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Cheese of the Month!
November 2013 – Sartori Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago
At the same cheese show where I tried Marieke Smoked Cumin Gouda, Sage Derby and ate too many B.T. Mcelrath chocolate truffles, I also tried Sartori Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago. The goal for the show was to find fun, tasty cheeses for the upcoming holiday season and ooh la la, we struck gold with this one. Creamier than the classic asiago, this version is smooth and salty up front, with subtle notes of olive oil and a punch of rosemary at the end. With turkey day just around the corner, I would choose this asiago for a cheese plate or shaved on mashed potatoes in a heartbeat.
Based in the heart of Wisconsin, a lot can be learned about Sartori cheese from their family crest.
The ship icon in the upper quadrant refers to The Finlandia, the steamer on which Paolo Sartori sailed from Italy to America in 1939; the same year he also started the company in Plymouth, Wisconsin. The two cows are reflective of Sartori’s farm-to-fork ideology, and also honor the hard working group of local dairy farmers who contribute to the Sartori brand. The state of Wisconsin is included because it is the heart and lifeblood of all Sartori cheese. And last but not least, the four stars atop the gold crown signify four generations of Sartori family members running and improving the business, year after year.
All cheeses from Sartori are crafted using rGBH-free milk, and the family prides themselves on transparency and quality working standards for their staff and partnering farmers. Here at Eastside we carry Sartori Parmesan, Asiago, Montamore and this month’s feature, Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago.
I wouldn’t go so far as to stuff a whole bird with it, but I do believe this asiago could carry you a long way this November in whatever you decide to create.
Cheese of the Month!
October 2013 – Tickler Cheddar w/Red Onion
Cheddar cheese originated in England around the late 12th century, and in 2013 it’s still wowing us. Growing up in MN I feel like it’s fair to claim that I have had my fair share of (Wisconsin) cheddar, but English cheddar? What’s that? I tried Tickler cheddar with red onion shortly after starting in the cheese department almost a year ago and remember my first thought being “why isn’t this yellow?” My second thought of course was some combo of joyful humming, happy descriptive words and intrigue, because this cheese is off-the-hook amazing.
The Tickler cheese story is a not a local MN story, but it’s a co-op story and an impressive one at that. The Taw Valley Creamery, where Tickler is made, is part of Arla Foods. Arla Foods is a 100 percent farmer-owned cooperative, owned by 12,400 European dairy farmers, 1,600 of whom are British. Founded on co-op principles Arla Foods is dedicated to paying the highest milk prices to its owners, and as the UK’s largest current dairy company with a 26 percent share in the Great Britain milk pool, they’re able to deliver on their word. Farmer membership in Arla Foods is made up of large farms of 200+ cows, small farms of 30 cows, organic farms, and traditional dairy farms; a little bit of everything, illustrating their openness and pledge to diverse dairy farming.
The first 40lb. brick of Tickler was made in 2005. Eighteen months later English cheese lovers were gobbling it up at local cheese shops, and before long cheese lovers across the world were enjoying this tasty cheddar. There’s no annatto to hide its true color, so behold this ivory cheddar with red onion in its pure English cheddar form. It will ‘tickle’ your taste buds on its own, and if you dare to put a couple slices a top a 1,000 Hills burger, well forget the additional garnishes because you just won’t need ‘em.
Cheese of the Month!
September 2013 – Marieke Extra Aged Gouda
When I try a new food that truly blows me away there are two thoughts that run through my mind: first, how much can I eat before I have a belly ache, and second, who can I share it with? I recently tried Marieke Gouda Extra Aged at a local cheese shop and, after the first delightful slice, impulsively bought a hunk for our department to try post haste. We ordered a wheel of it the following week, it’s that good. Here’s the story of the Gouda that is both new and old world in taste and appeal.
Rolf and Marieke Penterman are first generation Wisconsin dairy farmers having moved from the Netherlands to the great cheese state in 2002. Their reason for relocation? Holland is small and the population dense, therefore given the fact that they both grew up on small dairy farms and had a dream of a larger farm, they decided to pursue their passion for farming in an area that would allow them room for expansion. Soon after arriving in Wisconsin, Holland Family Farms Creamery was born.
With milk eventually came too much milk, therefore in traditional fashion the Pentermans decided to add more value to their creamery through cheese making. Marieke obtained her cheese license locally, after which she traveled back to Holland where she spent time on a “ boerenkaas”, a farmhouse cheese plant. There she learned how to make authentic Dutch Gouda cheese, and in November of 2006 she produced her first batch.
