Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wine Links

Here are some interesting wine links from around the web:

1. Grape-by-grape wine and cheese pairings at

2. Wine and cheese pairing suggestions from Laura Werlin.

3. Wine & Spirits' Top Ten lists. Each issue of Wine & Spirits focuses on one variety or group of related wines and selects the best wines tasted in that category in the past year. The linked page is a compilation of Top Ten lists from the last six years.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Autumn in Vermont

Autumn in Vermont means beautiful fall foliage and scenic drives. It can also mean enjoying tours of some of the best creameries in America. My wife and I are considering taking a trip down the Vermont Cheese Trail during mid-October to soak up the autumn colors and the cheese.

The Vermont Cheese Council offers an interactive map of the Cheese Trail that includes links to all of the participating farms and creameries. Among the more famous Vermont cheesemakers are Cabot Creamery and Grafton Village Cheese (about whom I have blogged before).

If you're looking for a fall getaway, consider a culinary adventure down the Vermont Cheese Trail during the most beautiful time of the year to be in Vermont. Few things are better than good food and good conversation in a lovely setting. (And if you live in Buffalo, consider telling my wife that we should go ahead and spend the money on the trip.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Grilled Cheese: Literally

Halloumi is a traditional cheese from Cyprus that does not melt when cooked. It can be placed directly on a barbecue grill. I grilled mine in a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the stove and drizzled it with lemon juice. My entire family loved it.

A couple of weeks after I read Jamie Forrest's post about Grilled Halloumi over at Serious Eats, Halloumi showed up in my local cheese shop, Premier Gourmet. Either the cheese buyer at Premier or some other customer must read the same blogs I do.

Halloumi is traditionally made from sheep and goat's milk. It is sold vacuum packed in a bit of its own whey. The true flavor of Halloumi is revealed only when it is cooked. Uncook Halloumi is plain and rather tart. Its texture most resembles mozzarella.

Halloumi served with salad, hummus and pita bread is a tasty treat. Here are some other recipes for Halloumi:

Shopping tip for Buffalo readers: Halloumi is currently available at Premier Gourmet, but I don't expect it to be a regularly stocked item. If your local cheese vendor doesn't carry Halloumi, you can always purchase some at

Although I originally bought Halloumi solely for its novelty, I'm going back to buy some more because it is delicious. I recommend trying this unique cheese.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Niagara Wine Festival

The 56th Niagara Wine Festival will take place from Sept. 21st through Sept. 30th in the Niagara region of Ontario. Although Ontario is best known for its icewines, the festival features the full range of wines produced by the region.

There are two primary venues for the festival. One is the historic Montebello Park in St. Catharine's, ON, which will feature 30 award-winning wineries, Niagara cuisine and live entertainment each weekend and each evening during the week.

The weekend entertainment times on Sept. 22-23 and 29-30 are 11am to 10:30pm. Midweek entertainment times Sept. 21 and 26-28 are 5pm to 10:30pm. Admission and parking are free. I plan to enjoy the festivities at Montebello Park on one of the weekends.

The other "venue" for the festival is comprised of all the Niagara wineries. The wineries will be hosting special tastings, wine and food pairings, and other educational events at their various locations. See the Events Page of the festival website for details of these events. Further details about events at Montebello Park and about the festival in general can be found in the festival program guide.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Water Buffalo Milk: Yum!

Would you believe the world's greatest mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of water buffaloes? That's right. Mozzarella di bufala, which comes from the region of Campania in southern Italy, is made from the milk of these ugly ungulates.

The best buffalo mozzarella is made from unpasteurized water buffalo milk and is usually served on the day it is made. It does not keep for more than 18 hours. This cheese is not available in the U.S. and cannot be made here because of regulatory reasons. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture requires that any cheese sold in America that is made from unpasteurized milk be aged for at least six months. Consequently, while buffalo mozzarella can be found in America, it is always made from pasteurized milk.

Because mozzarella is not aged, it is considered a "fresh" cheese. It also counts as a "spun cheese" because the curds are dipped into heated whey or water and then stretched and kneaded until they become elastic and stretchy.

True, "fresh" mozzarella should be distinguished from the low-moisture, tasteless, rubbery dairy product that passes for mozzarella in most American grocery stores. Fresh mozzarella can be found soaking in vats of salted water or whey at better cheese stores. Some fresh mozzarellas are sold in vacuum packed packages containing liquid to keep the mozzarella from drying out. Fresh mozzarellas have a slightly sour tang and are squishier than most Americans expect.

Fresh mozzarella can always be served in a classic Insalata Caprese. Here are some further serving suggestions (thanks to Bel Gioioso):
  • Top Italian bread with grilled eggplant, tomato, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top your roast beef sandwich with roasted red peppers and sliced fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Marinate fresh mozzarella in minced garlic, fresh chopped basil, fresh chopped oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and white wine vinegar for at least three hours. Serve as a part of your antipasto platter.

Because mozzarella does not have a strong flavor, consider using smoked mozzarella in oven-baked recipes that call for plain mozzarella. It can add an extra dimension of flavor.