World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Cheese

Little Miss Muffet goes to School


I am an absolute freak when it comes to goats. I can’t explain it. Hearty and spunky what’s not to like, including their milk in all its forms. Be it Humboldt Fog, cajeta,  or LaLoo’s ice cream. This fascination also includes long entertained flights of fancy of becoming Little Bo Beep and having my own heard.  I’d make cheese, soap and lotions and sell it at a nearby market. And then I took a class at the newly opened Cheese School of San Francisco.

Many of you like myself will now ask why, in this city of food-crazed dwellers has there not been a formal education outlet until 2006?  It’s such a smart idea. Sure, there have been classes offered through many local cheese shops such as those taught by Judy Creighton (who is list as faculty) at Leonard’s 2000 now Cheese Plus. The cheese school, is in Russian Hill and was founded by Sara Vivenzio, who arrived in the City a year ago, after a time in NY advertising (no wonder the graphics for her school are clean and inviting), to live out cheese-filled dreams here in the land of fog and artisanal splendor. Today, she is a professional cheese monger and buyer at the nearby Cheese Plus

Now I’m not naive, but let’s just say that I was lacking in herd management knowledge. Will Edwards of Harley Farms in Pescadero led the class and focused on the flow of milk–from goat to cheese. The farm is organic and sustainable.  Little touches go a long way. The whey is feed to the goats which increases the butterfat in the cheese.

Will is absolutely passionate and enthusiastic about the goats and the cheese. He shared some of the questions that he gets during tours of the farm, ‘Which part of the goat do you use for cheese? Do you milk male goats?’ Yet another reminder of how disconnected many are from food sources.

Harley Farms was started by Yorkshire-born Dee Harley who married the owner of Durate’s Tavern–a landmark eatery, don’t miss the pie!–they settled down at his father’s 1910 farm. Will, joined shortly after things were getting a bit too productive on the farm for Dee. They do not call themselves cheese makers, the goats do the work so they wear that title. There are about 220 American Alpine goats roaming the 9-acres of coastal pasture down in Pescadero. These goats are excellent milkers. Goats need to be milked twice a day every 12 hours. This cycle produces a gallon of milk which yields one pound of cheese. Milking a goat by hand takes about 15 minutes. With a milking machine that process is seriously compressed to 3 minutes. And here’s the big surprise, in the Spring goats give birth to twins or triplets. The herd can grow to over 500! 

Will mentioned in passing that currently there are just a mere 12 farmstead cheese goat operations in the U.S.  Here’s what I can find to so far:

      1. Achadinha Farms, California
      2. Amaltheia Dairy, Montana
      3. Capriole Farms, Indiana
      4. Elk Creamery, California
      5. Harley Farms, California
      6. Haystack Farms, Colorado
      7. Bodega Goat Cheese, California
      8. Pug’s Leap, California
      9. Redwood Hill Farms, California
      10. Rollingstone Chevre, Minnesota

      The Harley Farms tasting include a Monet, with fresh flowers and herbs d’ Provence, an apricot pistachio and a tomato basil.  These 4-day old chevres were not goaty in flavor.  The Monet and the tomato which was paired with a lush Stephen Vincent Merot (2003) are new favorites. We also sampled other California farmstead cheeses including, a Fiscalini 30-month bandage wrap cheddar; Bellwhether Farms San Andreas and a crottin from Redwood Hill Farms. At the end of the class we moved into the kitchen and watched Will complete the makings for fresh ricotta cheese.


      Future classes include a Pub Tasting, Cheeses of Spain and if you really want to indulge there’s a Valentine’s event with pairing bubbles and triple crèmes. Check out the schedule–there’s something for the Miss Muffet in you.  For me I’ve got to start envisioning the whole cycle of life–how did I miss that?

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      Formaggio de Piedmont*


      Central to the story, and production of cheese in this region is the town of Bra, in the province of Cuneo.  The area’s culture is built upon the history of the nomadic herdsmen who came across the valleys with their animals to the plains with their herds.  As a result there are many dairy farms and cheese makers in the area. Piedmont also claims eight DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin) cheeses so production is highly controlled, designated to a specific region that guarantees adherence to traditional methods.

      One of those eight is Gorgonzola a fairly well known blue cheese here in the States. Another veined blue popular with Italians is Castelmagno, a nutty-tasting cow’s milk cheese from the region. It’s named after Saint Magnus and dates back to the 12th century.  So prized and valued it was used as currency to pay rent to the Marquis of  Saluzza for use of his pastures. Production is limited to 6,000 wheels a year with only 200 of this yield exported to the States.

      The city of Bra, birthplace of the Slow Food movement, also carries it’s name on a few DOP cheeses include Bra Tenero a young, semi-soft cheese; Bra Duro which is age 3 months or longer, and has a bigger taste and firmer texture than it’s younger version.  Today Bra is the site for the Slow Food Cheese Festival.

