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Cheesetique Now Open in Ballston

Local wine and cheese retailer and restaurant Cheesetique opened its third location today in Ballston, at 800 N. Glebe Road.

“This is our biggest physical location, so I am very hopeful the model will work for us,” said store owner Jill Erber. The original location opened 12 years ago in Del Ray and the second location opened in Shirlington, at 4056 Campbell Avenue, five years ago.

The Ballston menu is identical to the other two locations. The cheese shop carries cheeses and charcuteries from all over the world, for retail sale or for dining in. Dine-in menu items include mac and cheese, grilled cheese, salads and hearty sandwiches.

“Everything on the menu is intended to feature the cheeses,” said Erber.

The wine and beer list is selected to pair with the cheeses. One unique feature about the new location is that there will be a full bar, which will be opening later this year.

For this week only, Cheesetique will only be serving lunch from 11-3 p.m. Next week, the restaurant will start its normal hours, serving lunch and dinner from 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

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Morning Notes

Rainy February commute (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Cheesetique to Open in Ballston — Cheese-and-wine shop Cheesetique has signed a lease for the former Pizza Vinoteca space at 800 N. Glebe Road in Ballston. It’s Alexandria-based Cheesetique’s third location and its second in Arlington. Cheesetique opened in Shirlington in 2011. [Washington Business Journal]

Snow Forum Tonight — Amid a driving rainstorm, Arlington County will hold a public forum to gather feedback on its post-blizzard snow removal efforts. The forum is taking place starting at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of Key Elementary (2300 Key Blvd). Arlington received more than 3,000 responses to an online questionnaire about snow removal, most from the 22207 ZIP code and 46 percent saying they were dissatisfied. [Arlington County]

More on Snow Feedback — At the County Board meeting Tuesday afternoon, County Manager Mark Schwartz said many residents expected to see a plow on their neighborhood street within a day or two of the historic storm. “There seems to be a disconnect between people’s expectations and our resources,” he said. “We simply don’t have the resources to do that.”

Palette 22 Up and Running in Shirlington — Art-themed street food restaurant Palette 22 opened its doors on Monday. Defying those dubious about its theme and small plate offerings, Palette 22 was busy when ARLnow.com walked by Monday night. (The other two busy Shirlington restaurants Monday: Busboys and Poets and Guapo’s.) At 6,000 square feet, Palette 22 will have to keep packing them in even after the opening hype dies down. [Washington Post]

Hillary Clinton Event in Courthouse Tonight — Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign will be holding an event in Courthouse tonight with women’s health advocate Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Richards will talk about what’s at stake for women in this election and highlight Hillary Clinton’s proven record of standing up for women’s access to affordable reproductive health care regardless of income, race, or ZIP code,” said a press release. The event is taking place at Arlington Rooftop Bar & Grill (2424 Wilson Blvd) starting at 7 p.m.

Changes to Library Fines Proposed — Under a proposed change, Arlington Public Library’s daily fine structure for overdue materials would change — from 20 cents for children’s materials, 30 cents for adult written books and $1 for DVDs — to a flat 30 cents per day for everything. The flat rate structure would be similar to that of Fairfax County’s libraries and is expected to be a wash financially. [InsideNova]

Baseball Teams Joust at Barcroft Field — During a rain delay yesterday at Barcroft Field, the George Washington University baseball team and their opponents from Delaware State had a bit of a jousting duel, video of which was posted online. [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

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

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Your Cheesemonger: Jasper Hill Farm Takes Top Honor at Competition

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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.

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Your Cheesemonger: Understanding the Master of Milk

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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.

For Willi, the raw materials are absolutely the most important element of cheesemaking. He lives by the philosophy that only great cheese can come from great milk. Working with the area’s best farmers, he only uses milk of the highest quality. Willi examines the milk each morning by tasting it and only decides then which cheese recipe will best express the milk. He is very aware of the seasonal changes to the milk and isn’t afraid to adjust his production schedule because of these changes.

Just like the different wine varietals, each breed’s milk tastes different and, therefore, some of his cheeses are only made with a certain breed’s milk, and often only a particular herd of that breed. This kind of attention to detail reminds me of great winemakers but, in the world of cheese, this practice is almost unheard of.

I credit my experience and education at Arrowine for understanding the importance of raw materials and the effects of manipulation in regard to wine and cheese. My bosses Doug Rosen and Shemsedin Hassen consistently select wines that are an honest expression of the grape and land it grows on. I have heard them say over and over that, “Great wine is made in the vineyards.” It is not made with technology and especially not made by just creating a wine for the masses or the reviewers.

