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Last fall, I had the opportunity to travel to the Jura with Ihsan and Valerie, owners of the Formaggio Kitchen shops, and visit Fromageries Marcel Petite, affineur (or ager) of Comté cheese.

All cheesemongers on our counters hear a tremendous amount about Fort Saint Antoine where Marcel Petite ages their finest wheels – it is a storied and highly respected place for us – where Philippe Goux, General Manager, and Claude Querry, Chef de Cave, bring wheels of this extraordinary mountain cheese to its full potential. Here are a few photos from my first visit – a very special experience for me as a cheesemonger and cheese lover. (please click on one of the photos to open the slideshow)

Meredith Rottersmann is the General Manager and Classroom Coordinator at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

Big Orange Tomatoes - Red Fire Farm

Big Orange Tomatoes – Red Fire Farm

Spring has finally snuck back into town and I am getting excited about the local, organic produce that will soon be gracing our shelves! On one especially stunning Monday morning, I had the chance to chat with Max Jiusto, the Harvest Manager at Red Fire Farm‘s Montague, MA location (they also have land in Granby, MA).

So what about this winter? Max explained that the extension of winter that we have all been bemoaning set Red Fire back about two weeks in their planting schedule. Even when the top layer of soil started to thaw, the lower layers remained frozen, so water couldn’t drain down into the ground and would just pool in the fields, making planting impossible. They started the plants in the greenhouse at the normal time, however, so even though they will be going into the ground about two weeks late, Max is hopeful that with a little cooperation from the weather, the plants will be able to catch up in their growth and end up maturing right on schedule. Continue Reading »

Schloss Gobelsburger Rose with ChevreFor the past few years, Gobelsburger Cistercian Rosé has been one of our bestselling, most loved rosés, and a consistent favorite at staff tastings. This past weekend, my neighbors and I shared our first bottle of the new 2013 vintage at the end of a long, humid day. The cramped apartment was hot and the kids were sticky and grumpy, but as soon as we tasted that cool, crisp wine we all sighed and relaxed into our seats. It didn’t hurt that on the first pour there was a bright little bit of effervescence to perk up tired taste buds! Continue Reading »

Citrus - lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges and kumquats

As those of you have been by our South End store during the past few weeks may have noticed, despite the slow drag as spring gradually gains ground in the battle to wrest our weather from winter’s claws, we have been fortunate to have a bit of sunshine gracing our shelves. This sunshine comes in the form of produce from the small, organic farms we work with in California. Continue Reading »

Spoonwood Cabin Creamery

A big welcome to the newest cheesemaker on our wall – Spoonwood Cabin Creamery! Spoonwood is a teeny-tiny 1,000 square foot “nano-creamery” in the town of Jacksonville, Vermont, 25 minutes west of Brattleboro – it is owned by Nancy Bergman and Kyle Frey. The name “Spoonwood” refers to the common name for the Mountain Laurel, which is prevalent in the region. Continue Reading »

Comté Le Fort

Comté Le Fort

Mother’s Day is this Sunday and, in recognition of the day, we surveyed a few of our fellow staffers to see what cheeses their mothers like them to bring home! Continue Reading »

Matcha Teas - Tencha and Sencha

Matcha can be a rather confusing category of tea. This is because, in the United States, there is no strict classification of different varieties. In Japan, “matcha” refers to a particular variety of very finely ground green tea. Historically, the Japanese tea ceremony has revolved around the preparation of this tea. These days, matcha is used in a number of ways – from cooking applications (in ice cream and mochi), to drinking applications, to classic Japanese tea ceremonies.

True Japanese matcha – or, “tencha” as it is called more specifically – is made from the delicate shade-grown tea leaves used to make Gyokuro tea. The tea trees are covered in cloth to protect the leaves from light during the several week period before harvest. This process forces the plant to produce more chlorophyll, increases the production of amino acids and gives the leaves a very dark, rich shade of green. The leaves are then delicately hand-picked and laid flat to dry (if they were rolled, they would become Gyokuru tea). At this point, the leaves are de-veined, de-stemmed and finely ground into a powder which is then called “tencha.” This high-grade tencha has an intense sweetness and round richness that is unparalleled. Tencha is the only tea that qualifies as true matcha in Japan, despite the fact that most “matcha” sold in the United States is not tencha.

Matcha: Tencha vs. Sencha

Tencha and Sencha: Note the color difference between the two.

So then, what have you been buying all this time? Because of the extremely high cost of producing tencha, many tea suppliers and retailers have been marketing ground sencha as matcha. Sencha is a beautiful Japanese green tea that is bright, vegetal and grassy. The buds and broken leaves of the sencha tea are ground into a powder to make a less-expensive matcha-like tea. Technically, this type of tea is known as “konacha” (literally, powdered tea). Powdered sencha is quite a bit more intense in flavor than tencha and can have a rather tannic and astringent finish.

I think that both tencha and ground sencha have a place in a well-stocked tea shop. One of my favorite treats is homemade green tea ice cream. I find that the intense flavors found in the ground sencha are perfect for this and other baking applications. As for tencha, I must admit that I swoon for this tea. I have shelled out $35 for just a few grams of it – it’s that amazing. This tea should be enjoyed as it has been for centuries: place a small amount of tencha in a ceramic bowl, add hot water (not boiling – aim for 175°F) and whisk with a bamboo whisk until the tea has totally dissolved. Enjoy right away!

Julia Hallman wears many hats at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge – among them are cheesemonger, classroom instructor and tea buyer.

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