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I recently had the opportunity to do a book signing at the Fairfield Cheese Company in Fairfield, Connecticut. Co-owner Laura Downey contacted me a few months ago to ask if I’d consider doing a book signing at her shop. Given that I live on the other side of the country, I told her I’d be happy to do so… someday. Sure enough, “someday” came a lot sooner than I was expecting, and off I went. All I can say is that anyone living within 100 miles of Fairfield, Connecticut, should make a beeline to the Fairfield Cheese Company.
Laura and her co-owner Chris Palumbo have done a remarkable job of curating a stellar selection of cheeses from the United States and Europe including hard-to-get small farm Vermont and New York cheeses among others. Their selection of cheese go-withs is equally stellar. I fell in love with a wintertime-only pan forte from Sienna that was much softer than the taffy-like dried fruit and nut confection usually is. I’ve never seen nor tasted this particular one before, and had I not been suitcase-challenged already, I would have bought an entire “wheel” of the stuff (it’s round and is displayed on a cake plate. Hence, the wheel). The crackers, the loaves of bread baked just down the street, the holiday panettone, the chutneys – you name it – all are decidedly not the run-of-the-mill products you can find almost anywhere these days. That’s why I used the word “curate.” Walking into the Fairfield Cheese Company is like walking into a cheese lover’s museum, except that you’re encouraged to touch, taste, and buy with abandon. What a treasure.
Okay, so the Food & Wine Classic at Aspen happened a month ago, but I thought it would still be worth telling you about since I’m assuming most of you weren’t there.
Just in case it wasn’t obvious, I have to say that being a speaker at the annual Food & Wine Classic at Aspen is an unbelievable privilege. This was my sixth year at the Classic, and each year I try to mix it up a bit. This year, my two seminars were grilled cheese and wine pairing and Spanish cheese and wine pairing.
For grilled cheese, I featured four sandwiches from my book, Grilled Cheese, Please!, and on those sandwiches, some of which have more than one cheese, I featured stellar American cheeses. I kid you not, each and every one of these cheeses is worth sourcing even though some are made in woefully small quantities.
Cypress Grove Chevre Humboldt Fog (McKinleyville. CA)
Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Toma (Pt. Reyes, CA)
Edelweiss Cheese Company Emmentaler (Monroe, WI)
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. Nicasio Square (Nicasio, CA)
Meister Cheese Co. Eagle Cave Reserve (Muscoda, WI)
Crawford Family Farm “Vermont Ayr” (Whiting, VT)
Bel Gioioso Creamy Gorgonzola (Green Bay, WI)
The wines I paired with the cheeses and sandwiches were equally stellar and equally worth buying.
2007 Argyle Brut
2010 K Vintners “Kung Fu Girl Riesling”
2008 Treana Red
2007 Navarro Riesling Late-Harvest Cluster-Select
For the Spanish cheese and wine seminar, I got to team up with Food & Wine editor Kristin Donnelly, who chose fab Spanish wines, including an amazing Sherry called Bodegas Dios Baco Amontillado (my favorite with nearly all the cheeses) to sidle up alongside the cheeses.
Just as with the Spanish food movement in general, the cheeses being made in Spain are getting ever more sophisticated and delicious.
The cheese list:
Queso Leonora (goat’s milk)
Mitcaña de Oveja (sheep’s milk)
Vare (goat’s milk)
Aragones (cow’s milk)
Malvarosa (sheep’s milk)
Cabra de Romero (goat’s milk with rosemary)
Mahón Reserva (cow’s milk)
Monje (cow’s milk blue)
What did I take away from this seminar? Two things: Spain isn’t just about Manchego anymore, though that remains a great cheese. Cows are making their way across the land, and that means more cow’s milk cheeses. Same with goats, though they’ve been there a long time. Second, I was reminded how amazing sherry is as a cheese wine. I can’t think of any beverage that goes with a wider variety of cheeses than that fabulously oxidized and fortified one from southwest Spain.
Welcome to my new site and my new blog. Those of you who visited my previous site are probably aware I’ve never had a blog before. This is mostly because I figured I could write about cheese in other ways. Then I realized that cheese and its seemingly endless related topics warranted more than just the occasional post. And so this blog.
As you hopefully know by now, my interest, my love, my passion is American cheese.
I’ll be posting the related events and places I go (this means events you can go to too or ones that are so spectacularly interesting that I figure you’ll want to know about them anyway), the cheeses I’m finding, whether American or otherwise (so that you can find and eat them too), the pairings I’m doing (ditto), the cheesy recipes I’m developing, the cheesemakers I’m visiting (including those you can visit too), a little about the issues as they relate to cheese (raw milk anyone?) and the cheese-related projects I’m working on. My hope is that you can travel alongside me on the cheese trail, and we can make discoveries together.
For now, I’ll leave you with this. It’s called Winner Winner Chicken Dinner. It was created by The Grilled Cheese Truck in Los Angeles for the 2011 Grilled Cheese Invitational. And the sandwich was exactly what its title implies – waffles, fried chicken, bacon, and cheese served with sides of maple syrup and spicy country gravy. I hate to admit it, but it was delicious. And just so you don’t think I’m crazy, my fellow judges agreed. It won two trophies.