CHEESE NOTES

Cheesemongers of Santa Fe coming to New Mexico

The Santa Fe Reporter brings the story of New Mexico’s newest cheese shop, set to open shortly: 

Queso: Hurrah, Hurrah!
Northern NM’s first proper brick-and-mortar cheese shop to focus on artisan, farmstead producers

Do a quick web search of “New Mexico cheese shops” and you’ll be lucky to find anything more interesting than a Hickory Farms outlet in Albuquerque. True, venues like Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, La Montañita Co-op and the Santa Fe Farmers Market offer a decent variety of cheeses in town, but they certainly don’t specialize in them.

John Gutierrez, however, does. Co-owner and proprietor of Cheesemongers of Santa Fe (130 E Marcy St., 405-642-8782), which is set to open in September in a former downtown office building just a cheddar wedge’s throw from the SFR mother ship, Gutierrez is Le Grand Fromage of fromage—a Dairy King and a passionate one. A Germany-born military brat with close family ties to Taos and Northern New Mexico, Gutierrez takes cheese so seriously that we had to reschedule an interview while he attended the American Cheese Society Conference in Sacramento, Calif., a few weeks ago.

Major construction began in May on the interior of the Cheesemongers of Santa Fe shop, which boasts about 1,000-square-feet of gorgeous wood-floored display and counter space, a scullery (a small wash area), storage units for keeping cheeses at their proper temperatures and offices. A few of the cheese cases, which, Gutierrez notes with more than a hint of nostalgia, are the original cheese cases from Forward Foods in Oklahoma, will hold between 100 and 150 different varieties of cut-to-order cheese. Up to 50 more selections will be available around the holidays. “We’re aiming for a 50-50 split between domestic and international cheeses,” Gutierrez says, “and we’ll carry some New Mexico cheeses too, like selections from the Old Windmill Dairy in Estancia.”

Read the full story.

(Photo ©2014 Santa Fe Reporter)

High-res If you’re anywhere near Duke University, this is an event not to miss, featuring Heather Paxson (anthropologist and author of The Life of Cheese), Ben Wolfe (Microbialfoods.org) and Portia McKnight of Chapel Hill Creamery. I’ve seen both Heather and Ben speak, so it’s a guarantee that it will be an informative and entertaining evening: 

Subnatural Cultures in and Around the Creamery from Science to Animals and Art: A Talk, Tasting, and Art Opening
Place: Jameson Gallery- Friedl Building- Duke East Campus
People: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery)
Description: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery) will lead a post-pasteurian talk, round table and tasting at the Jameson Gallery explaining how the microbial life of “fragrant ” cheeses constitutes a “subnature” worth reconsidering. Subnature is a term coined by David Gissen to categorize what architects have historically referred to as marginalized spaces in building and landscapes (darkness, dankness, weeds, mud, smoke, dust, etc.), but which have been reappropriated and made into aesthetically pleasurable and functional places. Heather, Ben, and Portia will test this architectural paradigm in the realm of cuisine, discussing the subnature of stinky cheeses from a transdisciplinary, theoretical, and applied point of view. Jennifer Stratton (MFA, Duke) will provide a tour and answer questions about the “subnatural installation” she is curating in the same space over samples of local cheese, kombucha, and earthy beer.
For a sample of Ben, Heather and the sorts of questions that will be addressed, pls. see:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ej4BP64BsU

If you’re anywhere near Duke University, this is an event not to miss, featuring Heather Paxson (anthropologist and author of The Life of Cheese), Ben Wolfe (Microbialfoods.org) and Portia McKnight of Chapel Hill Creamery. I’ve seen both Heather and Ben speak, so it’s a guarantee that it will be an informative and entertaining evening: 

Subnatural Cultures in and Around the Creamery from Science to Animals and Art: A Talk, Tasting, and Art Opening

Place: Jameson Gallery- Friedl Building- Duke East Campus

People: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery)

