Archive for the ‘cheese’Category

Niagara cheese assumes a local accent

Vivian Szebeny of Upper Canada Cheese Company in Niagara
Niagara College has played a big role in the Niagara peninsula blossoming as a foodie destination. The school is turning out talented graduates with a commitment to making the most of the region’s bounty. The college’s offerings run the gamut from culinary and hospitality programs to winemaking, viticulture, brewing, and distilling. The college even operates a teaching brewery as well as Canada’s only commercial teaching winery. As we traveled through the region, we met many of its talented graduates and interns who intend to make their careers in the region.

But in the pantheon of food and drink, one thing is missing. “There are no courses on cheesemaking offered in the area,” Vivian Szebeny of Upper Canada Cheese Company told us.

Szebeny is a partner in the operation that was founded in 2005 and calls itself “the first small, modern Niagara creamery in generations.” Upper Canada Cheese Company (uppercanadacheese.com) makes and sells its cheeses from a modern building with retro train station style in the town of Lincoln. They also stock other artisanal cheeses and local products such as honey, pickles, preserves, and maple syrup that offer an overview of the local food scene.

Guernesey cow in NiagaraSzebeny learned her craft in France and Quebec and now trains the company’s other cheesemakers. They are fortunate to start with an extraordinary ingredient—milk from a herd of Guernsey cows. The brown and white cattle graze contentedly at Comfort Family Farm, about a 20-minute drive from the facility. The protein- and cream-rich milk “is more flavorful,” said Szebeny, “and we can make more cheese per liter.” Upper Canada makes cheese every second day, starting with about 2,000 liters of milk.

Variations on a Guernsey theme


Upper Canada Cheese Company cheeses in NiagaraThe company first introduced Niagara Gold, a washed-rind semi-firm cheese that is aged four to five months. Modeled on Port Salut from the Loire Valley in Brittany, it has similar buttery flavors, a nutty nose, and earthy flavors in the mouth. Comfort Cream, a Camembert-style soft cheese, was “named after the farm,” Szebeny said. Intensely buttery, it has a long tangy finish with an air of fresh mushrooms.

The Guernsey cheeses have been very successful, but the cheesemakers wanted new challenges. “If you are a cheesemaker you like to experiment with different milks,” Szebeny explained. “So we got some goat milk.” And the result is Nosey Goat, a semi-firm washed-rind goat cheese and Nanny Noir, a Camembert-style cheese rolled in vegetable ash before aging.

Szebeny also developed a fresh cheese that the company calls Guernsey Girl. It’s a cheese style particularly popular in eastern Canada. With a nice salty flavor and a squeaky bite, it holds its shape when fried or grilled. “Grill it and it becomes caramelized and brown on the outside and gooey on the inside,” Szebeny said.

When we visited in May, Upper Canada was close to releasing its first cheddar, which had been aged for eight months. Clearly excited about the release, Szebeny noted that “it’s the only Guernsey cheddar that I am aware of.”

We look forward to what they’ll do next.

23

07 2017

Inniskillin icewines hit the sweet spot

Debi Pratt at Inniskillin in Niagara
Like many wine drinkers, we’ve always thought of icewine as an after-dinner treat. But if Inniskillin (www.inniskillin.com) has its way, we’ll be drinking it with dinner as well. As Debi Pratt told us when we toured the property, icewine makes an excellent, if somewhat extravagant, table wine.

Inniskillin is another pioneer in the Niagara wine region. It was founded in 1975 by Austrian-born Karl Kaiser and Canadian Donald Ziraldo. “Karl said, ‘If I’m going to live in a new country, I’m going to drink the wines of my new country,’” Pratt told us.

Ziraldo had actually planted Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gamay vines the year before at his commercial nursery. But when Inniskillin launched, the winery relied heavily on two winter-hardy French hybrid grapes, Vidal Blanc and Maréchal Foch. The early Vidal plantings survive for icewine, but nobler vines have displaced the old red hybrid as well as the original Gamay. Today’s Inniskillin Niagara table wines lean heavily on Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, and Pinot Noir. (Inniskillin also has a branch in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.)

