December 18, 2004

"I was ... eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery"

Surely, you recognize this line from George Costanza. You can read the script here or listen to George on this page.

I am not sure whether anyone has ever collected great movie and television lines about cheese. Maybe I will start with this post. This episode of Seinfeld has two references to eating cheese, both associated with bachelorhood.

Here is the first exchange, between George and Jerry on the street, shortly after George's fiance has expired from ingesting envolope glue:

GEORGE: (inhales deeply) I tell you, Jerry, I'm feeling something. Something I haven't felt in a long time.

JERRY: Pride?

GEORGE: No. Autonomy, complete and total autonomy.

JERRY: Well, you're your own boss now.

GEORGE: I wanna go to a tractor pull.

JERRY: Go ahead.

GEORGE: I am staying out all night!

JERRY: Who's stopping you?

GEORGE: I wanna bite into a big hunk of cheese, just bite into it like it's an apple.

JERRY: Whatever.

Then, after learning that his would-have-been inlaws were inspired by Jerry's remarks from a Star Trek movie to establish a foundation in honor of their deceased daughter and have asked him to sit on the board of directors, George and Jerry have this conversation:


GEORGE: Hey. How's your day, good?

JERRY: Actually, yeah. I'm meeting Mulva here in a few minutes.

GEORGE: So uh... Wrath of Khan, huh?

JERRY: Yeah. Was that a beauty or what?

GEORGE: What was that line again? Something about finding your way in a shadow?

JERRY: No, no, no, it's... "She's not really dead if we find a way to remember her."

GEORGE: That's it. That's the line... (squirts mustard into Jerry's coffee and stirs it) ...that destroyed my life.

JERRY: (stares into coffee cup and looks back at George) Problem?

GEORGE: The Rosses have started up a foundation, Jerry, and I have to sit on the board of directors.

JERRY: Hey, board of directors. Look at you!

GEORGE: Yeah! Look at me! I was free and clear! I was living the dream! I was stripped to the waist, eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery!

JERRY: Before we go any further, I'd just like to point out how disturbing it is that you equate eating a block of cheese with some sort of bachelor paradise.

GEORGE: Don't you see? I'm back in.

JERRY: All because of Wrath of Khan?


JERRY: Well, it was the best of those movies.

I am not sure if reading the script does this justice, but that show was the best comedy ever on television, in my view.

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December 13, 2004

Mimolette Cheese

mimolette.jpgAs long as I am talking about cheese, I thought I should write about Mimolette, which I tried for the first time last week. I had seen this cheese from time to time at Whole Foods, but I was not attracted by its similarity to a cantalope, with a hard, pockmarked rind and a bright orange center. I should have tried it earlier.

This French cow's milk cheese is sometimes called Boule de Lille after the city of its birth in French Flanders, and it was purportedly a favorite of Charles De Gaulle. It is relatively sharp and very firm, not too creamy except at the very center. Almost everyone notes its relationship to Edam, but it is aged for six to nine months, unlike most Edam sold in the United States.

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St. Albray Cheese

saintalbray.jpgThis cow's milk cheese comes from Juranon in southwest France. It is a relatively modern creation, having been first manufactured in 1976 as a milder version of Camembert. Although typically sold in wedges, the whole cheese is shaped like a flower. This is a pressed cheese which is washed in brine and aged only two weeks. The result is cheese that smells to high heaven, but is creamy and mild. Some reviewers descriped it as "spicy" or "tangy," but it is significantly less bold than Camembert, in my view. Bottom line: this is one of my favorite snacking cheeses ... and that's saying something!

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November 18, 2004

Cool Cheese Site

While cruising around the internet looking for information on Chaumes cheese, I found a fun site on French chesse called Frencheese. Check it out.

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Chaumes Cheese

Chaumes.gifApparently, Chaumes cheese is a popular table cheese, but I am not a fan. Neither were my cheese-tasting daughters. We traditionally eat a substantial wedge of cheese each Sunday after church, and this one was never finished. Two days later, I discarded the remains.

This cheese is made from cow's milk in PŽrigord. "Chaumes" is French for stubble, and this seems to connect the color of the cheese to the color of the stubble fields in this part of France. Folks around the internet use typical adjectives like "nutty" and "creamy" to describe this cheese, but mine was almost sour. Bad wedge? Perhaps. But I will be trying something new this week.

