Note: All of the content on this site will remain here as an archive. Madame Fromage has now jumped blogospheres. See you on the other side. Cheers, dahhlink. And never fear, there is lots more cheese where we are going. xoxo
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Dear reader, it’s really happening. My cheese valise is packed, and I’m off like a gypsy to a new blog on Wordpress. On Monday, I hope you’ll join me for a tour. If I’ve seemed absent lately, that’s because I’ve been playing with font sizes, learning a smidge of html, and preparing the virtual finger food for our next rendez-vous.
It’s been almost three years since I began writing on Blogger, and it does feel a little bittersweet to take down the curtains. This site will remain in place as an archive while I start fresh on the new blog. I like clean sheets, clean slates.
I’ve learned an awful lot since all this started in 2009. I never imagined I’d be this deep into dairy and so far from fiction (my original love, my advanced degree), but I find that when doors mysteriously open it’s best to pop through them, even if the hallway beyond looks dark, strange.
Blogging has led to so many good things. A place to commune online. Cheesemonger friends. Adventures in the wild. Many of the people I meet in the artisan cheese world are escapees like me, people who left ordinary lives for a risk, a whim. Some buy goats, I guess I buy urls.
I don’t think of what I do here as a job, but it’s created work for me. Good work. Freelance opportunities. A chance to teach classes on cheese and on blogging. Even a book is afoot. Yes, yes, it’s been a lovely surprise.
Lately, I meet a lot of new bloggers and blog-upon-a-star wishers who ask advice. Here is a speck of insight in parting: don’t worry about generating traffic or revenue. Figure out what your purpose is first.
When I started as a blogger, I pictured this site as a pillowbook where I would record tasting notes for myself. Over time it grew into a small universe, like a second home – more than a chronicle of eats.
A blog is an education. As you write, you discover. As you discover, you teach. As you teach, you meet other teachers. It’s like microbes gathering on a rind to break down a bloomy Brie. Mmm, yes, I’m hungry already.
For all these things, I am grateful to you. Yes, you out there in the ether. People say our culture is dying from lack of connection, and yet I feel more connected than ever. Merci beaucoup.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I'm crazy about soft-boiled eggs. I eat one just about every morning, which is how I got the idea to bake an egg inside the cavity of a butternut squash with a little bit of Tarentaise. Tarentaise is a sweet, nutty cheese from Spring Brook Hill Farm in Vermont, made by the same folks who produce Redding Raclette.
Today on the Di Bruno Bros. blog, I write about this cheese and offer a recipe for Eggs Tarentaise. It involves a few steps, but it's a fairly easy and very eye-catching dish. Here are a few photos of the process. To see the recipe, click here.
Friday, February 17, 2012
|Cheesemonger Ezekial Ferguson working with a customer at Di Bruno Bros.|
This week, I’m thinking about a question from a reader named Mia. She wants to live the golden dream -- to work in the cheese world as either a maker or a monger. She wrote to me asking how to gain experience. When I put the question out on Twitter recently, several cheesemongers fired right back: "Tell her to get a job at a cheese counter!"
For Mia and others who are sniffing along the dairy periphery, below are some useful resources. I should note that Mia has already explored some of these books and opportunities. She’s clearly a woman ahead of her time. I hope to meet her soon -- hopefully, over a stack of wheels.
Steven Jenkins, the man who launched Dean & DeLuca's cheese program, surveys European cheese and offers the expertise of an importer. His primer feels a little out of date now, but I still see dog-eared copies behind every cheese counter. His regional maps are essential to understanding terroir.
Artisanal's Max McCalman approaches cheese as a master taster. His book on the subject includes fascinating insights into animal husbandry, chemistry, and pairing principles. Best of all, he assigns specific cheese boards as homework so you can learn about milk types and aging periods in a very hands-on way.
Liz Thorpe, of Murray’s, taught the staff at The French Laundry how to serve cheese. Her book focuses on the cheese renaissance in America and highlights pioneering cheesemakers from California to Maine. She offers keen personal insights, and her "Cheddar Lexicon" is brilliant.
Fletcher writes about one cheese per week in The San Francisco Chronicle. Each column offers a glimpse into a new import or recent release. Read her for a year and look for the cheeses she recommends; her discoveries and pairing suggestions are spot on.
Make friends with a local cheesemonger.
Find a mentor in your community. Visit a local cheese shop regularly and ask to taste the cheeses that you read about. People who work in cheese generally love to share knowledge.
Go to bootcamp.
Check out the courses offered by Murray's and Artisanal next time you're in New York. These come highly recommended, and they’re the equivalent of an SAT prep class on the subject of cheese. In Philadelphia, Tria's Fermentation School leads the way in cheese education for enthusiasts. If you want a hardcore class for mongers, check out The Cheese School of San Francisco. If you want a class for makers, visit The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese (VIAC).
Get to know your local cheesemakers.
Visit farmers’ markets and ask cheesemakers about volunteer opportunities if you’re interested. Many makers hire interns, assistants, and market helpers.
Vacation in cheese states.
