Living on the East Coast, it’s rare to find delicate goat-y beauties from the West, especially the luxe puffball Taupinière. It’s the sort of lush lump you’d expect to find under a moist log — ash-black and spongey, with maze-like surface markings. Set it on a bed of moss, and you’d swear it was a mushroom. Somewhere out in the forest, it must have a mycological doppelgänger?
Taupinière made its way from California via Di Bruno Bros. to a spa weekend at Woodloch last week, where it was demolished by happy people in bathrobes. It fit right in with the peace and the pampering, because Taupinière is a serenity cheese. Can I say that? Let may explain: biting into Taupinière is like wrapping one’s maw around a rain cloud. It’s both creamy and oozy, with a salinity that calls to mind tears.
I like to stage a cheese like this — one that is ominous-looking to some — with jewel-like things. Blackberries. Flowers. (Glistening oysters would be perfect.) Then, the beauty of Taupinière emerges, like a truffle sparkling against soil.
From Sonoma, this French-style goat cheese was created by Laura Chenel, one of the great American artisan cheese pioneers. Inspired by French cheeses she tasted abroad in the 1970s, she developed her own small wonders and began selling them to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. In 2006, she sold her business to a French company. This year, Taupinière won “Best of Class” at the U.S. Champion Cheese Contest.
The dark coloring on this cheese comes from vegetable ash — which is edible and virtually tasteless.
Pairings: Lemon curd, berries, any acidic fruit. Honeydew melon. Honey and fresh figs. Berry jam. In the glass, I want a mineral-y rosé or Sancerre. A fruit beer, something with apricots, would be delicious — or a wheat or saison.
Outtakes from the Goat Cheese Spa at Woodloch
Note: The Lodge at Woodloch in Pennsylvania is located in the Poconos, and every month a culinary guest is invited to lead tastings. It’s been a privilege to lead workshops there twice now. The pools and services are exquisite, and the kitchen sources locally, drawing from its garden and from local cheesemakers. You can read about my last visit in this post and sniff out their calendar for upcoming culinary guests.
If you live in Philadelphia, flip open your calendar to Thursday, May 21 and write “BITE” in big letters. You’ll to want to attend this first-ever food-maker nibble fest. I will be there to guide you through bites of an all-local cheese board, featuring some of my favorite hunks from Valley Milkhouse, Birchrun Hills, and Meadowset Farm. You’ll also enjoy tastes of local beer, chocolate, and ice cream, plus meet selected makers from around the country. Oh, and there’s a pork auction.
I have 2 sets of tickets to giveaway to TWO lucky snackers! Leave a comment here or on my Instagram (@mmefromage) post about this event. Winners will be drawn at random this Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. EST — one winner from each platform.
Eat Retreat’s Bite Pop-up
Thursday, May 21, 6:30-9:15
Impact Hub, 1227 N. 4th St., Philadelphia
Order Tickets ($55)
A Little Background…
Bite Pop-Up is connected to Eat Retreat — a weeklong maker lock-in that brings together chefs and food leaders from all over to explore a single region and share knowledge.
Next week, Eat Retreat takes place just outside Philadelphia. It’s coordinated by Kathryn Tomajan and Heather Marold Thomason (Thomason is queen butcher at Kensington Quarters). And so, the summer of food lovin’ and cheese livin’ begins!
Bite is produced in partnership with Fair Food Philly.
For a long time now, I have been collecting cheese boards on my travels — my eye always scanning shop windows and flea markets for sturdy boards with unique touches or unusual shapes. This spring, I discovered a source for great cheese boards in my very own neighborhood. And so, a new love affair begins.
Peg & Awl — a company run by my neighbors, Margaux and Walter Kent — offers beautiful hand-crafted boards from reclaimed wood. I love the handles, made from boat cleats, which makes them easy to carry to the table or hang in the kitchen from a hook.
