It’s springtime, and you can just begin to smell it in the air as the damp ground warms up and the bulbs start pushing through. In the cheese world, there is similar rejoicing, because kidding season (when goats have their babies!) has just passed and the best of springtime chèvres are appearing in the cheese case. Paired with a mineral-driven white, these little goat cheeses make a perfect afternoon snack or appetizer to welcome in spring!
My favorite of all of the confection-like shapes in our goat case is the Valençay Affiné. This handsome, grey, truncated pyramid hails from the commune of Valençay, in the eastern part of France’s Loire valley. Valençay has a delicious, thick, ash-ripened rind over its creamy paste, and to top it all off, this cheese has quite a history! Legend has it that Napoleon, after a disappointing campaign in Egypt, took out his sword and whacked the top point of the pyramid off his cheese one evening, to make its shape less mocking.
The flavors are still there, even if the top point is not. The delicate ash coating underneath the rind slightly de-acidifies the cheese, setting up the minerally, chalky undertones in perfect contrast and highlighting a salty-earthy quality that the best chèvres often exhibit. That’s why I like the cheese so much with this standout bottle of Muscadet from Domaine de la Pépière, located at the opposite end of the Loire Valley.
This special cuvée of Muscadet from white wine superstar Marc Olivier is actually named for the town it’s from in the heart of Muscadet country, and for the soil it is grown on: “granite de Château-Thébaud.” In a region overrun with mass-produced whites that are one-dimensional guzzlers, Marc Olivier is one of a handful of growers determined to showcase the pedigree of their local white grape: Melon de Bourgogne. This particular cuvée comes from a small hectare parcel of granite-rich soil. You can smell and feel all of that clean, stony minerality straight through the finish of this wine, which carries quite a bit of texture due to its extended time left sitting on the lees. Paired with a nibble of salty, creamy Valençay, its quiet apple orchard fruit notes open up beautifully, and its minerally finish clears the way for another tasty bite. Happy spring!
Jessica Smith is the Wine Buyer and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.
Posted in Cheese, Pairings, Wine | Tagged Château-Thébaud, chèvres, Cheese, chevre, Domaine de la Pépière, food, goat cheese, Marc Olivier, Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadet, pairings, Valençay, Valençay Affiné, white wine, Wine | 1 Comment »
In the spring of 2013, Ihsan and I decided to visit Sweden, Denmark and Norway on a quest for new and delicious foodstuffs. We assumed that we would find lots of pickled herring, canned fish, lingonberry jams, rye crackers and licorice. Overall, we did well, bringing back several new items to the shop. Continue Reading »
Posted in Candy & Confections, Producer Profile, Sweden | Tagged ammonium chloride, gluten free, Lakritsfabriken, licorice, liquorice, salmiak, salmiakki, salty licorice, salty liquorice, Stockholm, Sweden | Leave a Comment »
Aged Beers at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge
Spring is here – at least that’s what the calendar says. For me, spring means cleaning, dusting off the shelves and in general, clearing out the gray left by the long, cold winter. While preparing for a white-glove inspection at Formaggio Kitchen this year, we happened upon two curious cases of beer. They were filled with an assortment of barley wines, sours, and stouts from 2010 and 2011 that had been stashed away by one of our previous beer buyers. Old beer? Why, of course! Continue Reading »
Posted in Beer | Tagged aged beer, aging beer, barley wine, Beer, cellaring, cellaring beer, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Hel & Verdoemenis, imperial red ale, imperial stout, Jolly Pumpkin, Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, lambics, Lost Abbey, People's Pint 2013 Imperial Stout, Red Poppy Ale, saison, saisons, sours, The People's Pint, White Birch, White Birch 2014 Indulgence Ale | Leave a Comment »
Xocolates Aynouse l’Artesà – Olive Oil and Candied Orange Peel Bars
In February 2013, while Ihsan and I were visiting our friend Pere Planagumà (head chef at the restaurant Les Cols in Olot, Catalonia), we stopped in the ancient historic city of Girona for a food show and discovered chocolate maker Francisco Javier “Xavi” Rodriquez Perez. Actually, Xavi recognized us — he used to be the chocolatier for another Catalan chocolate company. It was a nice reunion seeing Xavi and to learn that he decided to open his own company Xocolates Aynouse l’Artesà in the town of Agramunt. Continue Reading »
Posted in Chocolate, Producer Profile, Spain | Tagged Agramunt, Aynouse, cacao, Chocolate, cocoa beans, food, Pere Planagumà, Spain, xocolates, Xocolates Aynouse l'Artesà | Leave a Comment »
Ekiola Sheep in the Pyrénées Mountains
A trip through the French Basque country is one of distinct sights, scents, and flavors. Rolling hills of green pastures are punctuated by craggy mountain peaks and deep valleys, and sheep are everywhere! When Ihsan, Valerie and I traveled through the area in the fall, we tasted a huge array of sheep milk cheeses and an assortment of intense but beautiful wines. Here, we’re featuring a few of our favorite tastes: Ardi Gasnas from Fromagerie Pardou and Ekiola, and a killer red wine from Domaine Ilarria of Irouléguy. Ardi Gasna (or gazna) is Basque for “sheep cheese,” and these smooth, rich sheep cheeses are a specialty in the Pyrénées mountains.
Continue Reading »
Posted in Cheese, Jams & Preserves, Pairings, Wine | Tagged affineur, Ardi Gasna, Arraya, Arraya jam, biodynamic wine, brebis, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cheese, cheese pairings, cherry jam, dîme, Domaine Ilaria, Ekiola, Ekiola Ardi Gasna, fermier, fermier cheese, food, France, fromage, Fromagerie Pardou, Irouleguy, pairings, Pardou Ardi Gasna, Pyrenees, red wine, sheep, sheep cheese, Tannat, tithe, Wine | 1 Comment »
Inside a Jasper Hill Vault
Last month, I had the great opportunity to join two co-workers in a pilgrimage to the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. In previous posts, my colleagues have described the merits of Jasper Hill as the home of award-winning cheeses like Winnimere, as well as an innovative model for sustainable small-scale cheese production. Rather than repeat this much-deserved praise, I hope to share a reflection on my brief time at Jasper Hill as a whirlwind of sights, smells, and of course tastes. The tag line of Jasper Hill is, “A Taste of Place” and thus I will try my best to give you a little taste of my experience in this very unique place. Continue Reading »
Posted in Cheese, Producer Profile, Travelogues | Tagged A Taste of Place, affineur, Alpha Tolman, American cheese, Bayley Hazen Blue, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cellars at Jasper Hill, Cheese, cheese aging, dairy, domestic cheese, Harbison, Moses Sleeper, Taste of Place, Vermont, Winnimere | 1 Comment »