Monday, December 9, 2013

Artisanal Cheese Club, Months 9 and 10


Le Bourgogne-- This was a triple-creme cheese from France.  It was very, very salty.  Aside from that, it didn't have much flavor at all.  I can't find it on the Artisanal site anymore.

Manchego--   This is a very nice Spanish sheep's milk cheese.  One night when we were having fajitas, we didn't have any Monterey Jack, so we ended up grating this to put on top!  It was really good, if much more expensive than our normal Mexican-night fare.

Pecorino Toscano Stagionato-- This was a nice firm white cheese from Tuscany.

Roquefort-- This was my first time having Roquefort.  It's a blue cheese, except that it's actually green instead, so it has a slightly different flavor.  I can see why some people swear by this cheese, although some other kinds of blue cheese are actually more to my personal liking.


This month ended up being something of a year in review, as we've had three of the four selections before.  They were Zamorano, Raclette, and Gorgonzola Piccante.  You can find my reviews of them elsewhere on this blog.  The one new selection was Brillat Savarin. This was a triple-creme from France.  It tastes almost exactly like Le Bourgogne, except without the salt.  I love the puffy rind on it.  It's very fun to push on!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Artisanal cheese club, Month 8

Geit-in-Stad--  These goat cheese was amazing!  This is going to sound crazy, but it tasted just like a real high-quality Velveeta.  Even better, it didn't give me headaches.  I ate the whole thing in a matter of a week.

Brazos Cheddar--  A nice white cheddar from Texas.  Not as aggressive as some of the cheddars we've had, it actually tasted like something you might want to put on a sandwich.

Prima Donna--  This was a one-year gouda from Holland.  Very nice, and not as headache-inducing as those that have aged longer.

Gorgonzola Piccante--  A blue cheese from Italy.  It was saltier and sharper than the blues I like best, but it was still very good.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Artisanal cheese club, Months 6 and 7

So I realize I've fallen behind here, and now I have to tell you about months 6 and 7 of the Artisanal Cheese Club all at once.  No problem, though.  I have a good memory and good notes.


Wabash Cannonball--  Like the name suggests, this one was from Indiana.  It was your typical soft goat cheese.

Ibores--  This was a pleasant-tasting firm goat cheese from Spain.  In flavor, it was something like a Monterey Jack.  What made it special was the wonderful coating of paprika on the outside.

2-Year Cheddar--  This was a nice white cheddar from Vermont.

Fiore Sardo--  This cheese comes from Sardinia, where it has been made the same way for millennia.  In texture, it is something like a Parmesan.  Since it's aged over a fire, the taste is smoky and sharp.  I was the only person in my family who would eat this, but I thought it was pretty great.  The mouth-and stomach-numbing properties are sometimes a bonus!


Liberty's Cream--  This was not your typical soft goat cheese.  In texture, it was something like biting into a bar of glycerin soap.  The flavor was very, very strong.  I've been forcing myself to eat this one because someone has to, but it's definitely an acquired taste.

Devon Oke--  This one comes from England.  The taste could best be described as ashy.  It was not anybody's favorite.

Idiazabal--  This was a very nice cheese from Spain.  It reminded me a lot of the Ibores, but with just a hint of smoke instead of the paprika.

Ewe's Blue--  This unusual blue cheese from New York is made from sheep's milk.  It was second only to the Crater Lake Blue we had earlier.  It had a sweet taste at first, but later a nice, sharp flavor overtook the sweetness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

When you build your house

This is kind of odd, but I heard this song recently, and even though I have no conscious memory of having heard it before, it makes me very sad.  Was it playing in the background during some crucial moment of my life, or is it just the feeling of saudade that it evokes in me?  I guess I may never know.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Artisanal cheese club, month 5

Somehow I let July get away from me, and I completely forgot about posting the month's cheese club selections until it was already over.  Still, I have a good memory, so here goes.

Garrotxa-- This goat cheese from Spain was quite unusual.  It was much firmer than the other kinds we've gotten, although it had the same taste.  My husband usually hates goat cheese but thought this was wonderful, which proves it's a texture issue for him and not the taste.

Taleggio--  This was a very soft Italian cheese which reminded me of Brie, at least in texture.  Artisanal says the flavor is "meaty," and I guess I would concur with that.  I liked the taste, but my husband didn't.

