American-MidAtlantic


We hope you and yours had a very merry Cheesemas! Now join us as we count down to 2011 with our top 5 bubbly-worthy cheeses — perfect for toasting with cava, prosecco, sparkling wine or real champagne.

#5: Merry Goat Round from Firefly Farms (Maryland)

Merry Goat Round is a bloomy-rind, Camembert-style cheese that is aged just three weeks. It has a remarkably clean, fresh flavor and a chalky, firm bite. Read more.

Keswick Creamery is well-known among DC farmers market goers for their wonderful cheeses, yogurt and more. Located in Newberg, Pennsylvania, the small family dairy has been making cheese from their grassfed Jersey cows since 2001. Their ricotta is some of the best I’ve tasted, and local foodies rave about their creamy quark. So when I heard they had introduced some new cheeses, beer-washed raw milk tommes, I was eager to try them out.

I visited co-cheesemaker Mark Cochran at Sunday’s Bloomingdale Farmers Market, and he filled me in on two of the new additions: Mad Tomme and the Tommenator, both washed in craft beers from Pennsylvania’s Troegs Brewing Company.

Both begin with raw milk from the farm’s Jersey cows, which is turned into Alpine-style pressed cheese and aged 3-4 months. The Mad Tomme is washed with Troegs’ Mad Elf holiday brew, made with honey and cherries that impart a light sweetness to the finished cheese. The Tommenator is washed with the Double Bock, and has a stronger, maltier flavor. Both cheeses still retain that unmistakable grassy sweetness and yellow color of Jersey milk cheeses, and a dense but creamy paste.

It goes without saying that these are well suited for pairing with beer, especially Troegs. They are perfect for summer entertaining, either before, during or after dinner. I’d try the Tommenator on a burger, and perhaps save the Mad Tomme for dessert with a side of fresh cherries (or cherry pie!).

Keswick has recently pulled out of the Saturday farmers markets, but can still be found at the Dupont Circle and Bloomingdale markets on Sunday. Their cheeses are also available at Cheesetique and Cowgirl Creamery. Visit their website to learn more.

Recently in the cheese world …

American Goat Cheese Awards: The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) annual cheese competition was held last month in New York. Congratulations to Bonnie Blue Farm (TN) for the Best in Show award for Tanasi Tomme, and to Split Creek Farm (SC) for Reserve Best in Show for Farm Feta in Olive Oil. Familiar names on the winners list include Maryland’s Firefly Farms (four awards) and Spriggs Delight Farm; Oregon’s Rivers Edge Chevre (1st in flavored hard cheeses for Astraea); California’s Redwood Hill Farm (cleaning up the yogurt & kefir categories) and Fat Toad Farm in Vermont for their goats milk caramel sauce. View the complete results here.

MSLivingNov09Craft Cheese in Mainstream Media: Martha Stewart Living’s November issue features Vermont’s artisan cheesemakers, and the cheese episode airs this Thursday, Nov. 5, featuring Liz Thorpe. Emeril Lagasse is also on the bandwagon, recently visiting Jasper Hill Farm and Bellwether Farms in California for the Emeril Green show. The Bellwether episode (“Pass the Cheese, Please”) first aired last night, Nov. 2, but check the listings for a re-run if you missed it.

Tillamook Mac ‘n Cheese Competition: Last month was the 5th annual Tillamook Macaroni and Cheese competition in Portland, OR. The winner? Ann Jones from Littleton, CO, with her “Rustic Fried Sage and Chicken Apple Sausage Mac ‘n Cheese with Autumn Chutney.” She took both grand prize and people’s choice (and, I presume, longest recipe name!). Congrats!

Free Cheese! Bellwether Farms is giving away a $100 gift certificate to one lucky winner. To enter, create an original recipe using Bellwether’s creme fraiche and submit the recipe and a photo by December 1st. View complete details here.

On the Cheese Blogs: Madame Fromage selected Meadow Creek‘s Grayson as her Halloween cheese (great pick!) … The Cheeselover Fiona Beckett is served a unique cheese course … View pictures from the 2009 PDX Wedge Festival … Check out this recipe for Savory Onion and Gouda Dutch Baby from Herbivoracious (perfect for any bits of L’Amuse or Roomano you may have around).

American Cheese on Twitter: Now that Twitter has launched their lists feature, we’ve set about to create the ultimate list of American cheesemakers/sellers/enthusiasts. If you’re interested in America’s craft cheese movement, these are our must-follows. And if you make, sell, or promote cheese in America and we somehow aren’t yet following you on Twitter, drop us a note in the comments or @100cheeses.

Cheese of the Month: The most viewed cheese review we posted for the month of October was… Coach Farm’s goat medallion (third from left, above).

Remember to check our DC and MN Cheese Event listings for classes, tastings and more … we’ll be updating as holiday events are announced. And if you have cheese events or news to share, drop us a note at dccheese@gmail.com or mncheese@gmail.com.



