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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Dizzy feasts on buttercups

Dizzy feasts on buttercups

A cow named Dizzy munches on buttercups, a goat named Isabelle ruminates under the shade of an old oak tree; in Vermont, the rolling green pastures are shadowed only by the cheeses that its distinct flora promotes.

With all the marvelous European cheeses we carry, tasting through terroirs of France, Italy, Switzerland or Portugal can sometimes make it hard to remember that, here in New England, a slice of the Old World exists right on our doorstep. While Europeans are upholding some of the most important cheese traditions, Vermont’s cheese makers and affineurs (cheese agers) are bursting with creativity, blending European and American traditions with some truly extraordinary results.

Earlier this summer I awoke in a strange bed; the rattling in my head reminding me that I might have had one too many pints of beer the night before. I was at Consider Bardwell Farm, the first of several stops on a trip visiting the people and animals behind some of our favorite Vermont cheeses. My coworkers and I had been welcomed at the farm the previous evening with a feast spread by our gracious hosts and farmer friends. Now I scrambled to get dressed and greet the sun, which was just breaking through the clouds over the pasture.

Happy Goat at Consider Bardwell

Happy goat at Consider Bardwell Farm

The dairy was already bustling with activity before I crossed the fields to the milking room. The goats nudged each other trying to be first in line. The heifers ran to the stalls where suction would relieve their mammaries. Everyone was awake and brimming with energy. The farmers washed the equipment and prepared the utters for milking. The goats smiled, and seemed to laugh as they noshed on coveted treats, and gave their milk.

The milk traveled through sterile tubing into large vats in the dairy. The rennet was added and the process began. Each cheese has its own recipe, its own distinct needs to present itself best to our palates. While in the dairy, time, pH, and tactile impression shape the cheese before its curds are cut. Although most of the flavor in our favorite cheeses materializes in the caves, the structure of the final product depends upon the precision of the cheese maker.

Getting a Feel for the Dorset

Getting a feel for the Dorset

After a tour of Consider Bardwell’s controlled aging rooms, we drove to nearby Twig Farm to meet Michael Lee and his goats. The area was more wooded, and the land appeared to be mainly untouched. Michael greeted us at the end of the driveway and promptly gave a tour of the grounds. He introduced us to many of the 64 goats he cared for. Michael had names for each, distinguished by the goat’s markings and the color of its collar.

As we toured his land, and moved the fences to expand the pasturing area, Michael astounded us with his knowledge of the flora and the goats’ affinity for particular plants. He explained the nuances that particulars in diet bring to the flavor and structure of his famed tommes. In his cave he enjoyed watching the milk evolve. He embraced the micro cultures, molds, and yeasts that spawn delicious cheese. Twig Farm is small, Michael does the farming, cheese making and cave management himself with only an occasional helper. His devotion to the craft is recognized in each of his products.

Twig Farm Fuzzy Wheel

Twig Farm Fuzzy Wheel

From Twig Farm we traveled to Blue Ledge Farm, renowned for their Lake’s Edge and fresh chèvre. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived, and we had already missed the cheese maker. A young dog ran up to greet us near the barn. Hannah was right behind him. She took us down into their cave. There curds for chèvre drained in baskets along steel tables dripping with whey. In the next room, Lake’s edge rested covered in ash.

Next on my itinerary was Jasper Hill Farm, and the Cellars at Jasper Hill. In the pastures, on the way to the Cellars, we met Dizzy. She was munching on grass and wildflowers in a field just down the road from the barn. Jasper Hill’s cows spend much of the day ruminating in the gorgeous pastures on along the hills.

We passed the barn and dairy and continued up the road to the caves. This massive underground facility was unimposing, just a door into the hillside. Matteo opened the door and welcomed us into the cellars. Vince, our guide, and former Formaggio Kitchen monger, acquainted us with the many arms of the facility. One was devoted to raw milk bloomy rind cheeses, one to alpine style washed rinds, the largest arm was reserved for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. The affineurs care for cheeses from a variety of neighboring dairies. Regular turning, washing, and tasting wheel after wheel is required by the cave managers to provide the best product possible.

Affineur washing Alpha Tolman

Affineur washing Alpha Tolman

After a fascinating visit at the Cellars at Jasper Hill we made our way to Cobb Hill. Cobb Hill is co-housing community who’s residents manage a vegetable farm and dairy, and create delightful cheese as well as frozen yogurt. We were given snacks of Ascutney Mountain, Cobb Hill’s signature alpine cheese and maple frozen yogurt; it was perfect on a hot summer afternoon.

I had one final stop. I was running out of time but needed still to visit Spring Brook Farm: Farms for City Kids. Here they are dedicated to educating children and impressing upon them the need for sustainability. With 100% Jersey cow’s milk the farmers create award winning cheeses like the Spring Brook Tarentaise. I was introduced to the copper kettle envied by many, and after visiting their cheese caves I took some time to wander the beautiful landscape, and pat a calf or two.

It was an incredible journey through the Vermont countryside; reflective of life ruled by the sun, the seasons, and a sincere commitment of neighbors to the highest standards of quality, community, and sustainability.

Future producer of Tarentaise

Future producer of Tarentaise

 

Nicole Roach is a keen kitchen experimenter and a member of the produce, register, and operations teams at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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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! (more…)

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Iced Tea

I am a year-round tea drinker and always start my day with a hot cup. That said, when it gets really steamy outside, there is nothing better than a fresh brewed cup of iced tea.

As the shop’s tea buyer, I love experimenting with different varieties and different preparations. For a great iced tea, I love  a less tannic brew with nice color and strong aromas and I have also found that unique and unexpected teas often make the most enjoyable cups. With this in mind, here are a few of my favorites: (more…)

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Organic Arrowhead Cabbage from Red Fire Farm

Organic Arrowhead Cabbage from Red Fire Farm

Right now, we have in beautiful, organic Arrowhead cabbage from Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA – and, the other night, I took the opportunity to use one for a wonderful, sweet and crunchy salad. The cabbage offered a buttery crunch, more tender than its more rotund brother. A few turnips added a peppery bite while apple and carrot rounded things out with a sweet note for a well-balanced “slaw.” (more…)

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Uinta Brewing - Sum'r Ale

For your summer enjoyment, we would like to recommend a fantastic seasonal six-pack from Uinta Brewing in Salt Lake City, Utah – a blonde ale appropriately named Sum’r. It’s a “session beer” by definition which means it’s low in alcohol, very clean –  essentially, a brew designed for a “drinking session,” in which the modern idea is to try an array of beers. (more…)

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Peeling PeachesSummer encompasses a lot of holidays, festivities and parties. We unofficially kick the season off with Memorial Day weekend, celebrating our fathers in June, our country’s independence in July and winding things down with Labor Day weekend in September. Produce-wise, we relish fresh strawberries, local peaches and cherries. Freshly harvested, in pies or turned into jams for cold-weather enjoyment, there is a lot to do in the kitchen. On the cheese front, fresh mozzarella and burrata pair beautifully with ripe tomatoes, olive oil and basil – young goat cheeses are also high on our list, perfect with the greens harvested in our home gardens. Here are a few of our top picks for gifts and goodies as the thermometer starts to climb: (more…)

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