      Robiola di Roccaverano, is the only Italian goat’s milk cheese to possess the DOP label.  The goats are raised on the slopes surrounding Roccaverano.  Local lore on name origin is that the cheese was called rubeloe (ruddy) for it’s pinkish rind color.  It’s a traditional fresh farmhouse cheese.  Around Piedmont you’ll find it dressed with bagnet vert (green sauce) made from chopped parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, pureed tomato and a few anchovies.

      Unique from this region is "Broos"  a strong and heat sinking stinking cheese made with a base of Toma della Langa or Robiola cheese with the addition of black pepper, chili pepper, grappa and dry white wine.  There’s a saying that farmers repeat to first time tasters that translates as ‘love is stronger than Bross.’ Certainly not for the shy cheese eater or those with timid tummies as many say "it has a hell of a kick" in taste and odor.  It is said to be the color of earth and is usually spread on bread like jam.

      Tomino is a hard cheese made from partially skimmed cow’s milk that carries a sweet taste. Typically it is sold fresh, wrapped in paper. It can also be found marinated in oil with hot pepper or with aromatic herbs. A great melting cheese–think grilled Tomino cheese on toasted bread with nuts or fig spread.  Or how about a variation on Tomino alla piasata an elegant and rich open-faced sandwich of creamy cheese, oven baked mushrooms with rosemary on a bruschetta with a bit of truffle oil. 

      So pick yourself up and go to the cheese shop or visit Artisanal Cheese where they are featuring a three cheese Piemonte selection for $49.  Or pop over to IGourmet where the selection is wide.  It just might be time to try out the Piemont version of Swiss fondue called fonduta made with melted cheese, milk, eggs, and of course white truffles.  Say cheese, please!

      Image credit: Stock photo

      IMBB #20 – Souffles


      Illustration: Philippe Weisbecker

      Too many technical difficulties that made time evaporate.  I  can’t figure out tags, my JumpDrive is not being recognized or is it that my USB port is not reading my card reader and my flash drive? So photos, are forthcoming.

      IMBB round #20, hosted by Kitchen Chick, is all about soufflés.  To begin with, the French word soufflé means ‘breath’ and can also mean ‘to be inspired’ as in avoir du soufflé. I would say that by the end of this IMBB challenge the effort did just that and more. What I always thought I couldn’t do I see that I can. 

      Many more experienced cooks, magazines and cookbooks suggest that soufflés aren’t as tough to prepare as the less experienced seem to think they are. This is what I kept on saying as I worked quickly in the kitchen this morning.

      Soufflés, from what I can understand are made from two basic elements, a base of flavored cream sauce or purée and beaten egg whites providing the elevation. Some of the tips I picked up in doing my research for this first-ever outing into souffles, include separating the eggs while cold, as it’s easier, but they will beat to a larger volume if they are allowed to come to room temperature.


      When, the moment came to remove the soufflé it was golden, puffy and fluffy, however it feel rather quickly.  My understanding is that it takes 20 or 30 minutes. So I wonder if I did something wrong.  The inside was perfect, the outside was a bit chewy, a bit like a popover in taste.

      NockerlnNo matter, I’m inspired.  Next a chocolate soufflé, eventually the Austrian version called Salzburger nockerln, (Salzburg Dumplings), a sweet soufflé or omelette that resembles three or more golden church domes in a baking dish.. The puffy baked eggs, are served simply with whipped cream  Ah, avoir du souffllé

      Tagged with: <a href="; rel="tag">IMBB # 20</a> + <a href="; rel="tag">Souffle</a>

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      Stage 18 – Panadae for the Peloton


      Image: AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati

      Here’s a lesson. Don’t rely on technology too much. Today’s post was completed, saved as a draft and when I returned this morning "poof" it was gone. Hours of research on this little known region wiped out.  I was angry to say the least.  And then on a whim I entered in a central word from this post-Cantal-into Google Desktop Search, et voila, there it was in the cache. This is an amazing computer accessory if you rely heavily on your computer.  And it’s free.  While your there download Picasa also.

      I was incredibly late to work today by two and a half hours!  But we’re in the home stretch with three days to go until Paris mon ami! 

      Albi to Mende – Distance: 189 km/118 mi

      Along the route today is the Cantal or Auvergne region. While not a well-travelled gastronomic stop it is home to quintessial country cooking.  Dishes such as tripoux a minced mix of "frasie de veau", bacon, onion, garlic, salt, herbs and spices in a pouch of Veau. It is cooks five to seven hours. Another regional specialty is pounti  is similiar to a ham loaf often found studded with prunes.

