Arrowine https://www.arrowine.com Your neighborhood store with a national reputation! Sat, 01 Sep 2018 18:59:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.arrowine.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cropped-square_logo_transparent-512x512-32x32.png Arrowine https://www.arrowine.com 32 32 55876105 DCist Best of List! https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/dcist-best-list/ Thu, 06 Nov 2014 23:09:45 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=6666 Arrowine and Cheese is the closest thing to an adult candy store in the area that I know of. With a great beer selection (their Arlington location is my personal favorite in NoVa) and just about anything food-related one can …

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Arrowine and Cheese is the closest thing to an adult candy store in the area that I know of. With a great beer selection (their Arlington location is my personal favorite in NoVa) and just about anything food-related one can think to splurge on, you know a place is doing something right when you’re forcing yourself to set a limit before you walk in the door (“I will not buy more than a pound of robiola.”). Their cheese selection is packed with different types of bleu, goat, aged cheddar, and all the stinkiness your significant other will allow. The meat selection includes pata negra and many other cured delicacies are available for even more caloric indulgence. Cognac-drenched mustards, fancypants sardines, and jams and spreads that you want to put on everything—including other jams and spreads—can be found in this culinary heaven. Being an adult is sometimes about listening to that voice in your head nudging reservation and restraint. Arrowine helps to make sure you never hear that voice.

— John Fleury

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Washingtonian – “Where Foodies Shop” https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/washingtonian-foodies-shop/ Fri, 25 Jul 2014 22:20:39 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=5845 Are you a foodie? Want a four-star meal at home? First you need great ingredients—and you’ll find them all at Arrowine! Cheese Shops Arrowine – The wildly diverse, value-driven selection at this wine shop/cheese counter, not to mention the well-versed mongers …

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Are you a foodie? Want a four-star meal at home? First you need great ingredients—and you’ll find them all at Arrowine!

Cheese Shops

Arrowine – The wildly diverse, value-driven selection at this wine shop/cheese counter, not to mention the well-versed mongers manning it, makes it our favorite shop for a dairy fix—and education. Skip the usual Manchego and Gouda for more esoteric varietals. Do you like Brie? Try the Italian Langhe Castelbelbo. In the mood for Gruyère? Go for sharp L’Etivaz Reserve. While the shop stocks some domestic producers, such as Connecticut’s Cato Corner Farm, the collection skews European, with an especially large Swiss Alpine–style assortment.

Beer, Wine & Spirits

Arrowine – Doug Rosen’s shop prides itself on carrying lesser-known vineyards and small-quantity producers, though the 2,500 bottles include something for everyone (and at every price). Sign up for the weekly e-mail blasts, which alert you to good, inexpensive wines to purchase by the case or half case. And don’t miss the weekly wine tastings; Bill McKinney’s Italian tastings are especially insightful.

 

Read the Original Article

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Jasper Hill Farm Takes Top Honor at ACS Competition https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/jasper-hill-farm-takes-top-honor-at-acs-competition/ Fri, 09 Aug 2013 18:35:51 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=2774 Jasper Hill Farm, the innovative and progressive farmstead cheesemakers and cheese agers out of Greensboro, Vermont have taken the coveted Best of Show award from the 2013 American Cheese Society Conference for their washed rind cheese, Winnimere. The competition was …

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Jasper Hill Farm, the innovative and progressive farmstead cheesemakers and cheese agers out of Greensboro, Vermont have taken the coveted Best of Show award from the 2013 American Cheese Society Conference for their washed rind cheese, Winnimere. The competition was held in Madison, Wisconsin last week in conjunction with many cheese educational sessions and seminars.

Winnimere, a soft, raw cow’s milk cheese that’s wrapped in Spruce bark, bested over 1,700 other cheeses to take this top award. That sounds incredible but it doesn’t surprise this cheesemonger. Jasper Hill Farm is at the forefront of the American artisanal cheese movement and have deserved this honor for years. The enterprise was started in 2003 by brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler who wanted to created an honest and meaningful livelihood in a place where more farms were closing than thriving. They settled on raising Ayrshire cows and turning the milk into handcrafted farmstead cheese and by doing so, created a successful model for other local farms to follow.

Jasper Hill cheese cavesToday, Jasper Hill Farm is well known for its high quality and delicious cheese. Their lineup of cheeses is diverse and includes some produced with raw milk and some made only seasonally. Winnimere is one of their cheeses only produced with high fat and protein-rich winter milk, so unfortunately, we all have to wait a few more months to enjoy it again.