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November 07, 2004

Harlech Cheese

harlech.jpgOh, my! This is good cheese! Harlech is a Welsh cheese named after Harlech Castle in Northern Wales. (For some reason, Whole Foods had a whole selection of Welsh cheeses on my last visit, and I also tried some Red Dragon.) This is a cheddar flavored with horseradish and parsley. My daughter describes it as "zesty," and it has a bit of a punch. I haven't tried it in cooking, but it will definitely be on my next cheeseboard.

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October 26, 2004

Mahon Cheese

mahon.jpgSpanish chesses are a mixed bag for me. I am a mild fan of Manchego, a sheep's milk cheese, and Majorero, from goat's milk. Today, I picked up a Mah—n cheese, which is made from cow's milk in Mah—n, and I am a big fan. Mah—n is the capital and port of Menorca, the most northerly of the Balearic Islands, in the Mediterranean Sea. At this fine website, I learned that Mah—n "is ... the name given to all cow's milk cheeses produced on the island, as all cheese were exported from Mah—n via the Mediterranean Sea." My cheese was creamy and just slightly salty, with a tangy aftertaste. Indeed, after my first bite, the inside of my mouth was tingling. It would make a great board cheese.

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September 29, 2004

Fromager d«Affinois

d-affinois.gifIn my latest cheese mood swing, I have been eating a lot of French. Fromager d«Affinois is a soft, creamy cheese from the Rh™ne-Alps region. It is a ripened cheese with a white, edible rind. The cheese is variously described as "ethereal" and "addictive." My slice had been supplemented with garlic and herbs, and it was amazingly good.

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September 21, 2004

Nude Bodies = Chesse?

Maggi Hambling, artist, on the decision by Morley College (London) to review its policy of displaying nudes: "If a student does a piece of work - drawing or painting - that's good enough to have on the wall, then of course it should be exhibited. It's no different than if it is a tree, or a piece of cheese." Just to be clear, when I say that I love cheese, I am not implying anything beyond that.

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August 27, 2004

The World Cheese Exchange

My friend Scott Rankin is a food scientist in Babcock Hall, which locals associate with great ice cream and cheese. Scott's website says that his research focuses on the "characterization of primarily dairy food flavor with sensory and instrumental techniques." I think that means that he tries to figure out how to improve the taste of dairy products. In any event, I know that he knows a lot about cheese, and he just tipped me off on the World Cheese Exchange database. (When you go to this site, click "Technical Resources" and then "CDR World Cheese Exchange.") The database is searchable and browseable, by name and by country of origin. Some of the cheeses have pictures, and all of them have information about the country of origin, milk type, flavor, and apprearance. Cheese lovers rejoice!

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August 24, 2004

Saint Nectaire

nectaire.jpgThis cheese comes from the Auvergne region in south-central France. With volcanic mountains, crater lakes, and the Tronais forest, the Auvergne region is one of the most beautiful in France. They make good cheese, too.

Saint Nectaire cheese is a pressed, cow's-milk cheese that is traditionally ripened in rye straw. It has a pink-orange rind with white mold. The cheese itself is yellow with small holes. My slice was nearly bursting from its cellophane, like a yeasty bread dough that was rising.

The official website of Saint Nectaire tells the fascinating history of the cheese, including the following:

[T]he 18th century saw an attempt to make Gruyre in the Mont Dore area, spurred by Lieutenant Trudaine who attracted Swiss cheese makers there. The Auvergne peasantsâ contempt for Gruyre caused the Swiss to leave. For their part, producers managed to improve the making of Saint-Nectaire.

During the wars from 1792 to 1815, young Auvergnat soldiers discovered Holland. On their return, they put into practice the cheese-making methods they had found there. A committee of Auvergnat cheese-makers then went to Holland to perfect the application of the Dutch methods to the making of Saint-Nectaire.

Interesting to see the French giving credit to the Dutch for their contribution to this ancient cheese. By the way, if you are interesting in reading about the origins of the name Saint Nectaire -- a story that involves Louis XIV -- look here.

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August 22, 2004

Sottocenere al Tartufo

truffle.cheese.jpgThis is an Italian truffle cheese preserved in ashes ("Sottocenere" literally means "under ash" in Italian). Does that sound tasty? Not to me, and my skepticism was heightened when I unwrapped the cheese, which has a distinctly stale smell. But I liked the look of it -- the gray rind and black specks (the truffles) give it a very classy look -- so I pressed on. It turned out to be a very flavorful, mild cheese.

From reading about this cheese around the internet, I gather that the use of ashes in preserving cheese is old Venetian custom, and the ash ingredients for this cheese include nutmeg, cloves coriander, cinnamon, licorice and fennel. It is a semi-soft, cow's milk cheese, and we enjoyed it with some simple crackers.

