Feeds:
Posts
Comments
Fresh Chai Hot or Iced

Fresh Chai Hot or Iced

After a winter that seemed like it would never end, we have finally made it to the hot and humid days of mid-summer. Somewhat ironically, these days I find myself coming back to the same drink that got me through that long cold winter – fresh brewed chai tea.

The phrase “chai tea” is actually redundant. Our word chai comes from the Hindi word for tea, and it turns out that most people across South Asia and the Middle East, and even most of China, use some variant of cha or chai for the word tea (the Hindi word chai comes from the Chinese “cha” (茶); however, in some southern Chinese dialects the same word is pronounced “teh,” which is how we got the English word “tea” instead).

Here in the U.S. the word chai has come to mean that distinctly Indian blend of strong black tea, spices (usually a mix of ginger, cardamom, and one or two other ingredients depending on the specific blend), and milk. Hot or iced, it has taken the American beverage world by storm as one of the most popular café teas and as a delicious, savory alternative to coffee. Interestingly, this tea may be closest to some of the first teas ever made – which were used as medicine and prepared more like a broth than the sweetened drinks we see today. This practice persisted in some parts of Asia, and developed into chai as we know it during the British effort to break China’s tea-producing monopoly by establishing tea plantations in India.

Women picking tea in Darjeeling, India

Women picking tea in Darjeeling, India

While I always consider chai the perfect winter-weather complement because of its warming spices, there’s something about those same spices that takes on a new dimension in the bright, full sunlight of a summer day. I discovered this for myself in Malaysia, sipping hot chai at my friend’s home near the beach without a second thought for ice. Back home, I more often opt to keep things cool with iced chai, where those spices add an extra punch that makes it one of the most refreshing and delicious iced teas I’ve ever had.

Unlike most other teas, chai is traditionally brewed by boiling tea in water for several minutes (as opposed to pouring just-boiled water over the leaves and leaving them to sit). This helps bring out the full flavor of the spices, and also creates a bolder black tea infusion that can hold its own amidst all those competing flavors.

Our newest chai addition to the shop comes from Chai Wallahs of Maine, and it is a strong, authentic chai blended right here in New England! As aficionados of both hot and iced chai, I asked them to share their favorite way to brew up some refreshing iced chai at home.

For two cups Iced Chai:

    • In a pot, combine 1 Tablespoon chai and 1 cup water.
    • Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes.
    • Add 1-2 Tablespoons of honey (to taste).
    • Strain the mixture and stir in 1 cup cold milk.
    • Pour over ice and serve!


Rob Campbell is a culinary adventurer, world traveler, science geek, and also the assistant tea buyer at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

Consider Bardwell Farm

Consider Bardwell Farm

Four years ago, when I first moved from New York to the Boston-area, I can only describe it as a collision of worlds. Although the change of pace is less noticeable for some, it took me extra time to adjust to the relatively gentle mobility of Beantown as compared to that of the Big Apple.

After finding work at Formaggio Kitchen, and as I established a comfort zone with my newly adopted environment, I was given the opportunity through the shop to visit a series of farms in western Vermont. I had never traveled that far north in the United States before, so I jumped at the opportunity.

The trip offered a wonderful introduction to a region extremely diverse in sights, flavors and experiences. Growing up, my grandparents would seek solace from the city life in the mountains of central New York but, as a child, I never appreciated the clarity that environment could impart.

My fellow staffers and I visited three farms on our trip: Consider Bardwell, Twig Farm, and Blue Ledge. During our visit, Twig Farm’s owner and veteran Formaggio Kitchen cheesemonger, Michael Lee, gave a simple, yet nuanced perception of his art. He posited that cheese bears a striking similarity to bones; dependent as they are upon the bonding of calcium and on moisture levels during cooking, curds can be molded into a soft and pliable cheese, or a firmer, more crumble-prone cheese. Michael’s analogy became a sort of leitmotif to reflect upon as we visited other farms in this unspoiled terrain. Each cheesemaker gives life to a different bone in their “body” of a repertoire, and each farm was its own sort of self-sustaining organism or ecosystem.

