I’m thankful for cheese. Good cheese.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! I’m thankful for love, family, friends, all the wonderful things around me, getting to say y’all every now and then, and life in general. I hope y’all feel the same way, everything is great in your world, and you are spending time with your loved ones. The Thanksgiving turkey post will come (no pictures yet, insert segue), so I’m going to shift gears and say I’m thankful for cheese. Especially when all you have to do is say, “Yes, please. I’d love a sample!”

I was walking through the Wegmans cheese department (this happens frequently, as I photograph cheese often), and the Giorgio Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano was being sampled, paired with pear infused balsamic vinegar. It took me just to the end of the first bite to grab a chunk and a bottle…and go in search of more balsamic flavors.

2eat2drink flavored balsamic-p

As you can see, I decided on fig, along with the fresh fruit to pair with it. Bread and wine (which I’m also thankful for) weren’t far behind on my shopping list.

2eat2drink-balsamic dipping-p

The ciabatta baguette was a nice way to soak up a little extra vinegar, and to keep it from dripping as you’re dipping. The pear variety is a little sweeter, blending well with the tart balsamic vinegar base. The fig version is lighter (just like the color), and considerably more tart. Both were excellent (slight edge to the pear), and went well with the cheese. The cheese was a little softer and more moist than most aged parm, with more brilliant flavors of caramel, fruit, and nuts. Giorgio Cravero created an excellent (as the label states) “small batch, Artisinal, Parmigiano Reggiano”.

2eat2drink apothic-p

Two varieties of Apothic wines seemed appropriate, as we had the 2 varieties of vinegar. They were probably too deep a red for the pairing, but were very good! Both are California blends with dark fruit and layers of flavor. The Red (Heather’s favorite) is definitely lighter and adds a few notes of vanilla and jam. The Dark (my favorite) is true to name, darker, with hints of coffee and dark chocolate.

Enjoy your day! Cheers!

Mean and Nasty. Add Choklat. Not so mean and nasty.

Here I go messing around with those “usual” pairings again. But I had the beer…and I had the cheese, and I thought….why not??? It turned out to be a really good idea!

In this case, the cheese came first…..from a June trip to the Thousand Islands. How can you resist a cheese called Mean and Nasty? It’s a super aged cheddar from River Rat cheese. (Even thought I can’t find any information on their website.) Our oldest son spotted it in a gift shop in Alexandria Bay, saying he’d had it before and liked it. He wanted us to try it, so we picked it up. It sat in the fridge until the right pairing came along.  The cheese has a definite sharp bite, but being a fan of sharp cheddar It’s hard to call it nasty. It has a lot of creaminess hidden under the sharpness and plenty of calcium lactate crystals hidden throughout.

The river brought back lots of great memories for me, from the many months I spent on the river during my youth.

The river brought back lots of great memories for me, from the many months I spent on the river during my youth.

I discovered the beer during a photo shoot. (Yes…I love my job!) I poured 9 different beers for the shots and since there was a touch left in each bottle I got to try them all. The Southern Tier Brewing Choklat was a standout for me. It’s a stout brewed with chocolate….and it’s delicious on its own. The scent of chocolate and caramel fills your nose as you bring your glass up. The taste is very creamy to start, with caramel malt, and finishes with bittersweet chocolate and hops. Together…..it’s creamy chocolate bliss. The bite of the sharp cheddar pairs well with the hops. The creaminess in both blend together, while the chocolate shines through. Yum!

2eat2drink_meanandnasty-p2eat2drink-meanandnasty choklat-p2eat2drink-choklat-pHere are a few highlights from our trip!

Happy Egg Bake Easter!

Don’t you just want to dive right into this…in all of its straight out of the oven fluffy cheese and egg glory??

110-2eat2drink-egg bake-p

I know I do…even though I just did, and I’m really full! But this wonderful egg bake that Heather made for Easter brunch will settle flat in about 15 seconds, so now is the time! Sliced up, it’s a great way to satisfy your whole Easter brunch crew, and it can bake away while the Easter egg hunt is going on.

110-2eat2drink-egg bake plates-p

Grapefruit and mimosas are a good pairing!

The recipe is super simple and is prepared the day before.

  • 10 slices Pepperidge Farm white sandwich bread, cubed
  • 1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper

Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Alternate layers of bread and cheese. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour mixture over layers. Refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 325˚ for 1 hour.

It should look like this before baking.

It should look like this before baking. Count flavor not calories! 🙂

A tip from my wonderful chef: the Pepperidge Farm bread is a key ingredient, and other bread doesn’t work as well. Heather kept this egg bake kid friendly, but don’t be afraid to add any pre-cooked ingredients such as ham, peppers, onions, sausage, or anything else you can dream up. You could also experiment with different kinds of cheese. Let us know what you come up with!

