Friends, run to your cupboards! What’s in them that you love, love, love? I’m asking because I’ve got an itch to start a series about the crackers, preserves, nuts, and noms that people covet for building snack plates — the sorta stuff you can stash now and set out later to build a fabulous, seemingly spontaneous cheese board.
This idea came from my spring intern, Erin, whose parting words were: Your blog needs a pantry page.
A pantry page? Brilliant grrrrl. But then, sometimes it takes a stranger to notice that you eat mostly out of a file drawer at work. I have 3 desk drawers, and one of them contains a full stash of cheese boards, napkins, toothpicks, and butter knives, not to mention crackers, tins of nuts, candied ginger, cashews, dates, and ohhhh, sometimes a flask of bourbon.
This week’s cheese pantry link is: Heirloom Paw Paw Curd.
What is Paw Paw Curd?
Well, you’ve heard of lemon curd? Paw paw curd is a custard-like spread made from a wee mango-like fruit that’s native to the eastern United States. I first heard about paw paws several years ago at a local farmers’ market since they grow in PA, and just recently I met a Philadelphia distiller developing a paw paw brandy (it was, I might add, shockingly delicious).
So I got excited when I saw a jar of Paw Paw curd over at Scrumptious Pantry, a Chicago enterprise belonging to Lee Greene who cans historical varietals. Her site is a sort of renegade e-cupboard — full of curious catsups and quirky pickles. She urged me to try her Beaver Dam Peppers, because I have a ventricle attached to family in Wisconsin. But Beaver Damn Peppers did not move me. They did not. I wanted Paw Paw Curd.
Paw Paw Curd Pairings
Butterscotch cream pie — that’s kinda how paw paw curd tastes. BUT, there’s some fruit funk to it. And you know I love funk. This curd sent me right to my favorite mecca of funk, the Di Bruno Bros. cheese case in the Italian Market, for I’d heard whisperings of a real gaper, a new Alpine stinker called Schnebelhorn. Need I even describe it?
Paw paw curd is to stinky cheese what chocolate is to bacon — it’s a dessert-ifier. Dob some paw paw curd on an oozy buddy, like Humble Pie or Red Hawk, and you’ve got a savory sweetie. Some will find this to be an acquired taste and prefer a more delicate cheese — like the sweet lamb that is Leonora — or soothing mascarpone. But I’m telling you: I took a hunk of stinky cheese, some paw paw curd, and a box of graham crackers out to the stoop the other night, and the neighbors ett it all up.
Next week: A July 4 Cheese Spread with Marisa McClellan of Foodinjars! The pantry explodes! We’ll have recipes for crackers, cherry chutney, pickled blueberries, shrub cocktails, and spicy brittle for you patriotic cheese board. We even raid Trader Joe’s for easy-to-find hunks that all Americans can sink their teeth into. Break out the sparklers and the mystery raw-milk blue!
Disclosure: This is where I tell you that Scrumptious Pantry sent me the sample jar of paw paw curd you see in these photos. The cheeses featured on the board were my own selection, purchased from my own dairy kitty. I only accept samples that are relevant to cheese, and I write up what moves me.
One of my goals this summer is to delve deeper into cheese pairings. I mean, let’s spelunk! If you enjoy stocking a pantry with bits and bobs from your travels, as I do, then you probably have a trove of potions and preserves just waiting to star-cluster around a constellation of cheeses. And with summer beading on our brows, is there a better time to avoid the oven and love on a cheese board for both lunch and dinner?
No! Let’s go! Let’s waltz through through the hotness, cheese board by cheese board.
My newest fandango? Pairing fermented black garlic, a tar-black delicacy I discovered at my local urban farm, thanks to a red-bearded garlic crier named Jimmy. He slipped two bulbs into my handbag one afternoon while I was snooping around his dairy case, and now — alongside medjool dates — I carry black garlic everywhere I go. Nibble it on the subway and you can clear the entire car. Not because it smells foul (it smells sweet, in fact) but because it looks like you are eating dog toenails.
Forget that black garlic isn’t pretty. It’s delicious — sweet, a smidge smoky, with molasses-like finish. It’s also freakishly healthy — according to Mad Dog Farms, my local purveyor, fermented black garlic boosts the immune system with nearly twice the amount of antioxidants of raw garlic.
Keen to try some? You can order black garlic directly from Mad Dog, a sustainably run farm that grows more than a dozen garlic varieties in Bloomsburg, PA. Instructables also offers a DIY approach to fermenting your own bulbs.
Pairing Black Garlic
The figgy sweetness of black garlic makes it a great match for salty cheeses. Here, I paired it with Blow Horn, a dense little geode made by The Farm at Doe Run in nearby Chester County. Blow Horn is bright and piquant with a fair bit of salinity, making it an ideal accent cheese to grate over pasta or sautéed greens. Alone on a board, it needs friends. Sweet friends.
A drizzle of honey. A spool of magic garlic.
You could also pair the new love of my life with…
- Blue cheese
- Pecorino or other hard cheeses
- Aged Gouda
How to Find Blow Horn
Look for Blow Horn around the greater Philadelphia region, at Greensgrow Farms, the cheese counter at Di Bruno Bros., Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market, Kimberton Whole Foods, and at the monthly Thursday market in Urban Outfitters at the Navy Yard — where you can meet the adorable cheesemaking duo Sam Kennedy and Stacey Gentile.
Here, you can see Sam and Stacey with their latest acquisition, a portrait of Blow Horn by my neighbor and friend, the brilliant painter Mike Geno.
