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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | September 6, 2013 at 8:30 am | 796 views | No Comments

Mariachi band at El Paso Cafe (photo courtesy ddimick)

Rosslyn Jazz Fest Street Closures — A number of lane and street closures will be in place for most of the day on Saturday for the 2013 Rosslyn Jazz Festival. The festival itself runs from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. The closures will be in place from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., in the area of Gateway Park. [Arlington County]

Road Closures for 9/11 5K Race — Several roads in the Pentagon City area, including parts for Route 110, Army Navy Drive, Washington Blvd and S. Joyce Street, will be closed Saturday night for the annual Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff Memorial 9/11 5K race. The closures will first go into effect at 5:45 p.m. [Arlington County]

‘Cheesemonger’ Katie Carter Profiled — Katie Carter, the cheesemonger for Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway), recently placed third in a national cheese contest. The honor was the culmination of the D.C. native’s nearly lifelong love of cheese and cheesemaking. (Now expecting her second child, Carter is taking a break from her “Your Cheesemonger” column on ARLnow.com.) [Washington Post]

Teen Tutors Needed — Affordable housing nonprofit AHC Inc. is again looking for volunteer tutors. AHC’s tutoring program has served at-risk teens in Arlington for more than 15 years. [AHC Inc.]

Flickr pool photo by ddimick

Your Cheesemonger: Jasper Hill Farm Takes Top Honor at Competition

by ARLnow.com | August 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

Jasper Hill Farm, the innovative and progressive farmstead cheesemakers and cheese agers out of Greensboro, Vermont have taken the coveted Best of Show award from the 2013 American Cheese Society Conference for their washed rind cheese, Winnimere. The competition was held in Madison, Wisconsin last week in conjunction with many cheese educational sessions and seminars.

Winnimere, a soft, raw cow’s milk cheese that’s wrapped in Spruce bark, bested over 1,700 other cheeses to take this top award. That sounds incredible but it doesn’t surprise this cheesemonger. Jasper Hill Farm is at the forefront of the American artisanal cheese movement and have deserved this honor for years. The enterprise was started in 2003 by brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler who wanted to created an honest and meaningful livelihood in a place where more farms were closing than thriving. They settled on raising Ayrshire cows and turning the milk into handcrafted farmstead cheese and by doing so, created a successful model for other local farms to follow.

Jasper Hill cheese cavesToday, Jasper Hill Farm is well known for its high quality and delicious cheese. Their lineup of cheeses is diverse and includes some produced with raw milk and some made only seasonally. Winnimere is one of their cheeses only produced with high fat and protein-rich winter milk, so unfortunately, we all have to wait a few more months to enjoy it again.

What makes Jasper HIll Farm so successful is their ability to constantly adapt and evolve. I have had the immense pleasure of tasting Jasper Hill Farm’s evolution over the years. Some cheeses, including one of my all time favorites, Constant Bliss, have sadly disappeared while others, including Winnimere, have greatly improved.

The farm is also known for their affinage (cheese aging) program and underground caves. In addition to aging their own cheeses in their 22,000 square foot caves, Jasper Hill brings in other farms’ cheeses so they may be professionally aged and properly distributed. This practice is almost unheard of in the States but is very common in Europe.

Lastly, the people of this farm are simply exceptional cheese professionals and care deeply about the growth of the artisanal cheese movement in the States. They are outstanding farmers, producers, and agers. If you come across their cheese, enjoy it knowing that it was made and aged by some of the most dedicated and skilled craftsmen in the country.

Katie Carter is Arlington’s first and only ACS Certified Cheese Professional. She has worked in the cheese industry for ten years as a cheesemaker, cheesemonger, and educator. She can be found on Twitter @AfinaCheeseThe views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Your Cheesemonger: Understanding the Master of Milk

by ARLnow.com | July 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

World famous Swiss affineur Rolf Beeler, the great Swiss cheese importer Caroline Hostettler, and the author of Fromages Suisses, Dominik Flammer, all say Willi Schmid is the best cheesemaker in Switzerland. But I needed to understand for myself, what makes him so great? After spending two weeks with Willi Schmid and his crew at Städtlichäsi creamery in Lichtensteig, Switzerland, I came to understand what makes this cheesemaker and his cheese so special.

