“I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese.” – The Devil Wears Prada
Well, clearly I don’t subscribe to the eating habits touted in The Devil Wears Prada (unless you count that one scene where Adrian Grenier makes Anne Hathaway a grilled cheese made with a pound of Jarlsburg – now that’s love). Cheese is definitely my most-craved food. Life just wouldn’t be worth living without it.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t on the one-cube diet during the Winter Fancy Food Show (San Francisco) 2009, because there was an abundance of amazing cheese to sample. Some of my favorites…
Best Cheese of the Fancy Food Show 2009:
- Grafton Village Cheese Company – Grafton Duet
- The Rogue Creamery – Rogue River Blue
- Coach Farm Enterprises – Triple Cream Goat Cheese
- Best Cheese Corporation – Parrano Originale
- Cypress Grove Chevre – Midnight Moon
1) Grafton Village Cheese’s Grafton Duet
Grafton Duet will halt conversations it is that good. I was mid-sentence when I popped a piece in my mouth and promptly stopped talking. I couldn’t think about stringing words together when there was this incredibly complex deliciousness exploding in my mouth.
The stunningly flavorful cheese is a unique pairing of Grafton’s Premium Vermont Cheddar and
Faribault Dairy’s Amablu St. Pete’s Select Blue Cheese, both of which were rated as one of Wine Spectator’s 100 Great Cheeses.
The two cheeses are layered and then aged in Faribault Dairy’s historic hand-dug sandstone caves, which yields three critical benefits:
- The caves maintain a very stable temperature that is conducive to nurturing the finicky P. roqueforti mold.
- Moisture can migrate both vertically and horizontally in the rock. This allows the interior cave wall to maintain a fresh, sandy smell. The undesirable ammonia compounds given off during ripening are transported back to the outside air.
- The caves maintain a relative humidity in excess of 90% without mechanical humidification which ensures natural ripening conditions in a uniquely hygienic environment.
The result is something truly spectacular. Serve Grafton Duet at your next party and you’ll get your conversation stopper and centerpiece all in one.
2) Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue
I was immediately startled by the ethereal texture of the Rogue River Blue. The creamy mouth feel melts away gently and leaves you savoring every last taste.
This special, hand-crafted, blue-veined cheese is wrapped in grape leaves harvested from Carpenter Hill Vineyards in the Rogue River Valley. These leaves have been macerated in Clear Creek’s Pear Brandy, adding an extra layer of flavor to the cheese.
After a ritual of hand-turning and tending several times a week for up to a year, the magnificence of the Rouge River Blue is fully developed and ready for you to swoon over.
3) Coach Farm’s Triple Cream Goat Cheese
My biggest flaw as a foodie is the fact that I don’t like goat cheese. There, I said it. And yes, I’m full of shame. I try to like it, time and time again, but I’m sorry, I just don’t. It’s that gamey aftertaste that gets me every time. Please don’t judge me.
That said, I can still recognize an awe-inspiring goat cheese when I taste it. Coach Farm’s Triple Cream Goat Cheese won the 2008 Sofi Award for “Outstanding Cheese or Dairy Product” at the Fancy Food Show, and for good reason. Its fine flavor blooms in your mouth as it melts, and with 75 percent butterfat, it is ridiculously creamy and rich, but delicate at the same time.
The flavor is all in the goat. Coach Farm’s 900 plus animals are all descendants of the original 26 French Alpine dairy goats brought to this country early in the 20th Century. Talk about pedigree. Their diet of alfalfa hay and grains is highly monitored to ensure that their milk maintains a consistent flavor profile and doesn’t take on the flavors of anything the goats may want to eat if left to their own devices (i.e. grass, weeds, wildflowers, tin cans…).
Miles and Lillian Cahn founded Coach Farms in 1985. If the name sounds familiar, you guessed it – this is the same Coach as the famous designer bags. When the Cahns sold the company, they moved upstate to the New York Hudson Valley to enjoy a more “peaceful” life. Their interest in the making of artisanal goat cheese was inspired by a trip to France where they witnessed the traditional method hand-ladling fresh goat cheese in small batches, a practice that was once only used by remote, French farmstead cheese-makers.
Fun fact: Mario Batali, who made an appearance at the Fancy Food Show, is married to Susi Cahn, daughter of Miles and Lillian Cahn.
I first discovered Parrano Originale while shopping at Whole Foods for my New Year’s Eve dinner party. The lovely cheese girl suggested I try their best-selling Parrano when I asked if they had Prima Donna (one of my favorites) . How could I resist? It was love at first taste.
Parrano is a semi-soft cheese aged for five months, with the buttery smoothness of a young Gouda, and the graininess of Parmigiano Reggiano. Nutty with a sweet, mellow finish, and prominent caramel notes. So. Freakin. Good.
A nice tip I learned, when serving semi-hard and hard cheeses, thinner slices rather than huge chunks or cubes will expose the cheese to more air, thus broadening its flavor. Looks like my next toy will have to be a cheese slicer.
5) Cypress Grove’s Midnight Moon
If you like goat cheese, you will adore Cypress Grove’s firmer take on it with their Creamline Midnight Moon. Aged six months or more, and made with 100% goat milk, Midnight Moon has the goat cheese flavor that Cypress Grove is famous for, but in the form of a firm, smooth texture, with a pleasant grainy finish similar to Grana Padano. It also has the similar nutty, buttery notes.
All in all a very educational stroll down cheese lane at the Fancy Food Show 2009! All that cheese takes hard work, and a balance of art and science.