Really, a black garlic cocktail?
Couldn’t help myself! You can find the recipe over at my sibling blog, Sprig + Spirit.
This month, I’ve been bursting to tell you about a new collaboration with one of my favorite Philadelphia restaurants, High Street. Saturday marks the official debut of their new green market in Old City — a French-style stand in front of the restaurant where you can buy beautiful produce and flowers, plus meet a revolving cast of local makers and shakers that I’ve helped curate.
I’ve pulled together some of the area’s most delectable characters — from cheesemakers to fermentation gurus to fellow food bloggers — for a biweekly showcase of the region’s food scene. Check out the calendar below, and come out for brunch or lunch at High Street or its sister restaurant, Fork. Or, stop by for a loaf of High Street sourdough and some market radishes for a picnic in Washington Square Park. I’ll be there this Saturday to help kick the market off with cheesemaker Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm.
Every Saturday, the market’s anchors will be two young local growers who serve some of the city’s best restaurants, Jack Goldenberg and Teddy Moynihan of Plowshare Farms. High Street’s beautiful plates and bowls, created by local ceramics crew Felt + Fat, will also be available. This new market — part of Chef Eli Kulp‘s original vision for the restaurant — supports High Street’s mission to serve the community, at the table and beyond. Come feel the love!
High Street’s Saturday Market
presented each Saturday 10:30 am -3:30 pm by Plowshare Farms (@plowsharefarms)
Biweekly guest artisans curated by Madame Fromage (@mmefromage)
Local cheesemaker Sue Miller (@birchrunhills) joins the market with Red Cat, a staple on Fork’s menu. Author/blogger Tenaya Darlington (@mmefromage) signs copies of her book, Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese. (Half of all proceeds to benefit the Eli Kulp Medical Fund.)
June 27: Peg+Awl
Local market bags, plus cheese & baguette boards made from reclaimed wood. Presented by founder Margaux Kent (@pegandawl), based in Port Richmond.
Book signing by canning maven Marisa McClellan (Foodinjars.com, @foodinjars), plus Carly Dougherty (@foodandferments) samples her line of ferments, from kombucha to kvas.
July 25: Weckerly’s Ice Cream
Jen and Andy Satinsky (@weckerlys) make ice cream from local milk at their micro creamery in West Philadelphia. Check out their special flavor for High Street on Market.
August 8: Valley Milkhouse Creamery
The area’s newest cheesemaker, Stefanie Angstadt (@valleymilkhouse), presents her line of French-style cheeses made from Berks County sheep and cow’s milk.
August 22: Meadowset Farm and Apiary
Stunning aged sheep’s milk cheese made by Swiss native Tom Schaer (@meadowsetfarm) of Landenberg, PA – sample Tom’s new signature cheeses, First Bite and last Straw. Think Pennsylvania Pecorino!
Sept 5: Three Springs Fruit Farm
Fruit grower Ben Wenk (@3springsfruit) joins with seasonal selections from his family’s orchard in Wenksville, PA.
Ferment guru Amanda Feifer (@phickle) offers samples from her forthcoming book, and newcomers Press Gang Ginger Beer (@pressgang_pa) share their spicy ginger beer.
Special thanks to Ellen Yin and Chef Eli Kulp of High Street Hospitality Group (@highstphilly) for supporting local makers and shakers!
Sorry, darlings, it’s been absolute crickets around here. Blame it on too many cocktails — last week’s photo shoot for the forthcoming book project with my brother, André, has turned my whole world into a gimlet. But don’t think cheese has been forsaken. Recently, I enjoyed a hunk of Tarentaise Reserve with a quick Dark’n Stormy, and that’s made me to keen to broaden my rum-and-dairy pairing horizons.
I’ve posted some information at the bottom of this post about pairing cheese and rum, but I also want to tell you about La Colombe’s upcoming 4-course farm dinner featuring local (Philadelphia) rum and one of my favorite cheesemakers, Stefanie Angstadt from Valley Milkhouse (remember her from the recent gin and cheese bonanza?). The dinner will also include provisions from Greensgrow Farms, plus a rum cocktail presented by yours truly. Big thanks to Greensgrow’s Kaitlyn Repash for cooking up this sequel.
La Colombe Supper Club, June 17, 6:30-9 p.m.
Valley Milkhouse Cheese + La Colombe rum + Greensgrow Farms provisions
Fishtown, Philadelphia | Tickets ($60) | four courses + beer or cocktail
I hope you can swan over and join us. Expect a family-style meal in La Colombe’s beautiful café space and conversations with makers, growers, roasters, and distillers.
On pairing cheese and rum: The warm caramel tones found in dark rum pair well with aged Gouda and other dense crystalline cheeses. Tarentaise Reserve (pictured), which is sweetly sharp with hints of pineapple and burnt sugar, is an especially fine match — though it’s hard to come by these days since it won top wheel at last year’s American Cheese Society.
To experiment, look for an aged Gouda, like Beemster, or ask a cheesemonger to point you toward a well-aged hunk with notes of brown sugar or bacon. Then make a rum drink, like the ever-so-simple Dark’n Stormy (dark rum and ginger beer on the rocks — sub in an orange wedge instead of lime to better pair with the cheese), and set off the match with candied pineapple and a dish of salted almonds. Bliss.
Other cheeses to try: Comté, L’Amuse, Beemster, Roomano, Ewephoria, Midnight Moon, Petit Basque
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.