September 29, 2004
Fromager d'Affinois
Posted by Gordon Smith

In my latest cheese mood swing, I have been eating a lot of French. Fromager d'Affinois is a soft, creamy cheese. 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?
Posted by Gordon Smith

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
Posted by Gordon Smith

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
Posted by Gordon Smith

This cheese comes from the Auvergne region in south-central France. With volcanic mountains, crater lakes, and the Tronais 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 Gruyère in the Mont Dore area, spurred by Lieutenant Trudaine who attracted Swiss cheese makers there. The Auvergne peasants' contempt for Gruyère 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

This 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

Aged 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

Neal'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
Posted by Gordon Smith

In 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 São Jorge

Mmmm. Makes me hungry just reading it.

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June 24, 2004
Appenzeller Cheese
Posted by Gordon Smith

For 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 Schaukäserei, 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

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 Butterkäse ("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
Posted by Gordon Smith

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?
Posted by Gordon Smith

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
Posted by Gordon Smith

After 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 Gruyère
Posted by Gordon Smith

Earlier this week, I purchased some cave-aged Gruyère 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 Gruyère-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.

Gruyère is a valley (and also a village) in Switzerland. You can read the official history of Gruyère cheese here (if you read German) or a political history in English here. Gruyère 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
Posted by Gordon Smith

If 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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