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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!