american cheese society, cheese, cheese for dinner, cheese pairings, cheese plate, local cheese, Local foods, marcona almonds, spring brook farm tarentaise, spring day creamery

Celebrating with a (Mostly) Local Cheese Plate

It was like the Birthday Gods were smiling on us. All within the week of our birthday, I was gifted a bag of cheese from Spring Day Creamery, in Durham, ME (a ‘Thank You’ for helping her out a bit at the Brunswick Farmers Market when she found herself a smidge in the weeds) and a sizable chunk of Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise, which was given to me by the owner, Jim, after talking to him for a bit about his cheeses and their “Farms for City Kids” program.

I took this as a sign that I needed to make a cheese plate for The Missus and I for our special day (though, in reality, it was a day late when we finally had room in our bellies to enjoy it). So, I gathered up some other sundries, like the German Landjaeger sausage from Rosemont Market, some Marcona Almonds from Whole Foods and a small jar of Blueberry Blossom Honey from Urban Farm Fermentory. Served with toasted homemade crostini, using a baguette purchased from Zu Bakery, it all made for a lovely, mostly local, plate.

The Candide is Sarah Spring’s peppered brie.  The wheel she was selling at the market was perfectly gooey and ripe.  The flavor, only a hint of pepper came through from the rind, was of butter and mushroom. It was nice to have a Maine produced brie that didn’t fall victim to over salting or too thick of a rind, which can lead to a bitter finish at the end.

Most of the Tarentaise that I’ve had is aged around a year, but this slice came from a wheel aged somewhere between 5-7 months. It lacked the intense raw milk bite that I’m accustomed to with this cheese, but it’s subtlety made it more representative of other Alpine styled cheeses like Le Gruyere and Comte. It was smooth, slightly nutty with a breath of swissiness at its finish. It also made for a fantastic melting cheese the following night as I grated some over a shaved steak and mushroom sandwich.

Washed rinds are a finicky lot and, because of this, you won’t find too many Maine cheese makers venturing out and attempting this style of cheese. Some of my favorite cheeses are washed rinds, like Winnimere and Epoisses, so it excites me when I come across a washed rind that’s produced closer to home.  The La Vie En Rose is a subtle one, you probably won’t have your refrigerator stinking up with its presence ( The Missus has questioned many a smell in our refrigerator because of my cheese choices), but it does have that wonderful, sweet paste that I adore in washed rinds. It’s pliable texture puts it closer to Saint-Nectaire than any other French style washed rind. But, honestly, I’d take the La Vie En Rose any day.

Ah, the jewel in the crown of Spring Day Creamery cheeses: Spring Day Blues.  Last year, Spring Day placed 2nd to Rogue River Blue at the American Cheese Society Awards, which is no small fete for a cheese maker working with such limited space. In fact, to me, this is a coup. When I had the cheese three years ago, I recalled it tasting slightly earthy and mushroomy, like Blue D’Auvergne. After three years, its easy to see that Sarah has honed her blue making skills. The blue now lies somewhere between a Gorgonzola Dolce and St. Agur. The texture was spreadable and the paste was sweet and creamy, with a back note of pepper. This was, paired with a touch of the UFF honey, my favorite on the plate.

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chocolate brownies, condiments, cravings, eating too much, eating until your belly hurts, edible obsession, Local foods, mid afternoon snacks, pairings, WTF

Shelf Analysis

‘Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are..”–Jean Anthelme Brilliat-Savarian

Some people get a kick out of going through other people’s medicine cabinents to see what secrets their friends and neighbors are hiding–and lets face it a good number of our friends and family are on some pretty fucking interesting medications. But, that just may be me projecting(Busy Brain is as interesting as I get these days). My little fetish is that I’ll snoop your fridge for an insight in who you are. With all of us either labeled, or self proclaimed as, ‘Foodies,” your refrigerator holds your modern shame. If I had taken this photo one hour later, you would have seen three cans of Pepsi Throwback on the top shelf. If I had photographed the vegetable crisper you would have seen a noticible lack of vegetables and and abundance of cheese: Petit Agour, Dubliner with Stout, Dubliner Cheddar, 8 year Gouda and VBC’s Herbed Chevre.