What makes Jasper HIll Farm so successful is their ability to constantly adapt and evolve. I have had the immense pleasure of tasting Jasper Hill Farm’s evolution over the years. Some cheeses, including one of my all time favorites, Constant Bliss, have sadly disappeared while others, including Winnimere, have greatly improved.

The farm is also known for their affinage (cheese aging) program and underground caves. In addition to aging their own cheeses in their 22,000 square foot caves, Jasper Hill brings in other farms’ cheeses so they may be professionally aged and properly distributed. This practice is almost unheard of in the States but is very common in Europe.

Lastly, the people of this farm are simply exceptional cheese professionals and care deeply about the growth of the artisanal cheese movement in the States. They are outstanding farmers, producers, and agers. If you come across their cheese, enjoy it knowing that it was made and aged by some of the most dedicated and skilled craftsmen in the country.

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Arrowine is Adopting an Alp! https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/arrowine-is-adopting-an-alp/ Wed, 31 Jul 2013 16:22:01 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=2505 Selecting the finest cheeses from around the world isn’t always easy to do from our shop in Arlington. Oftentimes, we rely on expert cheese selectors and affineurs to find us rare gems that would have otherwise never reached our store. …

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Selecting the finest cheeses from around the world isn’t always easy to do from our shop in Arlington. Oftentimes, we rely on expert cheese selectors and affineurs to find us rare gems that would have otherwise never reached our store. Caroline Hostettler, of Quality Cheese, has been our Swiss cheese selector for many years. Almost all of the grand and unique Swiss cheeses we carry at Arrowine have made the trip from tiny dairies to our little corner of Arlington because of her. Her palate is exceptional, her knowledge of Swiss cheese unmatched. If you love the Beeler Gruyere, Hoch Ybrig, or any of the fabulous Willi Schmid cheeses, she is the woman to thank.

This year, Caroline has created a new and very exciting program called Adopt an Alp. Essentially, we have “adopted” a very traditional cheese from a single Swiss producer. The farmer/cheesemaker will take his animals up to the high Alps of Switzerland for the annual transhumance (the moving of the animals to higher altitudes), so they may enjoy the finest and lushest pasture in the world. The cows will graze during the summer, and a very small amount of a traditional alpine style cheese will be made from the early summer until the cold hits again in early fall. After a long and quiet aging period,  the cheese will be shipped to Arrowine just in the time for winter. What’s so neat about this program is that we get updates on our cheese directly from the farmer. The farmer also gives us special insights into the challenges and rewards of life in the high Alps. We thought that you, our curious customers, would love to hear all about the birth and the life of a very special cheese. Also, this cheese is so rare and traditional that it would never normally leave Switzerland. Very few, if any, other shops in the States will be able to get a hold of this gem.

The Alp we have chosen to adopt is called Alp Kohlschlag. At an elevation at 1454 feet, this Alpine dairy overlooks the town of Mels and the Rhine valley in Eastern Switzerland. The Alp towers above the German-speaking Toggenburg region, an area rich in dairy tradition.  In addition to farming and cheesemaking, this group operates a  small restaurant which is frequented by hikers. Only eight people make up the crew of this operation. Together they moved 133  cows, 147 young cattle, 180 pigs, and  2 donkeys up to the meadows of Kohlschlag in late June. They will remain there, working and creating, until the weather determines that they move back down the mountain in the fall. The extremely wet and cold spring delayed the transhumance but it is predicted that about 3000 wheels of cheese will be made this year.

As we get updates on our “baby”, we will be sure to keep you informed. Meanwhile, check out the photos below from the farmers!

 

long ascentHighest meadowsalpine pondshepherdgoats on roof

 

 

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Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in New York City https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/beechers-handmade-cheese-in-new-york-city/ Fri, 12 Jul 2013 18:09:13 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=2495 On a recent trip to Manhattan, I found myself in a hairnet scrubbing my hands and arms over a knee-operated stainless steel sink. A moment later soapy, hot water rushed under my shoes. I was in the sanitary “make room” …

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On a recent trip to Manhattan, I found myself in a hairnet scrubbing my hands and arms over a knee-operated stainless steel sink. A moment later soapy, hot water rushed under my shoes. I was in the sanitary “make room” of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a Seattle-based producer of artisanal cheese, with Dan Utano, the head cheesemaker and Colleen Levine, author of the cheese blog, Cheese and Champagne. Dan generously gave us a tour inside New York’s most ambitious creamery and some insight into the challenges and rewards of making cheese in the country’s most populated city.

