Don’t think I’ve lost my love for baguettes, but lately I’ve been exploring alternatives to bread that pair well with cheese. Yes, gluten-free mania has gotten the best of me – I love bread madly, but many people I know have forsaken it. Over the holidays, I know I’ll need to have some gluten-free weaponry, so I’ve been raiding the crisper.
This week – thanks to a winter CSA box from Philly Foodworks (more on this below) – I decided to create a glowing gluten-free cheese board with roasted carrots and parsnips in place of bread or crackers. My share, which was offered to me as a promotion, allowed me to select items from an online pantry — in addition to receiving a bounty of fall produce — so I chose to accent this board with cranberry jelly and local sauerkraut.
I knew that the acidity of these two condiments would be a good foil for the heaviness of root veggies roasted in olive oil – and by heavy, I mean dense. I also knew that the bright, slightly bitter taste of the jam and the sparkly, sour quality of the kraut would offset the overall sweet, nutty notes on the board.
And the colors! When I put this board together, I felt like I was breaking out watercolor pencils.
To turn this board into a meal, I added toasted walnuts and boiled a couple fresh farm eggs. The cheese, which came in the CSA box, worked perfectly – creamy Goot Essa sharp cheddar and a beautiful hunk of Yellow Springs goat cheese studded with peppercorns. I envisioned this as a sort of day-before-Thanksgiving cheese plate, when you want to keep nibble while you cook.
Stack the cheese on the root veggie rounds, add a spoonful of jelly or kraut, bop on a nut or a sprinkle of parsley, and you’ve got a gorgeous bite. A sunny, sparkly bite. A great gluten-free cheese hors d’oeuvre.
Seasonal Root Veggie Crisps
This makes one tray of root veggies, enough for 3 to 4 people. It is easily doubled or tripled. For best results, seek out the largest carrots and parsnips you can find so that they can be sliced into “cracker”-like discs. Although I call these “crisps,” they’re tender with crispy edges. Serve them warm from the oven or at room temperature.
2 large carrots
2 large parsnips
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Wash and dry your root veggies, then slice them thinly into discs and drop them into a big bowl. Drizzle them with oil, and add a toss of salt and fennel seeds. Stir the veggies until they’re coated with oil, then dump them onto your cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the edges of the veggies begin to brown. Use a spatula to flip them, then bake them for another 5 to 10 minutes, so that both sides are golden in color.
4. Serve on a cheese board with a hunk of Cheddar and one or two other firm cheeses (try a firm goat cheese, like Midnight Moon or Pantaleo, or pick up a gooey wheel of Harbison). You could also serve fresh ricotta or herbed chèvre.
5. Pair with nuts, cranberry jam or chutney, kraut, hardboiled eggs. You could also serve dried fruits, charcuterie, and pumpernickel bread.
About Philly Foodworks
With 25 pick-up points around the Philadelphia area, Philly Foodworks offers easy access to local foods, from dairy and produce to canned goods and coffee. Each week, you receive 4 local produce items, plus $35 worth of pantry items that you choose online. The hybrid nature of this winter CSA plan gives you freedom and a chance to explore a variety of foods from local makers. The local cheese selection is excellent, and it changes from week to week.
For readers of this blog, Philly Foodworks is offering a free one-week trial. Visit www.phillyfoodworks.com and click “free trial.” Enter your address, click pay by check (you won’t be billed), and after you’ve picked up your box you can decide if you’d like to continue.
As someone who has signed up for Winter CSA shares for the last few years, I can tell you that picking up my box is a highlight of each week. It brings life into the kitchen and never fails to introduce me to wonderful local products I might not find otherwise. Let me know if you give Philly Foodworks a try and discover any favorite cheeses.
Dear readers, I spend a lot of time alone in my Cheese Command Center, sitting in this chair. After five years of running my own little online dairy empire, it’s time to open a window and let in some air. I’m looking for a bird, a plane…an intern! Although this is an unpaid position, I am willing to trade your time for my cheese secrets, offer mentorship to an aspiring blogger or cookbook author, or help you feed your passion in some other way (read: you can raid my fridge, my bookshelf, my brain).
