April 2010


What first attracted to me to this stinky Vermont cheese is its name – Oma is German for “grandmother,” and my next-door neighbors growing up had an oma and an opa. I always thought those were funny names for grandparents (even though I had a bubbie and a zaydie), and they always stuck in my mind. So when I started hearing buzz about a cheese called Oma from the von Trapp Farmstead, I couldn’t forget about it, but I didn’t try it until this week.

Normally, one might think this would be an unusual cheese for a 39-week pregnant woman who is very sensitive to smells to choose. Of course, I am no normal 39-week pregnant woman. It’s a pretty potent one, though pleasantly so, similar to Jasper Hill Farm’s famed Winnimere, which I also bought this week. (Fun fact: Oma is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill!) I remember saying to my cheesemonger that it didn’t seem so stinky when I tasted it at the shop, but the beefiness of the cheese really comes through if you let it sit on the counter for at least two hours. The paste doesn’t ooze like a triple-cream but rather gets soft and ever-so-slightly rubbery. Though I typically eat the rind of most cheeses, I found this one to be a little too gritty for my taste. Pair with a full-bodied, dry white wine or Belgian beer (per Formaggio Kitchen’s recommendations) and get Oma’s funk on for yourself.

Congrats to Mary Keehn and our friends at Cypress Grove Chevre for being named a silver finalist in the Classic category of the 2010 sofi™ Awards! Cheese+Champagne favorite Humboldt Fog is the only cheese in this category, and if we had our way, it will be named the winner. We’ll find out at the 2010 Summer Fancy Food Show, to be held in New York on June 27-29. As you may recall, last year Cypress Grove came out on top in the Cheese/Dairy category for its delicious Truffle Tremor.

The 2010 finalists in Cheese/Dairy are:

Other cheesey finalists include:

It looks like we have some new cheeses to add to our ever-growing to-do list! Since Colleen and I won’t be able to attend this year’s Fancy Food Show, we’ll have to seek out tastes elsewhere. (Samples are always welcome!)

I just learned about this effort to fund a documentary about the struggles of a small family dairy farm, and thought some of our cheese-loving readers may be interested in learning more. You can learn more about the Laurel Valley Creamery over at Cheeseslave, and click the image below to watch a trailer and to make a pledge if you’re interested in getting involved. They need to secure pledges by this Saturday, April 24, in order to fund the project and share their grass-to-cheese story with the world! Follow @grasstocheese on Twitter to stay posted on their progress.

Don’t let the word latte fool you – this isn’t a coffee-infused cheese. Latte, of course, is Italian for milk, and Robiola Due Latte is made from the milk of two animals, cows and sheep. While you won’t find it at your neighborhood Starbucks, you should seek it out at your local cheese shop because when you’re craving an ooey, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth cheese, this one fits the bill quite nicely.

Robiola Due Latte comes from Italy’s Piedmont region, and some people compare it to Brie, but I think it’s much better. Brie can have a chalky aftertaste sometimes, but Robiola Due Latte is anything but chalky. True, it doesn’t have the tang of a goat’s-milk cheese, but the overwhelming creaminess of its paste more than makes up for it. This is a comfort cheese, the caseophilic equivalent of mashed potatoes. When you’re having a bad day, schmear it on some crackers or crostini and munch away your sorrows. Or if you’re celebrating, pop open a bottle of prosecco (or champagne) and go to town. You can’t help but feel better afterward.

We like to think eating artisanal cheese is in itself a philanthropic act — supporting family dairy farmers, sustaining real food traditions, etc. — but this weekend comes another chance to eat cheese for a cause: “Cheese for Charity” at The Melting Pot. In honor of National Cheese Fondue Day, this Sunday, April 11, Melting Pot restaurants will donate $10 per every cheese fondue order to local charities. Here in the DC area, proceeds will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (Arlington and Reston), Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Gaithersburg), and Food & Friends (DC). Visit their website to find participating locations near you and make a reservation.

“Cheese is a food, not a status symbol. Push your boundaries, but buy the cheese that makes you happy.”

This sentiment doesn’t appear until the very end of Gordon Edgar‘s new book, “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge,” but its importance can’t be overstated. In our modern foodie culture, it’s easy to become a snob about the types of food you enjoy, but Gordon, the cheese buyer at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, takes the snobbiness out of cheese with his really enjoyable memoir/cheese manifesto. Colleen had the pleasure of meeting Gordon when she visited San Francisco last October, and now I am totally jealous because after reading this book he seems like he’d be a fun conversationalist.

I’m not going to write a book report here because I’m 31 years old and stopped writing book reports in middle school, but I will urge you to pick up a copy of “Cheesemonger” at the book store or library. You don’t have to be a cheese lover to read it, though it’s fun if you are because you can knowledgeably nod your head when Gordon talks about the virtues or pitfalls of specific cheeses, but it’s accessible enough for anyone who enjoys an intelligent discussion about food. It’s fascinating to read how Gordon’s background in the Bay Area’s punk activist scene actually prepared him well for his unintended but ultimately successful career as a cheesemonger, and he does an excellent job of educating readers about the basic components of cheese (i.e. milk, rennet, mold, salt, bacteria) while weaving in colorful stories from his travels to domestic and foreign cheesemakers, cheese conferences and trade shows, and days behind the cheese counter at Rainbow. For those of us who romanticize the life of the cheesemonger, the book will leave you with a better impression of the work that goes into building and maintaining retail cheese department or store and make you appreciate your local cheesemonger even more!

If nothing else, read this book to get gems like this line: “A good cheese person can steer you to the right gateway goat cheese that won’t make you feel like you stuck your nose in a goat’s crotch.” If only we could all be so eloquent!

Spring means new lambs, calves and kids, cherry blossoms, and most importantly, the start of the annual Cheese Festival circuit. Festivals have already taken place in California and Oregon. Mark your calendars now for the mother of all cheese fests, the American Cheese Society‘s Annual Conference and Competitionthis year’s “Cheese-a-Topia” will be held August 25-28 in Seattle, Washington.

Author Michael Pollan (of Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemna, In Defense of Food, etc.) will be the keynote speaker, and the conference also features tours, workshops and seminars for ACS members. Cheese enthusiasts can join the ACS to support our domestic artisanal cheesemakers for $150 — but non-members are welcome to attend the “Cheese Oscars” Award Ceremony and the Festival of Cheese. Registration opens May 21.

We’re working on updating our cheese fest and local DC/MN event calendars, so if you’re organizing an event please email us at dccheese@gmail.com or mncheese@gmail.com to be included. Thanks!