Cheese production at Beecher's in New York City (photo courtesy Colleen Levine)Every other morning, a tanker truck full of fresh, raw milk heads into the the Flat Iron district of Manhattan from two farms, Dutch Hollow and Ooms Dairy, originating just outside of Albany. After about two hours of pumping the milk into the enormous holding tank, pasteurization of the milk is underway. The milk is then pumped into large rectangular open vats where the liquid milk is slowly and carefully transformed into solid curds.

The process is slow and methodical. Each step, from acidifying the cheese with cultures to “cheddaring” (the long process of draining whey from stacked curds), is executed with exacting precision by passionate artisans. What’s special about this creamery is that anybody can watch the magic happen. The walls of this creamery are glass and everybody walking past can get a glimpse of this ancient craft.

Cheese production at Beecher's in New York City (photo courtesy Colleen Levine)Beechers creates six cheeses in this spotless, modern creamery. Though production focuses mostly on various cheddars, Dan, a former cheesemonger, recently developed Flat Iron, a young and supple washed rind cheese loosely based on Taleggio. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is a serious name in the industry — Flagsheep, a sheep and cow’s milk blend made in their Seattle location, took the Best of Show award in last year’s American Cheese Society competition.

The logistics of city cheesemaking are tricky; production is large though not enormous. At the time of my visit, they were only up to half capacity. But how does the creamery handle issues such as disposal of whey, a nutritious by-product of cheesemaking? Dan explained that they wanted to comply with the city’s regulations by not simply dumping thousands of pounds of whey each day into the city’s sewers. Their solution? Give it back to the farmers. The two farms use the whey for feed and fertilizer. A perfectly sustainable solution.

On your next visit to New York, consider stopping by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. In addition to the creamery, they have a well stocked cheese counter and a comfortable restaurant.

Wondering how I did in the Cheesemonger Invitational? Your Cheesemonger won third place! I dedicate this great honor to Aldo Molina, my dear friend and fellow cheesemonger who passed away last year.

 

Photo credit: Colleen Levine

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Getaways for Cheese Lovers https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/getaways-for-cheese-lovers/ Fri, 28 Jun 2013 18:06:25 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=2492 Winter is, by far, the busiest season for cheesemongers. Holidays and family gatherings call for great food and cheese is always invited. The quieter summer months, on the other hand, allow cheese professionals to visit farms and creameries, attend cheese …

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Winter is, by far, the busiest season for cheesemongers. Holidays and family gatherings call for great food and cheese is always invited. The quieter summer months, on the other hand, allow cheese professionals to visit farms and creameries, attend cheese conferences and food shows, and compete in cheese competitions.

Events like these elevate our appreciation and knowledge of handmade cheese and help propel cheese to higher levels through the sharing of ideas and information. To a cheese professional, there’s nothing better than geeking out with other pros and enjoying many new cheeses, all while pondering the future of cheese. We come back to the cheese counter refreshed, full of insight, and ready to take on the next busy season. Here are just three out of many events coming up soon.

4th Annual Cheesemonger Invitational; June 29, 2013 in Long Island City, NY

This Saturday, hundreds of cheese professionals and lovers will flock to a cheese warehouse in Long Island City, NY for this annual cheesemonger competition. Cheesemongers from across the country (even a cheesemonger from Hawaii!) will compete for the title of best cheesemonger. Battles include an exam, crafting a “perfect bite”, and creating a beverage and cheese pairing on the fly.

This event, held by cheese importer Adam Moskowitz, is really more cheese insanity than a formal competition. It is a party, a friendly competition, and a celebration of the art of selling amazing cheese. And, yes, Your Cheesemonger will be there competing and mingling with her fellow mongers and makers. You can follow the competition on twitter @afinacheese or @larkin4life.

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival; July 21, 2013 in Shelburne, Vermont

This all-day festival, held at the historic Shelburne Farm, features over 40 Vermont cheese producers, as well as other Vermont food artisans. In addition to sampling handcrafted cheese, guests can attend cooking and cheesemaking demos and sit in on a few cheese related workshops. Though I have never been, I am sure Vermont is an absolutely beautiful escape from the D.C. region’s sweltering summer heat.