When cold is cool


Inniskillin icewine vineyard in NiagaraBut Inniskillin electrified the wine world with its distinctive New World icewines. Winemaker Kaiser produced Niagara’s first icewines in 1984, using the thick-skinned Vidal grapes. Familiar with German and Austrian icewines, he suspected that the climate in Niagara should be perfect to produce icewines in most harvests. Subsequent years proved him right, and the consumer response to the once-exotic product was strong.

“Donald and Karl are pioneers of Ontario icewine,” Pratt said. Today, Inniskillin reserves 5 percent of its grapes for icewines. They hang on the vines until at least early December and sometimes aren’t harvested until early March. The optimal temperature for harvesting is -10°C (14°F). VQA regulations state that the harvest must be carried out at -8°C (17/6°F) or lower.

Thick-skinned Vidal grapes last longer on the vine than other varietals. As a result, the grape accounts for about 85 percent of Canada’s icewine production. But Inniskillin and some other Niagara wineries have also had good luck with Riesling and Cabernet Franc. They also have thick enough skins to become desiccated on the vine without rotting.

Icewine with food


icewine glass at Inniskillin in NiagaraYou can taste icewine flights at the dedicated Icewine Tasting Bar. We headed instead to the Riedel Room, which is named for the premium maker of wine glasses. After Kaiser’s prompting, Riedel developed a specific glass for tasting icewine. “It evolved from an aromatic glass, a port glass, and a Sauterne glass,” said Pratt. “The shape maximizes the layers of aromas in icewines.”

Food, we were to quickly learn, also brings out the nuances of the wine. We sampled three dishes prepared by chef Tim MacKiddie to pair with Riesling, Vidal, and Cabernet Franc icewines.

icewine and food pairing at Inniskillin in Niagara

Riesling pairing

In the Riedel icewine glasses, the Riesling icewine showed a lot of flowery notes and citrus that ranged from Meyer lemon to bergamot. MacKiddie served a goat cheese croquette with a fennel salad lightly dressed with a cumin-lime vinaigrette. The citrus notes balanced the ashen cheese nicely, while the bright anise of the fennel echoed the aromatics of the wine.

Vidal pairing

The Vidal icewine was rounder and more luscious, tasting of apricots and gooseberries. MacKiddie explained that baking spices pair nicely with Vidal, which tends to preserve its fruitiness even as an icewine. He then proved his point by serving a rhubarb tart with cinnamon butter pastry and a crumble topping.

Cabernet Franc pairing

The “dessert” course among the icewines was reserved for the Cabernet Franc, which displayed a luscious concentrate of blackberries and elderberries spiked with black pepper. MacKiddie offered a “Canadian s’more.” It consisted of a block of chocolate ganache with a few toasted homemade marshmallows, all sitting in a small pool of Cabernet Franc syrup. “A match made in heaven,” he called it—and we agreed

We were convinced: Icewine can pair nicely with food. Pratt pointed out that Inniskillin’s sparkling icewines—either Sparkling Vidal or Sparkling Cabernet Franc—might be even more food friendly. “The bubbles cut the sweetness,” she said.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to give up the sheer indulgence of simply sipping and enjoying icewine as a special pleasure all its own.

For an overview of Niagara wineries, see the web site of the Vintner’s Quality Alliance of Ontario (vqaontario.ca) or Visit Niagara (visitniagaracanada.com).

20

07 2017

Cheese-loving Americans in good company

Jean-François Marmier with his herd of 60 Montbèliarde cows
Here in the United States, January 20 is National Cheese Lover’s Day. We’re not really certain how this designation originated but there’s no doubt that we Americans have a genuine affection for the food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each American consumed about 35 pounds of cheese in 2015. (That’s the most recent year for which statistics are available.) And that figure is way up from a little over 14 pounds per person in 1975.