Madame Fromage is looking for a spring 2015 intern to help develop strategy and promotion for a forthcoming book. She needs a big picture thinker who can also whittle away at little details, like researching promotional avenues, creating a list of possible collaborators, and assisting with the launch of a book trailer and splash page. This spring 2015 position will play a crucial role during a transitional time; after 5 years of presenting all things cheese, Madame’s new project is all about cocktails. As an intern, you’ll be involved in shaping how this Philadelphia cheese blogger adds new dimension to her site and reaches out to a new community of nibblers and sippers. The ideal candidate will be social-media savvy, research-oriented, creative, and (hopefully) dairy curious.
Hours and start/end date: flexible — ideally Jan/Feb thru May/June, 2015.
Setting: flexible — your place or mine.
How to Apply
This is an unpaid position with cheese perks and your choice of a) course credit at a college or university that you attend and/or b) mentorship in writing, blogging, or developing a book project. To apply, please email email@example.com with a resumé and a letter of interest.
Deadline: Nov. 26, 2015
If you attended the Cheese Ball in January, or if you read about it, hopefully you remember Sue Miller. She’s a local cheesemaker and friend who is working to build a cheese facility on her farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The Cheese Ball raised $5,000 as a first step toward financing the project. Now, Sue’s Kickstarter — an online fundraising campaign — is live. Yes, I’m asking you to make a donation.
Why You Should Support This Kickstarter
Sue and her family make some of Pennsylvania’s best raw-milk cheese. In fact, it’s so good, she can’t keep up with demand. Currently, she rents a space several miles from her house, but it’s not big enough to help her meet demand. And she has two college-age sons who want to join the family business — a rare thing in dairyland. In short, to become sustainable, the Millers need to grow their business. And getting a bank loan when you are a dairy farmer is next to impossible.
This campaign (#raisethecave) is a creative way to raise a cheese cave — and there are some amazing rewards.
$50 donation – you can name a calf!
$100 donation – you will receive a box of Birchrun Hills 4 signature cheeses
$200 donation – you’re invited to dinner at the farm
$250 donation – your name will be engraved on a brick in the cheese cave
And there’s more…including a private cheese making lesson ($500) and a painting by Mike Geno ($1000)
How You Can Get Involved
And come out and meet Sue! We’ve got two events planned this weekend, and she’s always at the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market in Philadelphia on Sundays.
Come to Our Launch Party Events!
1. Friday, November 14, 6-8 p.m.
Birchrun Hills Kickstarter Party & Studio Soiree
with Sue Miller (@birchrunhills) and Mike Geno (@mikegenostudio)
Viking Mill Studio Building,1026 E. Hagert St., Philadelphia 19125
Come nibble, sip, and see Mike’s new painting of Birchrun Blue!
Help spread the word by Instagramming Sue’s cheese and Mike’s portraits!
2. Saturday, November 15, 6-8 p.m
Birchrun Hills Farm Cheese Party at Occasionette
with Sue Miller (@birchrunhills) and Madame Fromage (@mmefromage)
Occasionette, 1825 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia 19148
Sample cheese, learn how to build a cheese board for the holidays, peruse lots of cool gifts!
Help us spread the word by Instagramming photos of Sue and her cheeses at Occasionette!
In the last four months, I’ve spent a lot of time shaking and stirring. I’ve also grown very attached to Google+ and the Google hangout function. It’s how my brother, André Darlington, and I wrote a cocktail book together with 900 miles between us. It won’t appear on shelves until Fall 2015, and — for the moment — it doesn’t even have an official title. But it’s fini!
We wrote the book in five months — a blur of eras and lemon twists, of research and recipe testing. Now it’s time to sit back with a Jasmine, my new cocktail of choice, and reflect for a moment. I’ve gone from writing alone (novels in cabins) to writing with others (my last collaboration was a cheese book). Alas, I am not the solitary mouse I used to be, thanks to artisan dairy and velvety mixed drinks.
Here’s a little recap of how the most recent book collaboration came together.
Step 1: We Wrote a Proposal
First, we studied up on the market. Originally, we wanted to write a book about cheese and spirits, since I am cheese obsessed and André is wine-and-spirits obsessed. But our publisher (Running Press) shot back a request for a cocktail book. We had one week to reframe our proposal. Together, we studied the enormous list of cocktail books and brainstormed how we might approach the subject with a fresh eye. André developed the table of contents while I made room in my cheese library for a new trove of books.