 

American Cheese Society Conference; July 31- Aug 3, 2013 in Madison, WI

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the ACS Conference, a major milestone in American cheese. Cheese professionals from across the country come to attend workshops, seminars, and tastings during this four day cheese convention. There is also a cheese competition (last year there were over 1,700 entries), making this event the Oscars of the American artisanal cheese world. It culminates with a festival of cheese, a truly daunting yet delicious event.

These events are in no way limited to cheese professionals. Use them as an excuse to get out of town and elevate your foodie status from cheese lover to genuine curd nerd.

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Blue Cheese https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/blue-cheese/ Fri, 14 Jun 2013 17:56:45 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=2486 The story of blue cheese is the story of the balance between great milk and the blue penicillium mold, our attempts to control the two, and the pleasure we experience when it’s done right. A happy accident led to the …

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The story of blue cheese is the story of the balance between great milk and the blue penicillium mold, our attempts to control the two, and the pleasure we experience when it’s done right. A happy accident led to the discovery of this special category of cheeses.

The tale goes that a young shepherd left his lunch of bread and cheese near the natural caves of Cambalou in the Roquefort-sur-Soulzon region of France. When he returned to fetch his food a few days later, he discovered his cheese had grown mold. Not wanting to waste his food, the shepherd ate the moldy cheese, which turned out to be delicious! By leaving his cheese to grow mold (penicillium roqueforti) native to that very particular cave, this shepherd inadvertently created the very first Roquefort cheese.

Roquefort

Today, almost all of the blue cheese produced around the world are made using the cultivated mold from these special caves. It is usually added to the milk in liquid form before coagulation but some cheesemakers still use a powdered version. The blue-green mold needs air to grow, so most blues are either pierced with needles or have a very open texture (air pockets) where the mold forms. Willi Schmid is the only producer I know of that creates an intentional pattern by splitting the cheese with a knife a few weeks after production.

The best blues are not overpowered by the flavor of the mold. The cheese and mold should harmonize and work together to create a unique, yet balanced, experience. Blues are naturally stronger in flavor than most other cheeses but not all blues are intense. They can range from very buttery with a slight spice to incredibly bold and acidic. Queso Cabrales is the strongest blue I have come across. Some people love it; I find it way too strong to eat on its own.

Stilton

Dating back to the 18th century, Stilton is England’s most famous blue cheese. It was described in the early 1720’s by author Daniel Defoe as, “English Parmesan, and is brought to the table with the mites or maggots round it so thick that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.” Fortunately, maggots are no longer present in the blue cheese and is enjoyed instead with a glass of port. Though it is a classic winter cheese, Stilton can be enjoyed throughout the year. Made today only with pasteurized cow’s milk, it is buttery and rich while the blue veining adds a pleasant acidity. Look for Stilton made by the Colston Bassett creamery, the best and oldest Stilton producer.

Stilton

Roquefort

This very famous cheese was the first French cheese to gain AOC status and is only made by seven producers today. Made with raw sheep’s milk, this cheese can only be made in the region of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in France and must be aged in the natural Cambalou caves. This semi soft cheese has a very white paste with an open texture that allows the greenish blue mold to grow within. The flavor is distinctly strong and powerful with a peppery bite and salty finish. This is the most elegant of all blue cheese and is best enjoyed with a sweet white wine, such as Sauternes.

Buffalo Blue

Buffalo Blue

The milk of only four water buffalo is used to create this amazing Swiss blue. Though these huge beasts look fierce and rugged, their milk is rich, sweet, and gentle. It makes the perfect backdrop to the sharp blue mold that marbles the interior and acts as a rind. This very rare cheese is quite special, give it a try if you ever come across it.

Monte Enebro

This unique Spanish blue, made with pasteurized goat’s milk, has a dense and thick paste. It is neither pierced nor does it have an open texture so the penicillium roqueforti grows only on the exterior of the cheese. The cheese has fun and bright flavors and can often taste tropical. Always taste before you buy this cheese, its window of perfection is small.

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Soft Ripened Cheeses https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/soft-ripened-cheeses/ Fri, 10 May 2013 20:21:29 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=694 Spring is here and it’s a perfect time to enjoy supple, soft ripened cheeses. Also known as “bloomy rind”, this family of cheese is characterized by their soft texture and white rind. These cheeses are easy to enjoy and a …

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Spring is here and it’s a perfect time to enjoy supple, soft ripened cheeses. Also known as “bloomy rind”, this family of cheese is characterized by their soft texture and white rind. These cheeses are easy to enjoy and a perfect introduction into the world of cheese. The most famous of this style is Brie, a French cheese that is copied everywhere. Though production dates back to the eighth century, makers of traditional Brie were slow to designate (a form of copyright) the cheese and the name Brie can be used by cheesemakers anywhere.

