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Monthly Archives: January 2012
Oh, Fancy Food Show… Always pretty much the same and yet always a must-attend event.
Back in Ye Olde Dayes, when we were trying to build a cheese department, we roamed your aisles looking for cheese to stock our shelves. I’m still getting “VISIT OUR BOOTH!” mailings from people whose product I tasted once over a decade ago and never brought into the store. Back then a lot of folks wouldn’t even talk to us because we looked too weird or they’d never heard of our store. Now, I seldom visit a booth where I don’t already have an appointment.
That’s probably better for my stomach. No more of the freestyle grazing that means coffee on top of salsa on top of prosciutto on top of chocolate on top of “gourmet” pigs in “artisan” blankets…
I refuse to go all three days – for my own sanity – but it’s hard to do everything I need to do in two. I always skip Sunday because it’s amateur day. The show is supposed to be Trade Only but I am convinced that everyone gives their badges to their friends on Sunday because it’s crazy-packed and people tend to shovel down the samples in a non-professional kind of manner.
Many of you were excited by the cheese that was described to me as a “struggle in the mouth”.* I figured out which one it was but I don’t want to say because we sell that cheese and I’ve never had one taste like that before. I think this one was, in fact, mishandled and that might make any cheese a struggle. It was crazy though. My brain kept alternating, “This is awesome. Spit it out! This is awesome. Spit it out! This is awesome. Spit it out!…”
My tasting notes are at work, but we did taste some awesome cheeses. I will write about those in the weeks to come so that I don’t misspell anyone’s name or anything. Did you go? What were your favorites? They don’t have to be cheese.
Apologies to anyone I missed at the show. We had a cooler disaster back at the store so I had to leave early on Tuesday to weigh cheese and then throw it in the compost dumpster. Yuck! Still, after a weekend of fancy-schmancy events, it does keep it real to come home reeking of bad cheese and not free wine.
*I’ve never quoted a facebook comment before but my old friend responded to that post with, “The history of all hitherto existing cheese is the history of cheese struggle: curds and whey; cheddar and swiss; blue and brie; in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of cheese at large, or in the common ruin of the contending cheeses.” If I don’t record that this was my friend’s comment I will start thinking that I was that clever.
Hey Wisconsin! One of the best readings I did for Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge was at Larry’s Market in Milwaukee. Part of that is airing on Wisconsin Foodie this week. Check it out and tell your friends.
P.S. I am really sorry about your Packers. They are my second favorite team.
I will say that my purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the month of December was the Beaufort Alpage* we bought from Andante Dairy. Andante has an import program and really are bringing in some of the best cheeses in the world. I believe we are the only ones in the Bay with this Beaufort and, while all Beauforts are good, and all Beaufort Alpages are pretty awesome, this one may be the best I’ve ever tasted. Floral, grassy, rich, nutty, buttery, onion-y, and milky-sweet. Complex, but easy to eat.
Often when tasting cheese I can find some defect or point of worry. “A touch salty”, “a little bitter”, “may become ammoniated in a day or two,” etc. But if I were judging this cheese I would give it a perfect score. You just don’t get cheeses like this very often. Truly this cheese represents the pinnacle of cheesemaking skill and quality milk.
This is a cheese I feel honored just to have in our store.
*Alpage means the cheese is made in Summer from the milk when the cows are at their highest elevation. This milk is – generally speaking — considered the richest and best milk of the year.
I suppose it’s my job – as a “blogger” – to provide year-end content. You know, “Best of” lists,* “Worst of” lists, year-end reviews, etc. I’ve done so in the past, and, honestly, I thought they were pretty good.** And while I have read, amongst the usual negative facebook chatter, people express their hate for such things, I love them. Heck, beyond the movies/albums/books, reviews I read the best/worst theater year-end review in the NY Times even though I haven’t been to NY in about 15 years and am unlikely ever to see any of those plays.
But man, this holiday season kicked my butt. Talking to a co-worker, we both agreed that it felt like the food holidays started on Nov. 1 and we hadn’t taken a breath since then; that it’s been much more intense than it has been in years. Sometimes it’s just about what days the holidays fall, but overall numbers are way up. All the reps and other cheesemongers I know are saying the same thing.
So all I’m trying to say is that the price you pay for reading the semi-coherent ramblings of a real cheesemonger is that I was too busy and exhausted to compile any fun year-end things for you. Heck, I didn’t even take any pictures of holiday craziness this year. Sorry.
If the Fancy Food Show wasn’t on the horizon or if I had been smart and planned some time off I would promise you these at a later date, but for now, we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. Ok?
I will say happy anniversary to two of my favorite cheese companies:
I drank this and thought of Ig Vella.
Happy New Year to all you reading out there, wherever you are.
*I did answer questions from the SF Weekly though. “Meh!”
**Also, cheese doesn’t move super fast. My five-part 2010 wrap up from last year is still mostly valid.