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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!


January’s Curated Cheeses: Hibernation

January 29th, 2019 Posted by Curated Cheeses No Comment yet

January, after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, sometimes all we want to do is retreat into a cave and hibernate! Of course, if I had my pick of caves in which to spend a sleepy weekend, it would definitely be one filled to the brim with ripening cheese! In that spirit, this month I’m featuring Brooklyn’s Crown Finish Caves in our cheese selection. Crown Finish is an affineur – a company that buys very young cheeses from cheesemakers, carefully matures them in temperature and humidity-controlled conditions, and then sells them on to cheese shops and wholesalers once the cheeses have reached an optimal ripeness and desired flavour profile. Located in converted 19th century lagering tunnels in Crown Heights, Crown Finish works primarily with regional cheesemakers in NY and VT – though they make an exception to that norm with a very special cheese – which we of course had to include in our selection!

Bandaged Bismark
Grafton Village Cheese Company, VT
Sheep Milk, Pasteurized ($42/lb)

Named after a famed 19th century ram, Bismark is a sheep’s milk clothbound cheddar made at Grafton Village Cheese Company in Brattleboro. After its arrival at Crown Finish, the cheese is rubbed in smoked lard from Indianapolis-based cured meat company Smoking Goose, and aged for 4-6 months. With its crumbly texture and sweet caramel notes, Bismark is a definite contender for our new favourite dinner party cheese!

Goatlet
Consider Bardwell Farm, VT
Cow and Goat Milk, Raw ($40/lb)

Goatlet is a mixed milk, Italian toma-style cheese made by Consider Bardwell, a small goat farm in Rutland County, VT. A Crown Finish exclusive, Goatlet is made with 20% goats milk and 80% cows milk, released at 4-6 months of age, and took a first prize in its category at the 2017 American Cheese Society competition.

Characterised by a pleasing, moreish saltiness, Goatlet would be my pick this month for a table cheese, lunchbox addition, or pre-dinner appetizer. And if you’re looking to put together a light meal, this cheese would be an ideal companion to cured meats and pickles!

Bufarolo
Quattro Portoni, Bergamo, IT
Buffalo Milk, Pasteurized ($36/lb)

Bufarolo is a semi-soft, natural rind buffalo milk cheese made in Northern Italy by Quattro Portoni – a name which some of you may remember from last month’s selection. In December, I brought in Madame Bufala – a cheese made at Quattro Portoni, but aged by Italian stagionatore CasArrigoni. Made via a similar collaboration between Quattro Portoni and Crown Finish, Bufarolo is the only Italian cheese aged there. Bufarolo arrives at Crown Finish completely rindless, and forms its colourful natural rind over the course of 6-8 weeks in the caves. I love its fudgy texture and clean finish, and would recommend it with a prosecco or other sparkling wine.

December’s Curated Cheeses: An Organic Taste of Italy

December 14th, 2018 Posted by Curated Cheeses No Comment yet

For our December artisan cheese selection, we wanted to take it back to our roots and bring you an all-Italian, all-organic roster of cheeses. We worked closely with Pondini, an importer based right here in New Jersey who specializes in sourcing organic cheeses, oils and vinegars from Italy. Come in and taste them all!

Formagella di Montagna
Lombardy
Cow Milk, Raw ($26/lb)

Perhaps my favorite of this month’s selection, Formagella is a subtle crowd-pleaser. A cave-aged, semi-firm cheese with a pretty natural rind, its flavor is mild at first, but quickly opens up to deliver dominant notes of butter and mushrooms. This is an eminently meltable, very snack-able, all-day, every day kind of cheese that will be enjoyed by adults and younger folk alike!

Pecorino Gessato
Fattoria Lischeto, Tuscany
Sheep Milk, Raw ($32/lb)

I couldn’t put together an Italian cheese selection without a Pecorino, and this one is a great example of a classic Tuscan aged Pecorino. While overall less aggressive than a Pecorino Romano, Gessato still maintains the slightly meaty flavor note characteristic of many sheep milk cheeses. Shave this onto pastas and salads, or enjoy as a table cheese with honey and pears!

Madame di Bufala
Quattro Portoni & CasArrigoni, Valtaleggio
Buffalo Milk, Pasteurized ($36/lb)

A very special addition to any holiday cheese board, Madame di Bufala is a Taleggio-style cheese made with water buffalo milk! Buffalo milk is richer, sweeter, and yet milder than the milk of cows or sheep, and cheeses made with their milk tend to be luscious and decadent. Madame di Bufala’s creamy and spreadable paste beautifully balances the funkier notes from its washed rind, making for a cheese we just can’t stop eating.

September’s Curated Cheeses: Families & Farms

September 11th, 2018 Posted by Curated Cheeses No Comment yet

Every month, we will bring you a curated selection of three-to-four cheeses built around a specific theme. The theme for September is “Families and Farms.”