Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vermont Cheddar, Week 8

I'm betta', so here's my post about chedda'!

Thank you for your well wishes, I am feeling a lot better now and happy to be back to blogging.  Last week, I tried out a new shop for cheese, Roots.  I had been to Roots before, but only because I had tried out the neighboring yummy organic restaurant, Great Sage.  After the cheese blog was mentioned in another Maryland blog, HowChow (all food Howard County), I decided to give it a go for cheese.

I was craving comfort food, and nothing says comfy cheese like Mac & Cheese.  Especially when a new recipe is involved AND there are amazing root beer and sarsaparilla floats for desserts. (Especially then!)

That being said, there really wasn't that much Chedda' at Roots.  I will definitely be back for local Maryland cheese and arguably the best root beer on Earth, but I was glad to snag some Vermont Cheddar for my Mac.

Vermont Cheddar
Price: $13.98/lb
Smell: Waxy, like a red chedda' wrappa'.  (Or, nice and sharp)
Step One: Surprise! Cheddar cheese is not all orange and Kraft-like.

Step Two: Back to the shredda'!
Step Three: Badda' bing, badda' boom!  I tried using De Cello's Orecchiette (pasta by number=91), and it was delicious.  I would definitely use it again in any dish in need of sauce-grabbing noodles.
Step Four: Bake it! I used double the garlic (like any respectable member of the Cheesekate clan) and bought bread crumbs.  The idea of crumbing my perfectly good bread in my food processor seemed a little ridiculous to me.  However, The Martha's idea to use egg, rather than flour to thicken the cheese sauce was great!

Step Five: Enjoy!

Last week's blog mentioned a salad with pears.  It was so tasty- d'anjou pears, red onion, and slivered almonds covering baby spinach with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Mmmm happy dance in my stomach.

End tally: Midnight Moon > Manchego > Paneer > Comte > Vermont Cheddar > Delice d'Argental > Stilton > Pecorino Romano > Monterey Jack

The Vermont Cheddar was tasty, but it wasn't as exceptional as the Comte.  I rated it higher than last week's Delice only because the Delice tasted oddly like a strong blue cheese when I had it later in the week.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Delice d'Argental and Midnight Moon, Week 7

Hello cheese fiends! This week, the blog went on location to the fabulous Cheesetique in Alexandria, VA. I had come across this shop in Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials and in other cheese blogs, like Cheese & Champagne. Laura Werlin is apparently known as the "human encylopedia of cheese," and her book, a gift from my Mom, inspired me to explore new cheeses. That, and I was kind of getting bored at Harris Teeter (or at least, people there really thought I needed a lot of help each week).

Cheesetique was very busy, but the helpful woman behind the counter wearing a "Cheese Monger" shirt made us feel like the only ones there. The sign said, "Feel the Love," and trust me, oh how the cheese love was felt. Like just about every week, I had no idea what kind of cheese I was looking for. The Cheese Monger started giving samples of her favorites, and this is why I ended up with a full bag-- and TWO! cheeses of the week.

The Loot
Mmmm cheese...and chocolate...and more chocolate. This could be a very bad place to be for the cheese blog budget.

Delice d'Argental
Smell: Smoky and creamy. If I cheat and describe a cheese smell with another cheese smell-- then, smoked brie.

I didn't put this cheese in a recipe because it stood up all on its own. I tried it with Cracklebread (17 calories per piece!) and with Water Wheel Provencale Minis-- heaven in cracker form. I would show you the place setting for the cheese, but you know what? It went straight from the wrapper to the cracker. And into my mouth. Yum! This cheese is triple cream and "enriched with crème fraiche"...oh la la! I also tried it with some smoked salmon, and I bet it would have been lovely with chives, too.

Next up,
Midnight Moon
Price: $25.95/lb
Smell: Valentine's Bouquet of Moon Cheese. Sweet and Fragrant.

I have no other pictures of this cheese except for it just out of the wrapper. Like Delice d'Argental, it didn't make it very far, either. This cheese was out of this world! Stellar! I mentioned it was moon cheese, right? Another recommendation from the Cheese Monger, Midnight Moon was fantastic on its own. It had a buttery caramel taste, and I bet it would have paired well with a bacon grilled cheese or on a salad with butter lettuce, dried cherries, spiced pecans, and a simple vinagrette. Mmm my stomach is doing a happy dance just imagining the possibilities! Also, this cheese is American! Finally, a patriotic cheese in the upper tier of the blog!

We have a winner! Midnight Moon jumps ahead in the tally! The Delice was delicious, but the cheeses ranked in front of it just happen to be outstanding.

End tally: Midnight Moon > Manchego > Paneer > Comte > Delice d'Argental > Stilton > Pecorino Romano > Monterey Jack

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Stilton, Week 6

The cheese blog is officially famous. A fellow blogger I do not know outside of cheeseland a) read my blog, b) wrote about my blog on her blog, and c) gave me a "Dinosaur Mom Seal of Approval"!  Awesome!