Some of our predilections are obvious and well established, like the ones in my family. I have a feeling if I were to walk right now into my mothers house and open her freezer, there would be 5 gallons of ice cream, frozen dinners and frozen meat. My sister, Rachael, would have left over pasta and meat balls and lots of milk for my three nephews and brother in law. There would be something in there made out of one of her cuilinary school books. I’m guessing there would be remnants of a cake.

This is a look inside of my refrigerator, something very few have actually seen the inside of–the most notable person being a vegetarian coworker I traumatized by showing off my pickled tongue to. I think my food experiments freak a few of my friends out. Hmm… that explains so much..

  1. Butter: Lots of it. This was actually bought to make brownies and polenta with. I ended up not even needing either pound.
  2. Cream Cheese: Plain. We rarely have bagels in the house and this was brought in to make a peanut butter cream for the middle of #7 in the next picture.
  3. Cat stuff. You know ‘Ashy Larry’ from The Chappelle Show? Our cat, Sophie, is a bit like that, minus the crack problem(she opts for catnip, bud and lemon grass). This is cost $10 and was suppose to help and she refuses to consume it willingly.
  4. Pickled Jalapeno’s. I’m actually not sure when I jarred these and, now that I look at the picture, am a wee bit afraid to open it. I think it will remain one of those fermenting things in the fridge that just gets moved around and never opened.
  5. White Truffle Oil. Fancy, I know. It’s only use has been for risotto. It expired last month.
  6. Hakushika Snow Beauty Sake. I’d like to say what I purchased this for but I can’t remember. It may have been after a trip to Pai Men. It may have been because I thought the bottle was pretty. It may have been because I thought I would actually drink it. I obviously haven’t.
  7. Cholula Hot Sauce. One of 5 hot sauces in the refrigerator at the moment. This is their chili garlic flavor and my favorite topping for scrambled eggs on a day off.
  8. Three Wishes Cabernet. Whole Foods answer to ‘2 buck Chuck.’ It cost $2.50 and was purely purchased as a cooking wine. It’s probably vinegar by now.
  9. Sriracha. Purchased to help recreate the Pai Men Pork buns we had for Thanksgiving dinner.
  10. Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. Like many things purchased at TJ’s, this was bought out of pure curiosity over functionality or use in my kitchen. And, like so many other TJ’s branded things it wasn’t that fantastic. I believe this was used for a marinade. The only thing I buy from TJ’s these days is coffee.

