12 days of cheesemas, aged cheeses, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, italian cheeses, parmigiano reggiano, raw milk

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 12


(photo from Culture Magazine)

Parmigiano Reggiano. Not pre-grated, not that shit that comes in a canned shaker or is any way, shape or form, pasteurized. We’re talking about the “King of Cheeses” for God’s sake, so have some respect here. You want the real stuff, raw and imported. You know I love my American cheese makers, but you have my permission–actually, my encouragement–to roll your eyes at the next person trying to sell you ‘Parmesan’ at the farmer’s market. It’s not even a distant cousin to the real thing. This is 660 years of traditional cheese making at it’s absolutely most perfect execution. What the cow’s eat, how the milk is heated, where it’s aged–all of it is regulated by law and all of that fuss makes sense after one bite. There is no other cheese as nuanced as Parmigiano, with its perfect balance of creaminess, crunch, sweetness and salt. This is one of those cheeses that, once you have the real thing, you are very hard pressed to use any lesser substitute.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Missus and I to our friends, family and fellow food lovers.

Standard
12 days of cheesemas, Bresca, burrata, cheese advent calendar, cheese pairings, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, maplebrook farms vermont

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 11


(photo from TheKitchn.com)

One of the best dishes I ate this year had Burrata at the center of it. It was at Bresca, back in March, during Restaurant Week. Dawn and Adam were with The Missus and I, settling in for a four course dinner when the plate arrived. We hadn’t ordered it, mind you, but Chef Krista Desjarlais generously surprised us (she knows my love of cheese) with an antipasto course of Burrata, prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, capers, olive oil, aged balsamic and bread. The table didn’t speak for over the course of the next twenty minutes. We were too focused and our mouths were too full to articulate how wonderful it was at the time. I think I thanked Chef Desjarlais for the month for her kindness and the amazing food we had that night. Burrata is NOT a cooking mozzarella, it’s filled with cream and melty curd, so don’t waste it on a pizza. Make a plate, similar to the one that we were served, and enjoy some comfortable silence with some friends over one of the simplest–yet, exquisite–cheeses in the world.

Standard
12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, cheese plate, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, raclette cheese, springbrook farms reading raclette

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 10


(photo from NYTimes.com)

We’re going to talk French again. You don’t really think about domestically made cheeses when the name ‘Raclette’ rolls around. You think French or Swiss made, melted on roasted fingerling potatoes or crusty bread. Truthfully, I wasn’t fond of Raclette cheese until this past year when I was introduced to one by Chef Guy Hernandez of Bar Lola. This one, from Springbrook Farms in Vermont, has completely shattered my illusion and ambivalence towards Raclette. It’s painfully more interesting in both nose and paste to the French or Swiss varieties you can by stateside. It’s rusty, pink rind gives you a fair bit of warning that the cheese has a nose to it, but the bite is no where near as strong. The paste is creamy, with a bit of a cheddar spring to it. It’s a bit earthy, but has a pretty mild nutty finish. I’ve had it on eggs, melted over a rib eye sandwich and shredded into a gratin. It’s become my ‘go to’ melting cheese over the past few months, but it’s great for nibbling as is.

Standard
12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, coupole, goats cheese, holiday cheese plates, vermont butter and cheese creamery

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 9


(photo from Murray’s Cheese)

I’ve encountered people, more than I care to admit, that don’t believe that Americans can make wonderful goat cheese that would rival the French, much in the same way they thought about our wine. Sure, it’s taken a bit of time (and we’re still dealing with those pesky and obnoxious raw milk laws), but I think we’re just about there. Some of the natural rind cheeses coming from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery are a prime example of that, like my favorite, Coupole. It’s one of the few bloomy rinds that I prefer in their younger state. The milk is sweet, mild and grassy–making for the perfect breakfast cheese to have with a sweet bread and cup of tea.

Standard
cheese pairings, holiday cheese plates, holiday self medicating, holidays, obscure holiday cocktails

Obscure Holiday Cocktails III

It’s that magical time again, folks… Holiday inspired drinking time. This year marked our 3rd incarnation of Obscure Holiday Cocktails, hosted by the lovely Dawn and, the equally as lovely, Adam. Seriously, he’s a beautiful man.

They definitely pushed the envelope this year and challenged my cheese pairing abilities more than previous years. I mean, really, how often have I been asked to pair something with Metaxa? Just about never. Port AND Sherry, you say? Together? What crazy, mixed up world is this? Who thought of these things? Why, my lovely friends did. I may have cursed them more than once as I fretted over pairings.

But, enough of my blabbering, let’s get onto the booze.

The Good


Christmas Bellringer

Gin

Cointreau

Frangelico

Freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange twist

We started the evening on a light and lovely note. The cheese, which I forgot to take a photo of, was the Spanish goats milk cheese, Capricho de Cabra, which was paired with Tupelo honey from The Savannah Bee Company. The drink and cheese paired nicely together with the citrus in the drink meshing wonderfully with the lemony and acidic notes of the cheese.

Greek Airmail

Metaxa

Lime juice

Honey

Q tonic

Bitters

Mint

This was actually my most enjoyed drink of the night, though I was a bit worried when I took my first whiff of Metaxa. But, when Professor A. handed me the drink, and I took my first sip, I was absolutely smitten with it. There was absolutely so much going on in the drink, at least from the list of ingredients, but everything in the glass seemed to play very nicely with each other. The loveliest touch was the mint leaf floating at the top. The cheese paired with this one, which came at the recommendation of Dawn and Professor A. was Keen’s Cheddar. The honey in the drink toned down a bit of the bite and salt of the cheese, while the salt in the cheese drew out a bit more of the honey flavor in the drink. See how that works there? That’s why I love to pair cheeses.

