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Ekiola Sheep in the Pyrenees Mountains

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.

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Inside One of the Jasper Hill Vaults

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 »

Clos Centeilles Côtes du Brian Blanc

Patricia Domergue is the leading lady behind the delightful wines of Clos Centeilles, a 14 hectare estate located in the La Livinière cru of Minervois. Minervois is an appellation in the westernmost part of the Languedoc in southern France. Before purchasing this property in 1990, Patricia studied oenology and worked in the Bordeaux region, but she was ultimately drawn to the Languedoc for its rich viticultural history and unique terroir.

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Flying into Paris

Flying into Paris

One of the great perks of working at Formaggio Kitchen is the opportunity to travel around the world in search of delicious foods. Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal, owners of the Formaggio Kitchen family of shops, feel strongly that being on the ground to meet with farmers, affineurs and food producers is the best way to find the most delicious goodies to stock our shelves and fill our cheese cases. That philosophy has yielded and continues to yield marvelously tasty results! Continue Reading »

A selection of our olive oilsI’ve been thinking a lot about olive oil recently. I buy the olive oil for our shop and each time I consider a new oil, I taste it with several other buyers to determine its quality and its potential fit into our selection. In addition to my buying responsibilities, I’ve been reading several recent articles about the scandalous world of big olive oil, evidently full of graft and corruption. Tom Mueller’s 2011 book Extra Virginity shines a light on the history, problems and some of the worst (or at least most suspect) and best producers of olive oil. Considering all of this turmoil surrounding olive oil, I encourage you to experience the revelation of tasting truly exceptional olive oil. Continue Reading »

Gilles Berlioz's "La Piquette" with Pantaleo and kumquats

Each winter, I chuckle when I hear myself describing 30 degree weather as “balmy,” while simultaneously shaking my head at the arctic outcrops of snow outside. With all the white snow setting everything in frigid, monochromatic contrast, I find myself craving shades of yellow and orange, and the warm spectrum of flavors that go along with them. A delicate, understated Savoie white from Gilles Berlioz, made of 100% Jacquère, is the perfect complement to one of my favorite aged Sardinian goat milk cheeses, Pantaleo. Coupled with some thin slices of exuberantly tart kumquats, I get all of the sunshine and fresh aromas I need to make it through the deep-freeze of winter. Continue Reading »

Fancy Food Show with Jamie Montgomery and Jason Hinds

L-R: Kyra, Julia, Jamie Montgomery, Jason Hinds and me

At this year’s Winter Fancy Food show in San Francisco, I and two of my colleagues at Formaggio Kitchen – Kyra and Julia – were treated to a special opportunity: to taste Montgomery’s cheddar guided by an expert from Neal’s Yard Dairy and the cheese maker himself, Jamie Montgomery. The folks from Neal’s Yard, with whom we have a particularly close relationship, visit our shop on a relatively frequent basis but this particular event was a rare opportunity as Jamie only makes it States-side once a decade. In general, he prefers staying down on his Somerset farm with his herd of 200 Friesian cows and aging wheels of clothbound cheddar, to standing in front of an eagerly-attentive audience. But with a characteristic English intonation the 3rd generation cheesemaker did not disappoint. Far from it. Continue Reading »

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