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August 18, 2004

Parrano Cheese

parrano.jpgAged gouda is one of my favorite cheeses, so my fondness for Parrano Originale cheese was preordained. Another product of the Netherlands, this aged cheese is smooth and creamy like Gouda, but nuttier. It is often described as Italian in taste, somewhat like Parmesan. The company website describes it as a "deanery" cheese: "This is a type of cheese that uses a special coagulant to give it a slightly sweet, nut-flavored taste." I don't know about you, but talk of coagulants doesn't set off my salivary glands. Anyway, unlike most of my favorite cheeses, this one is of recent origin, so there is no cool story about the region of its birth. Still, it makes for a very tasty snack.

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July 13, 2004

Isle of Mull Cheddar

mull.cheddar.jpgNeal's Yard Dairy started as a small dairy in a London courtyard. Today, they buy cheeses from all over the British Isles. Last week our local Whole Foods Market received of shipment of NYD's Isle of Mull Cheddar, and today I was able to purchase one of the last slices. This cheese is not from Cheddar, but from Scotland (thus, the Isle of Mull). It has just a touch of blue toward the edge of the cheese, which produces a tangy aftertaste. Awesome with crackers.

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July 10, 2004

European Union Cheese Names

pdo.gifIn 1992 the European Union produced a very long list of food products whose regional names were to receive protection within the EU. That is, products using a registered name were required to have a specified connection to the region associated with the name. The registered names are referred to as a Protected Designation of Origin ("covers the term used to describe foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how") or a Protected Geographical Indication ("the geographical link must occur in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation").

Last year the European Union produced a shorter list of 41 names that it wanted to "recuperate" in TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) negotiations. Under the EU Proposal, registration of "geographical indication" would establish a presumption that the name is worthy of protection in all WTO countries. The presumption could be refuted by evidence that the name had become generic. Thirteen cheeses made the shortlist. How many can you name? (Click "more ..." for the answer.)

Grana Padano
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana
Parmigiano Reggiano
Pecorino Romano
Queijo S‹o Jorge

Mmmm. Makes me hungry just reading it.

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June 24, 2004

Appenzeller Cheese

appenzeller.cheese.jpgFor my last post from Germany, I thought I should talk a little about our visit to the Appenzeller cheese factory in Switzerland. Appenzell is the region in Switzerland from which the cheese originates. This is traditional Swiss cheese, without the large holes. It is sold in three varieties, differentiated by the amount of aging: classic (at least three months), surchoix (at least four months), and extra (at least six months). None of the options is incredibly sharp, but all three are "uniquely spicy" (the company's tagline).

The cheese factory in Appenzeller is a SchaukŠserei, which means that the public is allowed to view the production process. Here are a couple of pictures of the production process. We were mesmerized as we followed each step. (Could it be that I am training a new generation of cheese fanatics?) Afterwards, we purchased some souvenirs and some cheese, which was excellent. We skipped the Restaurant, which had the lamest children's menu I have ever seen ... and that is an achievement.



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June 11, 2004

German Cheese

Quick -- name a German cheese! Other than Limburger (which actually originated in Belgium). Maybe you thought of Tilsit, but that is from a town that now lies in Russia. The only other one I came up with was Muenster, but that is from a town in Alsace, which is now part of France.

Perhaps these modern national borders should not dictate the country of cheese origin, but the fact remains: Germany is not a cheese rich country. France, of course, is notorious for having many cheeses. Switzerland is not far behind. Spain and England also hold their own, but Germany is pathetic in the cheese department.

So much so that when I went to the local grocery earlier this week and asked for a "genuine German cheese," I felt like I had just stumped the band. The cheese assistant -- who knew her cheeses -- at first tried to persuade me to purchase something from France or Switzerland, but when I insisted on German cheese, she tried to rise to the challenge. She just didn't have much to work with. We ended up with a Swiss-like cheese and some ButterkŠse ("butter cheese"), which may have been made with milk from German cows, but isn't distinctively German. To overcome this drought, I am headed for Switzerland tomorrow.

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June 01, 2004

Blogging About Cheese

Face it. If you have a blog, you have been tempted to blog about cheese. I do it regularly. Sua Sponte occasionally indulges ("No dietary regime can ever be made fully livable without cheese.") If you are not lactose intolerant, cheese is inevitable and good. Kaimi finally succumbed to the temptation today, describing the creation of a grilled, five-cheese sandwich. What a fridge full he has! Next time I am in New York, it's off to the Wenger's for me. Of course, I will bring a nice block of Wisconsin cheese as a gift to get us going.