I ate this week at a fairly new restaurant in DC, Art and Soul, helmed by Chef Art Smith. A Southern-bred, James Beard award-winning chef who came to Washington by way of Chicago — and formerly cooked for Oprah –, Chef Art has a menu that highlights local, seasonal ingredients. Sure, many restaurants profess to do the same, with varying degrees of success, but what impressed me here was seeing the “eat local” philosophy carried over to the cheese menu. Sadly, we didn’t actually sample the cheese this time as it was not on the Kids’ Restaurant Week prix fixe menu (boo!), but the list is familiar to any DC-area cheese fan: Talbot’s Reserve from Chapel’s Country Creamery (MD), Everona Dairy’s Piedmont (VA), Meadow Creek Dairy’s Grayson (VA), and Firefly Farms’ Black and Blue (MD) — all fine choices!

Just to round out the local dairy offerings, Art and Soul also dishes up Moorenko’s ice cream and sorbet. (You can read more about our dinner over at FoodieTots, and if you live in Chicago or NYC, your Kids’ Restaurant Week kicks off tomorrow, June 20.) 

elsewhere in cheese this week ….

Check out Madame Fromage‘s sheep’s milk blue discovery; and, It’s Not You, It’s Brie describes a cheese with “more texture and flavor variations than Mariah Carey has pink stilettos.” Click over to check them out!

While Jill has been faithfully working her way through the “100 Great Cheeses” list, I have to confess to having strayed off course. The brief glimpses of warmer weather, in between DC’s recent monsoons, turned my thoughts to fresh local goats and I’ve undertaken a brief dalliance to journey coast to coast in a quest for some fresh farmstead cheese. These local goat cheeses, whether in fresh chevre form or lightly aged, are generally available in limited quantities and often don’t travel as far beyond their farm, making them ineligible for the Wine Spectator list. But we would be doing a disservice to you, dear readers, if we didn’t devote a little time to the best cheeses currently in season. Goat cheese has a season, you ask? Yes, indeed. Goats give birth in the spring, after all, meaning those early months of the year are when goats are producing milk. Coincidentally, that is when fresh green grasses on which goats graze are just sprouting, full of flavor that passes on through the milk and into that dollop of chevre atop your beet salad or asparagus pasta. As spring turns to summer, that peak grassy flavor mellows in bloomy-rind, slightly-aged goats milk cheeses, such as the two Maryland cheeses I’ve recently enjoyed from Spriggs Delight and Firefly Farms.

I’m a sucker for a cute kid’s face, human or goat, so I couldn’t pass up the new Spriggs Delight Farm offering at Cheesetique. Spriggs Delight is a mother-son operation in Sharpsburg, Maryland, who have been producing cheese for only a few years. This crumpled bloomy-rind round maintains a strong tangy, grassy goat flavor, and was well matched with some fruit-studded crackers that provided a little sweetness to contrast the almost tart taste of the cheese. 

 

I’ve been a fan of Firefly Farm‘s manchego-style Cabra LaMancha for some time, but it had been a while since I last sampled their award-winning Merry Goat Round, until getting reacquainted this past weekend at La Fromagerie’s “meet the cheesemaker” event. Firefly Farms‘ cheesemakers have recently moved away from managing goats themselves, instead purchasing all their milk from local Amish farmers who raise the goats on organic feed to Firefly’s specifications. During the warm months, the goats graze on wild grasses of the Allegheny plains of northwestern Maryland/southwestern Pennsylvania. Firefly is instead putting all their attention into perfecting their cheesemaking, and building a larger creamery that will double their capacity later this year. Firefly also gave up their organic certification given the expense of paying for hard-to-find certifiers to visit every six months, but continues to follow organic practices. Their Merry Goat Round is a bloomy-rind, Camembert-style cheese that is aged just three weeks. It has a remarkably clean, fresh flavor and a chalky, firm bite. As it ripens, it develops that soft gooey edge inside the rind but maintains the chalkiness in the middle. It is slightly sweet and surprisingly mild, with less of that goaty tang present in the Spriggs Delight cheese.

One of the advantages of these spring/summer goat cheeses is that mild flavor that makes them easy to pair with a wide range of drinks, from crisp white to summer rose or even a light, fruity red wine. Seasonal beers, like Dominion’s Spring Buck Blonde Ale, are also great picks. Of course, I stuck with my goat theme and went with a South African Goat’s Door chardonnay from Goats do Roam with this distinguished gentleman goat on the label (thanks to a Twitter friend’s recommendation). Merry Goat Round was also a hit with my toddler, who snatched my tasting slice right off the plate and said, “Is this cheese for me?” with such delight that I could hardly say no…

Stay tuned for some more “Local Goats” from around the country this week!