Rolf Beeler Gruyere--  This was a very nice Swiss cheese.  It made me kind of headachy, so it must have been well-aged.

Roomano --  This was much like the aged Gouda we had the first month.  This time I knew better and tasted a small flake before giving it away to neighbors.  I'm learning!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Artisanal Cheese Club, Month 4

Here are the four cheeses we received this month.

Nancy's Camembert--  This cheese from the Hudson Valley of New York has a very smooth and buttery texture.  It's somewhat unusual, as it's made from a combination of cow and sheep milk.  The taste has varied throughout the sample we got.  The outer areas seemed very mild, but it seems to be getting stronger as we get farther in.  This is also kind of unusual, since most cheeses are strongest on the outside.  I like it, but my husband says it tastes like grass and won't eat any more.

Zamorano--  This is a sheep's milk cheese from Spain.  It's your standard hard white cheese.  I'm running out of different things to say about these!

Comte-- This is a very nice cheese from France.  In texture it reminds me something of Swiss (but without the eyes).  It tastes very much like the Seven Sisters that we liked so much a few months ago.

Berkshire Blue--  Once again, the picture on the Artisanal website does not do this cheese justice.  It has even more mold on the outside than the Selles Sur Cher we had last month.  (If you're interested, you can see some better photos at the Berkshire Blue website.)   It is a very mild and smooth tasting blue from Massachusetts.  Artisanal says it tastes of "hay and hide," but I say it tastes like a barn, but in a good way.  (Only a farm girl could get away with saying that, right?)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Artisanal Cheese Club, Month 3

Here's a rundown of the four cheeses we got this month.

Selles Sur Cher--  This goat cheese from France is covered in protective blue mold.  The picture at the Artisanal link doesn't do it justice; the piece we got was totally fuzzy and looked just like something you would normally throw out of your refrigerator.  (Here's a better picture on Wikipedia.)  The mold is supposedly edible, but I didn't like the way it tasted and picked it off.  (My dog loved it!)  Inside, the cheese tasted a lot like Brie.

Raclette--  This Alpine cheese is meant to be melted on a plate and eaten.  I'd actually had it before and knew how good it was, and this example did not disappoint.  I was a teensy bit disappointed, however, that I ended up getting a cheese this month that I was already familiar with.

Toussaint--  This cheese is from New York.  It was your standard hard white cheese, nothing really special.

North Country Blue--  This Minnesota cheese was good, but not as good as the blue we had last month.  That one was very smooth, while this one was a little sharp.

Overall, we were less impressed than normal with our shipment this month.  I'm not sure if it was just an off month or if we're becoming jaded to the pleasures of fancy cheese.  Tune back in next month to find out!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Artisanal Premium Cheese Club, Months One and Two

A few months ago, I realized I was tired of the kinds of cheese available in our local stores, so I decided to join the Artisanal Premium Cheese Club.   For $55, you get approximately 1/2 lb. each of four different cheeses each month.  That sounds kind of pricey, but when you see how expensive these cheeses are bought separately, it's not really too bad of a deal, considering that the flat fee also includes overnight shipping anywhere in the continental United States.

I was all set to blog about our selections each month when I got hit by an unexpected development.  Apparently I am one of the many people who get severe headaches from eating too much aged cheese.  Two of the cheeses in the first month's shipment left my head throbbing, so I had to give up on them after a while, and I was worried the whole experiment might turn out to be a costly mistake.  Fortunately, I've had much better luck with the cheeses in the second shipment, and I've also discovered that taking a probiotic tablet immediately before eating iffy kinds of cheese helps to moderate the headaches I get.  So, without further ado, here are the cheeses we've gotten and what I thought of them.  (I didn't take pictures, but I'll include a link to each of the varieties on Artisanal's website, and I'm sure their pictures are much better than mine would have been anyway.)

Month 1:

Coupole-- This was a nice goat cheese from Vermont.  What Artisanal calls a "slightly wrinkled skin" looked to us just like the folds and crenellations of a brain, leading to cries of "Brains!  Brains!" whenever we brought this variety out.

Seven Sisters-- This was a wonderful cheese from Pennsylvania.  Artisanal describes it as mild, but the wedge we received was quite strong (and apparently very well-aged according to my headache meter).  It tasted a lot like Parmesan, and we all loved it.  I just wish I could have eaten more of it. 