That’s certainly a lot of cheese love. But Americans still have a long way to go to catch up with the French. They consumed more than 59 pounds of cheese per person in 2015, according to the Canadian Dairy Information Centre, which tracks global cheese consumption. That’s the world record, by the way. Denmark, Finland, and Iceland were close behind.

cheese course at Bon Accueil Cheese plays a big role in the French diet and economy, but it’s almost impossible to actually come up with a definitive number of cheeses produced in the country. (Charles de Gaulle once famously lamented the impossibility of governing a country with 246 varieties of cheese. All agree that the number has only grown since the general’s day.) In any case, the number-one selling cheese in France is Comté, the staple of the croque monsieur and a natural for cheese fondue.

Tasty travel in Franche-Comté

Pat had the chance to visit the Comté region where brown-and-white Montbèliarde cows graze in grassy meadows and their milk is transformed into cheese in small cooperatives. (That’s Jean-François Marmier in the photo at the top of the post. The girls are his herd of 60 Montbèliardes.) We could use our stash of Comté just to make croque monsieurs, but Pat discovered that the cheese also adapts well to other recipes. Please see this post for her full account.

20

01 2017

Sawers gourmet shop in Belfast champions Irish flavors

Sawers in Belfast has been around since 1897.
Sawers was established in 1897 to bring gourmet foods from around the globe to the people of Belfast. It is the oldest deli in Northern Ireland. The purveyor even provided the R.M.S. Titanic with game, seafood, cheese and other delicacies for its infamous maiden voyage. The people of Belfast can still rely on Sawers more than a century after that ship’s larder full of caviar and pheasant ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic. They can stop by to shop for Spanish hams, Italian pastas, French pâté and escargot, Greek olives, and Turkish candies. At the holidays, the place buzzes with people filling gift “hampers” with exotic gourmet goodies.

But Sawers also cherishes great Irish foods, making it a must-stop for overseas gourmands. The cheese case alone includes more than 200 varieties, including some of the spectacular artisanal Irish cheeses that have arisen recently. The staff at Sawers seem to know the pedigree of every Irish cheese in the case (shown below). For a cheddar type, they introduced us to Banagher Bold. Introduced in fall 2015, it’s made from pasteurized cow’s milk, aged for three months, and washed in a Derry craft beer. Northbound Brewery’s No. 26 helps impart the mouth-forward sharpness. For a blue cheese, it’s hard to say enough about Young Buck. The raw-milk blue is made by Michael Thomson in Newtownards, about 10 miles east of Belfast, with milk from a single herd. He calls his company “Mike’s Fancy Cheese.”

Sawers in Belfast has a broad selection of Irish cheeses.

All manner of spreads


Sawers favors pairing some of these cheeses with jams and chutneys. The house brand Sweet Chilli Jam is especially popular. Like their English cousins, Belfast folk love preserves and condiments. Sawers’ own line includes Belfast Preserve (raspberry and lime), Belfast Breakfast Marmalade (lemon, orange, and grapefruit), chutneys such as Indian Spiced Pineapple, Smoky Apricot, or the combination Mango, Chilli, and Lime chutney. Ditty’s Oat Cakes (made with County Armagh oats) are the classic support for cheese and jam.

Slicing salami at Saws Belfast. The Irish are big fans of fresh and smoked fish. Sawers smokes several species of fish, and sells smoked salmon from elsewhere in Ireland and from Scotland. The shop also sells the fish spread known as “patum pepperium” or “Gentlemen’s Relish.” Sawers has three versions. The traditional is made with anchovies. The Anglers’ Finest Relish contains smoked mackerel and lemon zest. The milder Poacher’s Relish has smoked salmon and lemon. Spread on crackers, they provide an instant hit of umami.

The charcuterie cases are piled high with a huge variety of sausages. The most popular seem to be imported French and Italian salamis and other hard sausages, along with Italian and Spanish hams.

Dining on charcuterie at Sawers Belfast. We were pleased to find a local “whisky salami.” Traditionally, it’s a garlicky pork sausage made with reduced Bushmills whiskey and whiskey-washed while curing. The salami is very firm and dry, so the Sawers staffer sliced it paper thin. Along with the cheeses, it lasted for days. We finished it off on the bus from Belfast to Dublin Airport, knowing we couldn’t take it through U.S. Customs Preclearance there. (See “Bringing Food Through US Customs.”) Other customers at the charcuterie counter weren’t planning to fly. They elected to enjoy sausages, ham, cheese, and olives at the indoor cafe tables.