Description: Heather Paxson (Anthropology, MIT), Ben Wolfe (Biology, Tufts University), and Portia McKnight (Chapel Hill Creamery) will lead a post-pasteurian talk, round table and tasting at the Jameson Gallery explaining how the microbial life of “fragrant ” cheeses constitutes a “subnature” worth reconsidering. Subnature is a term coined by David Gissen to categorize what architects have historically referred to as marginalized spaces in building and landscapes (darkness, dankness, weeds, mud, smoke, dust, etc.), but which have been reappropriated and made into aesthetically pleasurable and functional places. Heather, Ben, and Portia will test this architectural paradigm in the realm of cuisine, discussing the subnature of stinky cheeses from a transdisciplinary, theoretical, and applied point of view. Jennifer Stratton (MFA, Duke) will provide a tour and answer questions about the “subnatural installation” she is curating in the same space over samples of local cheese, kombucha, and earthy beer.

For a sample of Ben, Heather and the sorts of questions that will be addressed, pls. see:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ej4BP64BsU

Head up, Nashville-area folks, The Southern Artisan Cheese Festival is returning this September 27th! The South’s cheese scene has experienced tremendous growth and development in the last decade, and this is a great opportunity to sample the the wares of producers new and established. 

SOUTHERN ARTISAN CHEESE FESTIVAL

Saturday, September 27th
2:00 - 6:00pm
At the historic Neuhoff Building in Nasvhille, TN

Cheesemakers and food artisans from eight states come together to celebrate the growing movement of handcrafted foods here in the South. Festival attendees sample any of hundreds of small batch cheeses, cured meats, jams, breads, crackers, pickles, and more. The good folks who create these amazing foods are here to chat and will offer their goods for sale so you can take home your favorites.  Regional craft beers and a selection of cheese-friendly wines are included with your ticket to sip while you nosh and socialize.

Cheesemakers: Belle Chevre AL  |  Blackberry Farm TN  |  Boone Creek Creamery KY  |  Capriole Goat Cheese  IN  |  Caromont Farm VA  |  English Farmstead Cheese NC  |  Good Shepherd Cheese KY  |   Greendale Farm GA    |  Kenny’s Farmhouse KY  |  Kent Walker Cheese AR  |  Manyfold Farm GA  |  Nature’s Harmony   GA  |  Noble Springs Dairy  TN  |  Paradox Farm NC  |  Prodigal Farm NC  |  Sequatchie Cove Creamery   TN  |   Sweet Grass Dairy GA  |  White River Creamery AR  |  And one honorary southerner: Marcoot Jersey Creamery in IL

Get your tickets here

(Photos ©2014 Southern Artisan Cheese Festival)

Culture.pl, the “comprehensive source of knowledge about Polish culture”, has a nice piece about Oscypek, a traditional smoked sheep’s milk cheese with a unique appearance:  

Food Fundamentals: Osycpek

Oscypek (os-TSEH-peck) is a decorative traditional spindle shaped smoked sheep’s cheese from the Podhale region.

Since 2008 the cheese is a protected trade name under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin geographical indication. Two things are needed to create the regional speciality: a special breed of sheep called Polish Mountain Sheep, a shepherd, a small mountain hut with a hearth, a shepherd’s apprentice and a pastureland. This seasonal cheese is produced from May to September during sheep milking season (sometimes small amounts of milk from a special breed of cow - the Polish Red Cow is added).

The sheep of the Podhale region feed on a variety of vegetation. What they eat can be tasted in their milk and therefore the cheese. The shepherd apprentices, who look after the sheep the entire season and rarely leave the mountains in that period, have a demanding job. The animals require milking three times per day. And sheep herds have a couple hundred specimens. The milk is poured through a linen cloth into a wooden bucket, then dried rennet is added. The curdled substance is squeezed from the whey and shaped like a spindle. The decorative elements are made by putting the cheese in a wooden mould. The 17 to 23 cm long oscypek is then dipped in brine and placed under the roof of the mountain hut. It is smoked in cold smoke coming from a small fire inside the hut. The cheese matures for a period between a few to a dozen or so days. It becomes flavoured and golden.

