Monday, February 22, 2010

Culture and a Bit O' Brogue

Though the cheeses at Saxelby's be confined to the good old US of A, we can't deny that the inspiration for these fermented dairy treasures comes from locales both nearby and far flung. This week's missive is devoted to the salty, foggy, verdant British Isles, where mountains, sheep, and literature all converge on the subject of cheese. How all this has wended its way behind the cheese counter of the Essex Market is an improbable whopper, but we're bent on tracing it back all the same.

We'd like to begin by paying homage to one of our favorite cheeses, Ben Nevis. Made by Neil Urie, a Vermont cheese maker of Scottish descent, this cheese takes its name from the highest peak in the British Isles. Literally translated, Ben Nevis means something to effect of 'a mountain with its head in the clouds' as most days the peak is surrounded by mist and fog. This shepherd could be said to have his head in the clouds; he's one of the only people milking sheep in his native Northeast Kingdom. But as far as these mongers can tell, this little peaked sheeps' milk tomme is one of the finest ovine cheeses in the country. Stop by the shop for a nibble in the next week before it bids us a fond farewell for the season! Mention this message for a 10% discount.

Now, we all know that cheese and culture are inextricably linked. We've just taken the liberty of pushing it a bit farther than usual this week. A quick hop skip and a jump from the peak of Ben Nevis lands us in Ireland, home to many a venerable cheese, and to one of the twentieth century's greatest writers and cheese enthusiasts. It may have been that James Joyce himself loved cheese, or it may have solely been the purview of his leading man, Leopold Bloom... Either way, cheese plays an un-ignorable role in the pages of Ulysses.

Yesterday on Cutting the Curd, Saxelby's weekly dairy dispatch on the Heritage Radio Network, I interviewed actor and playwright Patrick Fitzgerald, who graced the airwaves with his Irish brogue and spoke of all things cheesy that took place on Bloomsday. A true Joyce devotee, Fitzgerald managed to distill nearly all the cheese from the epic tome down to a few delicious snippets for our show. Tune in to hear an old fashioned half hour of radio... just like the serials from the days of yore, but with more talk of Dublin, cheese, and what's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

Monday, February 15, 2010

What's Gooey and Cheesy and Starts with a W?

What's gooey and cheesy and starts with a W? Weybridge, Willoughby, and Winnemere, that's what. This trio of cheeses, all aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm, are ripe, runny, and ready to go! Stop by the shop this week and mention this little missive for a 10% discount on any of these cheeses.

Now, usually in the store, we have one cheese of the week, but sometimes it's just too hard to choose. Wending our way through the cheese cave, there were not one, not two, but three cheeses worthy of our weekly praise and adoration. Read on, cheese lovers, and see which one might fill that lonely spot in your fridge.

Weybridge. A mighty delicious little button of cheese. Made by the Scholten family farm in Weybridge, Vermont, it is sure to immortalize that sleepy little town forever. Soon enough, Hollywood-style tour buses are going to be rolling through the streets, pointing out the birthplace of Weybridge and the herd of Dutch Belted cows responsible for its luscious and creamy constitution. Ok, it may be a bit of a stretch, but I for one, am certainly enamored. At just under four ounces each, and at $4.50 a pop, what's not to love?

Willoughby. When cheesy funk meets peanut butter, good things are bound to happen. Now hold up... there's no peanut butter in the cheese. That would be weird. But the brine baths given to this lovely pungent cheese from Ploughgate Creamery give it a singular, toasted nut lilt of flavor. Come to think of it, a little schmear of Willoughby on toasted bread with some jam or preserves could be the grown-up, cheeseaholic version of the childhood classic. WB & J? We say, why not?! A half-pound round is just $9.99.

Winnemere. Yes, it's that time of year. The much anticipated arrival of a cheese so perfectly ripened you could eat it with a spoon. Winnemere is Jasper Hill's stinky, gooey baby, available only during the winter months when our bellies crave rich and pungent cheese. Winnemere is crafted from raw Ayrshire milk, then put in a spruce bark girdle to keep it from running away before it's fully ripe. The paste of the cheese is creamy and pudding-like, with a decadent smokey, almost meaty flavor. Nothing beats the winter cold quite like this! Priced at $24.99 per pound, you might just want to snag a whole wheel for your next cheesy shindig.

Till next week, eat cheese (that starts with the letter W) and be merry!

Don't forget to check out this week's episode of Cutting the Curd, on the Heritage Radio Network! Find Sitopia (like Utopia, but with food!) as I interview Carolyn Steel, author of 'Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives,' Jimmy Carbone, proprietor of Jimmy's no. 43, and Claire Hartten, systems thinker and connector of geniuses in general.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Valentine's Day Emergency Kit

Just in time for Valentine's...

