Categories
cheese cheese lifestyle

Rainbow Cheese Department

I would like to take back any neg­a­tive state­ments I may have made in the past regard­ing the Rain­bow Grocery's cheese depart­ment. It's a very good cheese depart­ment, with many cheeses I've only seen at Arti­san, like mimo­lette and Sal­ly Jack­son aged sheep's milk, wrapped in chest­nut leaves. On Sat­ur­day night there was a very friend­ly staff per­son behind the counter, ready to answer any ques­tions. And he gave us free sam­ples of mar­cona almonds, very tasty. I think my real prob­lem with the Rain­bow is not its cheese depart­ment but its sta­tus as a veg­e­tar­i­an col­lec­tive and how in oth­er places there would be an alter­na­tive to Whole Foods where you could buy bacon and lamb shanks or even a can of tuna for god's sake, but here in San Fran­cis­co there is no such place. Port­land, Madi­son, they all have Rain­bow-esque stores with MEAT. So it's not the cheese depart­ment per se, but shop­ping while sur­round­ed by peo­ple who don't even eat cheese, let alone bacon. I always feel like a major­i­ty of Rain­bow shop­pers don't even par­tic­u­lar­ly like food.

Categories
cheese

Lincolnshire Poacher

This is a raw-milk British cheese, firm and aged yet with a smooth, creamy tex­ture. Like George Clooney. Accord­ing to the folks at Arti­san Cheese, it has under­tones of smoky bacon and accord­ing to Doug (who also resem­bles George Clooney), it tastes real­ly good with beer. I think it has all those qual­i­ties and it also tastes like pineap­ple, which is kind of freaky at first, and com­bined with the under­tones of smoky bacon, makes it sort of the hawai­ian piz­za of the arti­san cheese world. The oth­er fun­ny thing about the Poach­er is that when Kat­ri­na and I sam­pled it, she thought the name meant Poach­er as in to cook in water, as opposed to ille­gal­ly shoot­ing some­one else's game. My ref­er­ences to Dan­ny the Cham­pi­on of the World, Roald Dahl's defin­i­tive text on pheas­ant poach­ing, didn't real­ly clear things up for her, either.

Categories
cheese

Cabrales

This cheese is reput­ed to be King of the Blues, edg­ing out Roque­fort for the title of the strongest, sharpest, most pun­gent blue cheese in the world. At the urg­ing of the nice lady at Arti­san Cheese, Kat­ri­na and I sam­pled the King on Fri­day. Cabrales is a dark, grit­ty gray in col­or, with bumpy veins of pur­ple-ish blue. It looks like grav­el. Sad­ly, it tastes much the same. Imag­ine grav­el on the side of a busy high­way, home to road­kill and trash. Eat­ing cabrales is like hav­ing your taste buds molest­ed by an old man. The feel­ings of repul­sion and dis­gust take years to go away. Cabrales is a cheese that lingers on the palate. 20 min­utes lat­er there will be some entire­ly new nasty taste in your mouth. No me gus­ta.

Categories
cheese cheese lifestyle

Mac 'n cheese

I think mac­a­roni and cheese is the dish that first intro­duces you to how good cheese can be, and how much bet­ter good cheese can make some­thing taste. Call it what you will — shells and cheese, mac 'n cheese, quat­tro for­mag­gi, — the com­bi­na­tion of bak­ing pas­ta and cheese togeth­er is one of the best uses of cheese in the world. It's also a good way to use up any cheese you might have sit­ting around in the cheese draw­er. I made it this week­end using fis­cali­ni aged ched­dar reserve, mixed in with a lit­tle cave-aged gruyere and some reg­gie. MMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Categories
cheese

Vento d'Estate

I've been intrigued by this cheese for a while now. It's a bar­rel-aged cow's milk cheese from Italy that has hay pressed into the rind. At the store, where the pre-cut pieces sit on top of the giant wheel, you can see the long strands of hay in the rind. Need­less to say, ven­to d'estate has more than a whiff of the barn­yard. It's tasty, with a lit­tle tang and a lit­tle sweet sum­mery good­ness. It makes you feel like you are some pam­pered Ital­ian cow, graz­ing in some mag­nif­i­cent field right below a cathe­dral.