Willi Schmid, a lifetime resident of the Toggenburg region of Switzerland, is a master at listening to the voice of the land and translating that voice into distinctive and ever-evolving artisanal cheese. His unprecedented creativity and a very broad knowledge of the science of cheese makes him one of the world’s leading cheesemakers. He has truly taken the craft of cheesemaking to a new level.

Jersey Blue cheese being made (photo by Katie Carter)Simply put, Willi Schmid combines innovation with tradition to create unique cheeses of the highest quality that also happen to be Swiss. But there is nothing simple about how Willi accomplishes this. His understanding of the milk of his region is unsurpassed and he knows how to transform a specific day’s milk into an appropriate cheese expression. He has largely broken free of the classic Swiss cheese types and creates many styles, from goat’s milk blues to pine bark-wrapped washed rinds; about 30 different kinds in all. Though some of these styles are new to Switzerland, they are completely terroir driven; conveying the personality of each milk, the season, and the land.

Willi Schmid thinks and operates and on a very intense level. In the creamery, he moves fast and in an exacting manner, while juggling three to five recipes at one time in his head, using only his nose and palate, a thermometer, and 28 years of experience to guide him.

Before 9:00 a.m. this man has received milk from a few local farmers, driven to get local milk, driven the whey to local pigs, and made not just one great batch of cheese, but about four different kinds. They are all made with raw or thermised (gently pasteurized) milk from Brown Swiss and Jersey cows, goats, sheep, and even four beautiful water buffalo. After using very unique and innovative techniques in the creamery, the bare minimum is done in the caves in order to let the milk shine. There is little blue mold or white bloom and no heavy washed rinds.

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Your Cheesemonger: Beecher’s NYC

by ARLnow.com | July 12, 2013 at 11:45 am | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

On a recent trip to Manhattan, I found myself in a hairnet scrubbing my hands and arms over a knee-operated stainless steel sink. A moment later soapy, hot water rushed under my shoes. I was in the sanitary “make room” of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a Seattle-based producer of artisanal cheese, with Dan Utano, the head cheesemaker and Colleen Levine, author of the cheese blog, Cheese and Champagne. Dan generously gave us a tour inside New York’s most ambitious creamery and some insight into the challenges and rewards of making cheese in the country’s most populated city.

Cheese production at Beecher's in New York City (photo courtesy Colleen Levine)Every other morning, a tanker truck full of fresh, raw milk heads into the the Flat Iron district of Manhattan from two farms, Dutch Hollow and Ooms Dairy, originating just outside of Albany. After about two hours of pumping the milk into the enormous holding tank, pasteurization of the milk is underway. The milk is then pumped into large rectangular open vats where the liquid milk is slowly and carefully transformed into solid curds.

The process is slow and methodical. Each step, from acidifying the cheese with cultures to “cheddaring” (the long process of draining whey from stacked curds), is executed with exacting precision by passionate artisans. What’s special about this creamery is that anybody can watch the magic happen. The walls of this creamery are glass and everybody walking past can get a glimpse of this ancient craft.

Cheese production at Beecher's in New York City (photo courtesy Colleen Levine)Beechers creates six cheeses in this spotless, modern creamery. Though production focuses mostly on various cheddars, Dan, a former cheesemonger, recently developed Flat Iron, a young and supple washed rind cheese loosely based on Taleggio. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is a serious name in the industry — Flagsheep, a sheep and cow’s milk blend made in their Seattle location, took the Best of Show award in last year’s American Cheese Society competition.

The logistics of city cheesemaking are tricky; production is large though not enormous. At the time of my visit, they were only up to half capacity. But how does the creamery handle issues such as disposal of whey, a nutritious by-product of cheesemaking? Dan explained that they wanted to comply with the city’s regulations by not simply dumping thousands of pounds of whey each day into the city’s sewers. Their solution? Give it back to the farmers. The two farms use the whey for feed and fertilizer. A perfectly sustainable solution.