Saxelby Cheesemongers Sweet & Savory Hearts Selection!

3 Wedges of Farmstead Cheese and 9 Caramels from Liddabit Sweets
$44 (plus shipping)

Orders can be placed for pick up at Saxelby Cheesemongers or to be shipped the week of Valentine's Day. To place an order, click here.

They say that opposites attract. We here at Saxelby Cheesemongers couldn't agree more! Whether you root for the sweet or for the savory, we've got your cupids covered this Valentine's Day. Our Sweet & Savory Hearts selection includes three fine farmstead cheeses and three varieties of caramels from the unparalleled Brooklyn confectioner, Liddabit Sweets. Don't know what to give your sweetie this year? Don't despair! Nothing says love quite like dessert. Each selection comes packed up in a little box bedecked with Valentines' accoutrements.

O' My Heart with Sea Salt Caramel
O' My Heart is just what it sounds like, a rich buttery cheese that'll make your heart race. Match that milky goodness up with some sweet caramel studded with bursts of sea salt granules and you'll need a second bite!

Brebis Blanche with Ricotta, Orange, and Honey Caramel
The clouds cupid sits on aren't as light and fluffy as this incredible sheeps' milk cheese! Made upstate New York, Brebis Blanche is light and refreshing, with a decidedly citrusy finish. The subtle flavors of orange and honey combine to make a harmonious flavor helix in your mouth.

Manchester with Preserved Lemon and Olive Oil Caramel
A sweet, malty, musky goat cheese is the perfect mate for this unusual and delicious caramel! The bright lemony zest and the spicy richness of olive oil in the caramel ping pong off the goats' milk flavors in a most delightful way. It may just leave you dizzy.

Till next week, be in love, eat cheese, and be merry!

And if you're jonesing for more cheese in your life, tune in to Cutting the Curd on Heritage Radio Network. This past Sunday, Steve Jenkins and I dish about American cheese (not the orange stuff) and get a call from a Massachusetts monger!

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Chuckiest Cheese of All...

The cosmos are aligned in a ridiculous way yet again. February 2nd is known as Groundhog Day to most of the country, but for Vermonters the humble woodchuck reigns supreme. Now, I know I promised that this week I'd write about raclette. I just didn't know then that I'd be weaving together a tale of Franco-Woodchuck heritage as rich as the day is long. Read on cheese legend-lovers, and learn how France's penchant for melting cheese and Vermont's most mystical beast have collided in a cheesy coincidence for the ages!

That Vermonters are known (somewhat derogatorily, mostly poke-funnily) as Woodchucks was news to me. A customer of mine who hails from the Green Mountain State introduced me to the term, and has since regaled me with stories of growing up in small town Vermont, a place laden with 'chucks.' The Woodchuck is a sturdy breed; a kind of rough and tumble hearty Vermonter, resourceful, and graced with a sense of backwoods humor. (see picture to left)
And nowhere is the Woodchuck more readily appreciated than in the town of West Pawlet, home of the annual Woodchuck Festival.

Held the Saturday after Groundhog Day each year, the Woodchuck Fest is one part arts and crafts, one part feats of strength, and one part cabin fever antidote. The organizer of this year's festival noted that the highlights are watching firefighters running around in the snow trying to complete an obstacle course, a log toss, musical stylings by the aptly named 'Woodchucks' Revenge' and a menu boasting Vermont delicacies like chuckburgers, prairie dogs, and woodchuck beef stew. Mmmmmm....

West Pawlet may be home to Vermont's chuckiest shindig, but it's sure as heck got more than one claim to fame. Consider Bardwell Farm, located in the friendly confines of the aforementioned municipality, named a cheese after their town that just happens to be a paean to melting. When Saxelby Cheesemongers got into a bit of racletting a couple of weeks back, it was Pawlet that made us swoon. A raw cows' milk cheese with flavor tuned like a fiddle... its salty, tangy, and nutty counterparts all harmoniously combining into one delicious bite o' cheese.

Now, owing to Vermont's proximity to the French part of Canada, and seeing as the French were in that neck of the woods trapping all sorts of furry critters back in the day, it seems that there may be a bit of French influence lurking in the Woodchuck genome. It would at the very least explain the state's obsession with cheese! Perhaps raclette, a quintessential French winter meal, made with Pawlet, a very chucky cheese indeed, is the perfect gastronomic manifestation of the Franco-Woodchuck alliance!

So even if you're just a chuck in spirit, stop by Saxelby Cheesemongers and grab a chunk of Pawlet for a perfect Woodchuck raclette. We'll even rent you our raclette machine! Starting tomorrow, for $25, you can bring that baby to your next party and melt Pawlet till your heart's content. Nothing cures the winter blues like a meal of melted 'chuckie' cheese.

Till next week... eat cheese and be merry!