It’s been a summer of cheese sleuthing. Wisconsin. Vermont. Tomorrow, I leave for Cheese Camp in Rhode Island, then it’s off to a secret cabin in Connecticut in exchange for a cheese party. It’s been glorious to spend so much time outside, toes in grass, making new friends — but today I’m luxuriating in a cafe, avec laptop, and relishing in some online daydreams. Here are a few delicious links that relate ever-so-loosely to cheese. May you enjoy these creative supernovas, and if you want to follow my Cheese Camp escapades starting tomorrow, find me on Instagram @mmefromage!
I’ve been following Amanda Phickle’s blog with a deep hunger ever since she returned from a fermentation retreat with kraut master Sandor Katz. Her recipe for Doogh — a fizzy, minty yogurt beverage — has me swooning.
My new blog crush: Writers Hana and Christine poke around in people’s kitchens, then run photos and interviews. Oh, nothing makes me happier than fridge-snoopery and cupboard-crashing! Have a look-see at what these dames discover in Johanna Kindvall’s kitchen, when they sniff out the writer/illustrator behind Kokblog — one of my favorite collaborators. (See JK’s illustration of my desk cheese board.)
How has it take so long for a website devoted to cheese curds to appear? Well, count on a Wisconsin cheese branding campaign to titillate us all with a curd-finder map and a daily giveaway of fresh curds. I received a bag in the mail last week and, friends, those curds were so fresh they still squeaked. I walked around the house eating them and laughing. New to curds? They’re simply fresh, unaged cheese nubbins pulled right out of the vat at the onset of the cheese-making process. When they’re fresh, they squeak between your teeth; when they’re a day or so old, they stop squeaking. In Wisconsin, enjoying a fresh, squeaky curd is a birthright. Drive through the state and you’ll see billboards beckoning you with the promise of “the squeakiest!” To experience this strange pleasure, enter the giveaway. Then put a six-pack and some friends on stand-by.
Friends, you’ve heard me rave about a new Pennsylvania cheesemaker named Stefanie Angstadt and her little micro-creamery, Valley Milkhouse in Oley, PA. I’m here to share the summer issue of Edible Philly, which contains the profile I wrote about her, called “The Start-Up Creamery.” You can read Edible Philly’s digital edition if you don’t live in these parts, or look for copies in Reading Terminal Market. Her story about reclaiming a historic milk house after learning to make cheese in her Brooklyn kitchen is inspiring. If you’re young and misty-eyed about working with milk, take a gander. You’ll find out how Stef secured her first loan and worked with her local community to get her one-woman operation running.
Shooting the photos for this story resulted in some of my favorite images. Stef’s cheeses are all very distinct in taste and in shape — she’s got an oozy bloomy, an herb-laced log, a natural-rinded blue, and a stunning ashy pyramid. Draping them with currants and adding a lump of honeycomb made their colors and textures pop.
If you’re headed to Cheese Camp (a.k.a. the American Cheese Society conference) in Providence next week, be sure to give Stef a big ol’ smile. She’s this year’s scholarship winner!
Madame Fromage at Cheese Camp: I’ll be presenting with Christine Hyatt (Cheese Chick Productions) at Cheese Camp on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015 at 2:15 p.m. for a talk on Improving Your Digital Image. We’ll be talking about digital photography and social media. Come say hello if you’re in the crowd! I’ll be at ACS all week with my fellow Philadelphians, Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm and cheese painter Mike Geno. Plus, Anna Juhl of Cheese Journeys! We’ll be at the Red Fez, July 30, 9 p.m. for the DZTA Award Winners party — check out the Facebook link for details!
Looking to try these cheeses? Click here for Valley Milkhouse retail locations and markets. You can also visit the creamery’s small farm store at 92 Covered Bridge Rd. in Oley, PA. It’s one of the sweetest little farm stores I’ve ever seen, with eggs, yogurt, and plenty of cheese.
Whenever I travel, I always try to build a cheese board by shopping at local markets. It’s a great way to taste a place, and it gives my trip a pairing-driven purpose. Pack a cutting board on your next road trip, and you’ll have more fun nibbling, guaranteed.
Take last Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin: My brother Andre Darlington and I hit three Dane County farmers’ markets before 9 a.m. to assemble this Wisconsin Farmers’ Market Board, complete with tender strawberries, fresh herbs (even a little Sweet Woodruff), and zingy radish pods — a great palate cleanser that tastes like a pea pod that eloped with a daikon.
