Cheese Flash Mob in Philadelphia

Yes, you read that right! Since the Cheese Ball last October, I’ve been itching to get another all-city cheese event on the books in Philadelphia. This time, I’m working with cheese-man-about-town Matt Buddah (@mattbuddahcheese) to bring you a fun, free way to connect with other dairy dreamers. All you need to do is grab a hunk of your favorite cheese and head over to Martha in Kensington on the night of June 29, 2017. I’ll be there to greet you with butter knives, wooden boards, and name tags, plus I’ll intro you to our city’s unofficial cheese gang, a.k.a The Rennet Rough Riders. (You may have read about them in Culture Magazine or The Philadelphia Inquirer.) No need to RSVP, just come get your lactic buzz on! We’re excited to cut cheese with you.
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Where: Martha (@marthakensington), 2113 E. York St., Phildelphia
When: June 29, 6-9 pm
What: Bring a hunk of cheese to share with other cheese lovers. Free condiments and bread provided by Martha + delicious libations for sale at the bar!
Why: Connect with cheesemakers, cheese lovers, and the city’s local cheese gang (a.k.a. The Rennet Rough Riders)
No RSVP or tickets required!
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What’s that? — you’re worried you won’t fit in?!?! Or that you won’t know who to talk to? Please! Cheese lovers are the most welcoming people on the planet. That’s why I hang out almost exclusively with milky weirdos! If you harbor secret dreams of making cheese in your kitchen, becoming a cheesemonger, turning your basement into a cheese cave, quitting your job to raise goats, or falling in love with a fellow curd nerd, you’ll fit right in. Come on, I get emails about this stuff all the time. It’s time we all met. 
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For updates via Instagram: @mmefromage  

 

Do You Know about THE NEW PARIS?

The New ParisWhen I need a dose of Frenchness, I pop over to the blog Lost in Cheeseland, where Lindsey Tramuta always has a baguette or a beautiful facade to ease the eyes. As a Philadelphia transplant living in the 11th arrondissement, she offers a down-to-earth, discovery-oriented pair of eyes and often writes about her favorite finds. Her first book, The New Paris:The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement, presses a pair of fingers on the city’s pulse and counts out the quick beats of a throbbing new creative energy: vegetarian restaurants, cafe/coworking spaces, boutiques, B&Bs that serve cocktails, and even new cheese shops.

I caught up with Lindsey last month when her book tour brought her to Philadelphia for several signings, including an event at Menagerie Coffee where she served drinks from the beans of one of her favorite French roasters. Over breakfast in Old City, she talked about the inspiration behind her new book, the history of her blog, and — of course — her favorite cheese.

Lindsey Tramuta, author of The New Paris

A Conversation with Author Lindsey Tramuta

On Living in Paris: “I was a French major at Temple, and I did a 6 month study abroad program. One night, I met my future husband at a party.” Needless to say, she was inspired to go back, where she pursued an M.A. in Global Communications. 

On Starting a Blog: She launched Lost in Cheeseland seven years ago and began a freelance career writing for magazines and newspapers. Many of her articles served as “cultural studies” for her new book as she explored new restaurants and businesses. The latest element on her blog? A podcast with fashion journalist Alice Cavanaugh.

On Writing a Book: “In 2014, I had a conversation with a friend about how I was tired of rosy stories that perpetuate the same myths about Paris. She said, ‘You write about the new Paris.’ That became my title.”

How the Book is Organized: “The book is not about me. It’s about the people making Paris what it is…. If I look at who’s in the book, there are a lot of immigrants — that’s the new Paris.” The six main chapters of the book include such topics as Coffee, Sweets, Libations, Shopping & Crafts, along with a list of Lindsey’s favorite places in the back. (On her blog, she has a great Paris Guide.) 

Who Should Read The New Paris: Anyone planning a trip to Paris (especially anyone who is headed there to study abroad), anyone who isn’t planning a trip to Paris but wants to be transported to its most cutting edge pastry shops, natural wine bars, microbreweries, and plant-based restaurants.

About Lindsey’s Favorite Cheese: “Beaufort!” she says. Although there isn’t a cheese chapter in the book, cheesemonger Clément Broussault is the first face you meet in The New Paris. Broussault abandoned a “suit-and-tie-banker life” to open Fromagerie Goncourt, an environmentally conscious cheese shop with a zero-plastics policy.

Final thoughts here, friends: This is a beautifully written and photographed book that mixes thoughtful observations about contemporary Parisian culture with introductions to some of the most interesting new chefs, bakers, and makers.