With the Goats at Twig Farm

With the Goats at Twig Farm

The final, striking aspect of our trip was the use of the honor system, and the collective bartering between farms that eliminates any sense of competition. Cheesemaker Hannah Sessions of Blue Ledge Farm explained that this is a byproduct of the comparative youth of artisan American cheese production, married with the fact that there is still plenty of business for everyone involved.

The sense of place and charge that each of the farms we visited has with their land and livestock is extraordinary. I believe that it is safe to say that this region will continue to serve as a large, untainted sandbox for artisan cheesemakers to create their own corpus and a place where natural city-dwellers like myself can learn to appreciate a different kind of order for many years to come!

Photos by: Kim Beaty

Marino Pawlowski is a romance linguist, enchanting dinner guest, and a cheesemonger and buyer at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge .

Gruyère Alpage

Gruyère Alpage

We knew it would be a fast trip, and the time spent waiting for our flight in the Newark airport did not make it any easier. Switzerland was calling and we could not have been any more prepared (and less ready) for what we were going to experience.

We landed in Geneva and made haste to the Jura region of France for a brief stop at Marcel Petite’s famed aging rooms at Fort Sant Antoine. As always, visiting Claude and the crew to taste and pick our wheels of Comté was a resounding success. The Comté offered to us was as spectacular as ever and we were introduced to new fruitières* with all new flavor profiles. This means in a few months, our customers will also be introduced to these new flavors. Exciting, but I digress…

Switzerland was our focus. Leaving France behind, we arrived in Villeneuve on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac du Monde) to meet with Bernard. Immediately, we were swept up and driven north into the Alpine hills and mountains of Gruyère. We steadily climbed until we reached our first stop, an amazing, small farm where the cheesemaker makes three cheeses, Gruyère, Gruyère Alpage and a small Reblochon style washed rind, as well as some very fresh tasting yogurt. Bernard sells his cheese, but does not age it. This allows the cheesemaker to employ both his son and a full time helper – a nice philosophy that assured us we were dealing with the right people. They had just finished cleaning after their afternoon cheesemaking and excitedly showed us the cave. Hundreds of wheels of Gruyère at all ages sat in meticulous condition. The Gruyère, by the way, was fantastic. Notes made and photos taken, more work had to be done and so we said our goodbyes.

Ihsan in front of Bernard's Cave

Ihsan in front of Bernard’s Cave

Our next stop was Bernard’s own cave. On a winding mountain road, we continued to climb higher in altitude. As we rounded a tight curve, we made a sudden stop. The flat, rocky wall aside the road seemed an odd place to stop until we realized this was the entrance to the cave. This ‘cave’ was originally a Swiss army fort built during World War II (forts make excellent cheese caves).

Traveling in the Cave's Tunnels

Traveling in the Cave’s Tunnels

It originally housed up to 300 men and was connected to other forts through underground passages. While others have tried to convert these forts, few have had the success that Bernard has. He has slowly transformed each room to hold distinct cheeses. The cave is not yet filled, there are numerous rooms and whole upper and lower levels that are still untouched.

Walking through room after room tasting different cheeses was as impressive and fun as it sounds. Discovering unique flavors of Gruyère from different farms, as well as a host of other styles of cheese, was eye-opening. Many of the cheeses had flavor profiles that we had never tasted in the US. The complexity and diversity within a range of such closely related cheeses was astonishing.

After tasting, Bernard took us deep into the mountain. A small door led into a hand carved stairwell heading down at a treacherously steep angle. A long walk down these steps tooks us to a small tunnel with even more rooms. As we neared the end of the tunnel, Bernard opened a door that led to a small wooden bridge that would take us to yet another fort, which a friend of Bernard’s is also using as a cave.

We walked over a gorgeous ravine into the next fort and were offered a visit to see those cheeses, but the hour long walk up deterred us. After all, we already had the task of climbing the 900 steps back to Bernard’s cave (Ihsan swears it was 1,200 steps!). Our legs would be feeling that for days.

The drive back to the lake was a nice prelude to the finish of the day. A wine tasting with a friend of Bernard’s who makes fantastic local wines, followed by a pleasant dinner helped us get ready for the following day.

