Oh, October, I can feel your bloody fangs on my neck. So much to do, and you’re turning tree colors and flashing your super moon! (So distracting.) Well, here’s what I’ve got for you: events, events, events.
Whole Foods Cheese+Cocktail Happy Hour, October 22
Meet me at the new Philly Center City Whole Foods for an autumnal cheese and cocktail pairing. I’ll be signing copies of The New Cocktail Hour while you swig Highland Coolers and nibble fall cheese pairings, one elbow on the WF cocktail cart (yes, the new WF has cocktails and cocktail accoutrements!). 3-5 p.m.
Gin & Grains Dinner with High Street, October 27
Philly Craft Spirits Week crept up on me like a shadow, but here we go: Chef de Cuisine Jon Nodler and Beverage Guru Thaddeus Dynakowski of High Street have created a 4-course pairing dinner with gin-a-rific libations from my book. Come out for a beautiful meal, served with a special flight of local-gin cocktails. I’ll have books to sign and an herbaceous smile for you. Reservations, call High Street on Market: (215) 625-0988
Two Late with Rob & Joe at PHIT Comedy Club, October 28
Don’t ask me how I landed a spot on this late-night improv show (Two Late with Rob & Joe) alongside Miss New Jersey. I hope she’s ready to eat some stinky cheese and talk cheese balls! Tickets are $5 at the door or here (Ticket Leap). Address: 2030 Sansom St., show starts at midnight!
The CHEESE BALL, October 30
By now, it’s legendary — at The Cheese Ball, we’ll build the city’s largest cheese board and celebrate the Philadelphia area’s fabulous cheesemakers and cheesemongers from 6-10 pm at Ruba Club in Northern Liberties. Grab tickets (or pay $20 at the door), bring a condiment or hunk of cheese to share, and prepare to nosh all evening. This year’s event is a benefit for the PA Cheese Guild — you can read all about it on my last blog post. Now for the updates! Here are a few people you can expect to meet on and off the dance floor…
- High Street on Market will be on hand to provide rustic bread support!
- Di Bruno Bros. is donating a cheese mountain!
- Cheese portrait artist Mike Geno has donated fabulous prints for the silent auction!
- John Luttman of Artifaqt Design will share his beautiful wooden cheese boards!
- La Colombe and is donating baguettes!
- Philly Bread Co. is donating more baguettes!
- The Pennsylvania Cheese Guild is auctioning off pantry baskets!
- Three Springs Fruit Farm is loading us up with fruit butters!
And, of course, you’ll meet LOCAL CHEESEMAKERS…
- Shellbark Hollow Farm
- Birchrun Hills Farm
- Valley Milkhouse
- Collective Creamery
- The Farm at Doe Run
- Merion Park Cheese Co.
- Meadowset Farm & Apiary
- Stoudt’s Creamery
- Cherry Grove Creamery
- Bobolink Dairy
- Artisan Geek + Perrystead Creamery
- Crown Finish Caves
- Caputo Bros. Creamery
- Linden Dale Farm
- Goat’s Rodeo
- Rabbits’ Run Farm
- Parish Hill Creamery (in collaboration with Birchrun Hills)
Can you believe it? It’s simply too good to be true. I can’t wait to see you!
Meet Pennyslvania’s newest dairy dream team: Collective Creamery. You probably recognize these faces if you follow this blog or are a regular Instagram peeper. You’re looking at Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm (left) and Stefanie Angstadt of Valley Milkhouse (right). This October, they’re launching a joint cheese CSA with pick-up locations in and around the Philadelphia region, including Easton, Allentown, Pottstown, and Wayne.
Here’s why you should be excited:
- If you live in southern PA, you can sign up to receive a biweekly subscription to two great cheesemakers — one in Chester County, the other in Berks County — who work with raw milk.
- Since this is a collective effort, you get to taste a wide variety, from Stefanie’s delicate Thistle (a gooey moon based on Camembert) to Sue’s gutsy’n rustic Red Cat.
