Fun Find: Aplat Pain Tote or what I like to call ‘BAG-uette’

I love the discovery of the unexpected, such as this culinary tote designed by Aplat–convenient and ideal for both picnics and trips to the grocery store. The oblong design secures your baguette and minimizes the potential of falling out, something that I struggle with when using a traditional reusable bag. This tote is much more than a carrier of bread, it can also hold two wine bottles and flowers. This was one of those “Oh, I have to have that!” purchases. I look forward to toting it around in wine country.

For more creative designs, Check out Aplat‘s website.

One in a Trillium

I first learned of Tulip Tree Creamery two years back during an ACS test prep session at the Sheraton in Iowa (I was studying for a rigorous cheese exam held during the American Cheese Society Conference). The Tulip duo sat right behind me, friendly as can be!

Located in Indianapolis, Tulip Tree Creamery defines artisan cheese. Their award winning cheeses are lovingly handmade using traditional European recipes with a modern twist. I’m a fan of their products, notably Trillium, a 2017 Good Food Award winner. Two French classics, Camembert and Brie, inspired the creation of this divine Triple Cream. Trillium’s fresh cream flavor is harmonized with a gentle lactic edge, rounded out with hints of oyster mushroom. When ripe, the delectable paste nearly escapes from the rind–waiting to be sopped up with a crusty baguette.

Trillium is one in a million and instantly becomes the highlight on any cheese board. When I’m able to get my hands on this cheese, I like to serve it with a chilled glass of Rosé wine and fennel salami.

Crackers Suited for Cheese

With much enthusiasm, my cousin insisted I try Smoked Gouda flavored Triscuits. It was accurately smoky, generically cheesy and processed just like Smoked Gouda . The cracker was a snack in itself and would be overpowering to pair with anything–cheese especially, which is my point of this post. When enjoying cheese it’s important that it takes center stage. Your cracker of choice should not be intensely flavored, but neutral. The subtleties and nuances are highlighted when using such a cracker. That is why, I am sharing crackers that pair best with cheese.

34 degree crackers are my go-to. They are delightfully airy and crisp,  showcasing any cheese or accompaniment you top it with. 34 degree crackers contrast with the richness of  creamier varieties such as soft-ripened/delicate triple cremes. Too minimize any cracker breakage,  serve cheese at room temperature and do not apply much pressure when spreading. 

Neither too thick or too thin, the original La Panzanella Croccantini complements all kinds of cheeses and spreads.

 

Beecher’s, the company that makes my one of my favorite cheeses, also makes a pretty mean cracker. Beecher’s original crackers are  buttery with a nutty, cornmeal-sweetness. Its hearty texture works well with a robust cheddar (such as Flagship, of course) and husky blues.

 

Raincoast crisps are a cheese’s best friend. The added ingredients of nuts and dried fruit accentuate whatever cheese you serve it with. The brittle texture provides a pleasing crunch. I enjoy pairing Humboldt Fog with cranberry hazelnut crisps. The tartness of the cranberries harmoniously pairs with the acidity of the goat’s cheese.

 

 

The Most Interesting Thing I ate during the Holidays and Pretty Much this Year

What kind of cake do you this may be? Your guess might be that it’s an edgy tropical layer cake with toasted coconut flakes embellished with glazed apricots and fresh herbs. Not quite.

This confection combines sweet sponge cake with  savory salt-cured egg yolks and dried pork–ingredients that are typically eaten with jook, a rice porridge. When my cousin’s fiancée brought this for Christmas dinner, I had mixed feelings. I was intrigued, weirded out but inspired. “How could this be good?” I thought; but, “how could this be bad?” I enjoy all these ingredients individually and I’m sucker for salted eggs. After a few bites and some major pondering, it was neither good or bad, a hodge podge of ingredients that lacked contrast and depth. The cream was unsweetened and flat, the dried pork was bland and the egg yolks were just not salty enough. The textural components of this cake did not coalesce and I found myself coughing on the dried pork bits.

Interesting? Yes. But, probably not something that I would dig my fork into again!

 

 

 

What Makes a Great Sandwich?

What makes a sandwich great? Is it the quality of the bread, the assembly, the ratio of high quality ingredients, or the range of textures and flavors?

I believe it is all of the above. A great sandwich is in the engineering and the cohesion of flavors that come together in one delicious bite. It could be as simple as a BLT, but done right, is extraordinary. I  can count the times I’ve eaten a knock your socks off sandwich on one hand. Most recently, I experienced sandwich bliss at Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits  & Cheese.

