The clever title comes from Kirstin’s blog, where she writes about cheese and classes she teaches in the San Francisco Bay area.
Wisconsin Cheese first brought the two of us together a few years ago on a junket to visit some of the best cheese makers in the state. And thus I was delighted to see so many Wisconsin cheeses celebrated on these pages.
Kirstin focuses on cultural and historical influences of American cheese making. The result is a fascinating read.
And on to the tasting…
We enjoyed some cheeses I wrote about in Farmers’ Markets of the Heartland, both amazing cheeses crafted by people who know what they’re doing and have the awards to prove it. The first was Hidden Springs Creamery’s Meadow Melody from Westby, a combination of cow and sheeps milk cheese. I remember owner/cheese maker Brenda Jensen telling me about feeling so proud to win an award at the county fair, because Vernon County - in the Driftless region in the southwest portion of the state - has so many great cheeses that the competition is quite strong.
We moved on to the heart-swooning Uplands Cheese Company’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Dodgeville, a cheese I had to ration when it was first introduced because I could eat a half pound in one sitting. And it’s a terrific indulgence for mac-and-cheese.
And then the Roelli Dunbarton Blue from Shullsburg. I don’t recall meeting a blue cheese I didn’t like, but this cheddar-blue hybrid was exceptional.
Then Kirstin introduced us to the Holland’s Family Cheese’s Marieke Gouda from Thorp, a grand champion of the U.S. Cheese Championship. Cheese maker Marieke Penterman first trained and apprenticed in Wisconsin, then went off to Holang to study traditional methods there.
We finished with Chalet Cheese Co-op’s Limburger from Monroe. If you’ve tasted limburger, you know it’s not for the faint of heart, and is best enjoyed with a little accompaniment, like crusty bread, and perhaps a smidge of Rare Bird cherry lime preserves. It was delicious with a late harvest wine from Austria.
Rachel Driver Speckan, beverage director at City Winery, paired some delicious wines to accompany the cheeses, no easy feat when you consider the complexities of flavors. Both she and Kirstin dished up great information as they guided us through the tasting.
And for your own cheese course
Consider a few things when designing your cheese course at home:
Three cheese should be sufficient to transition from the main meal to dessert, or replace dessert if you like. Offer a progression of mild to bold flavors.
Splurge on special artisan cheeses to treat your guests. Small portions - even two bites per cheese - can communicate the singular nature of the experience. No need for giant portions here.
Take advantage of expertise of your local cheese store. Many cheese mongers are trained to help you find interesting flavor combinations.
And if you’d like to go on your own cheese adventure, the Wisconsin Cheese folks offer a great map. Because there’s no better food to offer your guests than one that comes with a story.
I’ve always been bookish. Books are my biggest weakness, including vintage volumes, like Household Hints scored at the Newberry Library Book Fair.
And thus books are always favorites to give as gifts. This week I posted about some of my favorites. And earlier this year, I gave two thumbs up to Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson, One Block Feast by Margo True, Tender by Nigel Slater, The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather. All will delight the cook on your gift list.
One I can’t wait to spend more time with is Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses by Mary Karlin, another gift from the good people at Ten Speed Press. I’m an aspiring cheese maker, and have decided that my new year’s resolution is to finally make home cheese making a priority before I start purchasing goats. This book is packed with recipes and resources, and most of all inspiration. Wish me luck!
Another of my favorites from the year is Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food: A grocers guide to shopping, cooking and creating community through food by Sam Mogannam, the current steward of an independent grocery store in San Francisco since 1940, and writer Dabney Gough. It takes you through each department, serving up tips on how to choose responsibly-produced ingredients, and how to cook things up, like how to dress a salad, which my friends know is a particularly elegant art not done well often enough, and what to do with over-the-hill bread, and so on.
Found, Free and Flea: Creating Collections from Vintage Treasures by Thereasa Surratt is not a cookbook, but it’s a gorgeous inspiration on how to make your kitchen or your table lovely and distinctive. And I can’t wait for my invitation to road trip to Elkhorn, Wisconsin to cook at Camp Wandawega, the woodsy camp that Tereasa and her husband David Hernandez restored. In the meantime I’ll visit virtually via Tereasa’s blog.
When I learned that Jennifer Perillo’s husband died suddenly, my heart gasped, then cried. To imagine a loved one, young and healthy, suddenly gone, is a nightmare. I’ve never met Jennie in person, but what I can tell you is that she is a phenomenal woman.
Through her dark grief, Jennie reached out. She invited us all to help her in the healing process by making Mike’s favorite, peanut butter pie, and sharing it with someone we love.