Other notes of follow-up:
 - I am officially accepting "Cheesekate" as a worthy nickname.
 - Kate "the Cheesinator" is the next in the line-up for possible nicknames.
 - The cheese diet is not making me gain weight. That being said, I have not lost any, either.
 - My cheese radar (cheedar, anyone?) is definitely perking up. I see articles, recipes, and connections to cheese everywhere! Think "Beautiful Mind" wild newspaper scene. With cheese. Without schizophrenia. 

This week, I aimed to add another country to the World Map of Cheese.  We hopped across the pond for the "King of English Cheeses," Stilton.

I wanted to make something quick and easy for lunch, and after reading the description for Stilton, I thought I would go for cheese and crackers.  However, once I got a whiff of this stuff, I knew I would be booted from the lunch table. It's one thing to eat smelly cheese in the privacy of your own home, it's another to force the smell of "Harmless Blue Mold" on unsuspecting lunch friends. (Check out the label ingredients!)

I assessed the situation.  I Googled. I checked the pantry.  Mainly, I Googled.


Price: $17.99/lb
Smell: Whoa! Pungent blue cheese

Step One: Throw out melting blue spatula. Remember that blue spatula that melted on my paneer? I need not heed my instructions to melting the spatula in frying cheese. Somehow, I thought it could be used to stir cubed boiling potatoes.  This was a no-go. I had to switch to another non-heat resistant (I know, I know) spatula. The blue one is in the trash now. I didn't even give it three strikes.  Fool the cheese blog twice, and you're out.

Step Two: Escape the grater! I was so excited that no grating was involved this week. The cheese just fell apart.  I used my food processor to "mash" the potatoes. I ended up with something closer to cheese and potato soup. 

Step Three: Enjoy.  After my daring adventure of blue spatulas and potatoes to soup, the result was very tasty.  Overnight, the Stilton flavor became even heartier in "mashed potato soup."  Made for a tasty (and less smelly) lunch.

Final thoughts: There is definitely a time and place for Stilton, a creamier and stronger kind of blue cheese. The smell was a bit off-putting for me. I can't see feeling the need for Stilton anytime in the near future, and really don't know where the "King of English Cheeses" platitude comes from. However, it wasn't boring (Monterey Jack) or super salty (Pecorino Romano).  I'll award it fourth place, but it should really consider itself third from last.

End tally: Manchego > Paneer> Comte > Stilton > Pecorino Romano > Monterey Jack

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Monterey Jack, Week 5

Happy February, Super Bowl, and (most of all) Groundhog's Day Eve.

Before we come to the main event, I'll tie up the loose ends from January.  First, as a point of clarification, the Brebis suggestion was made by my good friend Lisa's friend, Ross. Not Lisa. Though I must say I enjoyed your fine use of alliteration, Lisa, this is officially the End of discussion. (Until I try Brebis, of course.)

Secondly, to one "Nit Balboa," I have no idea if cheese has ever saved a life, what percent of taste smell is sense smell, whatever the follow-up is to "we still eat cheese," why Cyprus Turks and Greeks are *gasp* fighting over 'bacteria hint cheese,' if you can drink cheese (or why you would), if in my experience elementary pupils are very interested in cheese, and finally, if the Amish believe cheese is a modern convenience.  Thank you for your interesting and, dare I say, innovative line of questions.  I am flattered you find my blog so inspiring. Try Google.  Thanks.

And with that, my friends, let's get the show rolling!  It's Monterey Jack time!

What's more "Super Bowl" cheese than queso? Really? I know 'The Boss' mentioned guacamole, but we all know he just needed that extra syllable and that's why "queso" didn't make it to prime time.  I got this recipe from the very American  

Monterey Jack

Price: 16.99/lb
Smell: Sharp milky goodness

Step One: Shred cheese.  Like almost every other recipe. This cheese could not take the heat. However, I could not take it out the kitchen. 

Step Two: Add it to everything else.

Step Three: Melt like crazy.

Step Four: Party time! Bam!  I also mixed together some hot and mild fresh salsa from the local store because the watch party was hosted, in part, by my good non-dairy friend. He grilled me a delicious veggie burger. That's friendship, folks.

End result: This cheese just had no character compared to all of the other cheeses.  You know the old "You don't know jack?" I don't think this cheese did.  It's from Wisconsin...but curiously is native to California.  Identity crisis. Identity theft? Although this cheese was pleasant (and the queso very yummy), it just seemed like the apogee of mediocrity. I try to be patriotic on this great day to celebrate American Americaness.  This is what I get.

End tally: Manchego > Paneer> Comte > Pecorino Romano > Monterey Jack