Read the full post.

(Photos ©2014 culture.pl)

High-res Remember that time you said “burgers are great, but I wish the bun, the cheese and the sauce were the color of asphalt”? Well, your prayers have been answered! In Japan at least. Via independent.co.uk: 


Burger King releases black burger with ‘bamboo charcoal cheese and squid ink sauce’ in Japan

Burger King in Japan is taking bizarre fast food to new heights with black cheeseburgers complete with black buns, black cheese and black sauce.
The chain started the Premium Kuro Burger (kuro means “black”) in 2012, colouring the bread with bamboo charcoal and adding squid ink to the ketchup.
Last year it evolved to the Kuro Ninja, which had all the above with a slice of bacon for a tongue, and now Burger King is on the third generation.
Apparently Japanese customers quite liked the bamboo charcoal, so it is now in the cheese slices as well, along with beef burgers made with black pepper, an onion and garlic sauce with squid ink and the black bread.

Remember that time you said “burgers are great, but I wish the bun, the cheese and the sauce were the color of asphalt”? Well, your prayers have been answered! In Japan at least. Via independent.co.uk

Burger King releases black burger with ‘bamboo charcoal cheese and squid ink sauce’ in Japan

Burger King in Japan is taking bizarre fast food to new heights with black cheeseburgers complete with black buns, black cheese and black sauce.

The chain started the Premium Kuro Burger (kuro means “black”) in 2012, colouring the bread with bamboo charcoal and adding squid ink to the ketchup.

Last year it evolved to the Kuro Ninja, which had all the above with a slice of bacon for a tongue, and now Burger King is on the third generation.

Apparently Japanese customers quite liked the bamboo charcoal, so it is now in the cheese slices as well, along with beef burgers made with black pepper, an onion and garlic sauce with squid ink and the black bread.

High-res Color-shift in Gowanus Couronne rinds over 11 days. On the left is a couronne from the 08/20 Batch, and on the right is a wheel from the 08/09 batch. Naturally occurring B.Linens (ie I’m not adding them as part of the culture blend during the make, but rather they are ambient in the aging space) seem to be responsible for the rosy glow which they develop over time. This was a cow’s milk, thermalized version.
(thermalized means the raw milk is briefly heated at below-pasteurization temps, to knock down the native cultures a bit but without wiping them out, allowing for more control.)

Color-shift in Gowanus Couronne rinds over 11 days. On the left is a couronne from the 08/20 Batch, and on the right is a wheel from the 08/09 batch. Naturally occurring B.Linens (ie I’m not adding them as part of the culture blend during the make, but rather they are ambient in the aging space) seem to be responsible for the rosy glow which they develop over time. This was a cow’s milk, thermalized version.

(thermalized means the raw milk is briefly heated at below-pasteurization temps, to knock down the native cultures a bit but without wiping them out, allowing for more control.)

High-res This may not be the most photogenic cheese, but the Lady’s Blue is a rare find, a raw goat’s milk blue from Holland, available at only one location in the US, Bedford Cheese Shop. As Bedford Monger Nick Bayne (@thecheesemason) reports on Cheeserank.com — the new cheese-focused site from Ritz Crackers — the Lady’s Blue is made by cheesemaker Ayla Groenveld on the Kruidenwei Farm, where she and partner Ger Entjes tend to a herd of 150 goats and create a variety of raw goat’s milk cheeses. They use kid rennet — aka rennet derived from goat rather than cow — and dutch sea salt, to create this blue, and produce it in small batches which generally do not leave their native country.Charlotte Kamin, owner of Bedford, discovered this cheese with the late Daphne Zepos of Essex Street Cheese (namesake of the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award) and brought it stateside.
The texture of this cheese is like marshmallow and buttercream frosting, pale ivory and gray, struck through with blue-green pockets and crunchy from calcium phosphate crystals (which are particular to blues and differ from the the tyrosine crystals commonly found in alpines and goudas). The flavor is milky, sweet and citrusy at first, with caramel and vegetal notes, but then it comes on strong; gamey, peppery and a bit fiery, leaving your mouth tingling and you wanting another bite. It’s kind of like a marriage of a docile, spoonable dessert blue like Gorgonzola Dolce and a fierce Spanish aged Cabrales.
This is not one for the faint of wallet though; at $59/Lb it will probably be the priciest wedge on your cheese board. But if you’re looking for an unusual blue experience, this would be a good place to start (and the mongers at Bedford are very understanding if you ask for a smaller than usual weight).