Similarly, the very best cheeses are an honest expression of their breed of animal, it’s milk, and the land it eats from. They are not heavily manipulated in the creamery or aging cellars. Great cheese is made in the fields, but it is also made by great farmers and cheesemakers.

Flammer, the author, said to me: “There is always tradition behind innovation.” This is what makes Willi Schmid so great — he has mastered the classics during his 28 year career and yet has risen to a higher level of artistry that we can all admire and enjoy.

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.

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Your Cheesemonger: Beecher’s NYC

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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

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Your Cheesemonger: Getaways for Cheese Lovers

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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.

American Cheese Society Conference; July 31- Aug 3, 2013 in Madison, WI

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the ACS Conference, a major milestone in American cheese. Cheese professionals from across the country come to attend workshops, seminars, and tastings during this four day cheese convention. There is also a cheese competition (last year there were over 1,700 entries), making this event the Oscars of the American artisanal cheese world. It culminates with a festival of cheese, a truly daunting yet delicious event.

These events are in no way limited to cheese professionals. Use them as an excuse to get out of town and elevate your foodie status from cheese lover to genuine curd nerd.

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.

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Your Cheesemonger: Blue Cheese

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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.

Roquefort

This very famous cheese was the first French cheese to gain AOC status and is only made by seven producers today. Made with raw sheep’s milk, this cheese can only be made in the region of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in France and must be aged in the natural Cambalou caves. This semi soft cheese has a very white paste with an open texture that allows the greenish blue mold to grow within. The flavor is distinctly strong and powerful with a peppery bite and salty finish. This is the most elegant of all blue cheese and is best enjoyed with a sweet white wine, such as Sauternes.

Buffalo BlueBuffalo Blue

The milk of only four water buffalo is used to create this amazing Swiss blue. Though these huge beasts look fierce and rugged, their milk is rich, sweet, and gentle. It makes the perfect backdrop to the sharp blue mold that marbles the interior and acts as a rind. This very rare cheese is quite special, give it a try if you ever come across it.

Monte Enebro

This unique Spanish blue, made with pasteurized goat’s milk, has a dense and thick paste. It is neither pierced nor does it have an open texture so the penicillium roqueforti grows only on the exterior of the cheese. The cheese has fun and bright flavors and can often taste tropical. Always taste before you buy this cheese, its window of perfection is small.

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.

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Your Cheesemonger: Washed Rind Cheeses

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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.

Various washed Rinds (photo by Katie Carter)Tomme au Jurancon

Hailing from the French Pyrenees, this firm, raw goat’s milk cheese is washed in a local Jurancon wine. Unlike the Loire Valley’s goat cheeses, this rarity has a deep flavor which reminds me of coffee or chocolate. The acidity and herbaceous qualities typical of most goat’s milk cheeses are there but it’s also nutty and slightly meaty.

Taleggio

Taleggio is a classic cow’s milk washed rind cheese from Lombardy, Italy. It is a perfect intro to the world of washed rinds. Washed in a brine solution, this cheese has a soft yet thick paste that is salty, creamy, and meaty. Try it in the next month or so and the cheese will have a hint of truffles.

Also look out for Grayson, Virginia’s most famous cheese. It is a beautifully funky raw cow’s milk cheese made seasonally on a small farm down in Galax.

Stay funky, Arlington!

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.

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Your Cheesemonger: Soft Ripened Cheeses

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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.

 

Bloomies_825x532Geotrichum rinds have less flavor, allowing the fresh milky flavors to shine. If made from pure goat’s milk, theses cheeses are usually higher in acidity with delicate herbaceous and minerally flavors. The best soft ripened goat’s milk cheeses are never overly “goaty”, a flaw attributed to poor farming and milk handling practices. This goatiness is actually a result of pheromones from the male bucks and can be controlled by keeping the does separated. Typically this style is made in small formats (usually about half pound) because goat’s milk curd is structurally weak. Pair soft ripened goat’s milk cheeses with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Northern Italians make a delicious style of cheese called Robiola. This is a very broad term that includes many single or mixed milk options. Some are even washed rinds but I prefer the mixed milk, bloomy Robiolas. A family-run company called Guffanti ages and exports many Piedmont Robiolas. The most striking Robiolas are wrapped in various leaves, including chestnut, cherry, or even cabbage. With age, these cheeses develop significantly stronger flavors than the pure goat’s milk bloomies, yet rarely reach the strength of a washed rind cheese. The Beermonger and I recently enjoyed this style with Tank 7, a delicious saison from Boulevard Brewing Company.