Sawers, 5–7 Fountain Centre, College Street, 028 9032 2021, www.sawersbelfast.com.

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01

12 2016

Vermont’s Crowley Cheese an American original

Crowley Cheese factory in Healdville, Vermont
Cheesemakers always seem like magicians, using a straightforward process and a few ingredients to transform perishable milk into tasty blocks that improve with age. Here in the U.S., the folks at Crowley Cheese in Vermont (802-259-2340, www.crowleycheese.com) have been doing it longer than anyone else on record, or so they say.

Dipping cheese at Crowley Cheese in Healdville, Vermont The Crowley family started selling their own cheese in 1824. In 1882, Winfield Crowley built the current factory to expand on his family’s farmhouse kitchen cheesemaking operation that used milk from their dairy herd. The factory still produces cheese with raw milk from several local herds.

In the world of cheeseheads, Crowley is an “American Original.” It is a cheese with a North American pedigree that owes nothing to the old country. Never big on the fine points of taste, the Food and Drug Administration disregarded the Crowley history when it classified Crowley as a “Colby.” The Colby category was “invented” in Wisconsin in 1885, six decades after the Crowley family started making their washed-curd cheese.

The factory and sales room is open daily to visitors. It’s on Healdville Road in Healdville, a village of Mt. Holly. Fortunately, Google Maps and most GPS systems have it in their databases. The workers only make cheese a few days a week—sometimes Tuesday through Thursday, sometimes Wednesday through Friday. It’s not a process to be rushed, and takes most of the day. However, much of the time is devoted to standing around and waiting.

Making the cheese


Raking curd at Crowley Cheese in Healdville, Vermont Early in the morning, workers pump 5,000 pounds of whole raw milk into stainless steel tubs. The cheesemaker adds lactobacillus culture (the same microbe that turns milk into yogurt) to convert the milk sugar into lactic acid. After more heating, the cheesemaker stirs in rennet. This separates cheese curds from the watery whey. As the cheese sets up, the workers cut the curd into small pieces. When it looks like popcorn and has the resiliency of a pencil eraser, they start scooping the curds into a second sink. The staff—usually the cheesemaker and two or three assistants—knead the curd while running water on it to wash away the residual acidity. After salting, the curds are packed into molds and placed in a press. By the next morning, whole wheels of cheese are formed. They are ready to be dipped in wax and aged to varying degrees of sharpness. Because Crowley lacks the acid of a cheddar, it ages much more quickly. At two years, it is as ripe as a five-year-old cheddar.

The sales room has lots of samples, including several flavored cheeses. (The Crowley family used to give sage-infused blocks as Christmas presents.) One of the more recent flavor additions is “muffaletta,” which contains a chopped mix of various olives. Most folks opt for the medium sharp. Those with a hankering for old-fashioned general store cheese choose the two-year-old sharp. It can be pretty tangy, but lacks the back-of-the-throat bite of a cheddar. On our last visit in September, we stumbled on a rare cache of extra-sharp. It was spectacular for the grilled cheese, chopped tomato, and crumbled bacon sandwich below. (The filling is the same as a BLT that we posted last year: hungrytravelers.com/tomatoes-meet-match-bacon-basil/.)
Grilled cheese, bacon, and tomato sandwich made with Crowley Cheese

05

10 2016

Warm wind makes fine Letrari wines in Vallagarina

Letrari vineyards in Isera
Every afternoon at 3 p.m., warm air sweeps north from Lake Garda into the Vallagarina, the low hills around Trentino’s southern portion of the Adige River. Vineyard owners call it “L’Ora,” or “the hour,” and swear that you could set a clock by it. All through the summer, this steady breeze provides warmth and aeration to the grapes. It drives up the sugar concentration and sweeps away potential fungal infections. The warm, dry wind makes the Vallagarina one of the best places in Italy to grow heat-loving grape varieties. The big reds from Bordeaux flourish here. So do the classic grapes of sparkling wine: chardonnay and pinot noir.