#3 Sandwich at Larchmont Village Wine & Cheese

223 N. Larchmont Blvd

Los Angeles, 9004

Larchmont Village Wine & Cheese is much more than a retail store that sells alcohol and cheese. The folks know at Larchmont know how to make a proper sandwich (and in a jiffy). Out of their selection of 7 sandwiches, #3 sandwich caught my attention: a rustic baguette layered with Soppressata salami, Manchego cheese, and mixed greens. Umm, yes?! The baguette was the perfect vehicle, with its crackly- exterior and spongy interior that was copiously lubricated with a sweet sundried tomato spread. Paper thin slices of robust Soppressata were laid out with shavings of nutty Spanish Manchego. A handful of vibrant greens dressed in fruity extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar finished the sandwich. They possess the magic sandwich touch and achieved balance with their attention to the ratio of ingredients. Each component was harmoniously represented and did not outshine the other. That’s a great sandwich, my friends.

 

 

A Taste of Provence

If there’s a cheese that epitomizes decadence, that would be Brillat Savarin. This French delight has a seductively rich and creamy paste that spreads on like butter. The flavor is mild, with a fresh cream taste and hints of sea salt. And if you’re wondering if you can eat the rind, go for it! The thin rind of this cheese imparts an earthy flavor, and is nearly seamless with its decadent interior. A drizzle of lavender honey and a sprinkling of Herbes de Provence (an aromatic blend of dried lavender, basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, savory and thyme), will transport your taste buds to the lavender fields of Provence.

 

Cesar’s Oaxacan Style String Cheese

String cheese brings back fond memories of my elementary school days, where I would eagerly await the ring of the lunch bell to tear open its wrapping and enjoy. The act of pulling apart the stretchy strands of mozzarella was a pleasurable experience. Now as an adult, I get that same nostalgic feeling–but with Cesar’s Oaxacan style string cheese. Oaxacan style string cheese has more stretch and is even more fibrous. After a single pull, you’ll find yourself entangled in a deliciously stringy mess.

Cesar Luis learned  cheesemaking as a young child in in Oaxaca, Mexico. He continued his passion moving to Wisconsin, where he received his cheesemaking license. The cheese is completely stretched by hand in 5o foot ropes and submerged in a 100 degree bath. It’s continuously pulled into thinner strings and cut into sticks. This style of cheese is known as Pasta Filata, or “spun paste,” which describes the technique of pulling and stretching of the curd. Other Pasta Filata cheeses include Scamorza, Caciocavallo, and Provolone.

 

Moliterno al Tartufo Pasta with Bacon

Envision this:

Warm fusilli pasta and bacon tossed inside a hollowed out wheel of Moliterno al Tartufo. The heat of the pasta melts the cheese as it’s being gently mixed. The natural starch of the pasta acts as thickening agent, creating a decadent sauce. Where could one go wrong?

Moliterno al Tartufo  is a truffle-veined  Pecorino from Sardinia. The Piquancy of the sheep’s milk married with the aroma of truffles is remarkably well-balanced. The addition of bacon added a touch of smoky flavor and the earth of the truffles softened the salty bite of the cheese.

 

Central Formaggio demonstrating their Moliterno al Tartufo pasta dish at Culture magazine’s (the word on cheese) Counter Culture seminar

Harbison

 

Oh, baby.

Google “cheese porn” and you’ll likely find images of Harbison at the top of the search results (capturing its ooey, gooey magnificence). Harbison is the creation of Jasper Hill, a dairy farm and award-winning creamery in Greensboro, VT. This cheese is downright sexy, with a thick, creamy interior that is simply irresistable . This rustic charmer is wrapped in strips of spruce bark harvested from the woodlands of Jasper Hill. The spruce bark might sound odd, but imparts an incredibly woodsy, piney-lemony aroma and taste. The flavor profile is vegetal- yet satisfyingly savory- with nuances of roasted asparagus. The best way to enjoy Harbison is to slice off its top rind and dig into its delectable paste.

 

Warfare Tavern’s Burrata Mashed Potatoes

dsc01630

When enriched with butter and cheese, mashed potatoes are transformative. At Wayfare Tavern, Chef Tyler Florence takes mashed potatoes to another level with the addition of Burrata. Why didn’t I think of that?! It’s brilliant, really; and makes perfect sense. Burrata is a stretched curd cheese filled with cream and straciatella (bits of mozzarella). The cheese gave the mash a mega creaminess and almost stretchy, potatoes aligot-like consistency. The chives were not just there for presentation, its slight crunch from the salamander oven lifted up the mash. I could’ve easily ate the whole thing. But, I was nice enough to share.