I’ve been feeling a little over-retailed, and I haven’t even been shopping. My in box is crammed with e-mails from retailers who thought it would be a good idea to bombard me with messages.
I find myself wondering if this strategy works. Personally, I’ve been on an unsubscribing binge like never before, and even companies I used to enjoy hearing from have me a little on edge.
I know that gift giving is part of the holiday tradition, but I like to focus on other things. Baking, for sure. Lights and greenery. Unpacking all the Christmas tree ornaments I’d given my grandmother over the years, which came back to me when she passed away.
And handmade gifts
My lovely in-laws have a tradition of giving me gifts from Manos del Uruguay, a fair trade cooperative of women artisans in Uruguay founded in 1968 to promote rural development. This scarf arrived the other day and I’ve barely taken it off since. It’s such a joy to have something where the yarn is spun by hand, line-dried outdoors, then woven or knitted into amazing things.
And more amazing for knitters, each skein is signed, so you know who made your yarn. If you want to go to Uruguay to meet your spinner, please check with me for tips on enjoying a visit to Uruguay. In the meantime, you can find a shop here, or even buy the yarn on Amazon.
Happy Independence Day, everyone. Â Enjoy the holiday weekend.
And remember my Organic Valley giveaway? the one where the comments were broken? Â It’s all fixed now, so comment away! Â I’m extending the deadline to Wednesday, July 7 at noon central.
American flag photo at Pinecone Meadow Farm compliments of Janine MacLachlan, www. RusticKitchen.com. All rights reserved. If you enjoy this post, please consider subscribing tomy newsletter, or my feed. OrÂ tweetwith me!
Sometimes it seems like a disconnect, all this eating for charity, indulging when others are hungry.Â But I’m reminded again and again that restaurant people typically go into that business because they like to care for people, to nurture them.Â And what better way than with food.Â So it was great to get an invitation to anÂ Epicurious dinner to support America’s Second HarvestÂ and Michael Kornick’s MK.Â And the menu focus was farm-to-table, my favorite way to eat.Â So I broke out the credit card, made my reservation, and enjoyed a delightful evening with my friend Kristina.
The menu meandered from yellowtail tuna with a salad of greens, quail egg and potato, then on to duck breast with summer squash and chanterelles, finishing with a gorgeous cherry tart by darling pastry chef Amy Sampson.Â The convivial,Â wine-infusedÂ evening ended with Kristina jotting down the must-taste list for an epicurious staffer, who was staying the weekend to check out Chicago’s food scene.Â I’ll need that list for myself, I think, because I know for sure it includes Hot Doug’s, arguably the best place for encased meats.
And Epicurious will be back in Chicago onÂ August 14Â as part of their farmers market tour.Â You can say hello at Daley Plaza.
I turned to How To Cook A Wolf because it was written about how to eat well during wartime rations and shortages, and I was feeling the pinch at the gas pump and was drawn to it.Â So much was about cooking several things at once to save on cooking fuel.Â I felt lucky and a little sheepish to realize I really haven’t had to worry much about how much it costs to turn on the stove.Â
But what really touched me is that sheÂ said that she writes about hunger because she is “hungry for love.”Â Â And isn’t feeding each other a way to show each other love.Â Â Somehow M.F.K. Fisher said it so much better than any of us.Â
By the way, my six-degrees-of-separation story about MFK Fisher was one told by Chef John Ash when I was his student at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.Â She spent much of her retirement in California’s wine country, and Chef had become acquainted with her somehow, and was invited to lunch.Â She made a delicious whole-loaf sandwich that included layers and layers of butter.Â She wrapped it up, and John was invited to sit on the sandwich while they visited outside.Â Yes, that’s right,Â John sat on the sandwich.Â After a while, the combination of weight and body heat made the creation extra delicious.Â It’s funny how I remember so many things I learned during my time at CIA, but the best part was connecting with people who feel a deep connection to food.Â As I say over and over again, it’s not just about the ingredients.
For my trip to Uruguay, I wanted to bring a host gift that represented where I come from, and certainly it had to be food. Â I thought of the famous quote from Brilliat-Savarin, â€œtell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.â€Â Iâ€™m a food enthusiast with a particular affection for southwest Michigan fruit.
WithoutÂ any internal debate I went to the American Spoon store in Saugatuck, where I regularly go to stock up.Â They use predominantly Michigan fruit, and since I live it orchard country itâ€™s the perfect way for people who live thousands of miles away to get a taste for what itâ€™s like here.