- Entertain with great local cheeses from mid-October through December. The shares come in 2 sizes, and you can do a butter add-on, for all your baking needs.
Sign up online for your share, then come out to the Cheese Ball on October 30, 2016 to meet this dairy dream team in person. Below, you can see an array of their cheeses which I’ve photographed — with great relish — over the last few years for various projects.
Collective Creamery is a member of the Pennsylvania Cheese Guild. If you like what you see, you can become an enthusiast member! If you live outside of PA, drop me a line and let me know if you have any cheese CSAs in your state! I’d love to know if this economic model is becoming popular among cheese lovers in your area. — Madame Fromage
Lovely readers, I am writing to invite you to my 3rd semi-annual Cheese Ball in Philadelphia on October 30, 2016. We’ll be back at Ruba Club, a Russian social hall in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, for a Sunday evening of rennet and revelry. If you attended the last Cheese Ball, you know it was crowded! This time around, we’ll have much more space with 2 floors: on the first floor, you’ll find the city’s largest cheese board along with a cash bar; upstairs, you’ll find a local-cheese sampling salon from 6-8 p.m., followed by a dairy disco with the tuba-centric Disco Hootenanny. Yes, costumes are encouraged — it is Mischief Night after all.
Tickets ($20) are limited, with all proceeds to benefit the Pennsylvania Cheese Guild. Grab your tix at the link below. Your support will fund cheesemaker education, and, by attending, you’ll get to taste the hunks of your dreams, join a wildly welcoming cheese scene, and maybe even dance with a cheesemonger.
When: Sunday, October 30, 2016, 6-10 p.m.
Where: Ruba Club, 416 Green Street, Philadelphia 19123
How: Tickets ($20) (advance purchase recommended)
Bring: A contribution to the city’s largest cheese board! A hunk of cheese, a condiment, a loaf of bread, or crackers…
For all inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Ready for a little retrospective?
Special thanks to Stefania Patrizio for designing this year’s invite. Photo credit: Shorpy.
Readers, let me transport you to the French Alps, where I just spent 10 days as a co-host for Cheese Journeys. I meant to post along our route from the Savoie to Alsace, but the wifi was weak. And I got so caught up taking pictures of cow breeds I had never seen before and consuming vast quantities of young raw-milk cheese that are illegal in the United States that I completely lost my head.
Let me take you back in time. Let me feed you impossibly beautiful cheese. First, though, cue the sound of cow bells ringing across mountains, the smell of fresh-cut hay, the sight of chalets with colorful shutters and overflowing window boxes of geraniums.
You and I, we are staying at Chateau St. Philippe, first inhabited by Benedictine monks in 1034. From the windows, you can see jagged mountains, hillside vineyards, the local village (Saint Jean-de-la-Porte) beyond the long gated drive. Chickens peck at the lawn, and a spring-fed pool near the planter boxes serves as the icebox for bottles of Savoie wine.
When you’re thirsty, just pad across the moss and grab yourself a bottle to pair with this local cheese board.
A Mostly Savoie Cheese Board
Similar to Comté, this raw-milk Alpine cheese tastes like a caramel made wildflowers-infused milk. Simply beautiful, a glowing example of Alpine cheese: waxen in texture, boldly flavored, with a delicate balance of savory and sweet tastes.
Saint Mauré de Touraine
From the Loire Valley (not the Savoie), this goat log snuck onto the board because it pairs so well with the mineral-rich wines we’ve been tasting here, Phillip Grisard’s 2014 Mondeuse Blanche. This subtle goat cheese is rolled in ash and has a straw running through it to create an air passage so that the paste dries uniformly.
You’ll see farm stands selling rounds of Reblochon all along the roadsides here. One of the great cheeses of the Savoie, this one has a sticky rind and a satin-soft center. Cheese expert cheese Steve Jenkins writes that a ripe Reblochon tastes “like a rare filet mignon” — tender and meaty.