Give a listen to Andre’s new podcast, The Farmers’ Market Report, in a special July 4 episode devoted to all things Wisconsin Cheese. We interviewed all the makers connected with the cheeses you see on the board (pictured, counter-clockwise):
- Landmark Creamery’s Petit Nuage (top left)
- Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar Reserve
- Capri Farm’s Saint Dorian The Good
- Creme de la Coulee’s Saint Jennifer
- Hook’s Little Boy Blue
Details, details: Landmark Creamery’s etherial clouds of fresh sheep milk still leave me breathless. Bleu Mont is better than ever — Willi’s bandaged reserved paired beautifully with dark chocolate. Capri Farm’s Gouda-esque Saint Dorian is an Alpine sweetie, unlike any other firm sheep’s milk cheese I’ve tasted. Creme de la Coulee is new for me (cheesemaker Bill Anderson interned with Willi Lehner of Bleu Mont) and I am excited about his commitment to stink — although I want more funk in his Jennifer. Hook’s sheep-milk blue soothes — it’s fatty-sweet and so good with berries.
High Street Farmers’ Market | Saturday, July 11, 2015 (10:30-3:30)
This small summer market includes a table of guests I help curate on a bimonthly basis. This Saturday, you’ll meet Marisa McClellan from Foodinjars (she’ll be signing books until 1:30), along with Carly Dougherty from Food and Ferments. For a list of my upcoming guests, click here.
Also, don’t forget that July 16 is Eli Kulp Day, and High Street is planning a benefit dinner to help with Chef Eli’s medical bills that have followed his injury in the Amtrak crash. I’ll be at the benefit curating a giant cheese board, with the help of Birchrun Hills Farm and Di Bruno Bros. Tickets here.
Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival | Sunday, July 19 2015
I’m headed up to Shelburne next week to sniff out the hunks of Vermont! Let me know if you’ll be there. We can float on Lake Champlain with curds in our pockets. Tickets here
This week, I’m in Wisconsin for sips and nibbles. And the highlight so far: pairing cocktails with one of my favorite stinkers, Scharfe Maxx, from Studer Dairy in Switzerland. It’s a cream bomb with notes of roasted nuts, caramel, fruit, and herbs. Basically, it’s a picnic with a rind.
Here’s how my brother André and I created two cocktails to commemorate the American launch of Kaserei Studer’s Swiss cheeses in Wisconsin this week, at a media bash hosted by parent company Emmi Roth. Using the ethos of our Sprig+Spirit brand, we envisioned fresh, healthful drinks that picked up on pastureland fragrances, incorporated quality ingredients, and offered a balance of flavors.
2. We incorporated native spirits. Poires Williams and Kirschwasser, both from Switzerland were easy picks. Both brandies incorporate fruit: Poires Williams is the bottle with an entire pear inside it, and Kirschwasser (a key ingredient in fondu) is distilled from Swiss cherries.
3. We added layers of aroma and flavor with citrus and garnishes. For our Poire Williams drink, we added fresh lemon and a garnish of spanked rosemary. Pear, lemon, and rosemary work beautifully together, emphasizing herbs and ripe fruit. For our Kirschwasser cocktail, we added fresh lemon and a cherry garnish — emphasizing stone fruit and citrus.
And so we developed two easy sippers. The Mad Maxx and The Bodensee Sling (pictured up top).
Pair either of these two cocktail with big Alpines — especially Scharfe Maxx (aged six months) or Scharfe Maxx Extra (aged 12 months). If you own a copy of my book The Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, you can read about Scharfe Maxx there, too, and find a recipe for one of my favorite sweet bites, The Scharfe Maxx S’more.
The Bodensee Sling (Recipe)
Think tropical fruit and cherries. Pair this Swiss version of a Straits Sling with any big Alpine, but especially Scharfe Maxx Extra — (aged 12 months). We named it the Bodensee Sling after Lake Constance (a.k.a Der Bodensee), near the cheesemaker’s home.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1/2 ounce coco-nib infused Kirschwasser (1 tablespoon nibs per 1 cup Kirschwasser for 1-2 weeks)
- 1/2 ounce Benedictine
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 2 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- quarter of a lemon wheel, for garnish
- cherry, for garnish
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Spear the cherry and lemon to garnish. Note: you can also serve this drink in a rocks glass over ice.
For the Mad Maxx, click the link to find the recipe on Sprig + Spirit.
Part 4: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week-long series on planning a July 4 cheese board. I put it together with my friend Marisa from Foodinjars so that we could explore the summer harvest and…oh, the dairy case. Here are links to everything we cooked, baked, stirred, and sniffed out. Our goal was to give you ideas for a no-fuss July 4 picnic, where you could make everything from scratch or ransack your pantry. If you want to recreate our menu, or part of it. here’s how:
ADDITIONAL ITEMS: baguettes, cucumbers, fresh berries, cured meat (not pictured here, but welcome).
SERVING TIPS: If you’re packing this as a picnic, store the cheeses on ice or on top of cold wine bottles. When you serve them, make sure they’re at room temperature.
WHAT TO SERVE ALONGSIDE: Grilled meats and veggies, a leafy salad, followed by watermelon topped with chopped mint. Or, make s’mores and fling those graham crackers into the ring once more.