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May 25, 2004

What Kind of Cheese Are You?

I don't do those silly internet quizzes ... unless they really grab me. And this one grabbed me. Thanks to the Cheese Diaries for the pointer. By the way, here was my result:

I am blue cheese!

I am not a big fan of bleu cheese. Does this mean I don't like myself? (Now I am reminded why I don't take these quizzes.)

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May 24, 2004

Ouray Cheese

ouray.jpgAfter a week in cheese-free China, I had to make a stop in Brennan's this morning, where I picked up one of the remaining World Championship cheeses, this one an Ouray from Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York. According to the Farm's website, "this cheese has a buttery fresh flavor that is best eaten without crackers or bread." Funny, but I kept wishing I had a good cracker. My hunk was a bit chalky and it was bitter, not buttery.

Unfortunately, I was unable to discover the origins of Ouray cheese. A search of CheeseNet comes up empty. Is it possible that is comes from Ouray, Colorado?

Despite my disappointing first encounter with Sprout Creek Farms, I would be completely on board for a Vocation Vacation -- a two-day cheesemaking trip to Sprout Creek. Hmm. Maybe something to think about for my sabbatical next spring?

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May 13, 2004

Pleasant Ridge Gruyre

gruyere.jpgEarlier this week, I purchased some cave-aged Gruyre from Switzerland, and I thought I had entered cheese nirvana. But this morning I treated myself to a small hunk of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a Gruyre-type cheese made just west of Madison in Dodgeville by the Uplands Cheese Company. It is one of Wisconsin's best specialty cheeses, and it reminded me that there's no place like home.

Gruyre is a valley (and also a village) in Switzerland. You can read the official history of Gruyre cheese here (if you read German) or a political history in English here. Gruyre is different from that most famous Swiss cheese, Emmental, in that it uses cow's milk with higher fat content. This, of course, results in a sweeter cheese.

By the way, if you want to see real happy cows -- not the phoney, talking, wannabe-happy-cows from California -- check out the Uplands Cheese Company's wesbite.

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May 10, 2004

Arina Goat Gouda

arina.jpgIf you have never had Arina Goat Gouda, do yourself a favor and stop by your local specialty foods store and get some. You won't be disappointed. Arina Goat Gouda is a white, semi-hard cheese from Holland. Like other goudas, the flavor is fairly mild, though it has a bit of a kick in the aftertaste. In my most recent encounter, I tried eating it with crackers, but I found that the cracker just got in the way. Just put it on a cheese board and munch away.

One thing puzzles me about this cheese: what does the reference to Arina mean? As far as I can determine, Arina is not a city (anywhere, much less in the Netherlands). Nor is it a breed of goats. I have searched high and low on the internet for an answer, but without avail. If you know the answer, please share.

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May 04, 2004

Cotswold Cheese

cotswold.jpgFor most people, the Cotswolds in the uplands of Southwestern England conjure images of quaint villages and stone churches, manors, and castles. When I hear the name Cotswold, however, I think cheese. Also known as "Double Gloucester with Chives" or "Pub Cheese," Cotswold cheese is a smooth, cheddary cheese with chives and onions. As a pub cheese, it is usually served with hard bread (I am eating mine with bagel crisps!), but it is a wonderful cheese in omelettes, too. For a nifty guide to this and other British cheeses, check here. For the script to the funniest cheese related sketch of all time -- Monty Python's "Cheese Shop" -- try here. Incredibly, Cotswald is omitted from the sketch, though John Cleese does mention Double Gloucester.

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April 29, 2004

Port Salut Cheese

Port Salut CheeseTrappist monks in Brittany created Port Salut cheese -- named for the abbey of Notre Dame du Port-du-Salut at Entrammes -- having learned the art of cheesemaking outside of France after fleeing the country during the French Revolution. When they returned in 1815, they brought with them the secrets of the semi-soft cheese that today bears the initials S.A.F.R. -- which stands for SociŽtŽ Anonyme des Fermiers RŽunis (the monks having sold the rights to the Port Salut name to the S.A.F.R. dairy in Lorraine). Although handmade versions of the cheese are still made at certain French monastaries and trade under the name Port-du-Salut or Entrammes cheese, most of the cheese distributed in the U.S. is manufactured by S.A.F.R. Last night I had some of this cheese, which is smooth and creamy, a bit like Havarti (both are pressed, uncooked cheeses), through tastier. This is another cheese that doesn't need accompaniment. Just put it on the cheese plate and dig in.