 

Unfortunately, Americans cannot Meauxenjoy the authentic Brie de Meaux or Brie de Melun here in the States, but makers of the real cheese usually make a pasteurized version for export. (Our laws say that raw milk cheeses must be aged for at least 60 days before sale and Brie is younger.) Cheese producer Rouzaire makes an excellent “Fromage de Meaux” and sometimes fabulous “Brie Fermier” arrives in the States. The flavors of these cheeses are creamy, mushroomy (due to the penicilium candidum rind), and the best have a distinct broccoli quality.

 

Do not limit yourself to Brie! There are hundreds of other excellent soft ripened cheeses. For a luscious treat, explore the world of cream-enriched cheese. Usually made with cow’s milk, these cheeses are sinfully delicious. A snowy white bloom (we can thank the French for coming up with the term “bloom” which refers to the growing fungus) encases a very soft and spreadable interior. The flavors can range from mild and buttery to farmy and more acidic. Look for Brillat Savarin, Pierre Robert, or Fromager D’Affinois. Pair these with a dry, white sparkling wine, such as Champagne or Prosecco.

 

Some of the best soft ripened cheeses are made from goat’s milk or a combination of milks. I am especially partial to the classic Loire Valley goat’s milk cheeses. Valancay, St. Maure, and Chabichou du Poitou are wonderful examples. Their rinds are a bit different from the Bries and Instead of the thick white penicillium candidum mold, these rinds are a fungus called geotrichum candidum. This rind is thinner and very wrinkly, resulting in a brainy appearance. They often have a layer of vegetable ash beneath the rind, which helps control acidity.

 

Bloomies_825x532Geotrichum rinds have less flavor, allowing the fresh milky flavors to shine. If made from pure goat’s milk, theses cheeses are usually higher in acidity with delicate herbaceous and minerally flavors. The best soft ripened goat’s milk cheeses are never overly “goaty”, a flaw attributed to poor farming and milk handling practices. This goatiness is actually a result of pheromones from the male bucks and can be controlled by keeping the does separated. Typically this style is made in small formats (usually about half pound) because goat’s milk curd is structurally weak. Pair soft ripened goat’s milk cheeses with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Northern Italians make a delicious style of cheese called Robiola. This is a very broad term that includes many single or mixed milk options. Some are even washed rinds but I prefer the mixed milk, bloomy Robiolas. A family-run company called Guffanti ages and exports many Piedmont Robiolas. The most striking Robiolas are wrapped in various leaves, including chestnut, cherry, or even cabbage. With age, these cheeses develop significantly stronger flavors than the pure goat’s milk bloomies, yet rarely reach the strength of a washed rind cheese. The Beermonger and I recently enjoyed this style with Tank 7, a delicious saison from Boulevard Brewing Company.

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Building a Cheese Plate https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/building-a-cheese-plate/ Fri, 26 Apr 2013 19:52:32 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=690 A cheese plate doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as one boss cheese paired with the perfect wine or a flight of various cheeses. Building a cheese plate should never be a daunting task. It’s fun, …

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A cheese plate doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as one boss cheese paired with the perfect wine or a flight of various cheeses. Building a cheese plate should never be a daunting task. It’s fun, easy, and takes no time at all. By all means, choose the cheeses that you (or guests) like but try to keep a few things in mind before plating.

Mix up textures. Unless you are going for a theme that will dictate texture (i.e. aged pecorinos), you should try to vary the textures from soft to firm. There’s a huge range of textures in cheese so this is relatively simple. If you have a super runny or goopy cheese, contain it so it does not get too messy and provide a spoon.

Include different milk types. For a nice range of flavors, choose at least three out of the four options we have here in the States: goat, cow, sheep, or water buffalo. There are many blends out there, too.

Offer cheese of various origins. Again, unless you have a country theme (i.e. all French), try to pick cheeses from many sources. These days it is very easy to find cheese from many countries.

Plate the cheeses in order of strength of flavor. You never want to start with a blue or washed rind style, which will overpower the flavors of anything gentler. Provide a separate serving tool for each cheese to keep the cheeses clean and flavors separated. If you are choosing one wine or beer to pair with the whole plate, pick something that’s relatively friendly to all of them.