On your next visit to New York, consider stopping by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. In addition to the creamery, they have a well stocked cheese counter and a comfortable restaurant.

Wondering how I did in the Cheesemonger Invitational? Your Cheesemonger won third place! I dedicate this great honor to Aldo Molina, my dear friend and fellow cheesemonger who passed away last year.

Katie Carter is Arlington’s first and only ACS Certified Cheese Professional. She has worked in the cheese industry for ten years as a cheesemaker, cheesemonger, and educator. She can be found on Twitter @AfinaCheeseThe views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Photos by Colleen Levine

Your Cheesemonger: Getaways for Cheese Lovers

by ARLnow.com | June 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm | 378 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

Winter is, by far, the busiest season for cheesemongers. Holidays and family gatherings call for great food and cheese is always invited. The quieter summer months, on the other hand, allow cheese professionals to visit farms and creameries, attend cheese conferences and food shows, and compete in cheese competitions.

Events like these elevate our appreciation and knowledge of handmade cheese and help propel cheese to higher levels through the sharing of ideas and information. To a cheese professional, there’s nothing better than geeking out with other pros and enjoying many new cheeses, all while pondering the future of cheese. We come back to the cheese counter refreshed, full of insight, and ready to take on the next busy season. Here are just three out of many events coming up soon.

4th Annual Cheesemonger Invitational; June 29, 2013 in Long Island City, NY

This Saturday, hundreds of cheese professionals and lovers will flock to a cheese warehouse in Long Island City, NY for this annual cheesemonger competition. Cheesemongers from across the country (even a cheesemonger from Hawaii!) will compete for the title of best cheesemonger. Battles include an exam, crafting a “perfect bite”, and creating a beverage and cheese pairing on the fly.

This event, held by cheese importer Adam Moskowitz, is really more cheese insanity than a formal competition. It is a party, a friendly competition, and a celebration of the art of selling amazing cheese. And, yes, Your Cheesemonger will be there competing and mingling with her fellow mongers and makers. You can follow the competition on twitter @afinacheese or @larkin4life.

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival; July 21, 2013 in Shelburne, Vermont

This all-day festival, held at the historic Shelburne Farm, features over 40 Vermont cheese producers, as well as other Vermont food artisans. In addition to sampling handcrafted cheese, guests can attend cooking and cheesemaking demos and sit in on a few cheese related workshops. Though I have never been, I am sure Vermont is an absolutely beautiful escape from the D.C. region’s sweltering summer heat.

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Your Cheesemonger: Blue Cheese

by ARLnow.com | June 14, 2013 at 11:45 am | 575 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

The story of blue cheese is the story of the balance between great milk and the blue penicillium mold, our attempts to control the two, and the pleasure we experience when it’s done right. A happy accident led to the discovery of this special category of cheeses.

RoquefortThe tale goes that a young shepherd left his lunch of bread and cheese near the natural caves of Cambalou in the Roquefort-sur-Soulzon region of France. When he returned to fetch his food a few days later, he discovered his cheese had grown mold. Not wanting to waste his food, the shepherd ate the moldy cheese, which turned out to be delicious! By leaving his cheese to grow mold (penicillium roqueforti) native to that very particular cave, this shepherd inadvertently created the very first Roquefort cheese.

Today, almost all of the blue cheese produced around the world are made using the cultivated mold from these special caves. It is usually added to the milk in liquid form before coagulation but some cheesemakers still use a powdered version. The blue-green mold needs air to grow, so most blues are either pierced with needles or have a very open texture (air pockets) where the mold forms. Willi Schmid is the only producer I know of that creates an intentional pattern by splitting the cheese with a knife a few weeks after production.

The best blues are not overpowered by the flavor of the mold. The cheese and mold should harmonize and work together to create a unique, yet balanced, experience. Blues are naturally stronger in flavor than most other cheeses but not all blues are intense. They can range from very buttery with a slight spice to incredibly bold and acidic. Queso Cabrales is the strongest blue I have come across. Some people love it; I find it way too strong to eat on its own.

