Say Cheese: Casatica di Bufala

casaticadibufalaDid you think there were just three milks to choose from in the world of cheese? Well now there is four! Four milks! Ahem, I’m just a little bit excited about this new discovery made from 100% buffalo milk. Hailing from Lombardy, Italy, it begs for a glass of Chiavenesca to wash it down.

As I held a whole wheel in my arms I felt protective of the perfect rounded rectangle of goodness because I knew, as soon as the word got out, it would be gone before I could say Casatica. Mild but luxurious, like a perfect piece of panna cotta, it melts on the palate with satisfying delight. The texture is so fantastic it might leave you with a habit to kick.

Want to track down this cheese or maybe others? Visit my friends at Formaggio Kitchen at formaggiokitchen.com and see what they have in stock.

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Say Cheese: Meg’s Big Sunshine

Meg'sBigSunshineIn the tradition of Ruggles Hill Creamery headed up by Patricia Smith in Hardwick Massachusetts, this cheese is named after one of their beloved, now retired, goats. Meg was by their account the happiest and most pleasant of their herd having a particularly “sunny disposition.” So perfect because I’ve always enjoyed telling people how happy goats make the most delicious cheese.

This is definitely the case with this bloomy rind beauty as I was practically knocked back by the sparkling fresh flavors of the paste. Inside the small taste I was offered at the counter seemed to hold a universe of savory creamy delight, twinkling endlessly onward like a night sky filled with goat cheese stars. Precious, limited availability makes getting your hands on a wedge a worthwhile treasure hunt.

Want to track down this cheese or maybe others? Visit my friends at Formaggio Kitchen at formaggiokitchen.com and see what they have in stock.

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Wrath of Grapes: Burgundy Studies

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Neck deep in my studies, most recently I have been drowning in Burgundy, but what a sea to breathe in.

The list I work with boasts an impressive line up of bottles from the region, white and red alike. I still remember a time that it all felt so impossibly large, like the first time you step into a large library as a child. The names felt luxurious in and of themselves; Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin!

photo-8With a couple years having the incredible opportunity to taste a wide range of appellations, vintages and producers that library has begun to feel less like a jungle, and more like a Pantone color swatch book of options. Still incredibly vast and exciting, but navigable.

The history of Burgundy is an incredible sweeping arc that includes appearances from Romans, dwarves and giants. It feels like a lost region in Game of Thrones. All it’s missing is dragons.

Lately I’ve been having discussions about wine that include the term Vin de Méditation. Wine to meditate on, to take the extra time to really experience every aspect from the moment it touches your lips to the time the flavors finally stop talking on your tongue. Good Burgundy fits into this category to me. Good Burgundy tells you a story, a slow luxurious tale. Great Burgundy is like time travel.

photo-10Of course, it happens to go with just about anything as the versatility of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are seemingly endless when combined with great soil. Things it excels with are earthy meats; quail, foie gras, duck, escargot. But also with sweeter things like a delicate cut of veal, or a succulent pork loin. Its lifelong friends are mushrooms, especially truffles, which are in a league of their own.

Finally, it pairs well with me. What a nice bonus that something so complex and involved, can be a labor of love.

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Wrath of Grapes: Sarasola Sagardoa Cider

sarasolaThere’s an incredible wine store in the North End of Boston by the name of The Wine Bottega. At some point I need to dedicate at least one post in entirety to their complete and utter awesomeness. Every Friday they have great, and free, tastings. Often I am working these evenings, but my husband who works in the city attends them regularly. He ventures in and usually comes home with an armful of purchases and discoveries. This past Friday was a cider tasting. One of our purchases was this bottle of apple cider from Basque country in Asteausu Giupúzcoa Spain.

Infinitely drinkable, it also challenges you. Funky undertones like sea salt that still has some seaweed attached  to it wave hello from underneath its pithy exterior. Did I just peel a Meyer lemon? Citrus oils still hanging in the air and apparent salinity watering the palate the idea of apple arrives. Under ripe honey crisp with the skin still on, unsalted almonds and oregano for the finale.….What?

This cider is confusing in a wonderful way. Drinking this reminds me of the first time I enjoyed Movia Lunar and the more I think about it reminds me of the spectrum of flavor I’ve experienced in orange wines. Versatile and engaging, dry and bright with acidity, it’ll cut through the richness of charcuterie or fatty meats. I could also see it pairing well with seafood and earthy vegetables. I haven’t been this excited about a cider since Eric Bordelet’s Poire.

Find it, get it, try it, explore. And if you feel like it, let me know what you discover.

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Say Cheese: Miti Bleu

mitibleuFor one man, , there was a dream, and that dream was to make a blue cheese. A blue cheese from Spain that rivaled the delicious qualities of that legendary French blue cheese: Roquefort. One of the inspiring circumstances was the plentiful supply of sheep’s milk, bringing him one step closer from the beginning. So in 2003 a cheese plant was built near the imperial city of Toledo in Castilla La Mancha.

