Happy Monday, my friends! We just had an enormous (for San Francisco) amount of rain over the weekend, so everything in the city feels fresh and clean right now. M. Cheesemonger and I also got to visit the Asian Art Museum for a private event, and took in the stunning Rama Epic exhibit. The show closes January 15, so hurry to see it before it’s gone!
Oh! And if you received this season’s issue of Culture Magazine, you’ll see a little article Louella Hill and I worked on together!
You may remember that my in-laws are visiting from France for a couple months, so this week, I wanted to show you and them some American cheeses that I feel make a good introduction to American artisan cheesemaking. I found some tasty accompaniments, too. We kept things on the savory side, since they’re not that into sweets. ;)
Mt. Alice, Von Trapp Farmstead
Pasteurized cow, Vermont, traditional rennet
The Von Trapp Farmstead cheeses have always been among my favorite American cheeses, although this was my first time tasting this one! For 3 generations, the Von Trapp family has been operating their Vermont dairy farm, where they make their gorgeous cheeses and care for their certified organic herd of 50 cows. Their cheeses are amongst the finest in the States. This cheese, inspired by Camembert and named after a peak near the farm, is aged for 3-5 weeks and sports a rather slim physique. I LOVE its deep earthy, mushroom scent and well-rounded flavor. My in-laws liked it, but it wasn’t exotic to them because it resembled their “home cheese” Camembert so much!
Humboldt Fog, Cypress Grove
Pasteurized goat, California, vegetarian rennet
This classic American cheese had to go on my plate! Humboldt Fog, made by longtime cheese company Cypress Grove, is local to California, and it has such monumental status in the American cheesemaking world. Its clean white paste and striking ashen lines make for a showstopping addition on the cheese board. My in-laws, used to eating primarily local (to them) cheeses like Camembert, Pont l’Evêque, and some local chèvres, loved the Humboldt Fog! The complex and lingering flavors with hints of lemon and pepper, gorgeous cream line, and velvety texture all made for a delectable American cheese experience. I think they finished the whole wedge one morning at breakfast.
Barely Buzzed, Beehive Cheese
Pasteurized cow, Utah, vegetarian rennet
Barely Buzzed by Beehive Cheese in Utah opened my eyes to the creative spirit inherent in much of American artisan cheese. Before laying eyes on this beauty, I’d seen your classic Wensleydales with cranberries, or cheese walnuts in French grocery stores . . . Barely Buzzed is something different. Made with Beehive Cheese’s base cheese Promontory, an Irish-style hard cheese made of Jersey cow milk, it’s rubbed with coffee grounds and lavender! I still have many memories as a newbie cheesemonger not knowing how to handle all those espresso grounds (later, I learned to never touch the rind, just touch the paste to avoid the mess!). I love this cheese’s well-rounded, slightly sweet and fruity flavor. The espresso grounds and lavender practically transform the cheese into a cheese cake! My in-laws seemed a little confused by the whole “added ingredients to cheese” idea, but they enjoyed the cheese and its caramel-tinged sweetness—and cut off the rind.
5 Year Cheddar, Hook’s Cheese Company
Pasteurized cow, Wisconsin, Vegetarian
Hook’s Cheese Company has been in business since 1976, and have been racking up awards over the years for their blue cheeses, cheddars, colbys, and jacks. The first cheese I tasted from their lineup was their 12-year cheddar, and it was like a rocket of flavor—intense, tangy, and concentrated. Their 5-year cheddar packs a slightly smaller punch, offering a melting mouthfeel and creamy texture, along with strong, tangy flavors. This was probably the first cheese to go among the ones featured today. It’s so easy to just keep on eating it!
Firehook Baked Crackers
I have been a longtime fan of Firehook crackers, and finally got to share them with you! All their crackers are baked thick and intensely crunchy, and I love their flavor options. This time, though, I kept things simple with their sea salt crackers. Get some here [affiliate link].
Creminelli sausages quickly disappear once they do cross the threshold! This particular sausage, the casalingo salami, is delicately flavored with salt and pepper, lets the sweet pork flavors shine. Get some here [affiliate link].
Pachamama Raw Kale Chips
I have started eating kale chips in recent times, and I love them! My fave cheese shop, Cheese Plus, was carrying some of these locally-made (to San Francisco) raw kale pizza chips, so I gave them a try. I think I finished the chips before I finished the cheese. Get some here!
Around the holidays, Whole Foods had these particularly sweet and brightly-colored cranberries for sale in their bulk aisle. Maybe you can still find them at your local Whole Foods!
American Spoon Whole Seed Mustard
Do you prefer your mustard ground or with whole seeds? In this case, I was ready for whole seeds, and I wanted an American mustard to counter all the French mustards we’ve already got in the fridge. This particular one is soaked in Michigan sparkling wine and vinegar. YUM! My in-laws eat it with just about all their meats, far more than I’m used to, so we’re plowing through our stash quite quickly with them here! Get your own American Spoon mustard.
I found this adorable board at my local Home Goods.
The beautiful blue and white tea towel came from Le Marché on Fourth.
You can find the cheeses from today’s post at your local specialty cheese shop. Culture Magazine keeps a convenient searchable directory.
What cheeses do you like to serve your guests! Let me know in the comments!
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