Making Vacherin Fribourgeois

Making Vacherin Fribourgeois

The next morning, we arrived at Bernard’s cave in Villeneuve where we tasted yet more cheese and, again, we were blown away. Throughout the day, we visited more cheesemakers and farms, tasting, talking and writing as we went. The highlight of the day was our first stop, an Alpage cheese maker in the town of Moléson. By law, the cheese can only be made from May to September, using the milk from cows grazing at certain altitudes, and it must be heated over a wood fire. The old, traditional manner of doing everything by hand includes cutting and straining of the curds, which is quite a sight to behold. We watched as the milk transformed from pure liquid to snow-white curds that would eventually become Vacherin Fribourgeois Alpage. The season was only about three weeks in, so were not able to taste any of the new batches, but we did taste his aged cheeses in the caves, and I am pleased to report that we will have some on our shelves soon!

Tasting Vacherin Fribourgeois

Tasting Vacherin Fribourgeois

A few farms later and our visit drew to a close. Bernard proved to be a fine tour guide through the beautiful mountains of Gruyère. We tasted many excellent cheeses that are sure to become new favorites for staff and customers alike. After we said our goodbyes, we headed into the small town of Nyon for a light dinner of lake fish – a well deserved finish to a quick moving and cheese-filled trip.

To view our current selection of Swiss cheeses, please click here.

*Fruitière is a word used to refer to a co-op where the cheese is made – it is a term used in the French Jura, the Savoie and Swiss Alps.

David Robinson is the International Cheese Buyer and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.

Farmers Jane Field Blend WhiteIn celebration of Independence Day weekend, we’re featuring one delicious American wine. The Farmers Jane project is run by friends and wine lovers Angela and Faith in southern California. This tasty white is made from grapes purchased from a Santa Ynez valley vineyard belonging to the Native American Chamush tribe. In this vineyard Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussane grow together, and the grapes are harvested, pressed and fermented all together at the same time, old-school style. Continue Reading »

 

Ipswich's Celia, Element's Plasma and Glutenburg American Pale Ale

I’ve always eaten whatever I want, from ants to Uni, and all the more mainstream foods too. I grew up in a family famous for massive plates of steaming pasta and the ubiquitous bowl of warm bread to sop up the sauce my mom made. I’ve loved beer and wine equally as an adult; but more recently, beer was my focus as local craft brewers began popping up and producing amazing brews both traditional and far out.

However, over the past few years, I’ve had some digestive challenges that have forced me to change what I eat and drink. Based on elimination diets, I’ve learned my body has difficulty processing gluten, among other things. After several months of attempting to remove gluten from my diet, I feel great empathy for anyone who must remove one or more food categories from their diet.

No pasta, no bread, no beer, no crackers, no cakes, no cookies, no cannoli. Yes there are substitutes and some are very good, but corn or rice pasta doesn’t come close to traditional durum wheat pasta. Bread is one of the biggest challenges. Sometimes all I want is a slice of good levain toasted up and slathered with great butter… not gonna happen. Similarly, all I want is a cold glass of beer. Continue Reading »

Syrups - Lyle's Golden Syrup, Steen's Molasses, Muddy Pond Sorghum and Steen's Cane Syrup

Walking into Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Exotic products, tight corners and packed shelves can lead to missed goodies and overlooked treats. This holds true in the bakery, too. Right now, we have four different baking syrups and, at first glance, you might wonder why you would buy one over another? Curious myself, I did a bit of research and in this post, I share what I gleaned. I’m going to breakdown each syrup into its profile, process, and when to use it, so that you can decide with confidence about what to choose for your next baking venture. Continue Reading »

Reuilly Rosé perfect for summer sipping!Reuilly is a wine growing appellation in the eastern Loire Valley, not far from Sancerre. The three main grapes grown there are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a tiny amount of Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio). Pinot Gris is a sub-clone of Pinot Noir that has a very pale, blueish-grey skin. Much of the soil in Reuilly consists of Kimmeridgian marl, a type of limestone perfect for the production of aromatic, delicate wines.

Domaine de Reuilly is a 17 hectare organic estate in the heart of this commune. Denis Jamain’s grandfather first planted vines here in 1935, when he also purchased a small parcel in the local forest. Denis has been managing the estate since 1990 and has the luck of being able to select oak trees from his grandfather’s forest to be made into barrels for aging his own wines! Continue Reading »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 389 other followers

%d bloggers like this: