March 2010


If there’s one cheese that I’ve been craving more than any other during the past eight months of pregnancy, it would be Kunik. This triple-cream cheese from New York’s Nettle Meadow Farm is made from 75 percent goat’s milk and 25 percent cow’s milk, and the result is 150 percent spectacular. Thank the Lord that the Cheese Shop at France 44 usually has a button or two in stock when I stop in after yoga on Saturday mornings. A week without my Kunik fix is a bad week, indeed.

As lucky as I am to find Kunik here in Minnesota, I can’t help but wish I lived close to the Nettle Meadow Farm in the Adirondacks. The cheesemakers, Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan, make a variety of small-batch, hand-crafted goat cheeses mixed with yummy ingredients like herbs, olive oil, garlic, maple syrup and honey. You really can’t beat fresh chevre when it comes to cheese – the flavor is so rich and pure that you can eat it straight with a spoon. But since I’m not close to Nettle Meadow – and I have delicious Minnesota and Wisconsin chevres to devour – I will definitely take the Kunik when I can get it. Though it’s been slightly aged, it still carries the freshness of a chevre with the luxurious creaminess of cow’s milk. If you can find a button, buy it and eat it in small wedges on a cracker or by itself. I’d be surprised if you can stop yourself before the entire cheese is gone!

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To the untrained eye, it might look like just another strip of shops along the Tamiami Trail heading south through Sarasota, Florida. But cheese hounds like yours truly could hardly miss a sign like this beckoning in between the surf shops, surf ‘n turf casual dining establishments and auto repair shops.

Naturally, we pulled in to sample the curd. Greenleaf Wisconsin Cheese shop professes to have 140 types of Wisconsin cheese; I didn’t count, but the coolers were well stocked with the ubiquitous cheddars and cheese spreads as well as a handful of Wisconsin’s finer offerings: Carr Valley cave-aged Marisa, the beloved raspberry BellaVitano, UplandsPleasant Ridge Reserve.

You could also stock up on Sprecher’s, sausages, Door County cherry preserves and assorted Wisconsin paraphenilia.

cheeseheads in paradise

Most exciting to me, though, was a new discovery: Billy’s Midget Bandaged Goat Cheddar from Capri Creamery. Capri Creamery is a one-man operation making cheese in Blue River, Wisc., from nearby organic Amish goat dairies. This raw milk cheddar has the flaky, crumbly texture and salty taste of a traditional clothbound cheddar, with added earthiness from the goats milk.

billy's midget goat cheddar (left) and bellavitano

billy's midget goat cheddar (left) and bellavitano

Capri’s cheeses are primarily found at the Dane County Farmers Market and Milwaukee and Madison, Wisc., shops and restaurants — and at Greenleaf in Sarasota, Florida. Perfect for your next picnic at the beach.

I was poking around Surdyk’s last week, not because I really needed any more cheese in my cheese drawer, but because I was in the neighborhood. (But do I really need an excuse to stop by? No.) I asked the cheesemonger what was new, and he pointed me toward Goodhue Grass-Fed Gouda, a cheese from Minnesota’s PastureLand Cooperative. Always eager to support local producers, I bought a wedge and have been immensely pleased with it ever since.

Made from the organic milk of 100-percent grass-fed cows, Goodhue is aged in the Pasture Pride cellars in Cashton, Wis. (Isn’t it nice when two rival states get along?) The result is a sweet cheese that reflects many of Gouda’s signature characteristics – a nutty, even grassy flavor that is perfect for snacking. The Goodhue hasn’t been aged long enough to form the crystals often found in aged Goudas, but I don’t find the cheese to be lacking in flavor or texture. If you can find it at a local cheese shop, it’s a great cheese to try, especially if you’ll be serving it to guests who aren’t very adventurous with cheese or if you don’t know their cheese preferences.

One of the many benefits of making friends with your cheesemongers is that you can often get an early scoop on what’s new and tasty in the shop that week. France 44/St. Paul Cheese Shop poobah Benjamin and I have an ongoing Twitter conversation (I don’t see him in the Minneapolis shop much anymore now that he spends most of his time in St. Paul), and late last week he clued me in on some exciting Spanish cheeses that were hitting the case that weekend. So when I arrived at France 44 after yoga on Saturday, the manager, Song, had lots of new cheeses for me to try, and Leonora was one of them.

Leonora comes as a big brick of goaty goodness, and Song used a toothpick to scrape some of the gooey paste for me to try. I was sold immediately. The fresh-tasting cheese had hits of lemon and springtime, while the rind had the tangy bite of a properly ripened cheese. I don’t consider it to be an ultra-goaty cheese, though likely still too goaty for others (ahem, my husband), and the soft texture makes it an instant comfort food. Leonora would match beautifully with a medium- to full-bodied red wine (if I could only have a glass!) and could even be topped with some fruity olive oil and fresh herbs if you want to dress it up for a party.

PSA: If you’re in the DC area, head down to La Fromagerie in Alexandria right now for a chance to snatch some of the infamous 15-year-aged cheddar from Wisconsin’s Hook’s Cheese Co.

After selling out before Christmas, the second batch is rolling out to cheese shops now. Have you tried it? Spotted it? Cheesemongers, let us know if you’re carrying it and we’ll alert our cheese friends on Twitter.

Colleen and I have secretly harbored a cheese crush on Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm ever since we met him at last summer’s Fancy Food Show and he told us that he had read our blog (be still, our beating hearts!), so when I heard about the Kehler brothers’ new release, Moses Sleeper, I was eager to try it. I made my usual post-yoga trip to the Cheese Shop at France 44 on Saturday and found an uncut wheel just begging to be tasted. One bite was not enough, of course, so I bought a quarter of the wheel and brought it home, where it is quickly diminishing in size. (I’m eating for two, and I need the extra calcium!)

Remember my glowing post about Green Hill a couple of weeks ago? Well, fellow cheese bloggers Ross and Rebecca at the dirty way call Moses Sleeper a Green Hill on steroids, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. You’ll definitely like Moses Sleeper if you’re a Green Hill fan, but the two cheeses aren’t totally similar. Both have the thick texture of a triple-cream cow’s-milk cheese, but whereas Green Hill tastes warm and buttery in your mouth, Moses Sleeper feels more subtle and cool. I liken it to drinking a cold glass of fresh, whole milk – you taste the richness of the cream, but the chill from the refrigerator remains. The rind is edible, but it has a bit of grittiness in places that may turn off some tasters. But partnered with the luxuriousness of the paste, it’s easy to dismiss any gritty bits because overall, Moses Sleeper is just yummy. Pair with a sparkling wine and strawberries for a real treat!