Wisconsin, California, and Vermont are the biggest cheese producers in the U.S. Make a pilgrimage along Vermont’s Cheese Trail or follow Wisconsin’s Cheese Map. All three states host annual cheese festivals. You can also go on a Vocation Vacation with a cheesemonger named Steve in Portland. Curious.
Attend the American Cheese Society (ACS) Conference
This is the equivalent of the Cheese Oscars, a show that everyone in the scene attends -- from cheesemakers to cheese retailers. Go! You’ll eat mountains of cheese and meet makers from all over the world. You can volunteer to offset the expense of the ACS Conference. The ACS recently developed a Cheesemonger Certification Exam, but you need documentable cheese experience to take it.
Apply for a job at a cheese counter
As long as you’re curious and willing to learn, you have the basic credentials to work at a cheese counter. Apply for a position and see where it takes you. Good Food Jobs is a useful resource for anyone searching for openings.
Friday, February 10, 2012
|Parsley Creswell's "Virtuous Salad," Photo by Linda Olle|
On the Upper East Side, in a breezy apartment, Parsley Creswell lives a cheese-inspired life. She has a parrot named Gougère, and she dates men with names like Mario Provolone (a renowned tenor). Of course, I’m making this up, or, well, Linda Olle is.
Linda Olle, a regular reader of this blog, pens faux gastro-memoirs – a genre she may have invented. The Upper East Side Cookbook: Main Course is the second book in a trilogy that she’s writing, a series that combines rich prose and even richer recipes: Haggis Meat Loaf, chocolate nib smoothies, Chartreuse à la Thomas Jefferson, and something called Virtuous Salad.
In the spirit of Ruth Reichl, Parsley Creswell eats her way around New York, but not as a writerly gastronome – no, Parsley is an eccentric ex-fashionista who wears corsets and collects exotic recipes. She’s Gretta Garbo with a splash of Ru Paul.
Here’s an excerpt:
With an expensive pair of birding binoculars around her neck, a gift from a swain, Parsely foraged in Central Park for mushrooms sprouting high up on a tree trunk….She placed her treasure in tissue paper and a recycled orange-and-white Zabars bag, then dined alone...
If there were a Grey Gardens cookbook, this would be it. Linda Olle has once again revived her enchanting heroine, Parsley Creswell, and this time we follow her through dumpsters, across Riker’s Island, and to Japan. With each episode, she becomes more complex, more tragic, and more quintessentially New York.
I relate to her upbringing: “…Parsley grew up in the Midwest and believed that she experienced a form of hypoglycemia if she didn’t get a constant infusion of calcium in the form of milk, cheese, or ice cream, especially in the winter.”
Giveaway: So that you can enjoy this curious odyssey -- and perhaps try your hand at Onion Pie or Angels on Horseback -- I’m giving away one copy of The Upper East Side Cookbook: Main Course. To enter, simply name the richest dish you’ve ever eaten. Get your comment in by Feb. 14, 2012. I’ll draw a winner the next morning.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
I never grew up eating Pecorino, but this winter it’s become my go-to cheese to serve with winter soups. The nutty flavor of this quintessential Italian specialty comes from sheep’s milk, and because it’s a rich, fatty cheese, a few curls shaved onto a broth adds beautiful dimension.
This week on the Di Bruno Bros. blog, I touch on several different Pecs and offer a recipe for Swiss Chard Soup. Full disclosure: Twice a month, I freelance for Di Bruno Bros., one of my fave cheese shops in Philadelphia. I pick out a cheese to feature on their blog, and I run a wee teaser here. The money I earn from this venture supports my dairy habit.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
With the economy in the toilette, it’s an awfully good year to be a loving spendthrift. Instead of bedazzling a sweater and going out on the town, I suggest you bedazzle some goat cheese and stay in with some Steely Dan.
It’s as easy as picking up these chevre hearts—available at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal—or making your own. Come on, you can find some fresh goat cheese and figure out how to press it between sheets of waxed paper for some easy molding. Pete Demchur of Shellbark Hollow rolls his cuties in fresh lavender buds and pink peppercorns, but you could roll yours in some paprika, craisins, or za'atar. That a grrrl, Martha.
Below, I've listed all the scrumptious sides you could ever want for a lover’s cheese board. Pick up some goat cheese, a weepy Brie, and a sweet hunk of Valdeon, then lock the door. Turn off all the lights, scramble for a candle, and feed your naughty cherub these tender morsels:
- Cherry preserves
- Spiced pecans
- Dark chocolate
Don’t forget to relax the cheese! What I mean is: while you’re taking a warm bath, leave the cheeses on the counter. You'll want to serve them at room temperature. Otherwise this whole exercise is pointless.
Cheese & Champagne Class: Bone up on the finer points of serving bubbly and Brie at a Cheese & Champagne Class at Di Bruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut St., on Friday, Feb. 10, at 6:30 p.m. The swarthy Richard-Luis Morillo will demo and discuss. Tickets: $20. For more info, call 215-665-1659 and ask for "Catering."