La Mancha is a historical region of central Spain. It is the largest plain in the Iberian Peninsula, and is arid and dry. A challenging but important agricultural zone, this makes  it perfect for hardy livestock like cows, goats and yes, sheep. You may have heard of La Mancha mentioned in a literary context in Don Quixote. The gargantuan windmills mentioned therein have been immortalized.

Made from raw sheep’s milk  and aged for at least four months, the end result is far from a Roquefort’s flavor profile but instead something else wonderfully different. It begs to be devoured greedily without a second thought, a true eating cheese. But if one can manage to stop and savor the flavors, it has plenty to offer up. Behind the overt cream lay toasted nuts, crushed herbs and a tongue tingling brine.

Try at your own risk, I’ve labeled this cheese as addictive.

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Wrath of Grapes: Sicily Calls To Me

siciliycallsOver the past couple years I’ve enjoyed discovering countless wines that I would describe just as that: discovery wines. These are selections that open one’s eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. Some of the most memorable for me have been Sicilian.

I’ve been glad to see more and more people becoming wise to the Mediterranean isle’s offerings. But still, many times when I suggest a bottle from Sicily, I will see anything from non-recognition to visible wincing. This is because for a long time, the wines the world knew from Sicily were Marsala and thin, flabby white wines. Wine-makers have not always realized the full potential of Sicily’s climate and terroirs, and those who did often did not get their wines off the island.

Now, with the market beginning to open its arms, old and new producers alike are creating exciting selections that see the light of day beyond their shores, and delicious possibilities abound! Allow me to mention a few of my favorite producers, well worth scooping up, should you find anything from them:

Azienda Agricola COS—Now a name recognized for being steadfast in both quality and ingenuity. Their practice of aging some of their wines in traditional clay amphorae takes a page from ancient history to create modern selections.

Ariana Occhipinti—The niece of Guisto Occhipinti (the O in COS). This young woman, only in her mid-twenties, is turning heads and creating bright, balanced, beautiful wines. Her SP 68 bottling, named after the country road that runs through her town, is a tribute to her love of home.

Frank Cornelissen—He’s bold, he’s Belgian (aka “The Mad Belgian” as his Sicilian neighbors have affectionately nicknamed him), and he’s creating wines that are so alive, that when you open one you feel like you’re standing on the slopes of Mt Etna. On the flank of one of the most active volcanos in the world, these wines transcend the term all-natural to become a taste of nature itself.

Terre Nerre—Marc De Grazia, known originally as a prominent wine importer, set out to create pure elegant expressions of the many personalities of Mt. Etna. My favorites are his single- site bottlings, like Fuedo di Mezzo. Grown on small parcels of land, these wines are beautifully expressed and can drink like a beautiful Chambolle-Musigny.

I’ve enjoyed every wine I’ve tasted from these producers, I couldn’t say enough nice things about them. So the next time you are thinking about picking up a couple of bottles of wine for dinner, seek them out. In general, I’ve found them—although diverse—extremely versatile. Perhaps this speaks to the diverse culture and cuisine of the island itself. It truly is a place of the land and the sea.

Stay tuned for more Sicilian love songs, as I’m on a bit of a tear. A more extensive profile of some of the wines of Frank Cornelissen is on its way and you’ll want to see what they’re all about.

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Say Cheese: Rogue River Blue

rogueriverblueRogue Creamery hails out of Central Point Oregon and dates back to the 1930’s when it opened during the height of The Great Depression. Impressively their entrepreneurial efforts ultimately helped employ and empower many people and farmers in the surrounding area. Once more, during WWII they produced a million pounds of cheddar cheese a year to send overseas to feed the troops. But they couldn’t stop being amazing and during that time and took steps to assist the families of farmers who had been shipped off during that time. Finally, they made extra efforts to employ veterans after the war. Long story short, this creamery has a rich history and it doesn’t hurt that it’s soaked in good deeds.

Speaking of soaking, this cow’s milk blue is wrapped in grape leaves soaked in pear brandy. They just dropped a flavor bomb! This practice was inspired by Basque and Provencal techniques they’d observed which featured brandy-soaked chestnut leaves. So they took local Syrah leaves from Carpenter Hill Vineyards, and soaked them in Portland Oregon Clear Creek Pear Brandy. These people are really going for multiple levels of taste of place! Rogue River Blue is like a big cheesy Oregon pride flag blowing in the wind.

Creamy sweet goodness that delves into the spice of a good blue, mouth tingling while avoiding being overwhelming. This allows for all the more subtle waves of flavor to keep crashing into the shore of your palate, bite after bite. Bring on the fortified wine and the botrytis effected beauties to wash down this gem!

Want to track down this cheese or maybe others? Visit my friends at Formaggio Kitchen at formaggiokitchen.com and see what they have in stock.

 

 

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