Fresh or dried fruit (other than citrus), nuts, olives, and bread are all great accompaniments. You can also serve honey, chutneys, jams, or preserves on the side.

Here’s what I am enjoying this week (all pictured):

Cheese (Photo credit: Steve Lee)Moses Sleeper

This pasteurized Ayrshire cow’s milk cheese comes from one of the most innovative cheesemakers in the States, Jasper HIll Farm. In the soft ripened style, this cheese has a fresh milky flavor complimented by mushrooms.

Cabra Raiano

A soft, pudgy goat’s milk cheese from central Portugal. This is a “torta” style cheese made by coagulating fresh milk with the cardoon thistle, a naturally vegetarian coagulant. The final cheese is rich and vegetal with a thick, creamy mouth feel.

Cinerino

A semi soft, raw sheep’s milk cheese from Castelcivita in southern Italy. This supple cheese offers clean hay and lanolin flavors. An excellent example of a well made Italian pecorino.

Holzhofer

This aged, raw cow’s milk cheese is absolutely beautiful. Aged for eight months, this cheese is big and bold! Made by a third generation cheesemaker in north eastern Switzerland, Holzhofer is rich, nutty, and complex. As a bonus, the firm, dense paste has those lovely crunchy protein crystals.

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Tasting and Enjoying Cheese https://www.arrowine.com/latest-offerings/cheese/tasting-and-enjoying-cheese/ Fri, 12 Apr 2013 19:41:08 +0000 http://www.arrowine.com/?p=682 Cheese has been around for thousands of years not only because it provides us with so much nutrition but because it tastes so damn good. Like wine and beer, it offers a huge variety of aromas, flavors, and textures. And …

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Cheese has been around for thousands of years not only because it provides us with so much nutrition but because it tastes so damn good. Like wine and beer, it offers a huge variety of aromas, flavors, and textures. And like wine and beer, there is a “proper” way of tasting cheese. But you don’t need to be a cheesemonger, or even a connoisseur, to taste like a pro. Here is a simple guide to fully enjoying your next bite of real cheese.

Step 1. Look.

You can learn a lot from a cheese just by its appearance. If there is one, look at the rind. Is it moldy? Wrinkly? Does it have a pattern? What color is the rind? Is the paste (interior) firm, runny, or pudgy? Again, what color is the paste? If it is naturally bright yellow, it’s most likely made from cow’s milk. A pure white paste tells you it is made from goat’s milk. Are there holes? Some holes in cheese are formed by gas, most are so-called “mechanical holes” that are just spaces between the curds. That tells you the curds were only pressed by gravity and not by external weight.

Cow (photo by Katie Carter)Step 2. Smell.

Most people don’t do this but go ahead, don’t be shy. Get your nostrils right up into it. Try not to mask the aromas with strong hand soap, perfume, etc. You can be broad or very specific in your observations. Is the aroma strong or mild? Would you describe it as earthy, fruity, nutty, or herbaceous? Try to dig deeper and identify that earthy quality. Does it smell mushroomy, like wet leaves, or like a Jersey cow barn? These are simply examples; trust your nose. Also, the aromas of a cheese may not correlate with the actual flavor. In other words, if a cheese aroma is quite strong, the flavors may not be. For example, Epoisses de Bourgogne has a pretty intense aroma (so strong it was banned from the Parisian metro) but its flavor is not overpowering.

Step 3. Taste.

And don’t rush it. Inhaling through your nose while chewing allows you pick up finer details. Keep in mind, there is an evolution of flavor. What you taste up front might change and finish with a completely new flavor. Again, be as broad or specific as you want. Does it taste nutty or taste like roasted hazelnuts? Fruity or peachy? Meaty or like roasted lamb? There are hundreds of flavors descriptors (e.g. grassy, caramel, metallic, vegetal) and even more words to modify those descriptors (e.g. strong, delicate, biting).

Always enjoy cheese at about room temperature. Cold temperatures conceal aromas and flavors, while altering textures. Take the cheese out of your refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you enjoy. Also, if you have bought a pre-cut piece of cheese, the plastic wrap may mask the flavor. Unwrap it and scrape a touch off of the surface where it touched the plastic. This is called “facing” the cheese. Cheesemongers will do this before giving samples at the cheese counter. If you really want to learn more, start taking notes. Record everything from colors to mouthfeel. Formaticum makes a nice journal.

Remember to convey your observations and preferences when at the cheese counter, it will really help your cheesemonger find you the perfect cheese.

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