Step 2: We Created a Timeline for Writing and Recipe Testing
We started our collaboration with a 10-day “cocktail camp-out” at Andre’s place. Each morning, we shot out of bed and planned out our day on his kitchen chalkboard, then we slugged back some green juice and hit the books. In the afternoon, we recipe-tested. We worked with two great bartenders to brush up on our skills. Our goal was to drink our way through cocktail history, one era at a time, and to write a book with flavor notes, historic context, and pairing ideas for the home enthusiast.
Cocktails have always been central to our lives — from sipping them after work, to serving them up with snacks on the weekends as part of cocktail hour (a favorite pastime). We had a lot of recipes in our repertoire, but we wanted to do more than just gather up a cocktail canon. We wanted to serve up a story.
Step 3: We Used Google Docs and Google Hangouts to Meet and Write Every Day
Our manuscript started as a single Google document called “Drinks Organized” and became a folder full of documents. We created a document for “sidebars,” a document for “cocktail adjectives,” and even a document called “notes graveyard” for cuts and revisions. The Google hangout function allowed us to face-time and write collaboratively on the same document. It was fabulous to be able write and talk at the same time, often while mixing drinks or fixing lunch in our respective kitchens.
Step 4: We Devised a Budget, Then Went Overboard
Recipe-testing was our biggest expense. Early on, we decided not to approach liquor companies for samples, so that meant setting up bars in our respective homes, half-way across the country from one another. We spent $4k testing 200+ recipes — a significant chunk of our advance. Looking back, we could have worked more efficiently to develop specialized home bars that didn’t overlap. However, each of us wanted to test all the recipes so we could compare notes. We have enough booze to write a second book. And then some. Let’s just say, our neighbors have not gone thirsty.
Step 5: We Discovered That Two Minds and Two Mouths are Better Than One
Before we started this project, we heard many tales of collaborative book projects gone awry. One can just imagine the scenarios: writer A is overly critical of writer B, writer B does more work than writer A. Andre and I grew up writing family newsletters on our mother’s old Smith Corona typewriter, and somehow that taught us to be both brutally honest and yet exuberant toward one another. We relied on one another through every part of the writing process — for word choice (“what’s another word for “tawny?”) and for direction (“So, really, what should the first line of the introduction be?”).
Sure, we had our differences of opinion at times, but together we created a better book than either of us could have written separately. And, yes, we will drink to that.
What could be more decadent than standing around in bathrobes, drinking wine and sampling cheese? That was my Friday night at the Lodge at Woodloch, a beautiful spa in the Poconos that hosts a monthly culinary guest. (Yes, I have blotted out the eyes of those to whom I fed triple cremes. I don’t want you to hate them too much.)
Woodloch is the sort of place where you can wear your slippers into the woods or eat s’mores for breakfast, which is to say that it’s decadent — an adult summer camp with an emphasis on relaxation. This year, Travel + Leisure listed it among the world’s best spas (#3) , an unexpected boon for a remote oasis near the wee town of Hawley, PA — mere minutes from one of the country’s best creameries, Calkins Creamery.
What better place to let your cheese relax?
In my weekend cheese valise, I ferried six unearthly beauties from Di Bruno Bros. Do you want to know what they were? Of course, I requested the most decadent hunks. Woodloch’s Executive Chef Josh Tomson pushed our pairings over the edge with thick-cut bacon and chocolate truffles, and sommelier Leslie Britt broke out bubbly, beer, Malbec, and Port so that guests could explore the most stunning flavor combinations.
Here was our Cheese 101 menu:
Fresh raw-milk ricotta
with blueberries and strawberries
St. Stephen’s (triple crème)
with Tait Farm blueberry jam and Di Bruno Bros. Cinnful Cocoa Pecans
with thick-cut bacon
with Woodloch cranberry chutney or pickles
with a drizzle of truffle honey
with dark chocolate truffles
I recommend that you recreate at least one of these pairings at home while wearing a fluffy bathrobe. Let it be the weekend favorite: thick-cut bacon dunked into Epoisses.
I selected the pairing to illustrate how this style of cheese tastes rich and meaty, thanks to its brandy-washed rind — a process developed by a very austere band of monks. The Trappists probably never imagined people in robes eating their creation…at least, not fluffy white robes.
Check out the calendar at Woodloch for more culinary weekends. When I return, I’ll let you know so that you can begin packing. In fact, next time I’ll stop in Honesdale for a few wheels of Brie-like Noblette — the chefs and I made a quick run to see the creamery after our tasting class. Calkins Creamery cheeses are regularly featured on the spa menu.