Lindsey makes you want to revisit the city to taste and drink, unlocking a whole new subculture that broadens French traditions. Flip through the stunning photos by Charissa Fay, and you’ll feel drunk and satiated.

It’s an excellent hammock read.

Follow Lindsey on Instagram: @lostncheeseland

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Anyone headed to Paris?

If so, what cheese are you most excited to eat? If you need a cheese guide, my favorite is the Eyewitness Handbook to French Cheese.

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Philadelphia & Chester County Cheese Tour

This summer marks a special milestone for me. First, let me tell you the story, then I want to invite you on a cheese journey. Yes, a cheese journey!

Twelve years ago, I left my home state of Wisconsin and moved to Philadelphia because I had always wanted to live in a city. I drove across the country and started my life over in a place where I didn’t know a single person. After I unloaded my books and bedding into a new apartment – my first time living alone – I wondered how I would ever find connection in such a vast place. Luckily, a former neighbor had slipped an address into my pocket: Di Bruno Bros. on 9th Street.

A cheese shop.

During that year, I visited Di Bruno Bros. every week and began speaking in tongues with the cheesemongers. Not literally, of course. But I learned a beautiful vocabulary for the tastes, smells, and textures I loved – bloomy rind, lactic, cream line. I filled my single-grrrl fridge with earthy clothbound cheddars and mineral-rich blue cheeses. Glowing orange washed-rinds became my go-tos because they smelled like home to me, like rural roads and barns filled with hay.

Slowly, I began to make friends at my new job, where I taught writing. I brought a cheese board anytime I was invited to a dinner party. (The stranger the cheeses, the better the conversation.) It made me so happy when people wanted to hear the story behind each cheese.

Like the cheese made from one cow named Renata.

Over time, I realized that I loved bringing cheese into people’s lives. I started this blog in 2009 and put all my heart into writing cheese descriptions and learning to take photographs. Tastings followed. I hosted workshops in a tiny cheese shop near my house, and I invited local cheesemakers to join me and share their stories.

Those experiences led to my first cheese book. And the book led to international cheese tours! Who would have thought? For the last three years, I’ve been honored to join Anna Juhl of Cheese Journeys on several back-door tours of the cheese world. First, to England. More recently, to France.

This fall, I’m teaming up with Cheese Journeys for a 4-day weekend in Philadelphia and Chester County…

Madame Fromage’s Cheese Journey, Sept. 1-4, 2017

Philadelphia & Chester County, PA

Frinends, I want to serve you the cheeses that changed my life. And I’m so excited for you to meet the people around Philadelphia and Chester County who make up one of the most dynamic dairy regions of the country. Please join me in tromping through city streets and pastures for a cheese journey of a lifetime!

Click here for the full itinerary or to sign up!

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Questions? Drop me a line: tenayadarlington@gmail.com. Space on the tour is limited to 12 people. All meals, lodging, and transportation from Philadelphia will be provided. 

 

 

Four Drink Pairings for Grana Padano

Until recently, Grana Padano and I were long-lost pen pals. My last blog post about this strapping cheese was back in 2010 when I spent an evening with Grana making pesto. Then in 2012, when I was writing Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, we corresponded again – I called Grana “Parmigiano’s understudy.”

That’s because Grana Padano is typically younger and less expensive than Parm. A good snacker, cheesemongers told me. Not as complex as Parm, but still reliable.

We got reacquainted, Grana Padano and I, at a party in Napa a few weeks ago. I watched a big Sicilian named Francesco break down a giant wheel of Grana, which was a little bit like watching someone claw open a boulder. Many small knives (a.k.a. Parm stilettos) must be inserted around the wheel’s hard midsection. Then the knife handles are jostled until the cheese snaps apart into two clean rounds. Voila, it opens like a geode. All glistening crystal.

Once opened, there is a perfume.

Yes, a perfume. It is sweet, the way you wish your sock drawer could smell. Like fresh apricots. And the taste? Like dried stone fruit and warm milk. A comfort cheese.

About Grana Padano
  • Grana means “granular” – it falls apart on the tongue, like a sugar cube. Padano refers to its origin: a clearly defined area around the Po River in northern Italy, where the cows graze. It’s a raw milk cheese.
  • Monks developed the recipe for Grana in the 12th century, aiming for a practical hard cheese that could be aged in caves for years. (Stock your bunkers with it!) So, it lasts a lonnng time.
  • Grana was one of the first cheeses protected by the European Union. Not just anybody can produce a cheese called Grana Padano. Like Champagne, it’s connected to a region and to regulations.
  • Four million wheels of Italian Grana are sold each year. In order to be branded as Grana Padano, the wheels have to be inspected and certified. Young wheels (9 to 16 months) are pale in color and mild in flavor. After 16 months, the cheese crystalizes (look for white dots) and grows sweetly tangy. Wheels marked Riserva are age 20+ months gain a golden color, plus a bigger flavor.

