Sunday, December 9, 2007

Goats are Great

If A. and I ever start a farm on the outskirts of Ottawa (as conceptualized while driving around Nova Scotia a few weeks ago), I told her that I want to have goats, in part because I would like to learn to make goat cheese. Over the course of this year, I have found it to be reliably good as you may have gathered by reading the many posts I've made about the stuff (particularly during my summer salad days).

The latest one to cross my plate comes from the good folks at Alexis de Portneuf:
Paillot de chevre is a soft surface-ripened cheese whose name comes from the straw that's used traditionally in the transport of goat cheese.

I've tried two of this fromagerie's products in the summer—Do Re Mi, their halloumi, and Capriny, one of their chevres—but didn't write about them, though both were good. However, I am frequently seduced by Alexis de Portneuf's labels at the grocery store: have a peek at the website and see how lovely they are (and award-winning it turns out).

Anyway, I bought the mini-round of Paillot for $5.77 at Whole Foods after trying a most delicious cheese that was out of my price range. Even though the cheaper cheese was not the same, it still hit a couple of the same notes:
  • Creamy
  • Strong-flavoured
  • Somewhat stinky
Much of the flavour of this cheese is in the rind (remember it's "surface-ripened") and that flavour totally recalls blue cheese (which is why B. didn't really like it when I gave him some to try) but slightly more sour (the website uses the word "acidulous"). In any case, it pairs nicely with rye crackers (followed maybe by a bit of jam or fruit paste) and the cheesemakers recommend eating it with Saumur red wine ("
Saumur Champigny are among the best red wines in the Loire Valley").

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blue Cheese: NOT the final frontier!

My Dad LOVES blue cheese. I never really cared for the flavour and once it really turned my stomach. But this summer, at M&E's baby shower, there were appetizer-sized bits of bread with mushrooms and melted blue cheese, of which I ate several and they were DELICIOUS. But, still, I put off buying any "bleu" for myself.

Until last week. Last week, I was at my favourite within-walking-distance-of-work organic grocery store and, as usual, they had free food samples by the cash (why do you think it's my favourite?). This time it was blue cheese. "From Quebec." The cashier couldn't tell me anything else (though there was a hand-written sign taped to the fridge in the back with some more info written on it but I forgot to take note of it). The small amount I tried while paying for organic apples left a lovely taste in my mouth and kept me thinking about it for the rest of the afternoon. So after work I went back and bought more. And I made an omelette for dinner. What flavour! I've since bought more, which is the block in the photo above. We had a mini in-office party when B brought in two cheeses (see below) and walnut bread, and I went out and picked up fruit and some more of the blue (which B doesn't like but C LOVED).

The other two cheeses we had were:

Both were yummy but I preferred the Mamirolle (cow's milk, from Quebec if I remember correctly) because it had the stronger taste but the Corsu Vecchiu (sheep's milk, from Corsica) was also very nice.

The more cheeses I try in this project, the more I seem to crave more pronounced flavours... Any suggestions for what I should try next? Post 'em in the comments.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Always use the best ingredients

Reading the biography of Alice Waters reminded me that the best food starts with the best ingredients, which often means expensive. Not always, but with cheese it's usually the case. For example, pesto made with grocery-store pre-grated parmesan will never be as good (in my opinion) as pesto made with high-quality, imported-from-Italy, bought-from-a-cheesemonger Parmesan Reggiano, even if the former is dirt-cheap and the latter costs a bomb.
Having won a bit of money at a bike race yesterday, I decided to treat myself to some nice cheese to put in the pesto I was planning to make with the $0.99 fresh basil from Koreatown and pinenuts left over from our Montreal Thanksgiving meal. Even though the tiny 50-gram block I got cost more than all of the other ingredients combined, and I had to use it all up, it was worth it: the resulting pesto is fantastic.


A couple posts back, I mentioned that a Toronto food critic's "desert island cheese" was mimolette and when my dad was in town I had the chance to try it. We were walking up Yonge St. to meet someone he used to work with and had some time to kill so I suggested we pop into All the Best, which typically has free samples on weekends. We were not disappointed: there was a guy handing out pasta and sauce just inside the door, slices of pickled beets a few steps away, and self-serve goat cheese and crackers towards the back of the store. We tried everything and it was all delicious but what caught my dad's eye was the mimolette for sale behind the cheese counter glass. James Chatto was right, the uncut cheese looks like a cross between a cannonball and a canteloupe. I didn't try any in the store but my dad did and was convinced by the taste to buy some. I'm glad he did and that he was willing to share.