Needless to say, I felt compelled to take Margaux and Walter some local cheese. In fact, I swooped down on them one afternoon with local cheesemaker Sue Miller and her line of cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm. We styled several boards for Peg & Awl’s new website — now in progress — and toured the casket factory where the company produces a line of lifestyle products, from waxed canvas bags (read: cheese totes) to jewelry and journals (read: cheese notebooks).
Madame Fromage Readers’ Discount
Scroll down and you’ll see photos from our visit to Peg & Awl in Phildelphia. You can also save 10% on online orders from Peg & Awl this month by using the code: mmefromage. Here are a few of my favorite cheese boards — for weddings, housewarming gifts, etc.
Readers, when I use these boards, I love knowing that the Kents put as much thought and care into their business as artisan cheesemakers put into their dairy. When you read the Peg & Awl interview on Etsy, you’ll find out how Margaux and Walter have built a successful American-made brand through a commitment to quality and collaboration. They started out as two people with passion and purpose, and now operate out of a Port Richmond warehouse with 11 employees.
By now, it’s no secret that I teach writing and feed cheese scraps to starving English majors. Once in a while, I even teach Shakespeare. Of course, I’m partial to The Tempest because it involves a goat herder.
When I received a sample box of Sea Change from Mystic Cheese in Connecticut, I swooned extra hard when I read the quote on the back of the package. Cheesemaker Brian Civitello has a literary line of cheeses (remember Melville?), and this one is inspired by The Tempest.
Tasting Notes: The size of a sand dollar, Sea Change is sweetly funky, with a rind that is eyelid-thin. Your teeth sink through it — it gives like spiderweb — and the center is plump, silky. Think scallops. Think cheese of the sea. Literally, it’s eerie to taste and smell milk that seems so close to ocean life.
Pairings: Because this cheese is so delicate, yet slightly funky, I leaned on fresh, crisp pairings for counter balance — radishes, cucumber, and ground cherries (they have wing-like husks and taste like a yellow tomato crossed with a cherry).
Sea Change also likes jam — it can swing sweet or savory. For fun, my intern and I tried adding a sprinkle of charnushka, also called “nigella” seeds. Slightly oniony in taste, they add a touch of texture and color. I like how they look a bit like caviar.
Beer/Wine: Cheesemaker Brian Civitello sent me a list of pairings he loves to eat with Sea Change that included steak, scallops, foraged hickory nuts, plus hard cider or saison. He also recommends sours! I imagine that a yeasty Champagne would be smashing, too, but honestly, I just want to get down with a kombucha cockail here. Funk likes funk, no two ways about it. Add funk and fizz? Even better.
Visiting Mystic Cheese: If you’re curious to visit an innovative cheesemaker, put Mystic Cheese on your bucket list. Cheesemaker and entrepreneur Brian Civitello is branching into “experiential cheese tourism” with a public ripening cave in downtown Mystic, Conn. There, school children and cheese nerds alike will enjoy viewing stations and interactive iPads to learn about cheese science. Yes! Brian tells me there will also be a baker and butcher on the premises, to create a market environment — because of course there will be tastings and cheese appreciation workshops.
As you might guess, it’s a site devoted to cocktails. Healthy cocktails.
And now you’re furrowing your brow! Healthy cocktails? Welll, for the last year, André and I have been writing a cocktail book, which will appear on shelves next spring from Running Press. As recipe-testing fools, we sipped ourselves silly, and it has created a singular thirst in us for drinks that aren’t too sweet. For drinks made with fresh ingredients and high-quality spirits.
And so we asked ourselves: what if we create drinks that make people feel good? Drinks with nutrient-rich super foods? (Yes, you can be sure a whey cocktail will appear soon.)
Pop over to our new site and have a look around. We’re especially proud of our Foraged Sour!
Logo love: Stefania Patrizio, who also created the Madame Fromage logo
Animation love: Tom Cranley for animating our first drink recipe
Strategic love: Samantha Un of Her Savory Life for our communications plan