Enjoy your weekend, Arlington!

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.

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Your Cheesemonger: Building a Cheese Plate

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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 [email protected]. 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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Your Cheesemonger: Tasting and Enjoying Cheese

Arrowine

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

Cheesemaking (photo by Katie Carter)Cheese has been around for thousands of years not only because it provides us with so much nutrition but because it tastes so damn good. Like wine and beer, it offers a huge variety of aromas, flavors, and textures. And like wine and beer, there is a “proper” way of tasting cheese. But you don’t need to be a cheesemonger, or even a connoisseur, to taste like a pro. Here is a simple guide to fully enjoying your next bite of real cheese.

Step 1. Look.

You can learn a lot from a cheese just by its appearance. If there is one, look at the rind. Is it moldy? Wrinkly? Does it have a pattern? What color is the rind? Is the paste (interior) firm, runny, or pudgy? Again, what color is the paste? If it is naturally bright yellow, it’s most likely made from cow’s milk. A pure white paste tells you it is made from goat’s milk. Are there holes? Some holes in cheese are formed by gas, most are so-called “mechanical holes” that are just spaces between the curds. That tells you the curds were only pressed by gravity and not by external weight.

Cow (photo by Katie Carter)Step 2. Smell.

Most people don’t do this but go ahead, don’t be shy. Get your nostrils right up into it. Try not to mask the aromas with strong hand soap, perfume, etc. You can be broad or very specific in your observations. Is the aroma strong or mild? Would you describe it as earthy, fruity, nutty, or herbaceous? Try to dig deeper and identify that earthy quality. Does it smell mushroomy, like wet leaves, or like a Jersey cow barn? These are simply examples; trust your nose. Also, the aromas of a cheese may not correlate with the actual flavor. In other words, if a cheese aroma is quite strong, the flavors may not be. For example, Epoisses de Bourgogne has a pretty intense aroma (so strong it was banned from the Parisian metro) but its flavor is not overpowering.

Step 3. Taste.

And don’t rush it. Inhaling through your nose while chewing allows you pick up finer details. Keep in mind, there is an evolution of flavor. What you taste up front might change and finish with a completely new flavor. Again, be as broad or specific as you want. Does it taste nutty or taste like roasted hazelnuts? Fruity or peachy? Meaty or like roasted lamb? There are hundreds of flavors descriptors (e.g. grassy, caramel, metallic, vegetal) and even more words to modify those descriptors (e.g. strong, delicate, biting).

Always enjoy cheese at about room temperature. Cold temperatures conceal aromas and flavors, while altering textures. Take the cheese out of your refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you enjoy. Also, if you have bought a pre-cut piece of cheese, the plastic wrap may mask the flavor. Unwrap it and scrape a touch off of the surface where it touched the plastic. This is called “facing” the cheese. Cheesemongers will do this before giving samples at the cheese counter. If you really want to learn more, start taking notes. Record everything from colors to mouthfeel. Formaticum makes a nice journal.

Remember to convey your observations and preferences when at the cheese counter, it will really help your cheesemonger find you the perfect cheese. Have fun and let me know if you have any questions in the comments section.

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.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.

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Your Cheesemonger: Cheese 101

Arrowine

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

Cheese at ArrowineIn this column, I will be writing about real cheese. I do not care much for the processed, factory made “cheese food”. My passion is for authentic cheese made with fresh milk using traditional techniques. This kind of cheese is described as artisanal, meaning it is made by a skilled artisan. It is a fascinating subject that I know you will enjoy, too.

Cheese, simply put, is a food made from the coagulated proteins of milk. Tasty and nutritious pressed curds, basically. Throughout this column, I will show you that cheese is also more than that. Cheese is now a science, an art form, and an important culture. Every cheese is unique and every cheese tells a story.

Cheese was not invented by mankind, it was discovered. Milk is our first food but babies do not simply digest the milk; newborn stomachs actually turn that liquid nutrition into a more substantial form by coagulating the proteins and creating a semi-solid food. This food is digested slower and nutrients are absorbed better, increasing the baby’s chance of survival. This is also the case with the ruminant mammals we domesticated, which is how we discovered cheese.