Currently, Holland Family Farms own 480 acres, milk 850 head and have approximately 1,300 head of cattle. They transform farmstead fresh, raw, cow’s milk into award-winning cheese, which is then carefully cured on imported Dutch pine planks. The equipment, cultures, herbs and spices they use are all imported from Holland. Aged 18-24 months, this cheese has the zest and flavor crystals to excite your taste buds, arguably even more than Pop Rocks.
Cheese of the Month!
August 2013 – Driftless
I have to say, with the heat of summer finally reigning down upon us, cold, fresh, spreadable cheese is where it’s at; and if you haven’t tried Driftless cheese from Hidden Springs Creamery, you are missing out. Honey/Lavender, Tomato/Garlic, Basil, Maple and Plain, the flavors are all there to try.
Hailing from the “Driftless Region” of SW Wisconsin, Brenda Jensen is the maker of Driftless, a fresh sheep’s milk cheese. Brenda, who grew up on a hobby farm, started the creamery, with a small herd of 50 dairy sheep, with husband Dean, a city kid in love with farming. Soon after the pair started milking and Brenda had taken a hands-on cheese-making class, Hidden Springs Creamery came to fruition. Brenda states “I’m not sure how you decide, elbow deep in curd, that you are ready to quit your perfectly good job to make handcrafted cheese, but in the end I asked myself, what’s the worst that can happen?”
Full steam ahead, their flock of East Friesian and Lacaune dairy sheep has now grown to well over two hundred and fifty. East Friesians, originating in Germany, are a wide-bodied sheep referred to as the most productive dairy sheep in the world. Lacaune sheep, well known for producing the milk used for Roquefort cheese, are French, hearty and robust. Brenda affirms that the milk from their combination herd is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals and easy on those who are intolerant of the lactose in cow’s milk.
Brenda and Dean’s vision for Hidden Springs Creamery is to be sustainable, environmentally and financially. Embedded within an Amish community, the couple uses a team of Percheron draft horses to gently plow the land, and trades equipment with neighbors to save on machinery costs. They dedicate 30 of their 76 acres to grazing, and protect their land and animals from predators by using donkey bodyguards. They also have a B&B where, depending on the season, you can help with milking and cheese making: http://www.hiddenspringscreamery.com/bandb.php. – AQ
Cheese of the Month!
Cheese of the Month, July 2013 – Crème Fraîche
Twenty percent of the land in Vermont is still used for farming, and Allison Hooper and Bob Reese, founders of the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, are proud to be a part of the rich, New England farming tradition. Allison, a college student interested in making cheese, who spent a summer serving as a dairy farmhand in France, and Bob, a man who grew up with dairy farming grandparents and had just finished his degree in Agriculture, met at a French dinner. Bob was in charge of planning the dinner and needed locally made goat’s milk chévre to compliment the French chef’s signature lamb dish, and, it just so happens at the time Allison was making chévre at a local dairy lab in Brookfield, VT. Bob reached out to Allison, the dinner was a success, and the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery came to fruition shortly thereafter.
More than 25 years later, Bob, Allison and the Vermont Creamery are growing and prospering at an exciting-yet-humbling pace. They have won over 100 national and international awards and today proudly employ 44 employees. Vermont Creamery supports a network of 17 family goat farms in Vermont, New Hampshire and Ontario, and also St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, a co-op located in northern Vermont that includes over 450 family farm members who pledge to produce milk that is free of growth hormones.
Crème fraîche, Bob and Allison’s first cow’s milk creation, followed close after their aforementioned goat’s milk chévre. Made with fresh, high quality Vermont cream from the local St. Albans Cooperative, crème fraîche has gained instant acclaim from French chefs seeking cultured cream stateside. Using the recipe Allison learned on the dairy farm in Brittany, France over thirty years ago, crème fraîche is made by separating and setting the fresh cream aside after milking the cows. Then the natural bacteria takes over, which creates a thick, smooth and tart result. A staple of French cooking, crème fraîche can be used as an ingredient for sauces, pastry, custard, or as a topping on pie, fruits and soups. Check out the Vermont Creamery website for crème fraîche recipe ideas: http://www.vermontcreamery.com/recipes, and enjoy a domestic taste of France!
Cheese of the Month!
June 2013 – Punk Rawk Labs
Whether you’re vegan, raw, or into cow’s milk, this month we bring to you a cheese to delight and unite all cheese lovers. This cheese is made locally, it comes in a catchy silver canister, featuring a variety of flavors, and it’s made from… punk rawk drum roll… nuts! That’s right guys and gals, if you’re into Equal Exchange cashews and the refined flavor that one experiences by biting into a fresh macadamia nut, we encourage you to break out of the norm this month and add a little nuttiness to your cart.