Hittisau--   This was a hard, mild cheese from Austria.  Artisanal describes it as bold, but it was actually much milder than the Seven Sisters.  Sometimes I wonder if they mixed up the labels on those two!

Four-Year Gouda--  This was wonderful.  Too bad even a tiny flake of it would give me a headache that lasted for days!  Fortunately, a co-worker of my husband's took it off our hands.

Month 2:

Purple Haze--  This is definitely the most unusual cheese we've gotten so far.  It's fairly standard goat cheese from California, with one difference-- the top is sprinkled with fennel and lavender pollen.  I absolutely detest lavender and don't like fennel much either, but I loved this cheese, which had a mild licorice flavor.

Royale-- This is a sheep's milk cheese from Spain.  It reminded me a lot of the Hittisau, hard and nutty, but not particularly interesting.

Quicke's Cheddar--  This tasted like no cheddar I've ever had.  It was so sharp that it ceased to taste sharp at all, and instead it had a very complex flavor of many things, including Grandma's basement.  The men in my life thought this was the best one so far, but it's a little too strange for my taste.  But I have become totally infatuated with the Quicke family's website, which gives all the details of their farm in Devon, England.

Crater Lake Blue--  If I had any doubts about continuing my membership in the club, they vanished the minute I tasted this cheese.  I didn't really think I liked blue cheese before, but this wonderful specimen from Oregon has changed my mind.  I may have to order this one again in the future!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The sea and the wind

Although I'm often very late to notice these things, I have felt a strange wind calling to me in the last few days. Perhaps spring is soon on its way!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Rememberance of things past

This morning I was lamenting to my husband that, outside of our cozy little bedroom chats, I don't have a safe space in which to speak.  When I try to air my views on Facebook, it seems that there is always someone there to take offense or try to convince me that I'm wrong.  And while I have often said that what our society needs right now is more debate, not less, my impulse at the moment is to get some things off my chest, not to form a dialogue with others.  Right now I need a place where I can explore my views, because one cannot debate with others until one has a firm idea of how one feels.  And then I remembered this blog.

I'm sure that by now no one is reading this thing, but perhaps that makes this the safest space of all, one where I can explore my feelings freely without any fear of being slammed down by others.  So I'm going to start writing here again, starting today.

What's really bothering me today is the sense that the world that I grew up in no longer exists.  I'm not talking about a simple nostalgia for LP records and typewriters.  Those types of material things have always changed and will always change, and our modern alternatives are usually far better, anyway.  Likewise, ever since I ended my first year of college and came home for the summer, I've had a feeling that the town I grew up in was going on with life without me, but I think this is entirely normal as well.  I always knew that if I wanted to move back there, it would be like catching up on a soap opera one hasn't watched in 10 years; some faces would be the same, some would be different, and different storylines might be at the forefront, but with some effort, it would be possible to catch up and at least understand what was going on at the present and the broad outlines of what had occurred in the past.

This is different, because now my very childhood home is gone.  Ok, so it's not literally gone.  We still own the house and can still enter it if we choose.  I could even bring a sleeping bag and camp out in my old room if I wanted to!  But all the contents have been sold off at auction.  My yellow piano isn't there anymore, and neither is Buster Brown on top of the kitchen cabinet.  Of course I salvaged the most important things to me and have brought them here, where I'm trying to find a way to fit them into my new life.  But the whole fabric of that old life has been irreparably damaged.

Again, I guess this is something that happens to most people eventually.  (Although not to my husband, who is living in his childhood home surrounded by his parents' things and complains about that too, that he feels the past enveloping him like a shroud and not allowing him to move on.)  But I'd always thought that if and when this happened, I'd be able to make a new home for myself if I chose, to find a different farm in North Dakota with trees and grass and a river and live there instead.  But now I'm realizing that is never going to happen.  As this article in the New York Times made clear, the old North Dakota that I knew is gone and never coming back.  Whether the oil boom continues and North Dakota becomes another Texas, with everyone living in McMansions and sporting bling, or it busts and things empty out again, it will never be exactly the way it was when I was a child.  It will never be so unsullied again.  And that I something that I mourn.