“The prince of Gruyeres” is one of France’s most complex cheeses. Look for the “Alpage” grade of Beauforts; they’re made at chalets high up in the mountains, at elevations above 6,000 feet. Flavors range from hazelnuts to roasted leeks to sweet cream.
Tomme de Savoie (chèvre)
The local table cheese can be made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk. It has a velvety gray rind with a dense paste that smells mushroomy and tastes of clean, grassy milk.
Can you make this cheese board at home? Of course. Find a specialty foods store with a good cheese counter and make friends with a cheesemonger, like Chuck Kellner (pictured above) from Cowgirl Creamery. Then, start planning a trip to taste these cheeses in their native landscape.
You won’t believe how great Alpine cheeses taste in the Alps, or how amazing it is to see ancient cheese traditions in action. I’ll be posting more from our trip, including a Reblochon maker, plus a glimpse into the enormous “Comté Cathedral” at Fort Saint Antoine.
We’ve got more out-of-body experiences ahead of us, you and I. For now, let’s hang out on the deck off the back of the chateau, savoring glasses of Mondeuse (the local grape).
One of my favorite things to do before a long trip is to create a checklist of tastes, so I can remember what to nibble in the field. I know, it sounds obsessive — but without obsessive acts, life is a bit milquetoast, is it not?
Next week, I have the great fortune of traveling to France as a co-host for Cheese Journeys, a company based in New York that curates dazzling dairy experiences. Amidst the frenzy of packing and getting my classes covered at work, I take brief pauses to imagine little scenes: drinking the milk of three regions, sleeping and waking to the sound of Alpine cowbells, and gorging on as much raw-milk French cheese as possible.
Since I tend to be a bit geographically challenged, these scenes allow me to visualize the itinerary my tastebuds will follow as they salivate from the Savoie to Alsace to the region of Franche-Comte. Translation: our trip begins with rustic Tomme de Savoie, stanky Raclette, and gooey Reblochon, then ends with nutty-sweet Comté and impossibly sultry Vacherin. Along the way, I am anticipating tartiflette, soft Munster, and Chartreuse cocktails. (Yours truly will lead the expedition to the Chartreuse monastery and be making the cocktails!)
Of our tour’s many cheese destinations, I am most excited to set foot in the cellars of Fort Saint Antoine — a vast underground artillery fort that now holds wheel upon wheel of Comté.
Comté is Gruyere made in France (the Swiss claimed the name “Gruyere” long ago). Although Comté is less of a household name in the U.S., it is one of the best cheeses to seek if you are looking to broaden your cheese palate. That’s because it’s hard to find bad Comté. In fact, “bad” and “Comté” don’t belong in the same sentence. Comté is carefully regulated and none of it is factory made; it’s produced by a few hundred “frutieres“, or small farms. When the 80-lb wheels of Comté are young, they are collected by an affineur (someone trained in aging cheese) and matured in a cave, like Fort Saint Antoine, until they ripen to perfection.
The caves at Fort Saint Antoine are referred to as the “Cathedral of Comté.” Needless to say, one of the items on my packing list will be a pack of votives.
Taste Comté: If you want a pre-emptive tasting, pick up a hunk of Comté (ask for the Marcel Petit label, the line from Fort Saint Antoine). You’ll find it at cheese shops around the country.
Comté & Cocktails: I love to pair Comté with a Ritz Cocktail, a recipe featured in the most recent book I wrote with my brother, The New Cocktail Hour. With notes of caramel and toasted brioche, it’s splendid with Comté of any age.
Ritz Cocktail Recipe
Created by Dale Degroff
3/4 ounce brandy (Pierre Ferrand Ambre)
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
1/4 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces chilled Champagne
orange twist, for garnish
Stir brandy, Cointreau, maraschino, and lemon in a shaker tin with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Top with Champagne, then garnish with an orange twist.