Lucia LetrariThe Letrari family has been making wine in Italy’s Trentino region for the last few centuries. The modern Letrari winery (www.letrari.it) was founded in 1976 by Leonello Letrari and his wife Maria Vittoria on the family lands in Borgetto all’Adige. Daughter Lucia (right) graduated from the region’s prestigious Institute of Agriculture and Enology in San Michele al Adige in 1987. She now runs the family winery, and her son is already working at her side.

Casa del Vino

The Letrari tasting room is a bit off the beaten path. As a result, Lucia often holds business meetings at the Casa del Vino della Vallagarina (Piazza San Vincenzo, 1, Isera: tel. +39 (0) 464 486 057; www.casadelvino.info).

Casa del Vino della Vallagarina Part restaurant, part enoteca, part wine shop, the Casa del Vino is an essential stop for a wine tourist. It is in the heart of the mountain village on the wine route known as the Strada del vino e dei sapori del Trentino (www.tastetrentino.it). It has a few hotel rooms starting at 90€ per night.

Impressive sparkling wines

Letrari produces a dizzying array of wines, but Leonello was a pioneer in making sparkling wines. The family still prides itself on sparkling wines made from high altitude chardonnay and pinot noir.

The very impressive Brut Riserva—60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay—was surprisingly good with a beef carpaccio topped with paper-thin swirls of sweet golden apple. The wine spends a minimum of 48 months on the lees. That produces a creamy head, notes of toasted bread, and a lingering taste of fruit. The prickliness of the tiny bubbles was a nice counterpoint to the raw beef. That wine, however, was only a warm-up for Letrari’s Riserva del Fondatore. This deluxe wine spends 96 months in contact with the yeast, developing a complexity comparable to high-end Champagne.

Letrari lunch canderli Letrari’s Dosaggio Zero is made without adding sweetness for the second fermentation. Tart and dry, it has a delicate apple-pear fruitiness. It mated nicely with a plate of canderli, breadcrumb dumplings laden with local herbs and served with cheese fondue. The yeastiness is less pronounced, since it only spends 24 months on the lees. The tart delicacy makes it perfect for pairing with cheeses and shellfish. With just a hint of brassiness like rice wine, it would be good with sushi. It’s also great this time of year as a picnic wine.

27

06 2016

Hearty Trentino dishes complement the wines

chef in Trento at Mostra Vini
If you’re going to spend all morning tasting 128 wines, you really need some hearty food to follow up. The Trento cuisine is a fascinating blend of Italian and Germanic foodways, and it’s well suited to the regional wines. After we sampled our way through the wines, most of us had absorbed enough alcohol, even without swallowing, that we really needed a good meal. The Trentino wine consortium made sure we got it!

We started with a glass of light white wine made from the Incrocio Manzoni Bianco grape. It’s part of a group named for professor Luigi Manzoni (1888-1968), who experimented with crossing a number of grapes during the 1920s and 1930s at Italy’s oldest school of oenology in Conegliano, north of Venice. The bianco cross of riesling and pinot bianco (pinot blanc to French speakers) does quite well in cold climate, high altitude vineyards like Trentino’s. In fact, it’s often too vigorous and has to be aggressively pruned to keep from overcropping. A fairly delicate wine, it has just enough astringency to clear the palate before a meal.

Mostra Vini del Trentino lunch of braised veal cheeksThe meal was a humble feast of straightforward dishes typical of the region. We started with a red wine risotto—a treat when it’s made with the local Teroldego red and the local grating cheese—before moving on to braised veal cheeks with roasted potatoes (right) and, for dessert, a beautiful apple strudel.

The local grating cheese, Trentingrana DOP, is made in a part of the province that falls within the delimited region for Grana Padano DOP cheese, but it has the name “Trentino” prominently stamped in the form that makes the big wheels. Since it’s hard to find in the U.S., substitute a 24-month Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the same effect.

Note that the chef stirred the risotto vigorously (see photo at top of post), almost folding the mixture as it cooked. The recipe below follows the traditional way to make risotto—about a half hour of stirring—though you could also use our pressure cooker method (see this post: http://hungrytravelers.com/learning-under-pressure/) by reducing the volume of liquid to about twice the volume of rice. Note that the alcohol and the tannins in red wine affect the cooking time, making it about 25 percent longer than using mostly broth and a white wine. But the extra time is worth it for the perfect melding of red wine and aged cheese with the creamy mouth feel of the dish.

