Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rocco the Cheesemonger


This week on my post for Di Bruno Bros., I interview Rocco Rainone, a guy who is probably Philadelphia's most active cheesemonger on Twitter. He masquerades as TomaDellaRocco, which is funny if you traffic in cheese (there's a mixed-milk called Toma Della Rocca).

Surprisingly, Rocco doesn't tweet about dairy very often -- you'll find him chirping about about bacon, saison, darts, Pauly Shore sightings, and what he's cooking. When he's not behind the counter at the Di Bruno Bros. on Chestnut Street, he's often at McCrossen's Tavern, where he hosts monthly cheese tastings.

After our interview, I set off to try Rocco's favorite cheese, Ticklemore. He called this his "final wish" cheese when I asked him to plan a Last Supper cheese board. Ticklemore, a British goat triple-creme, was glorious -- I'd never tasted it before. After I tried it, I could see why this was his fave...but you should really hear him describe it. 

Check out Rocco's interview over at The Di Bruno Blog.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Yellow Springs Delivers: Week 2 & 3


Earlier this summer, I promised to post about my goat cheese CSA. Well, Week #2 and #3 have been delivered and devoured. It's time to report from the doorstep. Here are the recent arrivals.

The highlight of Week #2 from Yellow Springs Goat Dairy was a new cheese called Iron Spring (below, middle). This rusty looking wheel was rubbed with paprika and dried herbs, which are grown on the farm.


Al and Catherine Renzi don't just make cheese, they grow plants -- native plants. Their native plant nursery contains over 200 species, along with a variety of fresh herbs, like oregano and Spanish paprika. Native? Probably not, but delicious and beautifully incorporated into this cheese. It reminded me of a soft ricotta salata with a hint of warm spice.

Iron Spring is a perfect example of a flavored cheese where the flavor serves as an accent, rather than an overpowering gesture. I liked the clean taste of this cheese, which was bright but mild, with just a nudge of heat.

The week's batch also came with a tub of Italian herb chevre. We crumbled it over a fresh strawberry salad, lightly dressed with two of my favorite new cupboard staples: raspberry vinegar and good Spanish olive oil, from Alhema. They're a bit spendy, these two, but you don't need more than a splash of each to buck up a little ol' salad.



Goat Cheese CSA, Week 3


Week 3 brought a gorgeous aged raw-milk goat cheese, called Spring Fever. She had such a pretty rind and so many subtle grassy notes, I had to pack her up for a car trip with Paul Lawler (cheesemonger) and Mike Geno (cheese artist).




We enjoyed Iron Spring with a series of beers at Victory Brewing. Paul, who has a palate of gold, promptly sniffed this beauty and called out, "Ahh, egg whites." I'd never looked for creamy egg-white notes before, but there they were. That's the beauty of breaking cheese.

To top off our farm-to-table experience, we dropped by Yellow Springs Farm for an open house that evening and got a chance to see the goats who provided the milk. We also caught Al and Catherine Renzi feeding their kids.



The next batch of CSA cheeses arrive this week. In the meantime, if you know of anyone looking for some goat interaction, here are some opportunities at or near Yellow Springs Farm in Chester County, PA:

We currently have 3 job opportunities available at Yellow Springs Farm. The first opportunity is a part-time goat milker to pick up 3-4 shifts per week. We milk twice a day at 7:00am and 5:00pm. Each milk shift lasts 2 hours and includes goat milking, filling water buckets, mucking stalls and feeding hay.
We are also seeking an intern for the 2nd half of the season starting in August through December, Duties will include goat herd management, goat milking, cheesemaking, nursery management and general farm duties.
The third job opportunity is a part-time position at Lundale Farm. We will be leasing space for our goat herd and we are looking for someone that lives in the Route 100 corridor between RT 401 and Rt 422. We will be keeping a small herd of goats there. They will require daily inspection, feeding and water through mid-November. This is about 3 hours per week.
If you or anyone you know may be interested in either part-time opportunities or our internship, please contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to elaborate further.
-- Catherine Renzi (

Friday, June 24, 2011

Goat: Four Courses at Fork


Look at these two cuties. They’re Bruce Weinstein (right) and Mark Scarbrough, the authors of 18 cookbooks, including my latest fave, Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese. On Friday, they descended from the Berkshires to eat and greet at Fork, where Chef Terence Feury took on an all-goat challenge. Four courses. Goat, goat, goat, goat.


