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March: Women in Cheese

March 24th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Our March selection was inspired by International Women’s Day, and my admiration for women in cheesemaking! Women have been the driving force in much of farmstead cheesemaking for centuries, and this month I’m highlighting cheeses made by award-winning, tenacious cheesemakers – all of whom happen to be women!

Tres Bonne
Boston Post Dairy
Enosburg Falls, Vermont
Goat’s Milk, Pasteurized / $30/lb

Boston Post Dairy started as a business partnership between four sisters: Anne, Susan, Theresa, and Annette Gervais. Together with their families, they raise their own animals and make several varieties of award-winning cheeses on their farm in far nothern Vermont. An aged gouda, Tres Bonne was named by their inspirational mother Gisele, who, upon tasting the first batch of this cheese, proclaimed it “Tres Bonne”. The sisters chose to use the feminine “Bonne” instead of the more traditional masculine “Bon”, because as they see it, the cheese is made by women, and aged by women! The wheel we have in stock at Valente’s is firm in texture and gentle in flavour, with notes of wildflower honey. An ideal breakfast cheese, in my estimation!

Marieke Overjarige Extra-Aged Gouda 
Holland’s Family Cheese
Thorp, Wisconsin
Cow’s Milk, Raw / $34/lb

Unable to afford to buy farmland in their native Netherlands, cheesemaker Marieke Penterman and her dairy farmer husband emigrated to Wisconsin to start their own cow dairy operation. Missing the cheeses of her homeland, she decided to make Dutch-style cheeses with her family’s milk. Barely a dozen years later, her line of cheeses has won multiple awards in national competitions. We have many aged gouda fans among our customers, so given this month’s theme and the fact that Marieke is an immigrant woman with an entrepreneuship dream, I just had to bring in this extra special cheese. At almost three years old, our wheel is full of the characteristic crystals you’d expect in a gouda of this age – yet with a creamy mouthfeel that belies its crumbly appearance.

Quadrata
Lazy Lady Farm
Westfield, Vermont
Cow Milk, Pasteurized / $34/lb

Tucked away in northern Vermont, up near the Canadian border, is Lazy Lady Farm – helmed by the indomitable Laini Fondillier. Ask anyone in the biz, and they’ll confirm that Laini is a veritable legend of American artisan cheesemaking. One of a small group of pioneering goat cheese producers who started in the 1980s, she keeps her own herd of goats and is famous for making a range of highly-regarded small format cheeses. Quadrata is a washed rind cow’s milk cheese with a semi-soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture. I’d enjoy it with a gruner veltliner, or keep it local and pair with a Vermont cider!


February: A French Invasion

February 23rd, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Last month, I ran into a friend who was about to whisk his partner off on a trip to Paris, with plans to propose in front of the Eiffel Tower on Valentine’s Day. I was downright jealous – not because of the proposal or the Eiffel Tower, but because of all the amazing French cheese and butter they could be eating!!! Then I thought, why not bring some great French cheeses to Valente’s in February?  Because, you know, while not all of us might be able to jet off to France for a February getaway, we CAN all give ourselves a Valentine’s treat in the form of a luscious French cheese plate! And that sounds pretty darned romantic to me!

All of our cheeses this month come from the caves of French master affineur Herve Mons. Just like Crown Finish Caves (featured last month), the Mons company does not make their own cheese, but takes very young cheese from select producers and ages them until they’re ripe enough to sell.

Tomme de la Chataigneraie
Aged by Herve Mons, France
Made in the Auvergne, France
Goat Milk, Pasteurized / $38/lb

Tomme de la Chataigneraie is made from the milk of goats that graze in chestnut groves in the Auvergne – a romantic scene if ever there was one! The cheese has a natural rind, and in keeping with the chestnut theme, sits on chestnut wood shelves during its ripening period. This is truly the kind of cheese I could eat all day long – it’s semi-firm, has wonderfully clean flavours enhanced with a pleasing hint of salt, and honestly goes with everything! It’s mild enough for a breakfast cheese, plays well with others on a lunch sandwich or salad, and is a great pre-dinner appetizer cheese – perhaps with a glass of rose!