Stomachs of young farm animals were once used for transporting milk long-distances. Enzymes within the stomach (chymosin, pepsin, and lipase) coagulated the milk during its journey and upon arrival, a wet, chunky mass was discovered. That is one theory of how we discovered cheese. Another possibility is that harvested milk was left by the fire one night and the warmth slowly coagulated the milk. The milk in both of those cases was most likely consumed, despite its odd appearance, and we realized that those chunky or gel-like forms seemed to keep us full for a longer period of time. Notably, it was also recognized as much gentler on our stomachs, as the people of the Neolithic times were most likely lactose intolerant and cheese contains very little lactose. Cheese became an important part of many early cultures, as it provided a long lasting form of vital nutrition.

Cheese has evolved since those early days of domestication. We now have thousands of varieties, yet the basic process of cheesemaking is the same today. We still coagulate milk using either enzymes, acid, or heat. Once the milk has coagulated and is in a gel-like state, it is cut or drained to release the liquid that is trapped in the protein matrix. This liquid is called whey, the solid pieces remaining are called curds. The curds are compacted together in a form and salt is applied in various ways. The cheese is aged for some time or consumed soon after production. It’s a simple craft that has spawned, over millennia, countless types and endless variations. Styles produced today include fresh, soft ripened (bloomy rind), washed rind, pasta filata, semi-soft, firm, blue, and flavored. Cheesemakers utilize the milk from goats, sheep, cows, water buffalo, donkeys, yak, moose, and even camels.

Cheese is constantly evolving. Right now, we are seeing a great revival in the cheese world. Traditional recipes lost to mass production are being rediscovered and innovation and creativity are blossoming. Cheese production and appreciation are growing even where cheese has never been a part of traditional diet, such as Japan and China. It is a great time to be a cheese lover! In this column, I will show you how to build a perfect cheese plate, tips on how to serve and store, and what to pair with your cheese. We’ll also get into the fun and geeky details of all sorts of cheese subjects- from the raw milk debate to the latest in cheese trends.

Until then, why not prepare a cheese plate at home? The following are some options that are tasting great this week. Keep in mind that cheese is alive, seasonal, and changes from batch to batch depending on various factors, such as the animals’ diet, time of milking, or the weather. That’s what makes artisanal cheese so special. Also, every palate is unique so you may not taste, for example, the “nuttiness” I describe. But that’s why cheese is fun, nobody is wrong in what they taste. Feel free to discuss the particular flavors and opinions of any cheese in the comments section.

Robiola Due Latte

A soft ripened cheese made with pasteurized sheep and cow’s milk from Piedmont, Italy. This is great option if you’re looking to move beyond typical Brie. The small, square shaped cheese is covered with a thin layer of bloom (edible white penicillium mold) that encases a very soft, elastic paste. It has a slightly earthy aroma and hints of a dairy farm. The flavor is mild, rich, and milky with just a bit of mushrooms.

Tomme Aydius

This unpasteurized (raw) goat’s milk cheese hails from the Valle D’Aspe in the French Pyrenees. The rind is a pretty pink hue, due to the frequent washings of the cheese, which encourages the growth of a specific (and completely edible) bacteria. The paste is firm with occasional holes. This a goat cheese for those who are skeptical of goat’s milk cheeses. While it does have a very slight flavor of goat’s milk, it is more herbaceous and nutty than anything else.

Berkswell

Made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk on a small farm in West Midlands, England, this aged, firm cheese is made in the style of the classic sheep’s milk cheeses of the Pyrenees. The aromas are biscuity and slightly lanolin-like, while the flavor is rich and nutty with a slight sweetness. It’s appearance is unique; the final cheese looks like a flying saucer due it being formed in colanders.

Jersey Blue cheese being made (photo by Katie Carter)Jersey Blue

This is my all-time favorite blue cheese. This modern beauty is made with unpasteurized Jersey cow’s milk by a very skilled and innovative cheesemaker, Willi Schmid. It is handcrafted in a small village in Switzerland, about an hour from Zurich. The organic milk is from a tiny herd of pampered cows that graze happily on very diverse and lush pasture. The cheesemaker uses a special technique to create this blue — it is not pierced as most blue cheeses are; this cheese is literally ripped apart in order to aerate the interior to allow the mold to grow. The resulting cheese has a gorgeous marbled pattern. Rather than overpowering it, the blue penicillium roqueforti mold compliments the rich and creamy cheese.

What are your favorite cheeses right now? Share in the comments section!

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.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.

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