Friday, October 31, 2008

Cheese Boot Camp

Murray's Cheese (NYC) recently held its first Cheese U Bootcamp--an intense 3-day course filled with lectures, demonstrations and tastings. The 15-hour course covers the history of cheesemaking, the flavor characteristics of every family of cheese, the aging process, the chemistry of cheese, a cheesemaking demonstration, and pairing cheeses with wine and beer.

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: A Bloomy Cheddar

Premier Gourmet, my local cheese shop, has begun carrying some new raw milk cheeses. One is Tumbleweed, an aged (8-9 months), bloomy rind cheddar produced by 5 Spoke Creamery in Port Chester, NY. Tumbleweed is made from the milk of grass-fed, pesticide-free and hormone-free cows. It is even certified kosher.

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 at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Taste the Season is a wine and food extrava-ganza hosted by the 18 wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake (just across the border from Buffalo on Lake Ontario). The event takes place every weekend in November (Nov. 1st & 2nd, 8th & 9th, 15th & 16th, 22nd & 23rd, and 29th & 30th) and celebrates the best tastes of the harvest season with a popular touring and tasting program.

Each winery will feature a unique wine and food pairing. A tour pass ($40), which can be purchased in advance or at any participating winery, entitles you to sample each of the delectable dishes described below and to receive a collectible holiday ornament. Proceeds from sales of this pass will go to Second Harvest to provide food for needy families. Last year Taste the Season provided enough money for 20,000 nutritious meals.

Taste the Season is a wonderful chance to explore southern Ontario in the autumn.

Features Food and Wine Pairings:
Cattail Creek Estate Winery
2006 Dry Riesling
Treadwell’s Costini topped with Beet
Cured Lake Trout and Daikon Cress
Château des Charmes
2006 Gewürztraminer, St. Davids Vineyard
Cassoulet Tart - The Classic White Bean, Smoked Pork and with Duck Confit Stew baked into a delicate crust
Coyote's Run Estate Winery
2007 Cabernet
Smoked Duck Breast with Black Paw Vineyard Cabernet Jelly on Brioche
Hillebrand Winery
Trius Vidal Icewine 2006
Icewine Roasted Fall Fruit Crumble with Chantilly Cream
Inniskillin Wines
2006 Gamay Noir
Holiday Scone with Dried Cranberries and white chocolate
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
2006 Proprietors' Reserve Merlot
Pulled Beef Brisket Crostini
Joseph's Estate Wines
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Smoked Turkey with Brie and Leek Mini Quiche
Konzelmann Estate Winery
2007 Shiraz
Specialty Aged Canadian Cheddar and Niagara Gold Quiche with Fresh Herbs Roulade
Lailey Vineyard
2006 Pinot Noir Niagara Peninsula
Turkey en Croûte with Spiced Cranberry Compote
Marynissen Estates Winery
2004 Cabernet Merlot
Macaroni Casserole with Spiced Beef and Tomato Sauce
Niagara College Teaching Winery
2007 Sauvignon Blanc Fumé
Goat's Cheese Lollipops with Local Pear Chutney
Palatine Hills Estate Winery
2007 Fumé Blanc Proprietors Reserve
Smoked Atlantic Salmon with Roasted Pear and Goat Cheese
Peller Estate
Ice Cuvée
Cured Salmon with Horseradish Crème Fraiche and Chive Blini
Pillitteri Estates Winery
2004 Riesling - Dry Chicken Terrine with Pear and Riesling Compote
Reif Estate Winery
2004 Meritage
Fricassee of Lamb with Fall Vegetables and Meritage Jus
Stonechurch Vineyards
2007 Riesling- Gewürztraminer
Smoked Salmon Tarama
Strewn Winery
2006 Terroir Chardonnay Barrel Fermented
Mushroom Terrine with Roasted Garlic and Herbs
Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery
Spiced Mayan Walnuts

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Deco Chocolate Port

Deco Chocolate Port from Sonoma Valley Portworks is made from a blend of Californian and Australian ports and is infused with essences of bittersweet chocolate. Serious port? No. Fun port? Yes.

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

New York Wine & Culinary Center

The New York Wine & Culinary Center describes itself as "an educational and experiential gateway to New York State's incredible wine, food and culinary industries." The $7.5 million facility is located in Canandaigua, NY, at the north end of Canandaigua Lake, a short drive from Buffalo or Rochester.

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.