Enjoy your Easter! Cheers!

Fresh. Slang: fashionable, cool.

The slang definition of fresh may be fashionable or cool. The actual definition is: not stale, sour, or decayed. We think both meanings apply to this fresh Asiago! If you can find it, we suggest you give it a try.

Fresh Asiago (AKA Pressato) is a totally different experience from the mature variety (Asiago d’Allevo). It’s lighter (in both taste and color), creamier, and milder than mature Asiago. The fresh variety is made from whole cow’s milk (as opposed to partially skimmed) and is aged for only 20 – 40 days (instead of 3 – 12 months +).

We decided to pair our light and creamy cheese with the 2009 Shaya Old Vines Verdejo. This Spanish wine was well-deserving of its 91 point rating. It had a pleasant aroma of citrus (particularly grapefruit and lemon) and a hint of honey. Those same notes of citrus and honey were on the palate after a slightly sweet start. It was light and bright with a nice, crisp finish. It also had a bit of creaminess that came out when paired with the fresh Asiago and…

Creminelli Wild Boar salami! We’d been wanting to try this for quite some time. You may not normally think to pair this with such a light cheese and wine, but they really did all compliment one another very nicely. The tanginess of the salami paired with the citrus notes in the wine, and its surprising creaminess went well with the fresh Asiago. This delicious salami was salty, creamy, spicy, and milder than expected.

On a side note… the juniper in the wild boar salami reminded us of gin, so we couldn’t help but pair it with a gin and tonic after finishing our cheese/salami/wine tasting. This was excellent, as well!

None of these would be “suggested” pairings for the others. But….this tasting was a great example of finding common characteristics (such as the creaminess of this cheese, salami, and wine) that become apparent as you taste them together. Let us know what your favorite “unusual pairings” are.

Fashionable, cool Asiagoo.

91 point 2009 Shaya Verdejo.

Creminelli Wild Boar Salami. A fresh pairing idea!

Creminelli Wild Boar Salami, as you'll find it in the store.

An apple a day……brings a smile!

The supply of Honeycrisp apples is starting to dwindle. I’m not happy about that. As one of my favorite types of apple, I look forward to seeing them in the store every fall. The Honeycrisp is a cross between Macoun and Honey Gold apples that some ingenious apple scientist came up with.  I love the crunch and the blend of sweet and tart. Yum! (Makes smile!)

Heather, her mom and her grandmother mix up a wonderful batch of applesauce each fall. We portion it out and store it in the freezer so we can enjoy it year round….or until it runs out! I highly suggest you try it out, as I hear it’s fairly easy.

Grandma Betty’s Applesauce: Peel, core, and quarter one peck of apples. Rinse the apple pieces and put them in a large pot with 3 cups of water and  up to 3/4 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it). Add cinnamon to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.

We also wanted to try the Honeycrisp apples with a trio of Grafton Village cheddar cheeses. Thinking it would be a fun experiment to pick the best pairing, we set up our cheeseboard and went to town! The one-year aged cheddar was slightly sharp, but smooth. It took the apple in a creamy direction. The two-year aged cheddar was crumbly and a fair amount sharper than the younger cheese. This was our least favorite pairing as it seemed dry in comparison to the first. The maple smoked cheddar was mild, creamy and – true to its name – smoky. It had a honey maple flavor that paired extremely well with the honey in the apple, making for an awesome combination.

Head to the store and grab some Honeycrisp apples while they’re still available! CRUNCH!

Honeycrisp apples. AWESOME...whether in applesauce or just snacking on them.

The trio of Grafton Village cheddar that we tried....Mmmmm.

The cheese trio posing for a close up.

11 reasons to like this post….

I couldn’t resist the post title given today’s date….11/11/11. And it’s 11:11!  Despite all that ….this truly was an awesome treat!

1. A bottle of blue agave nectar!

2. Gooey drips of agave nectar!

3. Agave nectar is roughly 1.3 times sweeter than suger, but has a lower glycemic index, and  it absorbs more slowly into your system.

4. Light and creamy ricotta cheese!

5. Gently grilled crusty baguette!

6. Wine in a blue bottle, to go with the blue agave!

7. Ricotta cheese spread with an antique spreader on the grilled baguette!

8. Don’t forget the pepper!

9. More specifically…Finger Lakes wine!

10. Swedish Hill 2009 Vidal Blanc. The wine has a little sweetness to pair with the agave nectar, and it was nice and crisp with pear and peach notes.

11. The great photos! 🙂

This was a great appetizer on a recent warm fall weekend, but would be great anytime of the year. I hope you get to try some later today, to make your 11/11/11 better. Cheers!

Grilled baguette topped with ricotta and blue agave nectar. Oh my!