This may not be the most photogenic cheese, but the Lady’s Blue is a rare find, a raw goat’s milk blue from Holland, available at only one location in the US, Bedford Cheese Shop. As Bedford Monger Nick Bayne (@thecheesemason) reports on Cheeserank.com — the new cheese-focused site from Ritz Crackers — the Lady’s Blue is made by cheesemaker Ayla Groenveld on the Kruidenwei Farm, where she and partner Ger Entjes tend to a herd of 150 goats and create a variety of raw goat’s milk cheeses. They use kid rennet — aka rennet derived from goat rather than cow — and dutch sea salt, to create this blue, and produce it in small batches which generally do not leave their native country.Charlotte Kamin, owner of Bedford, discovered this cheese with the late Daphne Zepos of Essex Street Cheese (namesake of the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award) and brought it stateside.

The texture of this cheese is like marshmallow and buttercream frosting, pale ivory and gray, struck through with blue-green pockets and crunchy from calcium phosphate crystals (which are particular to blues and differ from the the tyrosine crystals commonly found in alpines and goudas). The flavor is milky, sweet and citrusy at first, with caramel and vegetal notes, but then it comes on strong; gamey, peppery and a bit fiery, leaving your mouth tingling and you wanting another bite. It’s kind of like a marriage of a docile, spoonable dessert blue like Gorgonzola Dolce and a fierce Spanish aged Cabrales.

This is not one for the faint of wallet though; at $59/Lb it will probably be the priciest wedge on your cheese board. But if you’re looking for an unusual blue experience, this would be a good place to start (and the mongers at Bedford are very understanding if you ask for a smaller than usual weight).

FDA Update on the Status of Artisanal Cheese

The FDA has released an official statement on the status of imported cheeses that had Holds placed on them, including Roquefort, which had caused quite a stir in the cheese world: 

FDA Update on the Status of Artisanal Cheese

September 8, 2014
Recent media reports have incorrectly indicated that the FDA is banning Roquefort and other cheeses.

Earlier in 2014, nine producers of Roquefort, Tomme de Sovie, Morbier, and other cheeses tested above threshold levels set in 2010 for a particular type of bacteria called non-toxigenic E. coli. While these bacteria don’t cause illness, their presence suggests that the cheese was produced in unsanitary conditions.

The FDA has been working with the American Cheese Society (ACS) to learn more about artisanal cheeses and measures that cheesemakers take to ensure their products are safe. After hearing ACS’ concerns about the test results, the FDA adjusted its criteria for taking regulatory action based on them. As a result, 95 percent of the cheese sampled tested below the level at which FDA would take regulatory action, and six of the nine cheese producers placed on Import Alert 12-10 for exceeding bacterial counts have been removed from that list and can resume sales and distribution in the U.S.

The FDA remains dedicated to ensuring a safe and wholesome food supply using the latest science to protect human health, and promoting dialogue with industry, consumers and other interested parties. The FDA is committed to working and sharing an open dialogue with the artisanal cheesemaking community. Of course, we welcome input from the public at any time and we continue to meet and share information with the artisanal cheesemaking community on this and other topics.

For more information: 

(Via American Cheese Society). 

Benton Inspects the Reveries
Sampling the Humble Herdsman
Susan and Benton unpacking and weighing the wheels. Checking the wheels on the shelves
Reveries and West West Blues
Sam and Benton inspect the wheels
Reverie, Suffolk Punch and Kashar
Suffolk Punches with their distinctive moldy overcoat.
Beer experiments in progress!

