Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mondavi Fumé Blanc

When I first began drinking wine many years ago, Robert Mondavi's Fumé Blanc quickly became one of my favorites. There really is no such thing as a Fumé Blanc grape. In the late 1960s, Mondavi wanted to do something about slumping sales of his Sauvignon Blanc. So, he made up the name 'Fumé Blanc' and sales took off. Unfortunately for Mondavi, he did not trademark the name, and now many other producers use it to market their Sauvignon Blancs.

Mondavi patterned his new name after a dry French wine made in the Loire Valley that is known as 'Pouilly-Fumé.' It is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape and is reputed to be known for its unusual, smoky flavor. Whatever smoky flavor there may be comes from toasted barrels rather than the grape itself.

Earlier this week I opened a bottle of Mondavi Fumé Blanc for the first time in years. In fact, it was the first time I have had white wine at home in a very long time. Like many avid wine drinkers, I prefer reds. I had forgotten how enjoyable a simple white wine can be.

Fumé Blanc is a not a complex wine. It lacks the depth and subtlety of a full-bodied red. But sometimes simplicity can be refreshing. I found the dry Fumé Blanc to be clean, crisp, slightly fruity and as easy to drink as a Sprite. It paired especially well with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I fixed on Tuesday. (Seriously, it really did.) A strong, serious Chardonnay would not have gone well with PB&J.

The Mondavi Fumé Blanc comes in a signature frosted bottle that makes a nice presentation. I highly recommend it for a nice, casual change of pace.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Buffalo Food Blogs

Buffalo readers might be interested to know about the following food blogs that are based in Buffalo:

Buffalo Buffet (by Andrew Galarneau, writer for The Buffalo News)

Savory & Sweet (by Holloway Ortman)

Okun on Food (by Janice Okun, food critic for The Buffalo News)

These blogs were brought to my attention by Christa Glennie Seychew, food editor for Buffalo Rising. Christa's daily discussions of food in Buffalo can be found at the Yum! section of

Interested readers can also educate themselves at The Pour, the blog of NY Times wine critic, Eric Asimov, or (based in NYC).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cheese Posters and T-Shirts

Don't know what to get that special cheesemonger in your life for Valentine's Day? How about a poster displaying the world's great cheeses (other versions available here and here)? Or how about one dedicated exclusively to French cheese? Or Chèvre?

T-shirts with the following cheesey slogans are also available:
"Cheese! It's milk you chew"
"Ecce Potestas Casei (Behold the Power of Cheese)"
"Raw Milk is not Crack--How Does the Government Get Confused?"
"I Moved Your Cheese"

These gift ideas may not seem very romantic, but I would certainly enjoy a nice cheese poster more than a traditional Valentine's gift.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Ewephoria is a relatively new Gouda-style cheese from the Friesland region of Holland. Unlike standard Goudas, Ewephoria is made from sheep's milk and is pasteurized. It is, however, made using the same carefully-guarded starter cultures that give Goudas their distinctive flavor.

Ewephoria is aged 10 months, has a butterscotch color and a rather sweet, nutty, buttery flavor. Like all Goudas, it is hard and somewhat acidic. One reviewer claims, "Ewephoria is possibly as close as cheese gets to candy." That's going much too far. On the one hand, Ewephoria is not as sweet as many other traditional cheeses. In fact, even some Goudas--e.g., Saenkanter--are considerably sweeter. Then there are flavored cheeses like Chocolate Fudge Cheese, which although technically cheese, is really just a kind of candy.

Ewephoria was allegedly developed by Seattle-based cheese importer CheeseLand, Inc. specifically for the American cheese market, although the CheeseLand website does not mention the product. The idea was that aged Goudas were too harsh for American tastes and a softer, sweeter aged Gouda was needed.

Regardless of what the truth about Ewephoria's origins may be, it is a very enjoyable cheese to eat. I may bring it to my next dinner party. It is unique and more welcoming than other aged Goudas.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Plain Chèvre

Chèvre is a wonderfully flexible cheese. More often than not, the chèvre rounds I am served have been coated with herbs. It can also be blended with peppercorns, fruit or even fennel pollen and lavender buds.

I recently tasted some plain chèvre at Randy Dipert's house for the first time in a long while. I had become so accustomed to eating chèvre-plus-other-stuff that I had almost forgotten what plain chèvre tastes like. The fresh, slightly tart yet distinctive flavor of the cheese didn't need any help from additional flavors. I ate most of the chèvre on Randy's cheese tray and promptly bought some more from my local grocer.

Although some people claim that chèvre is an acquired taste, it is a very novice-friendly cheese. There are some especially acidic chèvres out there that may be off-putting to some, but most will have a balanced amount of caproic, caprylic and capric acid. If you haven't tasted or served plain chèvre in a while, give it a try. Fresh chèvre also has the virtue of being less expensive but not less flavorful than other artisanal cheeses.