      Five of the 41 French A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) cheeses are produced here: Cantal; St.Nectaire; Bleu d’Auvergne; Fourme d’Ambert; and Salers. World famous and also one of the oldest known cheeses Cantal is named after the mountain range in the Massif Central. This pasteurized cow’s milk is used in two regional potato dishes. Truffade is a baked mixture of sliced potatoes and aligot, a potato purée made with the hard cheese along with garlic. It looks very simple and plain but it has a pleasing taste and texture and is loved by many.

      Tdf_bilberries Bilberries or myrtilles, are a central ingredient for tarte aux Myrtilles.  These wild blueberries grow wild on the mountains in the Cantal


      I love soups and this one gives great comfort. Granted this is more of a winter recipe for most of us in the States.  Our friends down under will want to prepare it on a cold, rainy day soon! 


      excerpted from The Slow Meditterean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert

      3 large (white and light green parts only), chopped

      1 red onion, chopped

      5 green garlic shoots or 8 to 10 garlic cloves, sliced

      1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


      1-pound loaf stale chewy bread with crust

      1 1/2 pounds (about 10 cups) mixed leafy greens (sorrel, chard, parsley leaves, arugula, spinach, and watercress), deribbed and shredded

      Juice of 1/2 lemon

      Freshly ground pepper

      Grated nutmeg

      3 cups whole milk, heated to simmering

      1/2 pound Cantal or Gruyère cheese


      Measure the leeks, onion, and garlic to be sure you have about 1 quart.

      In a 7- or 8- quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Slowly stew the leeks, onion, and garlic for 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).

      Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 2 quarts. Spread the cubes in one layer on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool and store until ready to use.

      Add the greens to the pot, cover, and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Uncover and boil away excess liquid. Allow to cool. Add the lemon juice, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Correct the salt. (Up to this point the recipe can be prepared 1 day in advance. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

      About 2 1/2 hours before serving, oil a deep 3-quart casserole, preferably earthenware. Place one-third of the bread cubes in the dish, top with half the greens, and repeat, ending with the bread cubes and patting lightly to make an even topping. Gradually pour the hot milk down the insides and over the top of the panade so everything is moist. If necessary, add 1/2 cup water. Cover with the grated cheese and a sheet of foil.

      Bake in a preheated 250°F (120°C) oven for 1 3/4 hours. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C), uncover, and bake 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to relax for about 10 minutes before serving.

      Stage 14 – Basque-ing in the Mts.


      This effort is becoming a test of time and knowledge for me.  What keeps me going is the cyclists. As Lance said today, "You either fight back or go home."  And this from a man who fought without his team again.  If they can power themselves up and over these ascents I can certainly keep writing about the food. What’s up with T-Mobile today?  It was the oddest attack strategy.  Why were they chasing down team member Vino? They are the only team now that has the strength and position to threaten Discovery. Every year the spectators drive me crazy. There’s a rule (so many in this sport.) that if a rider is pushed by a fan that are hit with penalty points–do fans not know this?  As thise Bicycling report states, "Loony fans: Ullrich was nearly knocked from his bike today by an overexuberant fan, and too many other fans tried to “help” by pushing or pouring water on the racers. Stand by the road, cheer on your guys, but Get. Out. Of. The. Way."  P.S. The Red Sox destroyed the Yankees 17-1 moving the Sox 2 1/2 games up over the Yankees.

      Agde to Ax-3 Domaines Distance: 220.5km/137mi

      Region: Languedoc Roussillon – Midi Pyrénées

      Situated at the intersection of the Mediterranean, the “Midi” Channel and the Hérault River, this region is actually comprised of two regions: the Languedoc, stretching westward from the bottom of the Rhone down to the Pyrenees hugging the Mediterranean coast, and that of Roussillon, which curves southward from north of Perpignan to the Spanish border.

      The Roussilion region is also known as French Catalonia.  It’s here that Catalan is spoken before French.  You’ll hear it but you’ll also see it in signage and on menus. Basque cuisine famous for its use of tomatoes and chili, or the cuisine of Roussillon akin to Catalonian cuisine

      Chefs have the best of both worlds–mountain and sea.  Bullinade, (garlicky bouillabaisse), cargolade (grilled snails), pa amb tomaquets (bread smeared with olive oil and fresh tomato), conill amb pebrots (rabbit and pepper stew) and paella.  This area is also where you’ll find the home (Toulouse) of cassoulet made with slow-cooked white beans, sausages and smoked pork. A good cassoulet has to include 70% of haricot beans, juice and aromates and 30% of meat. It simmers for a very, very long time.

      Clifford Wright, Mediterranean food historian best describes the food of this region:

      "The dishes of the Roussillon and Languedoc range from the Catalan snail, pork sausage, and lamb chop grilled repast known as cargolade to the Camarguais gardiane, a bull, red wine, and black olive stew. Other dishes are smoked tuna; fricassee of wild girolles (chanterelle mushrooms) with garlic and herbs; crème catalane, a lemon, vanilla, and fennel seed custard; moules de Bouzigues, the cultivated mussels of the lagoon; boules de picolat, seasoned meatballs with white beans; salade Catalane or Co llioure, greens with anchovies, peppers and tomatoes; cigalle de mer, sea cricket, a tiny crayfish-like creature, served grilled; and l’ollada, a stew.