Four Drink Pairings

Go big red. Yes, yes, this cheese likes those heavy reds. Raid your basement for a Barolo, then cut into some good cured meat and set out some good Italian olives.

Get fizzy. Like Parm, Grana is great with Prosecco and other bubblies. Pop a bottle on the stoop, and serve some Grana shards with a bowl of stone fruit. A Bellini (bubbles + peach puree) would be awfully dreamy to pair.

Grab some kombucha. Right. I know you don’t believe me. But it works. Avoid the berry ‘booch on this one. Stick with a fairly plain variety that’s pleasantly sweet and tart. Add some raw nuts, and you’ve got the best possible desk lunch.

Cocktail it up. Try a sherry cocktail, so you can lean on a bit of fruity richness. A Coronation Cocktail is one of my new faves, a recipe I tested recently for a new book. Of course the recipe is below, dahhhlink.

Recipe: A Coronation Cocktail

A lovely balance of sweet and savory, this vintage cocktail from The Savoy Cocktail Book pairs well with a hunk of Grana and a side of cured meat, like Prosciutto di Parma or Prosciutto di San Daniele.

  • 11/2 ounces Amontillado sherry
  • 11/2 ounces dry vermouth (I like Noilly Prat)
  • 1/4 ounce Luxardo
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Lemon or orange twist for garnish

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish.

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Disclosure: I learned about the Grana Padano during a recent press trip, and the gorgeous hunk in the photos followed me home in my suitcase.

 

A Trip to Foodie Hogwarts

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone is sometimes called “Foodie Hogwarts.” Rising above the undulating vineyards of Napa Valley, its dusky stone façade looks castle-like, with an enormous arched doorway that ushers aspiring chefs into what was once a Franciscan winery. When I was invited to spend a long weekend there learning about some Italian specialty foods, I dropped everything and climbed onto a plane.

When I landed, I met 8 chefs from around the country, and together we spent a packed 48 hours tasting cured meats and cheeses. The chefs had two days to invent new dishes in the CIA kitchen, while I roamed the sunlit halls, snapped photos, and grilled importer Francesco Lupo about the two cheeses he brought with him in his suitcase, Grana Padano and Montasio.

Don’t worry. I’ll tell you about the cheeses soon enough. (I flew home with hunks the size of meteors.) First, I want to give you a few glimpses of Napa and my fabulous co-travelers, not to mention our stellar host, Chef Almir Da Fonseca.

Spending time in the CIA kitchen was a reminder of why I do what I do. Blogging about cheese lets me peer into the creative lives of other strangers who love food…

Like Stephanie Boswell, Executive Pastry Chef of The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. She also manages the cheese program. We became friends over Montasio and a shared love of washed rinds.

Then there was Michael Israel, who left a job at Huckleberry in L.A. to become Senior Manager of Culinary Development at The Cheesecake Factory. We spent a good forty minutes over lunch one day discussing the consistency of a perfect cheesecake. Not surprisingly, he was incredibly articulate.

Not to mention Luis DaCosta, Chef/General Manager of Harvard Dining, who regaled us all with his story of preparing thousands of meals for 4 weeks during a kitchen strike. (Even Harvard professors jumped into help.) At the CIA, he was obsessed with trying out different parts of Prosciutto di Parma in the recipes he created. Here’s something I learned about Prosciutto di Parma: the bottom of the leg is saltiest, best for soup; the top of the leg is sweetest, best for eating on cheese boards.

And of course, we met a few CIA students. The current class hailed from 19 countries. And, like all of us, their passion for food was evident in every movement, from preparing food at the stoves around us to the expressions on their faces when they tasted Chef Almir Da Fonseca’s savory Montasio Donuts.

Hint: the donuts were made from brioche dough, fried, then dipped into a glaze made with honey and freshly grated black truffle. Monumental. This was definitely one of my favorite ways to enjoy Montasio, a gorgeous cheese I’ll tell you all about in an upcoming post.

Full disclosure: My cheese weekend at the CIA was sponsored by Legends From Europe, a consortium devoted to educating food lovers about Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Grana Padano, and Montasio cheese.