Stilton

StiltonDating back to the 18th century, Stilton is England’s most famous blue cheese. It was described in the early 1720’s by author Daniel Defoe as, “English Parmesan, and is brought to the table with the mites or maggots round it so thick that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.” Fortunately, maggots are no longer present in the blue cheese and is enjoyed instead with a glass of port. Though it is a classic winter cheese, Stilton can be enjoyed throughout the year. Made today only with pasteurized cow’s milk, it is buttery and rich while the blue veining adds a pleasant acidity. Look for Stilton made by the Colston Bassett creamery, the best and oldest Stilton producer.

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Your Cheesemonger: Washed Rind Cheeses

by ARLnow.com | May 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm | 473 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

When you walk into a cheese shop and that very particular odor hits your nose, you are most likely smelling the group of cheeses we call the washed rinds. Unlike the gentle fresh and bloomy rinds, this class of cheese offers a wide range of bold, earthy aromas and flavors. We can thank the European monks, specifically the Benedictines, for these whiffy creations.

These monks were part of an order that required a life of hard work, self sufficiency, and poverty. Beer became an important part of that life, as well as dairy farming and cheesemaking. The cheeses they developed often integrated their own beer. After production of a simple rennet coagulated soft or semi-soft cheese, the monks washed the wheels with their beer, a simple brine solution, or distilled spirits.

Cheese washing (photo by Katie Carter)The process of continually washing the cheese attracts a common (and edible) airborne bacteria to the surface, growing as a reddish and sticky “smear”. This bacteria, brevibacterium linens, is responsible for this style of cheese’s characteristic aroma and red rind. It also happens to be responsible for smelly feet, which is why people associate this style of cheese with old socks or funky body odors.

Before you get all grossed out, let me state that the aroma of these cheeses are usually much stronger than the actual taste of the cheese (and, again, the rind is perfectly edible).

Today, washed rind cheeses can be made by any cheesemaker as the bacterial linens are commercially manufactured, allowing for better consistency from batch to batch. Most cheesemakers will inoculate the milk with this culture, as well as add it to the brine solution during washing.

Bergfichte

This raw cow’s milk cheese is made by my favorite cheesemaker, Willi Schmid, in Lichtensteig, Switzerland. It is a soft cheese wrapped in spruce bark from local trees. The cheese has an aroma of rosemary and pine due to the bark, with only a slight hint of farmy funk. The rich, creamy paste is in perfect balance with the other elements of this cheese. The Swiss taught me a very cool trick to enjoying this cheese: eat it backwards. Peel off the bark and eat the cheese from the outside in and you will get the full piney goodness that makes this cheese so wonderful.

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Your Cheesemonger: Soft Ripened Cheeses

by ARLnow.com | May 10, 2013 at 11:00 am | 534 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

Spring is here and it’s a perfect time to enjoy supple, soft ripened cheeses. Also known as “bloomy rind”, this family of cheese is characterized by their soft texture and white rind. These cheeses are easy to enjoy and a perfect introduction into the world of cheese. The most famous of this style is Brie, a French cheese that is copied everywhere. Though production dates back to the eighth century, makers of traditional Brie were slow to designate (a form of copyright) the cheese and the name Brie can be used by cheesemakers anywhere.

Meaux_619x619Unfortunately, Americans cannot enjoy the authentic Brie de Meaux or Brie de Melun here in the States, but makers of the real cheese usually make a pasteurized version for export. (Our laws say that raw milk cheeses must be aged for at least 60 days before sale and Brie is younger.) Cheese producer Rouzaire makes an excellent “Fromage de Meaux” and sometimes fabulous “Brie Fermier” arrives in the States. The flavors of these cheeses are creamy, mushroomy (due to the penicilium candidum rind), and the best have a distinct broccoli quality.

