Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oh Olga!

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Good morning cheese lovers. I'm here today to tell you the tale of a little mixed milk cheese from the great state of Maine. Olga is our newest arrival at the shop, and we are delighted to have her around. She hails from Seal Cove Farm, a gorgeous patch o' goat farm tucked into a pine tree festooned inlet in Lamoine, Maine.

I had the chance to make Olga's acquaintance this past September while up in Maine for the Common Ground Fair. Barbara Brooks, cheese maker extraordinaire at Seal Cove, was nice enough to let me come and stay for the day, helping her milk the goats and tasting not a little bit of yummy cheese along the way.

Olga is the fruit of a lovely experiment pioneered by Barbara and her Ukrainian intern, Olga. Much like newly discovered planets or elements on the periodic table, it's only appropriate that such a successful innovation be named after its creator! Olga (the person, not the cheese) was interning in the United States while completing her dairy science degree and got it into her head that Seal Cove should make a washed-rind cheese like the ones she was ogling in the scores of cheese books around the farm. Coming from a land of fresh cheese and kefir, this was a grand departure from tradition, but she and Barbara persevered and knocked out the first batch last winter.

Barbara herself said, 'It was during hunting season, and those cheeses could have protected many a hunter, they were such a bright shade of orange!' The vigorous washing of the cheeses had rendered the rinds uber-pungent, uber-orange and uber-sticky to boot... Yummy to say the least, but a bit too volatile for her taste. So, it was back to the drawing board to see what she could tweak to make the cheese a bit finer and milder mannered.

Enter the Olga that we now know and love. Made from a mix of goats' milk from her own herd and organic cows' milk from a neighboring farm, this Olga hits you with a one two punch of flavor, starting with a bright and buttery blast from the cows' milk and followed by the mellow musky flavor of late fall goats' milk. The aging of the cheese gives it a firm and dignified paste, with a lingering caramel-toned sweetness on the finish. And though Olga (the cheese not the person) is still washed during the maturation process, it is no longer stinky or as in-your-face as the first incarnation was. These Olgas are crusted with golden-hued rinds that taste of white pepper and pure goat goodness.

So, roll out the welcome wagon for good old Olga, and come on in for a bite!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What's in a Name?

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

What's in a name?

Ever stop for a minute to think about how some of your favorite cheeses got their names? If you're a geek like me, you've puzzled over it, and perhaps even done a little detective work to figure it out. In France and Spain and Italy, cheeses were named after a whole host of things, but the most common way to name a cheese was to name it after the town or region in which it was produced. It makes sense. That cheese is the stamp, more or less, of it's place of origin, and nobody could (in theory anyways) duplicate it. Thus were begotten Comte, Camembert, Manchego... the list goes on and on.

However, here in the US, our cheese makers have taken a more novel approach. Not being bound to any local cheese making tradition, farmers have decided to name their cheeses after a crazy multitude of things ranging from traditional dances to their Ukrainian interns. I delight in getting new cheeses from farmers who flex their creative muscles and give their cheeses sprightly and inventive names.


Here are some of my top contenders for best original cheese name:


Barick Obama:
(Lazy Lady Farm, Westfield VT)
Laini Fondiller has got to have one of the busiest brains in the cheese biz. Not only is she relentless about inventing new cheeses (I think her average is about one a week) she isn't shy about giving them some pretty hilarious names. Barick is a little paving stone shaped cheese of buttery, creamy, earthy cows' milk cheese with a beautiful washed rind kissed by patches of purplish and yellow mold.

Timberdoodle:
(Woodcock Farm, Weston VT)
Can you name this animal? My first guess was some sort of rugged take on the Labradoodle, that canine sensation that swept the country a while back. Thankfully, I was wrong. Timberdoodle is just a Vermonter's way of saying Woodcock, which according to my dictionary is a game bird with brownish plumage, a long bill, and short stubby legs. My opinion may be biased, but I think I'd rather eat the cheese! Timberdoodle is a mixed cow and sheeps' milk cheese with a light and nutty washed rind. The extra density and fat of the sheeps' milk gives it a supple and pliant texture that'll make you crow.