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April 25, 2004

Cheese: The Video

I'm not kidding. Here it is.

Link via The Cheese Diaries.

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April 22, 2004

The Cheese Diaries

I just found a blog devoted entirely to cheese. The Cheese Diaries. The top entry begins, "You know you're an addict when ... you start craving cheese on *everything*." What's more, this is a group blog. Imagine that. A whole group of people deciding to blog about nothing but cheese. Cool!

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April 12, 2004

Dutch Gouda

gouda.jpgSua Sponte is chuckling over my passion for cheese, so I will oblige with another cheese post. Today, I picked up another World Championship cheese from Brennan's, this time a Gouda cheese from Holland. Gouda is a city in South Holland, and the cheese made famous by the town has its origins in a cheese market, held in Gouda during the summer months. Nowadays, the market is for show, but you can still tour the Kaaswaag (the Cheese Weighing House).

Gouda is mild and creamy, but it isn't supposed to be bland, like most grocery store varieties in the U.S., which aren't aged. If you have ever flown into Schipol Airport in Amsterdam on KLM, you have seen a movie on Gouda cheese production. The distinctive yellow wheels are shown in this picture. Gouda is often smoked or seasoned with cumin to enhance its mild flavor, but the cheese I purchased today was straight, aged Gouda, pure and simple. Yummy.

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April 07, 2004

Austrian Smear-Ripened Cheese

Those of you lucky enough to live near Madison have the opportunity to hop at Brennan's, famous for wine, fresh vegetables, and cheese. This morning, I stopped in at one of the stores, conveniently located along my route to work, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a vast collection of cheeses from the recent World Championships. You know the old saying about a kid in a candy store ... well, it was all I could do to limit myself to three selections.

Today's feast was an award winner in the "Smear Ripened Cheese" category. For those few who do not understand cheese jargon (why are you still reading this?), a "smear ripened" cheese is one whose surface is smeared with a bacterial broth during the ripening period. When you eat a smear-ripened cheese, the edges near the rind usually taste somewhat moldy, though nothing as pungent as a veined cheese.

Having once lived in Austria, I was drawn to the only Austrian cheese I found today at Brennan's, which was from Pasching. It was a Tilsit cheese, which is related to Gouda. Like most cheeses, Tilsit is named for the city where it was first created. The city of Tilsit was in East Prussia. It is now called Sovetsk and lies in western Russia. The story is that Dutch immigrants to that area were attempting to make Gouda and accidentally created what we now call Tilsit. When sufficiently ripened, Tilsits can become quite pungent, but today's cheese was mild and semi-soft. Most importantly, it was tasty enough to eat without a cracker, which I did.

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March 18, 2004

Judging Cheese

Just back from the World Championship Cheese Contest. Things were a bit slow this morning. From the descriptions in the newspaper, I understood that all of the cheesemakers would be offering samples. Instead, we saw roped-off stations where judges were evaluating various cheeses -- Mozzarella, Brick, String, Goat's Milk, Aged Cheddar, etc. At each station sat two judges, one from the US and one from outside the US. Watching people judge cheese is -- there is probably no nice way to say this -- boring. They cut it (with a knife ... not the other way!); they smell it; they touch it; they look at it; they taste it. Pretty much what you would expect. Over and over again. Fortunately, in the crowd of 10 or so people trying to get a sense of the action, my young twin boys stood out and garnered lots of samples.

The most interesting part of the trip -- besides a great Swiss cheese, which I sampled repeatedly -- was meeting Steve Perry, an entrepreneur from Texas who wants to take the award-winning cheeses and turn them into a business ("Wisconsin's Best Cheeses" or "World's Finest Chesses" ... something like that.) The idea is to sell the award-winning cheeses in school fundraisers. Wish I had thought of that.

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March 17, 2004

Blessed are the Cheesemakers!

I love cheese. (As I compose this post, I am munching on slices of Dubliner Irish cheese with wheat crackers.) So you can imagine my excitement and anticipation as I prepare to attend the 2004 World Championship Cheese Contest tomorrow in Madison. (See more on the contest here.) During my recent field trip to the Wisconsin History Museum, I was surprised to learn that the dairy industry is rather young in Wisconsin, beginning in earnest in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was introduced to replace wheat farming and logging, which were the mainstays of the earlier economy. Once established, it began to focus on cheese, which is easier to transport than butter. Only within the last few decades has Wisconsin competed internationally in specialty cheeses, broadening from traditional cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, muenster, and brick. Even the cheese-eating surrender monkeys are gracing us with their presence this year.

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