May 20, 2005
Say Cheese!
Posted by Gordon Smith
Flickr Cheese
Posted by Gordon Smith
May 05, 2005
Velveeta is Spanish for "Not Really Cheese, But Better"
Posted by Christine Hurt

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I'm sure Gordon will hate me for tarnishing his "cheese" category, but I have to stop and salute the Queen of Cinco de Mayo festivities -- Velveeta.  We Texicans like to bring out the Velveeta to celebrate the most important holidays, including this one.  So, I introduced my Wisconsin Bunco girlfriends this week to the wonders of Velveeta & Rotel.  We call it "queso" back home, but you can just call it "yummy."

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April 30, 2005
Cheese Consumption Quiz
Posted by Gordon Smith

We don't use polls much around here and this post isn't really a poll, but rather a quiz.

Which cheese is most responsible for the threefold increase in cheese consumption in the United States since 1970?
American
Cheddar
Mozzarella
Cream
Gouda
Free polls from Pollhost.com

For a chart that reveals the correct answer, see here.

I shouldn't be surprised at this, I suppose, but I am. Pizza was a big part of my childhood, and I thought it was pretty popular in the 1970s. But look at this from the USDA's website:

Mozzarella—the main cheese in pizza—overtook Cheddar in 2002 to become America's favorite cheese. In 2003, Mozzarella consumption reached 9.6 pounds per person, more than 8 times the 1970 level. From 1970 to 2003, consumption of Cheddar cheese increased 62 percent to 9.4 pounds per capita, making it America's second favorite cheese. Cream cheese overtook Swiss in the late 1980s—in part due to an explosion in the popularity of bagels—to become America's third favorite cheese, at 2.3 pounds consumed per person in 2003 (nearly 4 times the 1970 level).

The article suggests that Mozzarella consumption may have peaked, because an aging population will consume less pizza. But this is good news for cheese lovers: "Likely to continue increasing, however, are the diversity, quality, and availability of cheeses in both supermarkets and specialty shops dedicated to artisanal and farmhouse cheeses."

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April 28, 2005
Délice de Bourgogne
Posted by Gordon Smith

Known as the "delight of Burgundy," this mild, brie-like cheese is unbelievably rich and delicious. It is a "triple cream" (Fromage à trois), meaning that extra cream is added to the curd during production. It is this step that distinguishes the triple cream cheeses from ordinary Brie or Camembert. Technically, a "triple cream" must contain at least 72% fat. No wonder! Here is a nice review of Délice de Bourgogne from the Gourmet Foodstore.

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April 26, 2005
"Cheese feeds a variety of obsessions"
Posted by Gordon Smith

The NYT has a feature article on cheese obsession in New York City, which it calls "a  center of cheese enthusiasm." (Amusing how often Saul Steinberg's "A View of the World  from Ninth Avenue" comes to mind when reading the NYT.) I like to say nice things in my cheese entries, but I will make an exception in this instance: this article could not have been written by a cheese lover because she affords so little space to cheese! The article is about people who love cheese, but if you are one of those people, you cannot go so long without writing something more heartfelt about the cheese itself. Yes, the article is sprinkled with occasional references to this or that cheese, but the focus is always on what people are doing with the cheese rather than on the cheese itself. For example:

One recent morning, Mr. Liss transferred Fleur-de-Lis, a triple cream from Louisiana that looks like a large white Hershey's Kiss with the top lopped off, onto racks in one of five Artisanal's aging caves, which are like walk-in coolers with a funky aroma.

Or this ...

Hard-core enthusiasts may seek out formaggio di fossa, an Italian sheep's milk cheese that is aged in the ground, but few would go as far as Cielo Peralta, a worker at Murray's since 1995 who has had one buried in his backyard in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for a year. He lovingly slathers pumpkinseed oil on its mottled surface every few months.

Some interesting stories, but the article gives almost no sense for why these folks are obsessed with cheese. Why, for example, would Diana Pittet quit teaching Latin to work at Neal's Yard Dairy, then start a dissertation about American cheddars at New York University? Because cheese is about history, romance, sensual pleasure, discovery, craft, etc. You will not find any of that in this article. But you might like the slideshow.

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March 25, 2005
Camembert Cheese
Posted by Gordon Smith

Brennan's is selling cheeses from the United States Championship Cheese Contest, held last week in Milwaukee. (See here for the list of winners.) Tonight, I devoured a round of Camembert from Old Europe Cheese, Inc. in Benton Harbor, Michigan. That's right. Michigan. Not a state known for great cheeses, but this cheese was excellent, earning a third prize in the contest.

Camembert is as recognizable as any French cheese, with the familiar white rind and yellow paste. Named for village of Camembert, this cheese is made from fresh cow's milk, which is curdled and ladled into circular molds. Salt is added on the second day of production, thus accounting for usual salty taste. After being covered with bacteria, the cheese is ripened for at least three weeks. When brought to room temperature, the cheese should ooze slightly, unless is has been aged four or five weeks, in which case it will ooze a lot!

People do all sorts of fancy things with Camembert, but I prefer to keep it simple, with bread or crackers.

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February 16, 2005
Mona & Dante
Posted by Gordon Smith

Nina asked me this afternoon why I hadn't blogged about cheese in awhile, and the answer is ... I don't know. I have been eating cheese, but just not blogging it. So on the way home from work I made a quick detour to Whole Foods, looking for something new and different. I found two cheeses from the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative, which is comprised of farms in northern Wisconsin, very near my home town of Osseo.

Dante is a Manchego-style cheese, though slightly more grassy and less oily than an aged Manchego. The cheese I brought home, however, was Mona. Mona is a blend of sheep's milk and cow's milk, which makes it creamier and milder than Dante. The texture is dense, but slightly crumbly. These are interesting cheeses that are not widely distributed, though you can buy them online through the WSDC website.

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December 18, 2004
"I was ... eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery"
Posted by Gordon Smith

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:

JERRY: Hey.

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?

GEORGE: Yes!

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
Posted by Gordon Smith

As 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

This cow's milk cheese comes from 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

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
Posted by Gordon Smith

Apparently, 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. "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
Posted by Gordon Smith

Oh, 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

Spanish 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 Mahon cheese, which is made from cow's milk in Mahon, and I am a big fan. Mahon 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 Mahon "is ... the name given to all cow's milk cheeses produced on the island, as all cheese were exported from Mahon 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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