The Weird

Lion’s Pride

St Germain

Gin

1 egg white

Dash Peychaud Bitters

Lime juice

Topped with lime zest and black pepper

Oh, Adam, where did you get this one again? From Lion’s Pride in Brunswick? I have to say, I wasn’t a fan. Well, I was at first, when I smelled the drink and the lime zest and pepper beckoned me to take my first sip. And it tasted absolutely NOTHING like it smelled. I wanted the lime to be at the forefront, but mine seemed to be all Gin, with a note of potpourri. I don’t think I got through more than a couple of sips before I set it down and went right into eating the Valencay. While everyone seemed to love the cheese–it’s a favorite of mine–I’m not so sure that I would have paired this with the Lion’s Pride had I known what it would have tasted like. The texture of the Valencay is gorgeous, as Dawn said it seems like the paste is whipped, but I found it much too mild to really balance the alcohol. Perhaps something more in the line of Midnight Moon or Twig Farm Tomme would have been better.

The Burny

Whispers of the Frost

Whiskey or Bourbon

Sherry

Port

Powdered Sugar

To be served with slices of lemon and orange

I’ll put this in the ‘Burny’ category, but only because it’s pure booze with little added to the drink to cut into the alcohol. I also learned that, apparently, having Sherry and Port together will boggle the minds of some seasoned workers at RSVP. However, I did enjoy this drink and took Vrylena’s direction to squeeze the citrus and add it to the glass. The pairing for this was the easiest of the night. Port NEEDS blue cheese. Just straight out, no questions asked, it cries for a blue. The hardest part is whittling down the options. While I thought about the Rogue River Blue, I decided, in the end, to go with something a bit more like Stilton. That led me to Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont, something I find to be very much like a domestic made Stilton. The pepper from the Roqueforti Penicillium brought a nice vibrancy to the drink, while the paste mellowed out the harshness of the drink. This, in my opinion, was the best pairing of the evening.

Tom and Jerry

12 egg(s)

1 cup sugar

1 bottle brandy

Pinch of ground allspice

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

1 bottle dark rum

milk

nutmeg

I love Kate. She’s my girl, you know? But, I don’t think I’ve had a more vile drink in my life than this one. Seriously, bring me back to last years gay raver drink, The Grinch, or even the much hated Christmas Pudding we had the first year. Anything but this. One sip. One sip was all I could stand of it. If I had been more inebriated by the time we reached this drink, I would have taken out my lighter to see if it would erupt into flames because that shit was pure alcohol.

But, it’s not really Kate’s fault–this was a last minute choice when she realized that the recipe she had was the same one she made last year. So, at the 11th hour, she switched it up not really knowing what to expect. And, it’s a bit sad that I didn’t really like the drink because she spent a bit of time in the kitchen doing prep work for it.

Now, because I was expecting to pair something with a ‘Nog drink, I opted out of cheese this year–realizing last year that it’s just too much dairy and creates for a unpleasant existence–and went with chocolate. I made two barks, one with roasted Marcona almonds and the other with a sprinkling of Ghost Pepper salt. Call it a ‘Naughty and Nice’ pairing. I’m assuming that everyone liked the barks, as there was almost nothing left by the end of the night, but I can’t really speak if they went with the drink.

I also made these little bits for the evening, Deviled Eggs with Pickled Beets, from Bon Appetit. They’re a bit more work than your average deviled egg, but the end results are more than worth it. If you’re looking for a last minute dish to make for the holidays, I’d put these right at the top of your list. I would also recommend Dawn’s Bacon Wrapped Apricots with Sage. Don’t tell her, but I sneaked a few before the dish ever left the kitchen.

So, this year was a bit of a mixed bag for me when it came to the mixed drinks. But, as it has been the past few years, the true joy of it is just getting together with friends, enjoying some great food, getting a bit of a schwill on and laughing until you nearly pee.

With that… A Happy Holiday to you!

Standard
12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, major farm, sheep's milk cheese, vermont shepherd

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 7


(photo SF Chronicle)

Four months, five if you’re lucky. That’s how long the season is for this raw sheep’s cheese from Major Farm, Vermont Shepherd. And, if you’re truly lucky, you’ll get a taste of one of the first batches of the season, when the sheep are grazing on lemongrass and clover. Seriously, they send you whimsical cards telling you what the sheep were eating the week the cheese was made. It makes it seriously romantical and may just make you focus on the flavor profile of the cheese, rather than just munching it down. As the season goes on, the flavor becomes less grassy and sweet, taking on a bit of a nuttier, drier profile.

Standard
12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, Harbison, holiday cheese plates, jasper hill farms, plating cheese

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 6

If I were told that I would be given $1 million tomorrow, but I would have to forgo ever having a taste of Jasper Hill Farms Harbison again… I would take the $1 million, but I would pine for that cheese every day. Seriously, one of the most beautiful and complex cheeses I’ve had in the past few years. As I’ve swooned here before:

It starts out smokey, akin to a young Winnimere, then a wash of butter and cream hits, ending with a distinct mustard finish. French’s Yellow Mustard to be exact.

It’s that finish. That lingering, familiar and pleasant acidity separates this from so many in its category. Get it ripe enough and, like the Vacherin, sheer the top and just fucking ladle it out.

Standard