 4 years. 30% of the port comes from a richer, older (8 yrs.) Southern Australian port made from Grenache and Shiraz.
Sonoma Valley Portworks claims that Deco Chocolate Port arose from an accident. They write, "In 1992, while trying to create the perfect after-dinner table wine, a dash of chocolate essence inadvertently dropped into the glass of port our winemaker was enjoying at the end of the day. One sip and he knew he had stumbled onto something extraordinary." In 1993 they introduced Duet, a California cream sherry with essences of natural hazelnut.
Sonoma Valley Portworks suggests serving Deco with Tiramisu, Crème Brule, Chocolate Cheesecake or Chocolate Dipped Biscotti. I think it would be dessert enough for me all by itself.
Deco Chocolate Port is liquid fun. Try serving it at your next dinner party.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The Center's Tasting Room features wines from all regions of New York State. Knowledgeable staff can guide you through a tasting flight of New York's delicious, complex, award-winning wines, and educate you about winemaking, wine styles and wine-producing regions.
The NY Wine & Culinary Center also features a variety of fascinating wine and food classes. You can take classes that compare NY wines with other wines of the world and classes on pairing wine and food, the basics of wine, and personal winemaking. You can take cooking classes that will teach you about cooking and baking with fall fruits, roasting, seasonal salads, old-fashioned desserts, soups, baking with NY apples, and more.
Those professionals or enthusiastic amateurs interested in a more serious educational experience can take wine and spirits courses authorized by The Wine & Spirit Education Trust, the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education. These multi-day classes can lead to the WSET Diploma, a stepping stone to the Master of Wine qualification. I'm definitely going to look into these courses after I get tenure.
The Exhibit Hall of the Center features seasonal video and photo displays about the rich history and unique characteristics of New York wine and food. The New York Wine & Culinary Center is a fascinating place to spend a day or evening. I encourage you to check it out, if you're in the area.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Founded in 1990, Nettle Meadow Farm is located in Thurman, NY, just below the Adirondacks. They use only organic vegetarian rennet so that their cheeses are 100% organic and vegetarian. Their motto is "Happy Goats, Great Cheese."
In June Nettle Meadow's Honey Lavender Fromage Blanc was named a Silver Finalist in the Outstanding New Product of 2008 category of the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade's annual competition.
Fromage Blanc (or Fromage Frais) is a fresh, very soft cheese that is similar in texture to cream cheese and often used like cream cheese, only with fewer calories. For example, one can mix it with honey and spread it on toast or fruit, add it to garlic and herbs for a savory spread or simply serve it with fresh fruit. In France it is often served with fruit and sugar as a dessert. Further recipes can be found here, here and here.
I enjoyed spreading mine on a fresh slice of cinnamon bread. I guarantee you'll love it.