Aside from the aforementioned drum roll clue, Punk Rawk Labs is our cheese pick for June. From humble beginnings to successful entrepreneurs, business partners, Julie and Alissa, are currently distributing nut milk cheese nationwide to co-ops and health food stores alike, and are soon looking to open a boutique in south Minneapolis fit with a deli, juice bar, and wholesale kitchen. Nut milk cheese, falling under the umbrella of “living cuisine” – cuisine that is meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, natural and unprocessed, and not heated above 118 degrees – has been a cure for variety of ailments that Alissa has experienced through toxic exposure and a car crash, and has been a career changer for Julie who previously worked as a co-op bulk buyer and record store owner. The dynamic duo are nut milk cheese pioneers not only for the state of MN, but country-wide, their first customer being the NY-based Live Live, an organic natural foods store. They are passionate and determined women, and we’re excited to be carrying such a special product at Eastside.
Social media geek or not, I highly recommend checking out both Alissa’s Kickstarter video as well as Punk Rawk Labs TV: An Uncooking Show. Through these media outlets one can find cooking inspiration, education on how nut milk cheese is made, new places to explore in the Twin Cities, as well as up-to-date information on how to support Alissa and Julie as they expand and grow.
Cheese of the Month!
May 2013 – Etxegarai
Prounounced “Eh-che-guh-RY”, this unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese comes to the Eastside from the Basque Country region of northernSpain. Etxegarai has a firm and dry texture, similar to Manchego Reserva, but differs in that it tastes pleasantly oily and smoky in the mouth. Much like Idiazabal, an artisanal sheep’s milk cheese from the same region, the raw milk used to make Etxegarai comes from the Laxta sheep herd.
As the tale is told, in summer the Laxta sheep migrated to higher pastures in northern Spain to graze on the blossoming, new grass. During this time artisanal cheesemakers milked the sheep, prepared the cheese and then left it in the rafters of their mountain huts to mature. At the end of summer when the cheesemakers returned back to the lowlands with their sheep, the cheese had ripened and was ready for sale. The characteristic smoky flavor of Etxegarai was the result of the cheeses having been stored near the fireplaces. There were no chimneys in the simple mountain huts, so the cheeses absorbed the sweet, aromatic smoke.
Today the producers of Etxegarai cheese imitate these traditional cheesemaking methods. After production, the cheese is matured for one month before being smoked using Beech or Hawthorne wood. The cheese is then matured further before being sold, ours for a minimum of 90 days.
Buttery and nutty in texture and flavor, Etxegarai is delicious on its own, paired with a Spanish chorizo or ham, and especially tasty when savored with a glass of Malbec or dry cider in hand on a warm day. If you’re making tapas, try something new by substituting Etxegarai for the more well-known Manchego in recipes that call for sheep’s cheese.
Cheese of the Month!
April 2013 – Quark
Originating in Germany, quark is a fresh cow’s milk cheese similar to goat’s milk chevre, with a smooth texture and slightly tangy flavor. As a mild and unripened cheese, quark is revered as being a versatile dairy ingredient in the cooking world in that it blends and takes on the flavors of other ingredients, sweet or savory. It’s also used as a popular substitute for ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sour cream due to its unique flavor profile and lower fat content (quark contains about half the fat and calories of cream cheese, and slightly less in both areas than whole milk ricotta).
The quark we carry at Eastside comes to you from Milton Creamery located in Southwest, Iowa. Started in 2006 as a joint venture between local Amish dairy farmers and the Musser family of Mennonite faith (Rufus and Jane and their three sons Junior, Galen and Mark), today the Milton Creamery is solely owned and operated by the Musser family, though they continue to use milk provided by local Amish families. Galen has been in charge of making cheese at Milton since he was sixteen, and at the young age of seventeen brought home his first cheese award from the U.S. Cheese Championship for Prairie Breeze (which we also carry), which won Best of Class in the Open Hard category.
We'll sample this cheese on Saturdays and Mondays!
The Musser family states that when it comes to quark recipes, you are only limited by your imagination.
Let this list ignite the fuse to your cheese creativity:
1) Mix quark with honey and lemon zest to make a fresh fruit dip
2) Blend quark with chopped herbs of your choice, a dollop of mustard and salt and pepper to eat with boiled potatoes
3) Create a chocolate pudding by mixing quark with cocoa powder and sugar
4) Try a spinach and quark ravioli with spicy marinara sauce
5) Add quark to a smoothie for extra protein
Cheese of the Month!