With the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama just a week away, even foodies are getting in on Inauguration fever. From District-food gaffes to deciding not to decide on a new White House chef, every televised bite by the President-elect is fodder for the culinary media. The LA Times finds political irony in the Lincoln-themed Inaugural luncheon menu. There’s a blog devoted entirely to what Obama says about food, Obamafoodorama, and even a cheese named for the President-elect, the “Barick Obama” from Vermont’s Lazy Lady Farm. Naturally we thought we’d join the fray, and suggest some of America’s best “blue state” cheeses and brews for your Inaugural party.

It has also come to our attention that Prairie Fruits Farm* goat cheese from the President-elect’s home state of Illinois will be served at the Inaugural feast – atop arugula perhaps? (Thanks to The Media Table for the tip.) While we enthusiatically support the promotion of America’s artisanal cheesemakers, we wanted to take a moment to note that Mr. Obama need not phone home whenever a craving for fine curds strikes.

The Obamas can support family farms and eat locally by sampling our fine Mid-Atlantic cheeses. For goat cheese, Maryland’s Firefly Farms produces luscious, flavorful logs of hand-crafted fresh chevre and exquisite and unique Black and Blue and Cabra laMancha. Firefly’s innovative set-up sources milk from a cooperative of local Amish goat farmers to start with the purest milk available. The Cabra laMancha (pictured) is a washed-rind, Manchego-inspired cheese that won gold at last fall’s World Cheese Awards. It has a firmer texture than your traditional cows-milk washed-rind cheeses, with a grassy fresh taste and mild tang. Wash it down with Barboursville Vineyard‘s reserve chardonnay or viognier, from Virginia. (Barboursville’s Brut would make a fine, local alternative to the California sparkling wines being served at the Inaugural luncheon.)

Elsewhere in the region, Virginia’s Everona Dairy produces some of the finest aged sheeps-milk cheese around; try the Cracked Pepper for extra zip. Meadow Creek Dairy‘s Grayson, a nutty washed-rind Jersey cows-milk cheese, took top prize in last year’s American Cheese Awards. Firefly, Everona and Meadow Creek cheeses are all available at local cheese shops, and the first lady and daughters could stroll up Connecticut Ave. to meet Everona’s Dr. Pat herself at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market.  Of course, if they wanted to take the White House Organic Garden idea a little further, they could bring back a herd of sheep and make their own cheese … though I suspect they have more pressing items on their to do lists. 

Check back each day this week for more Inaugural cheese picks, and let us know what you’ll be noshing on to celebrate!

*Do read the story of Prairie Fruits Farm on their website; they are Illinois’ first farmstead cheesemakers and are creating a diverse, self-sustaining farm that also produces fruits, berries and grains. Unfortunately we couldn’t track down their cheeses here in DC or in Minneapolis, so if any readers come across it, do let us know what you think!

Growing up, New Year’s Eve was the one time a year we got to eat all the processed junk food our little hearts desired, from ready-made French onion dip and Lay’s potato chips to whatever shrink-wrapped meat and cheese goodies my dad got in holiday gift baskets from his colleagues. I don’t believe I ever had a homemade cheese ball, but we did think the Hickory Farms cheese logs and spreads were a nifty treat. (Funny how warped a sense of “luxury food” one develops when raised on a strict healthy-food diet!)

Aside from the low gas prices, dismal economic reports continue to lead the daily news reports. If you’re feeling a little more frugal (late)-Seventies than Swinging Sixties, the retro cheese ball stretches your cheese dollar and is sure to amuse and delight your New Year’s Eve guests. Better yet, cheese balls are best made from a good, traditional cheddar and don’t require a special trip to your local cheesemonger. Apparently, cheese balls are all the rage this holiday season, having been endorsed by Amy Sedaris and Martha herself (link to video clip). A classic recipe requires cheddar, cream cheese, a liquid (Worcestershire sauce traditionally), spices and crushed nuts. The possibilities for variations are endless, but I kept mine simple and used Old Bay for a taste of the Chesapeake. Serve with some mini crab cakes or steamed King crab legs for maximum effect.

Recipe: Chesapeake Cheddar Cheese Ball

Ingredients:
2 cups grated cheddar 
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/2 cup crushed pecans
* (I used Tillamook to keep with the coastal theme. Had I planned a little more in advance, I would’ve used Chapel’s Country Creamery’s crab spice cheddar, locally-produced on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.) 

Instructions: Mix first four ingredients in mixer until well combined. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, then shape into a ball and roll in crushed pecans until evenly coated. Wrap and store in refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature (at least 30 minutes) before serving. Enjoy!

Of course, you can make your cheese ball as simple or fancy as you please.  Alanna has a round-up of family cheese ball recipes over at BlogHer, including Big Red Kitchen‘s eye-catching Curried Cheese Ball with coconut and peanuts. The Kitchn offers a more gourmet option, a Blue Cheese and Rosemary Ball, or booze it up with this Cheese Truffle recipe from Tillamook. For a sweet option, try (or imitate) a Butterscotch Brickle cheese ball mix

Ringing in the New Year with cheese? Let us know what’s on your menu!
And be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest from around the cheeseosphere.

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