  1. Polenta setting overnight to make ‘Crispy Polenta Fries‘ from Find.Eat.Drink. For us, the recipe should have been cut in half, or even 2/3’s, as it made a good 2-3 dozen thick cut fries.
  2. “If you’re afraid of butter, just use cream”–Julia Child. I’m afraid of neither and often have both in the house. This was used to make the ganache for #7.
  3. Morimoto Soba Ale. I brought this into the house sometime over the past year because of a reading a while back that Joe @ PFC recommended it highly. Because I don’t drink beer I rely on others to turn me on to brews to bring home to the Missus. This was one of them and it’s been there for over 6 months. If it’s salvageable, it will be used to make tempura.
  4. Cranky Rooster Eggs from my Cape SoPo Winter Share. Since posting about it two months ago there has hardly been a day where these eggs have not been in my kitchen. Truth be told, my last pick up from the Winter Share had three dozen eggs in it. Three dozen for two people. The yolks, as orange, tall and firm as ever, have made me catch my breath more than once at the sight of how just exactly perfect they are. I probably shouldn’t have said all of this because now you’re going to scoop them up before I’ve placed my order. Jerks.
  5. The required slab of bacon. Uncured, smoked thick cut from Whole Foods 365 line. It was the least expensive bacon in the cooler and far from the best. Too thin(even though it clearly said ‘thick cut’) of a strip made for an easily overcooked, dry piece of bacon. Thankfully it was easily saved on a breakfast sandwich made with the above mentioned eggs.
  6. Beef Shank. I was going to braise it and went for short ribs instead. It’s now living in the freezer.
  7. Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies I dropped the ball on photographing these before they were devoured to the point of pain and then given to my co-workers to get them out of our sights. They were heaven. I added a bit of Mascarpone to the peanut butter mix and substituted some all-natural Nutella knockoff for the peanut butter in the ganache. This was at their final chilling stage.
  8. Castelvetrano Olives. The ‘Kermit’ Olive. So bright green that it turns people off. It seems unnatural but they are one of my absolute favorite olives and worthy of their own ‘Edible Obsession’ themed post. Think less briny and more sweet; A black olive in green clothing with more tanginess than meatiness to it’s flesh. Primary use: sliced and added to a four cheese quesadilla.
  9. Bay Leaves. All of my days off are spent cooking long projects, like braises, and it also includes stock making, whether beef, chicken or vegetable. So, naturally, I use a lot of bay leaves.
  10. Hellman’s Mayonnaise. There are three major things I just can’t make the ‘all natural’ switch to: Ketchup, Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise. I don’t care how bad it is, I refuse to part with it. From creaming up some deviled eggs(do you sense an addiction being confessed before your eyes??), slathering on a sandwich or going Dutch and having some with french fries, I refuse to compromise on mayonnaise. Not only is it a dressing in so many childhood linked food memories(like Grandma’s Potato Salad, Mom’s Deviled Eggs) but it just has a better flavor to me.
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baked beans, Gourmet, Local foods, lots of pork, pork

Tuesday’s Maple Baked Beans and Pork Belly

From The Gourmet Cookbook.

**I used local Jacob’s Cattle Beans from Green Thumb Farms, located in Fryeburg, ME. I also added about a tablespoon of prepared spicy mustard to it for a bit more bite.

**I rendered the bacon fat, lightly browning the pork, and then sauteed the onions in it before adding all ingredients.

What else would you serve with pork spiked beans other than pork belly? Using up the remaining pork belly I had from Thanksgiving, I cooked it up in the same style.

With this being my first attempt at baked beans since moving to New England, I’m going to say that they were a huge hit on a very cold evening. The beans were creamy and, because of the added acid from the mustard, not overly sweet.

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blueberries, Local foods, mmmm..pie

Blueberry Cream Pie

For about the past five years, when the first of the seasons blueberries hit the market, I’ve made a blueberry cream pie. And, as it happened to be this year, the Mrs.’s family was up from Florida and her seven year old nephew loves dessert.
It’s a fairly simple recipe and the only little adjustments I made were to use mascarpone for half of the sour cream and add a bit of oats to the crumb topping.

Blueberry Cream Pie

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 unbaked pastry shell 9″

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons chopped pecan or walnuts

Combine sour cream, flour, sugar, vanilla, salt and egg; beat 5 minutes at medium speed of mixer or till smooth. Fold in blueberries.

Pour filling into pastry shell;

bake at 400ºF for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven. Combine the flour, butter and chopped nuts, stirring well.

Bake 10 more minutes.

Chill before serving.

Serves 8.

Blueberry on Foodista

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Local foods, Maine, Maps, Portland Food

Mapping Maine Foods

Portland Food Map reported the unveiling of the Eat Maine Foods Map.

The Eat Local Foods Coalition of Maine (ELFC) has launched a beta version of a resource to help people more easily connect with local foods organizations in the state. It’s called the Maine Food Map (the map is quite large and the page will take a while to load) and it’s a Google map/directory of local food resources such as farm stands, CSA, CSF, Buying Clubs, etc. While not yet a complete listing, it already provides information for more than 1300 organizations statewide.

ELFC describes the map as an “evolving project”. They hope to raise $6,000 to continue development and work on the “suggestions about functionality that people would like to see added”.

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