      This stew, a hearty one-bowl stew, is also referenced as ouillade, a mix of cabbage, beans, bacon and finished with the Roquefort cheese. 

      Lanrou_1 The area is incredibly fertile and is also France’s oldest wine region primarily producing red wines based on the Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache grapes. Today it is in the midst of a renaissance with a lot of experimentation taking place with Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These varietals are non classics of the region. With five major appellations–Corbières, Coteaux du Languedoc; Côtes du Roussillon; Saint Chinian; Costières de Nimes–listing all of them is beyond my abilities–I leave that to a better source (French). These red wines are ready to drink 12 to 15 months after the vintage.  The Table Wine site is a content rich site that has tasting notes if you want to learn more.

      Given the geography of the area herds of goats are present. One benefit is pélardon, a highly sought out small, round and flat goat cheese is made in the Cévennes. An AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) coveted cheese it wasn’t always so.  It took a bit of time and persuasion. First but goat was once believed to be the devil incarnate but over the years the goat became know as the poor man’s cow. After maturing for at least 11 days, the young cheese has a creamy crust, often marked with a blue or white mold on the outside. It’s fine and richly smooth, with a nutty, melting taste. With three weeks of further maturation it’s exterior darkens, becomes firmer and a stronger more goat cheese taste is present.

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      American Cheese Pagent



      "The new American cheese signifies a shift in how we produce food and how we eat it."    Laura Werlin, author and cheese expert

      As a child of the 70s and an offspring of a very activist-oriented mother I’m not one for beauty pageants.  But here’s one I know you’ll want to participate in.

      The good folks over at have generously gathered cheese and dairy showings from every state in the Grand Ole US of A.  Pulling together cheeses and butters from our fifty great states for us to learn and of course, purchase.

      And what a selection!  The personality of the cheesemakers’ personalities shine in many of them:  Hawaii’s Surfing Goat and their "Diabolic" (8 oz, $24.99) a disk of "aged chevre marinated in olive oil flavored with exotic ingredients like jalapeños, Thai dragon chilies, Bhudda Hand citron, Malabar peppercorns, and garlic."  Or, Florida’s Queso d’Hoja by Sanchelima Dairy a farmer’s cheese very similar to one found in Puerto Rico or Cuba, (10 oz; $5.99).  My home state of Massachusetts shows us a Berkshire Blue from (1 lb., $17.99) made by one person who does it all "hand-stirred, hand-ladled and manually turned, resulting in an exceptionally creamy, smooth blue" much like blue made by the Willet Farm Dairy in Somerset, England where they borrowed the recipe. From Alaska, is Windsong Farm producers of Great Bear Cheddar (8oz, $13.99) where they cure them in vats of beer crafted by another Alaskan producer, the Great Bear Brewing Company of Wasilla (the northernmost brew pub in America)."

      The choices are tough but what I don’t understand is the California choice of a Brie en Croute.  We have many high-quality artisan cheesemakers and this is our showing?  And why does Wisconsin have 22 entries–I need to speak to the judges! Yes, yes so you are located in Wisconsin. Well, I do have to say that the Cocoa Cardona, 100% Goat milk, aged and rubbed with cocoa looks delightful. Oh really, you don’t say, Cocoa Cardona won 2003 1st Best of Class in the US cheese Contest. Well she’s certainly a flirt.

      So take a look for yourself and cast your ballot for this pagent’s queen, it’s a  perfect celebration of America.


      Say Cheese Please!

      humbolt_fog_smToday is Cheese Lover’s Day. Well it really was on Wednesday but I had some problems finishing this post of a technical nature. Anyway, I’m not sure who determined this special event or for that matter how I know this fact. But there are electronic greetings for the holiday so it must be real. Fact is every day should be a cheese day. Nothing’s more divine than a loaf of bread, accompanied with cheese, olives and wine.

      Cheese is many things. It can be comforting in the form of a grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese or elegant in the form of a cheese soufflé or as a dessert as is traditionally practiced in the European culture. Today, most of us have access to handmade cheeses. Living in Northern Californian artisanal and farmhouse cheese are a constant in the mix of the bounty we reap at farmer’s markets, natural food stores and in local restaurants.

      California has been making cheese for as long as it’s been making wine. Today, the state produces a lot of cheese as a by product of our high milk production.

      Cheese making started in the American colonies in the year 1611 near Rome, NY. Today most Americans prefer a hard or semi-hard table cheese to a crumbly and creamy cheese. Cheddar appears everywhere–burgers, Tex-Mex dishes, and twice baked potatoes.

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