Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cheese Plate!

The other night I assembled a lovely little cheese plate from my local Wegman’s for my husband and I to enjoy. If you have never been to a Wegman’s, it is well worth the trip. It is a great place to people watch and is often packed so don’t go if your in a hurray. The Wegman’s in Northern Virginia will often transport me to New Jersey, so many lost white people. More important is their selection, prices, and location. It is the supermarket closest to my house and I have figured out all the short cuts.

Wegman’s has a decent produce section with organic options and will occasionally stock things you have never seen. I picked up some fresh fava beans still in the pod last week and they were delightful. I only wish they had more local produce as this is Virginia and there are farms aplenty.

They also have a huge ready made food area which I wouldn’t bother with as that stuff is filled with preservatives, MSG, and dextrose which may be fine for the average healthy adult. The seafood counter is nice with many wild options and country of origin labels. I must admit that I love Wegman’s hippie section which is where I find my yummy Glutino gluten free crackers, carrot juice and coconut water. I also frequent the bulk foods for nuts, seeds, and grains.

I was in the mood for something sparkling, which is very often and Wegman’s has a very nice wine selection. This of course would not apply in Pennsylvania and I did not understand the benefit until I moved twenty months ago. Shopping for food and wine together is wonderful and convenient. I selected a Cava, which is the Spanish equivalent of French Champagne and Prosecco is the Italian version. The bottle of Cava set me back a whole $8.99, mega stores do tend to have the lowest prices. The Label reads “Pere Ventura Brut Nature Tresor Sant Sadurni D’Anoia”.

I am not really sure what all that means but it tasted fabulous and was a great bang for my bucks. It was crisp, mellow, had citrus notes and a good quality and quantity of bubbles. This was served well chilled before we began eating our cheese to cleanse and open the pallet. Later in the evening I added some of my home made peach sorbet and it was a delightful combination. This Cava stands up on it’s on and pairs nicely with rich creamy cheese. It also mixes very well with fruit and juices without any odd flavors and tastes.

The cheese counter at Wegman’s is the best supermarket cheese counter. Yes, I like it more then Whole Foods because of price, selection, and location as there is no Whole Foods convenient to my locale. I think some of their decisions on which cheeses they exclude is a bit ridiculous especially when you consider they only recent banned High Fructose Corn Syrup. Cheese is a very special, delicious, and nutritious food which should only be enjoyed in limited quantity. When I eat cheese, I think about the cheese and don’t just melt it on some shit. I think Velveeta, cheese in a can, and indivdual wrapped cheese slices are abominations.

Some cheese buying tips, never buy anything that has been sitting in plastic for more than one day. Cheese is living, well the bacteria in it are alive and delicious, plastic wrap will suffocate your cheese. Depending on the cheese, you would be better off using tin foil, wax paper, Tupperware, or the wonderful Cheese paper which is made for that exact purpose. Cheese is best cut to order or in an individual round and is best eaten within 3 days of purchase and always severed at room temperature. If using plastic wrap, your cheese will stay fresher for a longer period of time if you change the plastic wrap every time you open the cheese.

Now you must be wondering, “What cheese did she select to pair with that tasty Cava?” I picked one individual round of Vermont Butter & Cheese’s Bonne Bouche which is a four ounce round of goat cheese that is coated in ash. This cheese is creamy in a chalk like manner without any chalky taste. It tastes bright, fresh, not too salty or goaty and has citrus notes. This is an artisan cheese with a semi soft texture which has been molded uncooked. This last part means the cheese has not been cooked or pressed, it is scooped into molds. Bonne Bouche is modeled after Selles-Sur-Cher from the Loire Valley, which is my favorite region of France.

Many cheeses will be coated in ash or have an ash line such as Morbier or Humboldt Fog. I have used ash in my own home cheese making experiments. The ash will often be vegetable ash and is often created from burning grape vines. Sometimes the ash is activated charcoal. Coating a goat cheese in ash will dry the exterior and protect the interior from harmful intruders.

As Bonne Bouche ages, it will become creamier. This particular round tasted very fresh, bright, and was creamy with a drier texture. It wasn’t as smooth and creamy as chevre but did not have a high moisture content which will give it a drier texture. Cheeses will lose moisture as it dries which is why aged cheeses are so hard. Bonne Bouche is aged form seven to forty-five days. Unfortunately, I do not know when my round was born but it tasted like a teenager. Not young and not old as I expect the round would have been creamier. If it had been aged for seven days, shipped on the 8th, possibly put out to sell on the 11th, maybe I bought it at 13 days old or more.

The other selected cheese was Tomme Crayeuse which is a cow’s milk cheese from the Savoie region of France. It is a semi-firm cheese with a mottled and yellow rind. The rind is edible as most rinds are but you never want to eat a rind that is wax, wood, or leaves. Flavors tend to be more concentrated at the rind. This cheese tastes creamy, nicely salty, smooth mouth feel, with savory mushroom and earth notes. The smell is pungent is stronger than its flavor. I enjoy smelly cheeses as they tend to have more flavors. My general rule is if a cheese smells like pee, don’t eat it.

Tomme Crayeuse came into the world in 1995 to rival Tomme de Savoie. I have not found a Tomme de Savoie that I have enjoyed which may be due to the age of the wheels but even when I was working at an excellent cheese shop, Cheesetique, I was never impressed by its flavor as it was too mild and reminded me of bad Swiss cheese. I have never been let down by Tomme Crayeuse and was always a favorite recommendation. I love to see the creamy interior of this cheese bursting out of its rind letting you know it is ripe and ready.

The Tomme Crayeuse and Bonne Bouche paired wonderfully with the Cava. The cava did an excellent job of cleansing the pallet and waking the taste buds. I also enjoyed the contrast of the goats to cow’s milk cheese. Crayeuse was earthy and the Bouche was crisp and bright. This cheese plate gave my husband and me some time to sit and relax before dinner and talk about our day and feel luxurious as we indulged our taste buds.

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