Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dancing Buffalo Apple Icewine

Carl Schmitter of Chateau Buffalo and Dancing Buffalo Cidre recently released an incredibly unique and tasty concoction that you won't find anywhere else: Glace de Ballet Apple Icewine. This delectable dessert wine is a sweet and refreshing change of pace.

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

Toronto Wine and Cheese Show

The 2009 Toronto Wine & Cheese Show is coming up March 20-22, 2009. Attendees can sample thousands of wines, spirits, cheeses and other culinary delights.

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

Raw Milk Cheeses Now Permitted in Quebec

According The Globe and Mail, Quebec is now going to allow the sale of raw-milk cheeses that have been aged for less than 60 days. The US Dept. of Agriculture and its Canadian equivalent have banned such cheeses over health concerns.

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

Winter Wine Day at Niagara University

Following upon the success of their first Wine Day last summer, Niagara University has decided to host a Winter Wine Day on Sat., Feb. 28th, 9am-12pm. The cost is $35, which includes registration, a personalized Wine Day glass, and a 10% discount card from the Niagara Wine Trail.

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 Chèvre

My local cheese shop, Premier Gourmet, recently started carrying a new line of chèvre from Heartland Creamery. The Heartland lineup includes a natural (or plain) chèvre, plus several varieties that are rolled in an array of seasonings--e.g., fine herbs, lemon pepper, garlic & chive, and olive & pimiento.

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

An Easy Way to Remove Wine Labels

In the following video Richard Hayes demonstrates an easy technique for removing and saving wine labels that does not require the purchase of expensive adhesive strips or other wine products.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Midnight Moon

The superior quality of the Cypress Grove Chevre (no, they don't use the accent grave) product line is probably unmatched among American cheesemakers today. Their Midnight Moon is one of the many reasons why.

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

Cooleeney Irish Farmstead Cheese

The second installment of the video partnership between Corks and Curds and iFoods features iFoods chef Niall Harbison interviewing Breda Maher of Cooleeney Cheese in County Tipperary, Ireland. Cooleeney has been making fine artisanal cheeses since 1986 from the milk of their Friesian dairy herd.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2009 Niagara Icewine Festival

The 2009 Niagara Icewine Festival will be held Jan. 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th in the Niagara region of southern Ontario. (The event is listed as spanning Jan. 16th - 25th, but the main events fall on the two weekends listed.) The official festival guide can be found here.

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

Smokey Blue

Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue is the world's first (and only?) smoked blue cheese and is one of the most interesting blue cheeses I've ever tasted.

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.