Mostralunch red wine risotto

RED WINE RISOTTO

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups beef broth
2 1/2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Trentingrana (see above)

Directions

Place broth in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of the red wine, reserving the remainder.. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat so wine-broth is hot but not simmering.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottom pot (a Dutch oven works well) over medium-low heat. Add shallots and and cook, stirring occasionally until shallots are soft and translucent. Add rice and 2 tablespoons butter and stir to coat.

Stir in the reserved half cup of wine and cook over medium heat, stirring until wine is absorbed. Stir in a half cup of the hot wine broth and adjust heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add more wine broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It will take 25-30 minutes for nearly all the liquid to be absorbed. At this point, the rice should be creamy and glistening with a starch coating but still be al dente when sampled.
Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and remove from heat.

Remove pot from heat and cover to let rest about two minutes before serving in shallow bowls. Pass extra grated cheese.

10

06 2016

Whimsical cake beets all

Culinary students at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
Of all the culinary students assisting guest chefs at the Chopstix & Cocktails event of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, those assigned to Bill Corbett certainly seemed to be having the most fun sampling dishes from the different tables (above).

The whimsy wasn’t lost on guest chef Corbett himself. Named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine in 2013, Corbett is currently executive pastry chef for the Absinthe Group of restaurants in San Francisco. He turned a savory dish into a sweet by creating a Beet Cake with Fromage Blanc Frosting.

“It’s kind of a joke,” he told me. “At one time everyone in the Bay Area had the same beet salad on the menu: beets, goat cheese, walnuts, maybe fennel or citrus. So I figured why shouldn’t the same thing be on the dessert menu.”

Cut into small squares, Corbett’s cake was better suited to fingers than chopsticks. With its rich red color, it would be a good addition to a holiday dinner. Note that the cake can be made ahead and frozen, which will help cut down on last-minute party preparations. Instead of fromage blanc, Corbett used a local goat cheese produced by Big Island Goat Dairy.

BEET CAKE WITH FROMAGE BLANC FROSTING


Makes 4 dozen squares beet cake at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival

Chef Corbett notes that soft goat cheese works well as a substitute for fromage blanc, which can be harder to find.

For the cake
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups beets, grated and squeezed of excess liquid

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar on medium speed to full volume. Drizzle in oil and vanilla while continuing to whisk.

Sift all of the dry ingredients, then add in three stages to the egg mixture. Once emulsified, fold in the beets. Split cake batter between two 12×18 (half sheet) pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake until cake springs back to the touch and slightly pulls away from the sides (about 1 hour). When almost fully cooled, wrap and freeze.

For the frosting

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup butter, soft
1 cup fromage blanc or goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped as garnish

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, slowly mix cream cheese and half of the sugar until completely smooth. Add the butter and remaining sugar and continue mixing until smooth again. Pass fromage blanc through a wire strainer. (Goat cheese does not need straining.) Add fromage blanc or goat cheese to cream cheese/butter mixture and incorporate until smooth.

To assemble
Remove parchment from cakes while frozen. Cut each cake into two equally sized squares and place back in freezer.

Spread 1 1/2 cups of frosting evenly on each layer of cake, stacking as you go. Use an offset spatula dipped in hot water to smooth out each layer.

Spread a very thin layer of frosting on the cake to hold in crumbs and refrigerate until firm. Then frost the cake more thickly to finish and garnish with toasted walnuts. Cut cake into small squares with a clean knife dipped in hot water.