Categories
cheese

Caciotta dei Boschi

Ital­ian for "truf­f­li­cious" (Venet­ian dialect) or "mag­i­cal­ly deli­cious" (Tus­can dialect) or "as good as crack" (Cor­si­can), caciot­ta dei boschi is a home­ly look­ing cheese. Its yel­low-beige flesh is spreck­led with brown truf­fle bits, giv­ing it the appear­ance of say, a quail egg. Imag­ine, for a moment, the misty for­est, and the trees that grow there in the black earth, and the roots beneath the trees, crum­bling and damp, mak­ing a home for the hunt­ed Truf­fles, brown fun­gal babies of the per­pet­u­al night. Any­way. Caciot­ta dei boschi has a dank, briney bite that lingers. The sheep's milk base com­bines with the mag­ic truf­fle bits to co-host an earthy, smoky, yum­my par­ty in your mouth. One can almost feel the warm moist pig snout paus­ing to caress its truf­fle quar­ry before roust­ing it from its sub-arbo­r­i­al cub­by. C. d. B. can be eat­en for din­ner, fol­lowed by Girl Scout cook­ies, while watch­ing Rounders star­ring Matt Damon and Edward Nor­ton on cable. No crack­ers nec­es­sary.

Categories
cheese cheese lifestyle

Civilized Living

I've always been a pro­po­nent of civ­i­lized liv­ing (and I think we are all agreed that cheese is the bedrock upon which civ­i­liza­tion is con­struct­ed) and today, after an unex­treme­ly unciv­i­lized wait at the post office to turn over things that already had postage on them but weighed more than a pound and were only going to two sep­a­rate address­es but were in six sep­a­rate pack­ages (why can't the intern ever grasp the dif­fer­ence between inter­na­tion­al and domes­tic mail? why?), I real­ized I need­ed a good dose of civ­i­lized liv­ing. So I went to lunch at Metro­pole and had a nice sand­wich. More impor­tant­ly, I had a glass of wine with my lunch. Why are we not drink­ing wine or beer or cock­tails at lunch? Because Specialty's doesn't serve them? What has hap­pened to the hey­day of the three-mar­ti­ni lunch? Here's the thing—it real­ly took the edge off, that glass of wine. Civ­i­liza­tion is end­ing (it feels like the entire known world is hurtling towards apoc­a­lypse) and so maybe we ought to be tak­ing advan­tage of as much as the civ­i­lized world can offer us—drinks with lunch, an entire cake of Hum­boldt Fog to our­selves, the con­so­la­tions of High Life.

Categories
cheese

Cave-Aged Gruyere

This cheese is like that boy your moth­er wants you to marry—safe, reli­able, a lit­tle bit pre­dictable. you know it's always going to treat you right. you hold the idea of it in reserve like an extra ace tucked away. when you've been burned by flashier, sex­i­er, more excit­ing cheeses—what a good idea bres­cianel­la seemed like at the time!—cave-aged gruyere is there to pick you up the morn­ing after. it doesn't ask ques­tions, doesn't press its agen­da, it's just there, sol­id and depend­able. it knows the tor­toise always wins the race in the end.

Categories
cheese

Capricious

An apt­ly-named aged-goat cheese so play­ful and salty that it brings to mind the Great God Pan cavort­ing around a field with his pipes, sur­round­ed by half-naked nymphs. I've only seen this once at the Rain­bow (the cheese, not Pan—I doubt Pan would grace the veg­e­tar­i­an aisles of the Rain­bow, unless it were to wreak some mer­ry mis­chief with his pipes) and more often at the Fer­ry Plaza Farm­ers Mar­ket. Like Pan, capri­cious can go either way—it can be full of whim­sy and charm, or it can cross the line from mis­chief to mal­ice with­out warn­ing.

Categories
cheese

Carnia Altibut Mezzano

Last night at Del­fi­na I sat by myself at the counter and made a new friend: mez­zano, a play­ful mix of cow and goat milks. It's from Friuli, one of those Ital­ian moun­tain areas, and it tastes the way you would expect—like cows and goats graz­ing on ten­der grass at a high alti­tude, sur­round­ed by rocky out­crop­pings. It's tangy and creamy, yet has a strong, rugged char­ac­ter, just like a moun­tain range. You taste it and you think of Giorgione's shep­herd, stand­ing watch over the storm. It's not unlike a man­cheog; Del­fi­na served it with quince paste. It's the kind of cheese that makes you glad you're sit­ting at the counter, just you and mez­zano, rather than sit­ting at the table next to you, where the man keeps stroking his goa­tee as he bores his com­pan­ions.