You may recall that two weeks ago, I attempted a similar feat. I met toughness and fatigue, but it was great fun. My friends have heard me gush about Goat, and so they joined me for dinner out. Party of seven. What a treat.


“I always say that goat tastes like a cross between pork and dark meat on a turkey,” Weinstein said as we tucked into our beautiful braise – a succulent round of rolled goat meat, served on a bed of bitter greens.


Bruce’s description was perfect. The meat was buttery, tender as turkey, but the texture called to mind roast pork. (Pork+Turkey=Porkey?) The flavor wasn’t the least bit gamy. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would have bet both my arms that I was eating pulled pork.


Why eat goat? According to Weinstein and Scarbrough, most people do. In fact, 70% of the red meat eaten in the world comes from goat. It’s lean and healthy, and the same goes for goat milk/cheese – it’s much easier to digest than cow’s milk, and it has 13% more calcium and 137% more potassium.


At Fork, Chef Feury made a beautiful soft goat cheese to top some gnocchi. But the best course of all was the goat yogurt panacotta. Gorgeous. Light as cloud cover.


Have you ever eaten goat in a restaurant? Or do you cook with goat’s milk or goat meat? Do tell. Turns out I'm not just a goat-cheese lover. I love it snout-to-tail as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cheeses of the Field


This is a scene from Friday's tasting at the home of Sue Miller, maker of some of the finest raw milk cheese in Pennsylvania. I've bought Sue's cheese for several years -- her Birchrun Blue and Red Cat are household favorites. Usually, I eat them at my dining room table. What a treat it was to eat at Sue's table, in the meadow behind her pasture.

Her house in Chester County is the kind of place that makes you want to abandon your laptop and curl up with a book on her porch. Or in the swing across the road.



I wanted to do just that, but I had cheese to eat. And candied bacon. Paul Lawler of Fair Food Philly (right) and Sue Miller (left) know how to plan wicked schemes.


Plus, Jean Broillet IV was on the scene, pouring something called Blood Root.


It was a great pairing, alongside Sue's cheeses. Then someone pulled out a jar of brandied cherries. You know how I have a thing for cherries and blue.


I don't think I have ever been to a more convivial gathering. Or a prettier one. Just before solstice. With Holsteins grazing at sunset. And cheese lovers carrying on like children who have just discovered fireflies.





Many thanks to Sue and her family for so much hard work. For the milking. For the planning. For walking through the mud to make good cheese happen.




Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lady C's Salmon Melts



This summer, I have taken boarders. The Inn at Maison Fromage is now occupied by an additional pair of cheese lovers, Lady Cheddarly and Lady Spreadable -- good friends who are relocating to the area for jobs. The best part of this new arrangement? Shared dinners.

Let me give you an account of a recent supper prepared by Lady Cheddarly. She took on our burgeoning cheese drawer and created this twist on a Fishtown favorite, the tuna melt. In place of tuna, she used canned wild Alaskan salmon from Trader Joe’s. I had to remove my mental frown when she described it to me – it sounded heavy and potentially too fishy in flavor. On the contrary. This meal won Favorite New Recipe of the Week at our house.

The key? Lemon zest. And good companions.


Lady C’s Salmon Melts
Serves 4, with leftovers

  • 2 cans (14.75 oz. each) Wild Alaskan salmon, Trader Joe’s Brand
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • ¼ cup minced purple onion
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 8 slices multigrain bread
  • 8 slices cheddar

1. Drain salmon.
2. Combine salmon, lemon juice and zest, mayo, onions and parsley in a bowl. Stir with a fork until well-combined.
3. Toast bread.
4. Spread salmon mixture onto toasted bread and top with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees, or until cheese is melted.