A Visit to Crown Finish Caves

A few evenings ago I had the chance to visit Crown Finish Caves, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, as they were receiving their bi-weekly shipment from their cheesemaking partners up north, Parish Hill Creamery. This was especially interesting for me as the last time I visited the facilities, with Jos Vulto of Vulto Creamery, was right after they’d completed construction, but before there was actually any cheese on the shelves! (you can see that post, and the gleaming, empty tunnels, here). 

By now, of course, the story has developed considerably: Crown Finish is receiving regular shipments of both aged cheese — affinaged in Peter Dixon’s own facilities up in Westminster West, VT — and “green” cheese, which Crown Finish is then affinaging themselves in consultation with Peter and his team. Their state of the art caves are outfitted with the best temperature, airflow and humidity control systems on the market, from french company Clauger, and that system is now being put to full use. A key goal of this process is to identify the differences in aroma, flavor, texture, rind development, microbial activity and other key variables which may exhibit differences from one location to the other — in a word, the “terroir” of Brooklyn’s underground tunnels, vs those of an aging facility dug into a hillside in vermont. 

Driving the shipment down was Sam Frank (@samfrankcisco on Instagram), a cheesemaker at Parish Hill; at the caves, two assistants, August and Michelle Villasenor, helped in the unpacking as Benton and Susan directed traffic and stacked the wheels on the scales. As the wheels of cheese were unpacked from their crates, Sam and Benton inspected the wheels, noting features and variations both positive and negative; some wheels of blue exhibited curds that had knit exceptionally well, while a few Suffolk Punches had slight pockets of air under the rind on which Sam and Benton debated how best to deal with. After being inspected and weighed,the shipments were moved in to the caves to find their new homes on the wooden shelves. This shipment included West-West Blue, Parish Hill’s two-day blue cheese; Suffolk Punch and Kashar, their pasta filata cheeses, the Suffolk Punch having the distinctive, gourd-like Caciocavallo shape; Humble Herdsman, a semi-soft tomme-style cheese; and Reverie, a larger-format Tomma-style cheese. 

Once in the caves, we also got to see some exciting developments under way; Crown Finish has a few experiments going, including a couple of cheeses being aged for Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. (although I can’t say more than that). Particularly interesting for any beer and cheese lovers out there, Crown Finish has partnered with Josh Bernstein, renowned NYC beer expert, on a beer-washed experiment involving wheels of Humble Herdsman and a selection from brewers such as Finback, Transmitter, Other Half, Single CutThree’s Brewing and more. The differences in the rind development among the cheeses was immediately apparent, with both color and aroma varying considerably, some turning dark brown from the ales being applied, while others were barely changed in color. 

The big news, though, is that Crown Finish will be hosting an event in November at which these cheeses will be available in an evening of tastings and pairings! Tickets not available yet; stay tuned as I’ll be posting details as soon as I have them. 

The Suffolk punches are particularly dramatic in appearance in the caves; when you get them at the cheese counter they’ll be polished smooth and a gleaming golden-yellow color, but during aging they become covered with a thick, fuzzy layer of greenish-gray mold, almost like layers of spider webs built up over the months. This is perfectly normal, and aids in both the development of flavor and the protection of the interior paste. 

Seeing the caves actually running at full steam, with wheels aging on the shelves from one end to the other, is a beautiful sight. Benton cored one of the wheels of Herdsman (the “#3”), and we gave it a taste; a very milky cheese (“like drinking a glass of milk” as Benton described it), tangy with a subtle grassy-herby finish.Brooklyn’s first full-scale cheese aging facilities are off to a promising start, and the cheeses which have actually been aged on-site will be hitting the city’s cheese counters soon. 

Note: the caves aren’t open to the public, but if you visit Berg’n, Crown Heights’ newest beer and food hall, you can enjoy your brews and ramen burgers knowing that directly next door to the east, deep under the street, affineurs are hard at work, and wheels of cheese, destined for your favorite cheese shop, are maturing to their full glory.