1924 Bleu
Aged by Herve Mons, France
Sheep and Cow Milk, Pasteurized / $32/lb

When Roquefort became a name-protected cheese in 1925, regulation dictated that only cheeses made with 100% sheep milk could be classed as “Roquefort”. This cheese, 1924 Bleu, harkens back to the time before this ruling, when Roquefort was made with mixed milks too! I love this blue; it has a milky sweetness that’s a perfect counterpoint to its saltiness, and the addition of cows’ milk makes for a somewhat milder version of the all-sheep Roquefort. I’d recommend this as a good blue cheese for both beginners and blue fanatics. While delicious on a salad, this cheese shines best on a cheese board – with some sliced bosc pears or preserves as an accompaniment!

Camembert le Pommier
Aged by Herve Mons Normandy, France
Cow Milk, Pasteurized / $25/lb

I couldn’t have a French theme without including that most quintessential of French cheeses – a Normandy Camembert! Granted, “real” (i.e. raw milk) Camembert is not allowed in the States, but the pasteurized le Pommier was developed to come as close as possible to traditional, unpasteurized Camembert. It hits all the right notes: mushroomy, creamy, a tiny bit vegetal – and if you’re feeling the winter chill, you can warm this up in your oven and enjoy with a hearty loaf of bread. For best results (and to keep it regional), pair this with your favourite Normandy cider!


Entrepreneurs NextDoor

November 18th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

A couple of weeks ago the Entrepreneurs NextDoor podcast launched and debuted with a Valente’s interview. We’re honored to be a part of it and think the series is really worth a listen! 

Interviews with Mitch, of Gorshin Trading Post and End of the Earth, and Rocco, of Zaffron are now live too. Both are amazing and really cool stories.

November Cheese Selections: Thanksgiving

November 17th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Thanksgiving dominates the November foodscape, and, like your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, our November cheeses are either beloved, award-winning American artisan cheese classics, only available seasonally, or both! In the spirit of the season, I encourage you to buy a large enough wedge to share with your friends and family – pick your favorite, or go with all three for a complete, crowd-pleasing cheese boar

Tarentaise

Spring Brook Farm, VT
Cow Milk, Raw
$36/lb

Alpine-style Tarentaise is one of the country’s most celebrated artisan cheeses, and for good reason! Made from Spring Brook’s own herd of cows on their 1,000+ acre farm in a gorgeous part of Vermont, it’s an artisanal American classic that I love to have around for the holiday season. A little sweet and a lot savoury, this versatile cheese is perfect on an appetizer board with cornichons and pickled pearl onions, melted over roasted potatoes alongside caramelized brussels sprouts, or as part of a breakfast spread (or midnight snack…) for hungry houseguests!

Verano

Vermont Shepherd, VT
Sheep Milk, Raw
$40/lb

A pioneering, artisan sheep milk cheese producer in both Vermont and the wider US, Vermont Shepherd has been grazing sheep and making their signature French-inspired cheese for over 20 years. As befits the oldest sheep dairy farm in the US, Vermont Shepherd’s products and practices are driven by tradition and closely tied to the seasons. Verano is made only in the summer, while the ewes are outside on pasture, grazing on clover, wild herbs and other grasses. These cheeses are aged 3-5 months and released starting in August, becoming scarce by late fall – and I was lucky enough to score one of the last wheels for Valente’s!

Abruzze Jawn 

Cherry Grove Farm, NJ
Cow Milk, Raw
$30/lb

A natural rinded, Jack-style cheese, Abruzze Jawn has a fun origin story: while experimenting with new flavours for their Jack cheese, the Cherry Grove cheesemakers created a unique spice blend and mixed it into the curds, not knowing how their experiment would turn out. A few months later, they cut into a wheel and realised it tasted just like the Abruzze sausage they used to sell while working as cheesemongers in Philly – and named it accordingly! The resulting cheese was entered in the American Cheese Society competition, winning first prize in its category. It’s now become one of Cherry Grove’s most popular cheeses, and is only made a couple of times a year – so snap it up while you can!