Friday, June 17, 2011

An All Goat Dinner Party


It all started with a new cookbook: Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. It got me thinking, why not host a caprine celebration? After all, it’s summer. And so far, it’s been goat oriented – from my reading list to my goat cheese CSA. So, I invited my closest friends over on Saturday to help me prepare an all goat blow-out.

The Prep

“Goat is the world’s primary meat,” Mark Scarbrough writes in his introduction. So, off we went to meet some butchers. We saw kangaroo. Crocodile heads. And we met some cranky old goats. But no goat meat.



Four butcher shops later, we landed at Esposito's in Philadelphia’s Italian Market. At the counter, a kid with a buzz cut held up a bag of cubed, frozen meat. “This is all the goat we have,” he shrugged. And so I paid my three dollars and change per pound and dreamed of my pretty feast.

If I had been smart, I would have planned ahead and ordered fresh goat. Ah well. Call it my a caprine learning curve.

Next, our friend Matt sleuthed out some goat’s milk at Whole Foods. He called dibs on making goat paneer. Bless his heart. What other house guest comes to town and offers to curdle milk in your kitchen? I felt such adoration.

After a morning of Philly foraging, we rode home in a taxi, carrying bags of provisions.
We killed off a few pastries for lunch, then did some goat milk shots. Good stuff. Happy faces all around.




Then the paneer-making began in earnest. Matt boiled a gallon of goat’s milk, and when it started to smell cooked, he squeezed some limes into it. After curds formed, I watched him press out the whey, then form it into a cake. 




By then the goat cubes were thawed, and full-on marination began, using a recipe from Goat, which includes a bevy of terrific-sounding recipes, from goat cheese danishes to chicken-fried goat with goat milk gravy. 

Goat meat flies “under our radar,” Scarbrough writes in his cookbook. “It’s got an earthiness that stands up well in deep braises and sophisticated stews – and even on the grill.” Because goat isn't popular in the U.S. (yet), it’s pristine as far as meat goes. “There are no hormones approved for goat production,” according to Scarbrough, “and few antibiotics to boot.”

Plus, goat is much lower in fat than any other meat -- compare 5.2 grams of fat per 6 oz. serving of goat to 12.6 grams in chicken, 15.8 in beef, 16.4 in pork, and 5.8 in lamb. Goat meat is lower in cholesterol, too. Humdinger.

The Party


Course #1: We started the night with an award-winning puck of Montchevre goat Brie from Belmont, WI. It was personally lugged home in ma suitcase from Madison, and I was glad to let the cheese state represent. This Mini Cabrie came highly recommended by Stuart Mammel, the cheesemonger at Willy Street Co-op. Hat tip, please.


For our beverage service, Monsieur Fromage – once a bartender – prepared backyard mint mojitos. 



Course #2: Biryani with marinated goat paneer in yogurt sauce. Astonishingly good, though not very pretty (hence, no photos). Even the dog wimpered. The paneer was creamy and dense, not rubbery. I liked that Matt used limes in his paneer, rather than lemon juice. It gave the cheese a delicate, floral quality.

Course #3: Goat skewers with herb sauce and grilled vegetables. Friends, I take full blame for buying lousy goat meat. Most of it was tough as a naugahyde banquette, but very flavorful. Next time, I will pre-order goat or butcher the billy myself. The few tender bits were wonderful, and the marinade was so good -- packed with scallions, cilantro, and cardamom -- that we reserved some as a bread dip.




Now the Good News

Just as I was sitting down to write about this post, I saw an ad for an all-goat feast with, would you believe, the authors of this cookbook? The details are below. I, for one, am going. If you live in the Philadelphia area, please join me. I am told there will be goat gnocchi, roasted goat, and house-made aged goat cheese. Oh, I swoon. 

If you live elsewhere, check out the authors' food blog. Their passion for goat is infectious, and I have a feeling they're at the forefront of a whole new meat wave.

Wed., June 22, $45/person
306 Market St., Philadelphia
tix: 215.625.9425