Swedish Hill 2009 Vidal Blanc. Yum!

Blue agave nectar. A very sweet treat!

Longing for the French Countryside

We haven’t been to France, but this combination of wine and cheese definitely brought the French countryside into our home. We actually looked at plane ticket prices. OK….we didn’t look them up, but it did make us discuss a possible visit…someday. Pié d’Angloys is a marvelous example of a cheese that you can’t stop eating. Some friends stopped by while I was shooting this, and (once the shots were done) we finished it in under 5 minutes! Sinful. This cow’s milk cheese is creamy, buttery, mild and delicious with a touch of earth. Although the cheese is from the Burgundy region of France, and I would normally pair it with a red or white Burgundy….. I thought our trip should include the Bordeaux region as well. Thus our wine choice of Monsieur Touton. The wine was crisp, light, had a nice amount of acidity and was an excellent pairing. Bon appetit!

Pié d'Angloys, crusty bread and a French white Bordeaux.

Not only is it sinful, it comes in a cool box!

Monsieur Touton white Bordeaux wine.

The double triple!

Mellage….from the French verb meaning “to mix”. Three become one.  Cave Aged Mellage is made with a blend of sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk by Carr Valley Cheese. This cheese won 1st Place in its category at the 2005, 2006 and 2011 American Cheese Society competitions.  Cured in specially designed aging caves, it develops the flavor complexity of sheep’s milk cheese with the mellowness of cow’s milk, and has a slight goat finish. Its creamy texture and mild flavor went very well with the almonds and thinly-sliced pears with which we paired it.

Since the cheese is made from a blend of three milks, we decided to have it with a wine made from a blend of three varietals. The 2007 Acquagiusta Rosso is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 30% Syrah. This full-bodied Tuscan wine has a fruity aroma (particularly of dark berries), velvety texture, flavors of black cherry and spice, and a dry finish. It was given a 92 point rating by Wine Spectator, and we could see why! This blended wine went extremely well with our blended cheese, making for a delicious snack.

Cave Aged Mellage, made from a mix of cow, sheep, and goat milk.

Mellage served with pears and almonds.

2007 Acquagiusta Rosso.

Happy Birthday, Big Poppa!

You may not know it, but that’s Rich’s nickname around here. And you also may not know that yesterday was his birthday! It was a wonderful, wacky day, despite the constant rain clouds and occasional complaints from the boys about it being the last day of summer vacation. Regardless, we made the most of it! Between showers, we even found time to fire up the grill. For his birthday dinner, Rich wanted tuna steaks, which we had with basmati rice, diced jalapeños and shitake mushrooms. As for a salad, we went totally unconventional and had watermelon topped with spring greens, queso fresco, cucumber julienne, chopped green onion, grilled tomatillo (as a sauce), sea salt & crushed pepper, and red chili olive oil. Oh, and the boys had macaroni and cheese (though two of them consented to try the tuna, and actually liked it!) We paired our tuna with a 2009 Burgans Albariño. We kind of love Spanish wine, and this was a very good one. It’s quite fruity (in a peachy/apricot way) without being overly sweet. It has a nice, crisp finish, and went beautifully with the meal. For dessert, a chocolate dome. I once made the mistake of referring to this particular dessert as a “chocolate boob” in front of the boys, and thus it shall always be known in our household. In between photo shoots, Rich found time to play Black Ops with the boys, and later, to cuddle on the couch with me. Yeah, it was a good day!

Watermelon queso fresco salad.

2009 Burgans Albariño.

Seared tuna steak...ready for its close up.

Tuna by candle light.

The chocolate, um, dome.

I want Mahón!

Nutty, smoky, earthy, deep fruit goodness. Wow, sign me up to do this post again! Spanish cheeses have always been on of my list of favorites, Mahón among them. It is a cow’s milk cheese (a rarity for Spain), that is only produced on the island of Menorca. Heather and I actually got to meet the daughters of a Menorcan cheese maker at the Disney Food and Wine Festival a couple of years ago. That was a treat and we got a personal lesson in the pronunciation of Mahón (ma-own). We had the soft, fresh version at Disney, but I found the aged version at the store the other day. They are very different, but both excellent. The aged cheese is firm, flaky and light with a nutty, woody taste. The fig almond cake (pressed dried figs with almonds) was a great match.

With the addition of a Rioja Tempranillo, your trip to taste bud heaven will commence! The Viña Zaco Tempranillo Rioja 2006 was an incredible pairing for the Mahón. It’s an earthy, slightly spicy, medium to full bodied wine, with hints of dried cherry, smoke, and maybe cloves. Did I mention it was a great pairing? I’m going back for more. Cheers!

Mahon, almond fig cake and tempranillo. Wow!

Viña Zaco Tempranillo Rioja 2006.