February 2013 – Beemster X-O
Beemster is a very special gouda indeed, and here are three reasons why:
- The Beemster ‘polder’
- Beemster cheese is produced by way of a farmer’s co-op
- All Beemster cheeses aged over 4 months are lactose free
On Sale for $16.99/lb - regularlly $18.99/lb
We'll sample this cheese on Saturdays and Mondays in February!
Let’s talk about the polder first, as the foundation of the Beemster cheese-making process. A ‘polder’ by definition is “a tract of low land reclaimed from the sea and protected by dikes”. Seventeenth-century Dutch farmers created the Beemster polder just north of Amsterdam in hopes of growing crops. Despite the draining and separation of the land from the sea however the soil remained oversaturated. What the fertile blue sea clay of the polder lacked for corn or wheat though it made up for in mineral-rich grass, a perfect environment for happy cows and goats to pasture. Today the Beemster polder qualifies as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Second, for all of you co-op lovers, Beemster cheese is produced by way of a farmer’s co-op! Referred to by the name of Cono Cheesemakers Co-op, in 2002 the co-op was the first in Europe to pay a meadow premium to its farmers, which allows co-op cows and goats to graze outside in the meadow, resulting in healthier milk for Beemster to purchase and make cheese.
Third, Beemster cheeses aged over 4 months are lactose free, which includes our selection of Beemster Classic, Vlaskaas and New! X-O. Rejoice, lactose-intolerant tummies, rejoice.
In the vein of “variety is the spice of life”, go on and give the new-to-Eastside X-O a try this month, and take your taste buds on a date.
Cheese of the Month is Back!
January 2013 - Mountain Gorgonzola
Produced primarily in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy (see picture below), Gorgonzola is a cow's milk blue cheese. As a bit of history, the town of Gorgonzola, Italy was a traditional resting point for farmers and their herds as they made their way between the alpine pastures of Lombardy during the spring and fall. Local town farmers, in turn, took advantage of the surplus of milk that arrived with each herd and used it to make cheese.
On Sale for $14.49/lb from $15.99/lb
We'll sample this cheese on Saturdays and Mondays in January!
To make Gorgonzola, present-day cheese makers practice a “layering” technique whereby they layer the cooled curd made from the cow’s evening milking with the still warm curd from the following morning milking. After a month of maturation they then pierce the layered curd with a copper needle to let oxygen in and henceforth allow Penicillium, a mold-producing bacterium, to . . . drum roll, please . . . create the beautiful streaks of green and blue we all love in a blue cheese!
At Eastside we’re proud to sell Mountain Gorgonzola, which guarantees that our cheese has been aged at least six months to form the firm bite and sweet yet pungent flavor you’re looking for. Whether you crumble it up on top of a bed of dark greens, with walnuts, diced figs and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette, or indulge in a red wine-poached pear with Gorgonzola topping as a thank-goodness-no-more-Christmas-cookies dessert, this is the perfect cheese to raise a glass of Riesling or Belgian golden ale to as we officially ring in the new year together.
Cheers to 2013, filled with good friends, and cheese!
Cheese of the Month
Sottocenere al Tartufo
"sotto cenere" literally "under ash" "tartufo" means "truffle"
Slice through this beautiful, pressed grey ashen rind to find a semi-soft ecru colored cheese. Italian cheesemakers begin with raw cow's milk and then layer shavings of black truffles. The paste is then set to age with a rubbing of truffle oil, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, liquorice, fennel, cloves, anise, and finally ash, a rind material traditional to the Veneto region of Italy. Brillat-Savarin, esteemed French epicure, called truffles the "diamond of gastronomy." They are a specialty fungus found under the forest floor, sniffed out by specially trained pigs or dogs. Their prized flavor is earthy, buttery, and highly aromatic, similar to the highest quality mushrooms. If you haven't experienced truffles before, this may be a good first departure, as black truffles are milder in flavor than the white variety.
To serve: As with any cheese, I will often suggest first that it be eaten alone, so that its flavor and texture can be experienced and pondered. And Sottocenere al Tartufo can very easily be served on its own or simply on a cheese tray accompanied by walnuts. The semi-soft texture of this cheese lends itself to melting over slices of toasted baguette, perhaps with caramelized onions, or wherever else a rich melted cheese is welcome. As a starter, shred over a salad of fresh or wilted radicchio, a red-streaked leafy vegetable indigenous to the cheese's place of origin. Drizzle olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar, and you have a first course that won't overpower your entree or your guests appetites. For dinner, lay a couple slices over a sautéed filet mignon, broil, and top with a pat of butter, and you'll have a phenomenally easy and luxurious meal. Sottocenere al Tartufo is special treat but very easy-going, at home next to any cracker or crusty bread. It's so good that you'll make occasion to pair it with everything!