19

12 2015

San Antón: Madrid’s best market makeover

slicing ham at San Anton market in Madrid
Madrid has been renovating and updating its historic fresh food markets in recent years, starting with the transformation of Mercado San Miguel next to Plaza Mayor into a jewel box full of tapas bars and high-end deli food. But we’re even more impressed with Mercado San Antón in Chueca. The market is a symbol of how that neighborhood—once the part of town where you went to buy sex or drugs—has become one of the hippest and most gentrified parts of the central old city. FYI, about the nastiest stuff you’ll find on Chueca streets these days are some shoes with 15-centimeter spike heels in the shops on calle Augusto Figueroa.

entrance to Mercado San Anton market in Madrid The Mercado San Antón isn’t exactly a temple of food like La Boqueria in Barcelona or the Mercado Central in Valencia. We think of it as the parish church of food for the fairly hip, fairly young crowd in Chueca. The basement has a small SuperCor supemarket for the essentials—laundry detergent, canned white asparagus, cheap wine, Coca-Cola in 1.5 liter bottles, etc. The real food is on the first level, where the market stalls have everything from perfectly selected fresh fruit in season to one of the best curated fish stalls we’ve ever seen. Madrid is in the middle of the country far from the fishing ports, but Madrileños so love their fish that the wholesalers overnight the catch to the capital. There wasn’t a cloudy eye to be seen on the mackerel, cod, hake, or grotesque whole monkfish. As befits a great market in Spain, all the ham is cut fresh, as in the photo above.

The second level is even more amazing than the fresh food. It consists entirely of tapas stalls, a wine bar, a pastry/ice cream/coffee stall, and a few tables around the edges. At mid-morning when people are shopping for food, it’s placid. From 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., it’s a madhouse as people come for a cheap lunch. Some tapas cost as little as €1, as indicated in the image below. You can also get a tuna or an eggplant empanada, a small pork steak and fries, or—at the stall of creative tapas, a fancy burger topped with foie gras for less than €6.

The top level is a restaurant operated by the Jabugo ham group Cinco Jotas. It’s not all thin, precious slices of Iberian ham served with Manchego and sherry. The menu includes a wide range of meat and fish dishes. Half the restaurant is on an outdoor terrace, which solves the Spanish need to smoke all through the meal now that indoor dining is smokefree by law.

Mercado San Antón is at calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24; tel: 913-30-07-30; www.mercadosananton.com. The market is open daily from 10 a.m. until midnight.

tapas at Mercado San Anton in Madrid

18

10 2015

Boone Creek Creamery makes real KY cheese

Ed Puterbaugh of Boone Creek Creamery in Lexington KY
Ed Puterbaugh, the master cheesemaker and jack-of-all-trades at Boone Creek Creamery (2416 Palumbo Drive, Lexington; 859-402-2364; www.boonecreekcreamery.com), is a regular at the Saturday farmers market on West Main Street in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. But if you miss him on the weekend, you can stop by his tidy headquarters in an industrial complex just off Route 4 south of town during the week to make your purchases. Puterbaugh will be glad to give you a quick tour of the cheesemaking operation and the “cave” where he ages between 1,500 and 2,000 cheeses at a time for anywhere from three to six months—sometimes longer.

Puterbaugh only began making cheese six years ago and admits to “getting carried away.” He makes 39 varieties by hand following traditional European techniques. And he uses only antibiotic- and hormone-free milk from grass-fed cows at five local farms. With a background in clinical microbiology, Puterbaugh believes that attention to detail and extra effort make better cheese.

His European-style cheeses include Gruyere, the most popular with area restaurants; Wensleydale, a traditional English cheddar; Caerphilly, a Welch farmhouse cheese; and Scandinavian Bread Cheese, which Puterbaugh says makes a great appetizer if you put small pieces on crackers and then quickly heat in a microwave. “It’s a fun cheese,” he says.

Boone Creek Creamery's Ginger Rhapsody blue cheese He also likes to experiment with flavored cheeses such as Abbey Road, a mix of English Cheddar and sun-dried tomatoes, or Ginger Rhapsody, a Blue cheese with a kick of ginger. He also smokes both Gruyere and Gouda with mesquite for a subtle, smoky flavor.

One of his most felicitous flavorings hits closer to home. For his exclusive Kentucky Derby, Puterbaugh makes a traditional English Derby-style cheese, known for its creamy taste and smooth texture when melted. After aging, the cheese is marinated for about two weeks in a bourbon brine. The slightly sweet cheese with an oaky finish is delicious melted on a hamburger.

10

09 2015