A reader wrote in recently with a list of about 30 cheese pairings asking for my feedback. I thought it would be really great to open up the discussion to all you readers out there. So every week I will post another one of her pairing suggestions, with my thoughts. Please leave a comment and let everyone know what you think!
This week's pairing is Brie de Meaux with crusty baguette, fresh strawberries and Champagne. Brie de Meaux is an A.O.C. cheese made from cow's milk in the town of Meaux, near Paris. It is mushroomy and creamy, with an unctuous paste and a delicate bloomy rind. Champagne is a good choice; the tartness of the wine balances well the creaminess of the cheese. However, a bold Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot might be a better match for the savoriness inherent in the cheese. Like Champagne, Strawberries should provide a sweet counterpoint to the savoriness of the cheese. As for the crusty baguette, it is a great vehicle for enjoying this smooth, sensual cheese. (Incidentally who would ever want to eat a non-crusty baguette?) What do you think, o faithful readers?
Any curd nerd worth her salt has at some point considered trying her hand at professional cheesemaking. If you want to take the next step, check out smalldairy.com, a relatively new website with resources for people starting and growing their own small dairy. One of the newest pages on the site lists internships, apprenticeships and jobs, free of charge. There are only a few listings there now, but I'm sure it will grow. This page also has a pretty funny paragraph on how crazy the life and work of a cheesemaker can be:
Dairy farming and small-scale processing are some of the hardest jobs you can take on. They require physical and emotional strength, perseverance, patience, flexibility, good observational skills, love of and respect for animals and ability to maintain routines. You may be required to stay up all night, get up in the dark or otherwise interrupt your sleep to check on animals or cheese. You may have to work outdoors in all kinds of weather, you might get really dirty or even splattered with manure. If you work at a creamery you may be required to interact with the public. For some reason, people do it anyway. The benefits and rewards of dairy farming keep many people going in spite of the hardships.
Ticket-holders will be able to sample, at each winery’s tasting room, a broad spectrum of the award-winning wines that hallmark Berks County’s wine community; plus, experience first hand, locally made cheese -- crafted by area cheesemakers.
I like to troll the Internets for interesting looking cheese classes, and two in particular jumped out at me recently. This fall, Artisanal and Murray's are both offering intensive educational experiences that cater to the serious enthusiast (a.k.a. curd nerd) and to the food professional.
Murray's class, called Cheese U, is an intenstive six-week course designed to give attendees a well-rounded education in all things cheese. The class starts with an introduction and orientation, and continues with a detailed look at the different types of milk used to make cheese, the history and geography of this great food, followed by a look at cheesemaking, affinage (the art of aging cheese) and beverage pairing. The course is pricey at $795, but in addition to the classes themselves you get a "required reading list," take home assignments, a final exam and a Certificate of Achievement upon completion.
Artisanal's Master Class: Intensive Class for Professionals is largely geared towards food professionals (and comes with a correspondingly high price tag at $1200), but promises to spend a full 2 1/2 days covering "the entire world of cheese, from milk types to cheesemaking, affinage to appreciation, placing an emphasis on service, selection, and proper care of cheeses for the foodservice professional." With instructors like Max McCalman and Daphne Zepos, this class should prove to be truly enlightening.
It's old hat to see blogs by cheese mongers, or other dairy heads, but I have yet to see many blogs from cheese makers themselves. After all, making cheese is so time-consuming, what cheese maker in his or her right mind would choose to spend the little free time they had on blogging? Well there are a couple of new blogs to report on that signal perhaps a new trend, both are from cheese makers who are in the trenches working hard to make the cheeses you and I love to eat.
The first is from LittleFfarm Dairy, a start-up artisan goat cheese maker in South West Wales, UK. Their blog is a daily journal, tracking their progress as they start the business with a herd of pedigree British Toggenburg goats. I don't know how these folks have the time to raise goats, make cheese, AND blog, but I'm glad they do, because the blog really adds a personal dimension to their operation that you don't get with too many other dairies.
In one of the hottest trends in dairy right now, companies in Europe and the U.S. are moving to create innovative products that contain added probiotic cultures, microorganisms thought to confer health benefits when ingested in adequate amounts. In January 2006, Dannon introduced Activia, a yogurt supplemented with live Bifidus Regularis bacteria, to the American market. And with each passing month it seems more and more companies are hopping on the probiotic bandwagon; Italian cheesemaker Bidino recently announced a new line of cheeses containing probiotic cultures.
On September 15 and 16, members of the Upper Hudson Farmstead & Artisanal Cheesemakers are opening their operations to the public, giving people a chance to meet the cheesemakers and watch them as they craft some of the best farmstead cheeses in America. Visitors will also be able to meet the beautiful sheep, goats and cows that make all the precious raw milk for the cheeses.