Do not limit yourself to Brie! There are hundreds of other excellent soft ripened cheeses. For a luscious treat, explore the world of cream-enriched cheese. Usually made with cow’s milk, these cheeses are sinfully delicious. A snowy white bloom (we can thank the French for coming up with the term “bloom” which refers to the growing fungus) encases a very soft and spreadable interior. The flavors can range from mild and buttery to farmy and more acidic. Look for Brillat Savarin, Pierre Robert, or Fromager D’Affinois. Pair these with a dry, white sparkling wine, such as Champagne or Prosecco.

Some of the best soft ripened cheeses are made from goat’s milk or a combination of milks. I am especially partial to the classic Loire Valley goat’s milk cheeses. Valancay, St. Maure, and Chabichou du Poitou are wonderful examples. Their rinds are a bit different from the Bries and double/triple cremes cheeses. Instead of the thick white penicillium candidum mold, these rinds are a fungus called geotrichum candidum. This rind is thinner and very wrinkly, resulting in a brainy appearance. They often have a layer of vegetable ash beneath the rind, which helps control acidity.

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Your Cheesemonger: Building a Cheese Plate

by ARLnow.com | April 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm | 760 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Katie Carter, cheesemonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

A cheese plate doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as one boss cheese paired with the perfect wine or a flight of various cheeses. Building a cheese plate should never be a daunting task. It’s fun, easy, and takes no time at all. By all means, choose the cheeses that you (or guests) like but try to keep a few things in mind before plating.

Mix up textures. Unless you are going for a theme that will dictate texture (i.e. aged pecorinos), you should try to vary the textures from soft to firm. There’s a huge range of textures in cheese so this is relatively simple. If you have a super runny or goopy cheese, contain it so it does not get too messy and provide a spoon.

Include different milk types. For a nice range of flavors, choose at least three out of the four options we have here in the States: goat, cow, sheep, or water buffalo. There are many blends out there, too.

Offer cheese of various origins. Again, unless you have a country theme (i.e. all French), try to pick cheeses from many sources. These days it is very easy to find cheese from many countries.

Plate the cheeses in order of strength of flavor. You never want to start with a blue or washed rind style, which will overpower the flavors of anything gentler. Provide a separate serving tool for each cheese to keep the cheeses clean and flavors separated. If you are choosing one wine or beer to pair with the whole plate, pick something that’s relatively friendly to all of them.

Fresh or dried fruit (other than citrus), nuts, olives, and bread are all great accompaniments. You can also serve honey, chutneys, jams, or preserves on the side.

Here’s what I am enjoying this week (all pictured):

Cheese (Photo credit: Steve Lee)Moses Sleeper

This pasteurized Ayrshire cow’s milk cheese comes from one of the most innovative cheesemakers in the States, Jasper HIll Farm. In the soft ripened style, this cheese has a fresh milky flavor complimented by mushrooms.

Cabra Raiano

A soft, pudgy goat’s milk cheese from central Portugal. This is a “torta” style cheese made by coagulating fresh milk with the cardoon thistle, a naturally vegetarian coagulant. The final cheese is rich and vegetal with a thick, creamy mouth feel.

Cinerino

A semi soft, raw sheep’s milk cheese from Castelcivita in southern Italy. This supple cheese offers clean hay and lanolin flavors. An excellent example of a well made Italian pecorino.

Holzhofer (Photo credit: Steve Lee)Holzhofer

This aged, raw cow’s milk cheese is absolutely beautiful. Aged for eight months, this cheese is big and bold! Made by a third generation cheesemaker in north eastern Switzerland, Holzhofer is rich, nutty, and complex. As a bonus, the firm, dense paste has those lovely crunchy protein crystals.

Show me your plate! Construct a cheese plate, take a decent pic, and send it to kcarter@arrowine.com. I’ll try to include it in the next column. Have a great weekend!

Katie Carter is Arlington’s first and only ACS Certified Cheese Professional. She has worked in the cheese industry for ten years as a cheesemaker, cheesemonger, and educator. She can be found on Twitter @AfinaCheeseThe views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Photo credit: Steve Lee

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