Constant Bliss:
(Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro VT)
With a name like this, who could resist?! Actually, Constant Bliss is both a man and a cheese. In the town of Greensboro, there is a monument near Willy's store tdedicated to some ill fated soldiers who met their demise in the great Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Constant Bliss and Moses Sleeper were their names, and if I were a cheese maker, I think I would have picked the former as well. Maybe old Moses'll get his day in the sun someday soon... A good name for a new local beer or moonshine perhaps? Constant Bliss is a little marshmallowy lump of delicious and creamy cows' milk cheese, all gooey around the edges with a thick and rich center.

Monday, November 12, 2007

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

It seems that it's been a while since I just straight up wrote about some cheeses that I am truly in love with right now. And what better way to start a Monday than to wax poetic about some lovely and wonderful specimens of fromage? Get ready, get set to get sentimental about some dairy. Embrace your inner cheese dork. It's cool, you're among friends.


Constant Bliss, fresh off the truck...

Sigh. There is nothing nicer than peering into a little wooden crate full of fat and happy little Constant Blisses. Usually shipped right at 60 days (the legal limit for raw milk cheeses) they arrive at the shop at their fullest and most flavorful. Each fluffy and buttery cheese is perfectly ripe, with hints of mushroom and spice and wet straw on the rind. Did I happen to mention that we just received a shipment? For the uninitiated, now's the time to savor the Bliss. The name'll need no further explanation.

A freshly opened wheel of Pleasant Ridge Reserve...

Cheese, much like wine, is full of kinetic energy, just waiting to express the myriad of flavors locked beneath its toughened rind. When you uncork a bottle, or crack open a wheel of cheese, all that savory goodness that's been percolating for months, sometimes even years, is released and you (lucky cheese eater) get the flavor equivalent of a slap in the face. In a good way though. Pleasant Ridge, now in its extra aged incarnation, has been aging for a year and a half, and is so chock full of rich carmelly goodness, it'll knock your socks off. We crack a wheel open just about every day, so chances are, your day will come to taste the fresh stuff sooner rather than later!

A big old spoonful of fresh ricotta (for breakfast, lunch, or dessert)...

I have been known to sneak a little spoonful of fresh ricotta every now and again to test its fluff and sweetness of demeanor. I do it in the name of quality control. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. Contrary to popular belief, fresh ricotta is not just for lasagna. Use it for everything. No kidding. For breakfast, plop it on pancakes or eat it in a bowl with some fresh fruit, preserves, or honey. For lunch it's perfect on a sandwich, in an omelette, or simply mixed with olive oil and herbs atop a little crust of bread. For dessert, have it any old way you like it. A friend of mine mixes his with rum and espresso. (yum!) In summation, Fresh ricotta is to cooking what a blank canvas is to painting. Add as much or as little as you like to it, and you'll come out on the other side a happy camper. Maybe those minimalists really were on to something...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Goatstravaganza!

When's the last time you were invited to a Goatstravaganza?

Never? Well, you're not the only one... Let Saxelby Cheesemongers be the first to invite you to a goat-erific party this Thursday night in celebration of The Year of the Goat, a fantastic book and travelogue by Maragaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz.

For any of you out there who've dreamed of leaving the city for greener pastures, and you know who you are, this book is the ultimate inspiration. Margaret and Karl decided to pack up their Brooklyn digs and head out on the road for a year of living, eating, sleeping, and breathing (yes, all of these things) goat. From Maine to Arizona, they stayed with goat farmers of all persuasions, breeders, cheese makers, you name it... before returning to the East coast and starting a little farm of their own.

This Thursday evening, stop on by Aronson's Floor Coverings on 17th Street for a book reading, signing, and goat-centric shindig. Saxelby Cheesemongers will be carving up a selection of American farmstead goat cheeses, Chef Frank Lania will be preparing a goat meat tasting menu, and the wine selection will be none other than Goats do Roam (har har!) by Charles Back vineyards.

Oh, and did I mention that there will be live goats attending? Yes, it's true. As if you needed a grand finale.

Please rsvp to info@yearofthegoat.net so that we can be sure to bring enough goaty comestibles. Come on down and get your goat on!

Goatstravaganza!
Thursday, November 8th, 6:30-8:30 pm
Aronson's Floor Covering Showroom
135 W. 17th St. (btwn. 6th and 7th)