I first tried the mimolette on its own and it was good: bright orange and salty, it was like a cross between aged cheddar and hard parmesan. In omelettes, for which I'm been won over to using hard cheeses, it was delicious. Not sure of its worthiness as a cheese with which to be marooned but worth a taste nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A cheese-free recipe


2-3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 leeks (preferably organic)
2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
some cream if desired

  1. Wash leeks well and slice/chop finely (green and white parts).
  2. In a large soup pot, heat butter on low heat until it melts.
  3. Add sliced leeks and toss with wooden spoon to coat with butter, then sprinkle with some salt.
  4. Cover pot with lid, turn up heat to medium and let the leeks soften, stirring periodically and turning down heat and/or adding oil/butter if leeks are burning/sticking.
  5. Once leeks seem soft enough, add potato slices to pot, then enough water to cover vegetables and then some.
  6. Turn temperature up to medium-high and simmer covered (with lid slightly ajar) until potatoes are very soft.
  7. Let soup cool, then puree in batches in blender, adding more water (and up to 1/4 cup of cream) if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
  8. Return soup to pot and season with salt to taste (at least a couple teaspoons).
Makes about four litres of lovely pale-green soup, which stores well in fridge for 1-2 weeks or frozen for several months.

Notes: I used 3 tbsp of butter and a couple tbsp of cream but soup would obviously be healthier with olive oil and milk (or just water).

Credit: after a recipe in S.O.U.P.S.: Seattle's Own Undeniably Perfect Soups by Michael Congdon

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I give thanks for cheese

While shopping for Thanksgiving dinner supplies at Atwater Market in Montreal, M. and I found free samples of cheeses and fell in love with "Époisses," a pungent unpasteurized cow's milk cheese. Even though it was $7.50 for what seemed like a tiny piece (half of a 10cm round), we couldn't not buy it - it had such lovely mouth feel and was by far the tastiest kind we tried.

I knew I'd heard the name Epoisses before and when I checked the cheese blog archives it turned out that D. had recommended it way back in January - "Epoisses, a stinky cheese par excellence," he e-mailed in response to my request for cheese suggestions.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that:
  • it's made (not surprisingly) in the village of Époisses, which is located between Dijon and Auxerre, in France.
  • it's washed in Marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy, which is why it has a distinctive soft red-orange colour
  • it's best served with a good red Burgundy wine (or even Sauternes).
Also, Napoleon was a particular fan of the cheese, and the "famous epicure" Brillat-Savarin himself classed it as the "king of all cheeses."

(As an appetizer for our Thanksgiving meal, we also ate Camembert, caramelized onions, and sliced pears wrapped in puff pastry and baked - DELICIOUS.)


Read about a rockstar turned cheesemaker:

Grilled cheese goes gourmet in Toronto:
(spoiler: Beemster Vlaskaas turns out to be the best)

Friday, September 28, 2007

100-mile Cheese

On the website of the Toronto-based cheese educators Cheese Culture, I found an entire newsletter article devoted to Toronto's 100-mile cheeses. You can download the newsletter and read it yourself, but here are some interesting nuggets of information I learned from it about cheddar and the names of a number of local cheesemakers (a number of which are new to me!):

  • "In 1903 there were 3000 cheddar makers throughout Quebec and Ontario... Most of these producers closed or were bought out as cow milk cheese operations mega-sized during ensuing years."
  • "The unfortunate thing about cow dairying is that with the exception of on-farm processors (none currently making cheddar in Ontario), milk comes from pooled sources, and in some cases has traveled quite a distance to arrive at the cheese maker. This mixed and unidentifiable provenance frustrates localists, cheese makers, environmentalists, and raw-milk cheese advocates alike."
  • Toronto's 100-mile cheddar: Pine River Cheese (Kincardine)
  • Under 150 miles: Black River Cheese Company (Prince Edward County), Jensen Cheese (Simcoe), and Maple Dale (Plainfield)

Other 100-mile cheesemakers mentioned in the article:

More 100-mile cheese options for Torontonians

(based on my own research):