Thursday, August 6, 2009

The gift that keeps on giving

As a birthday surprise my wife gave me the best gift possible; three months of Cowgirl Creamery's cheese of the month.

As expected, the cheeses are fantastic. Cabot cloth-bound is a wonderful cheddar that has an almost mustardy after-taste. Great Hill blue is a rich, luscious, raw-milk blue. And the Purple Haze chevre is a creamy goat with lavendar and fennel.

But this isn't just about getting great cheese shipped straight to my door. The smartest thing the Cowgirls did? In the first shipment they also included a book: Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials.

"Oh... uhm... GREAT!" you feign, unconvincingly. "A two-hundred and fifty page book! Full of... lists. And minute details. And... wait. Is that HOMEWORK at the end of each chapter?!"

This book is the real thing. Are you completely scared when you step to the 'specialty' cheese section, searching for that one cheese your recipe calls for, that the person behind the counter will notice you and ask "May I help you?"

Maybe your not that meek but perhaps the only thing you do with a Roquefort is to pair it with crackers, or perhaps a baguette if you're feeling saucy!

If you don't want to read, you can just enjoy the cheeses as-is. No sweat. The book has some nice photographs in it, as well. But if you're into the nitty gritty details of things you can get as much out of this book as you put into it.

The biggest thing I've gotten out of the book is some of the fundamentals of the seven classes of cheese (Fresh, soft ripe, surface ripe, semi hard, hard, blue, and washed rind (of course this was from memory!)) but more importantly their major qualities and how to best showcase them with food and in recipes.

Also I felt like a champ when I did get the "May I help you?" from behind the cheese display and was able to say "Yes. I'm looking for Brick cheese. It's from Wisconsin." And was met with wide-eyed terror from the other side of the counter! (Rookies... *sigh*)

Now the blue cheese was eaten straight through, I think without crackers, in a few days time. But this deep cheddar was paired with a lovely millers bran bread (the likes of which you've seen before) for perhaps the most 'grown up' grilled cheese you may have had. But what about the chevre? Well, I've got to save something for tomorrow!


  1. Being the former born and raised WI boy, I am confused if I've ever had "brick cheese." We nearly always got our cheese straight from the cheese factory, rarely did it have a name. I guess I assumed it was cheddar...maybe not? Now, since you've got me on WI cheese...have you had FRESH...they have to be fresh...Wisconsin Cheese Curds??? They are a revelation to all who haven't had them! I've introduced many people to the curds and they are very apprehensive, but that first bite, they melt into the sublime texture and youthful flavors; in the end, they are overtaken by the squeaky fresh curds. On occasion I've seen them at the cheese monger at Eastern Market, but that's it. And those aren't fresh enough. You need them within a day or two of them being made!

  2. I'll let you google for yourself, but my understanding is that it's a surface-ripened washed-rind cheese specifically made by Widmers, and it's a milder American answer to Limberger cheese (as a result, it gets more pungent as it ages).

    I have never, ever, never had fresh curds. And to hear you say that the Eastern Market offerings aren't fresh enough makes me think that this is one of those 'specific destination'/pilgrimage foods!

    /Hmmmm, beer and cheese tour of Wisconsin? Sounds like a solid plan.