Friday, October 26, 2007

Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper

Cypress Grove Chevre in Humboldt County, California, is one of America's very best cheese producers. Their award-winning cheeses include Humboldt Fog, Bermuda Triangle, Midnight Moon, and Purple Haze (about which I have blogged before). Cypress Grove recently won the Outstanding Product Line 2007 Award at the Fancy Food Show in NYC. Cypress Grove and Carr Valley may be my two favorite producers of American cheese.

I recently enjoyed a wedge of Cypress Grove's Lamb Chopper, a firm and creamy delight. Made from pasteurized Dutch sheep's milk, this cheese is aged in Holland for three months before entering the U.S., where it is aged a month or two more. Apparently, head cheese-ager Mary Keehn didn't want mold from Humboldt Fog and other Cypress Grove cheeses to infect Lamb Chopper during its aging process. So, it does most of its aging outside Cypress Grove's facilities.

Lamb Chopper is one of best Gouda-style cheeses you will find. Its creamy, buttery flavor is simply wonderful. It is firm enough to go on sandwiches and burgers but sophisticated enough to go on a cheese tray.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Brillo di Treviso

It hasn't been easy keeping my wife from eating all of the Brillo di Treviso I recently purchased from Premier Gourmet. The rind of this pasteurized cow's milk cheese from Italy is reguarly washed with red wine during the aging process, giving the cheese a rich, purple exterior and a somewhat fruity flavor.

When I first tasted Brillo di Treviso I thought the winey flavor in it was too strong. As I ate more of it, however, this impression subsided. Now the easily edible wine-drenched rind strikes me as rather mild. The semi-soft paste (i.e., the interior of the cheese) is mild, creamy, and slightly tangy.

Despite the fact that many purveyors of cheese claim that Brillo di Treviso is from Venice, it is in fact from Treviso (the "di Treviso" should have been a giveaway), in the Veneto region of Italy.

Brillo di Treviso is a great party cheese. It has an enjoyable, accessible flavor and its deep, purple color and winey flavor will be something of a novelty to many of your guests. Serve with Chianti, Beaujolais or full-bodied reds.

Baked Brie at Brodo

Wendy and I recently enjoyed a date at the Brodo cafe in Snyder, NY. It would be difficult to find a place with a better great-food-per-dollar-spent ratio than Brodo.

Being the cheesey guy I am, I ordered the Puff Pastry Baked Brie, with apples, walnuts and raspberry sauce. It was superb. I highly recommend it.

Brodo has a prix fixe dinner option for $24, happy hour M-F from 5-7pm, and live jazz on Thurs. and Sat. from 7-9pm.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Brandied Roasted Pears

Mascarpone cheese is a rich, triple cream cheese that is most commonly encountered in Italian desserts such as tiramisu or zabaglione. The cheese is creamy white, smells like milk and cream, and has the consistency of a sticky pudding.

Mascarpone pairs well with fruit. For example, Wegman's supermarkets in western New York sell a Red Raspberry Mascarpone Mousse at their cheese counters that is made from mascarpone, crème fraiche, raspberry preserves, sugar, and vanilla extract. It is heavenly.

My wife, Wendy, found the following fruit and mascarpone recipe on PBS. It has a fabulous, sophisticated flavor but is very easy to make.

Brandied Roasted Pears
  • 3 ripe Bartlett pears (peeled, cored and sliced in half)
  • 1 1/4 c. Brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/3 c. Unsweetened apple juice
  • 2T (or more) Brandy
  • 8 oz. Mascarpone
  • 1/4 c. Clover honey
  • 1/2 c. Toasted pecans (finely chopped)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Grease an 8"x8" pyrex dish.
  3. Cover bottom of dish with brown sugar.
  4. Lay pear halves on brown sugar.
  5. Combine brandy and apple juice. Pour over pears.
  6. Bake at 400° for 20-30 min.
  7. While pears are cooling for 3-4 min, thoroughly mix honey and mascarpone.
  8. Place pears in dessert dishes and top with mascarpone mixture and pecans.
  9. Drizzle pears with extra juice from baking dish and serve.

I'm going to experiment more with mascarpone around the house. I think something as simple as toast topped with mascarpone (perhaps mixed with maple syrup) and fresh fruit would be great. A tasty-looking French toast with Mascarpone and Blueberries recipe from FoodTV can be found here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rating Wine Preserver Products

As soon as a bottle of wine is opened, it begins to oxidize. 24 to 36 hrs after being opened, most table wines have lost much of their flavor. After 48 hrs they can be almost undrinkable.

You don't need to be a wine snob to notice and be concerned about the effects of oxidation. As a complete wine novice buying my first bottles of wine, I could tell without any training that the flavor of the wine was different the day after it was opened. Several wine preservation products are available that help to minimize the effects of oxidation.

The best household wine preservation system is The Keeper (above left). I use this product with every bottle of wine I open at home. The stopper-faucet that dispenses the wine is connected to a nitrogen cylinder. Nitrogen (an inert, non-oxidizing gas) fills the space inside the bottle as the wine goes out. This device prevents oxygen from coming into the bottle and thus keeps oxidation from occurring.

A widely used but significantly less effective product is Private Preserve inert gas spray (pictured to the right). Each time a bottle of wine is opened or reopened, you are supposed to spray Private Preserve (a combination of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and argon gas) into the bottle. These gases are allegedly heavier than other gases and are said to lay down a protective blanket over the surface of the wine, keeping oxygen at bay.

I used Private Preserve for years, and it certainly slows down the oxidation process. It is better than nothing and something you might want to consider buying, if you're not ready to spend money on The Keeper. However, it is only marginally effective at preventing oxidation. The money spent on several bottles of Private Preserve would be better spent on The Keeper.

A completely worthless product that is commonly seen in wine shops is the Vacu Vin Vacuum Wine Saver (pictured at left). This was the first wine preservation product I ever tried. A dinky little pump is supposed to extract most of the air inside your bottle of wine, again slowing down the oxidation process. The pump, however, is exceptionally weak and the stopper that goes on top of the bottle does not form a very tight seal. Vacu Vin may remove some oxygen from the inside of a bottle, but it is an almost completely ineffective product. Don't throw away your money on this one.

Ken Shockley laughs at my Keeper wine system every time he comes over to my house. I must admit that it looks rather odd, but it has been a wonderful investment. It can keep opened bottles of wine fresh for weeks, allowing me to enjoy wine at my leisure. I highly recommend it.