Saturday, March 30, 2013

You Can't Handle These Cheese Discoveries!

Why yes, I did some work for La Cave du Vin...
One feature of the change of management for Mission Hill Saloon (or, The Bar Formerly Known As The Unresolved Love Life Of Evelyn Lee, gasp, pant, *catches breath*) is the return of several "most favored beverages" to the bar:
  • Jack Daniels,
  • Luksusowa,
  • Powers (which admittedly SF Thieves reluctantly stocked the final month before the switch-over),
  • and Wine
Wine is a good thing to have at a bar, and good wine is an even better thing. So I have sacrificed a number of Friday happy hours, Saturday and Sunday afternoons "consulting" bar manager Tony Pope as to what exactly he should carry*.

* Actually, he buys whatever he feels like, I tell him whether or not I think it's crap, then I urge him to get something simple like Bogle Petite Syrah or even Big House Red.

Not bad, but not right for the cheese.
Saturdays you will often find me sitting at the bar with the regulars being served drinks and nuggets of wisdom by SF Thieves alum and member in good standing, Brother James (who also slings drinks at Thieves Tavern and Blind Cat**).

I had a couple glasses of the red before I decided it was not right for drinking with the cheese I had brought along from Rainbow, so I switched to the deadly "Orange Swirlie" (a name that has more meaning the morning after).

As usual, many thanks to the expertise of one Gordon Edgar*** in separating me from my money (but uniting me with excellent fromage).

** Anyone who actually believes the story told in this link... I have several items to sell you.

*** True story - shopping at the Cedar Center "Whole Foods" (I know, I know...), chatting with the cheese monger Jennifer over the merits of the Kunik and it turns out that she also knows Gordon. Everyone in the cheese world knows Gordon. This is a fact. (ETA - apparently they met pre-cheese. Yet, there they are: pushing cheese. Small world, either way.)

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Kunik is of course a triple-cream washed-rind cheese we previously encountered on our junket to upstate New York.

The Spring Brook Tarentaise Reserve (Spring Brook Farm) is a Vermont cheese made with milk from Jersey cows (this caused some confusion from at least one bar patron, who kept referring to it as a cheese from New Jersey - and I'm sure they make some fine cheese there, but, no). The cheese making is sponsored by a non-profit called Farms for City Kids.

Jersey, for what it's worth, is an Island off Normandy but under British control, where the breed of cattle by the same name are said to originate. Apparently the Garden State reminded the British of this pastoral island, and I am guessing that the current Jersey is not populated by steroided-out overgrown Oompa-Loompas with hair gel.

Back to the cheese: the Tarentaise Reserve is made through a process called "cheddaring", which when used as a verb describes the technique that the people of the the village of Cheddar use to make their well known (and oft imitated - badly) cheese. Cheddaring means using the weight of newer cheese blocks to weigh down on the older cheeses, compressing them. The effect is the cheese, after aging, has a flaked paste with a sharp flavor. This cheese may discolor - yellowing - but is not the bright orange of the so-called cheddar that plagues the supermarket.

Cheddar is in Somerset.

The cheese is sweet, nutty and spreads wonderfully across the palette. Aged for a full year, calcium and sodium crystals form within the paste of the cheese (as one would find in an aged Gouda). The cheese was a good compliment for tart and sweet fruit (apples and pears) and would have been best accompanies by a Bordeaux or a Oregon pinot noir (the California pinots are a bit sweet for my palette).

The Ziege Zacke Bleu is a Wisconsin cheese (marketed by LeClare Farms - although a product of collaboration), this time a dry jack (which is also "cheddared") that is then inoculated with mold spores and cave aged.

Pungent, grassy and a bit of the barnyard are high notes of this cheese - which also has a background of nutty caramel like the Tarentaise, this would be a good cheese for a big cabernet franc or petite sirah, or perhaps an hermitage (or it's California "equivalent", the "meritage").

Wisconsin is a pastoral place that probably resembles Somerset and Jersey of today, however I have only been to the former and not the latter. I can attest to long, foggy stretches of blue-green farmland and yes, lots of cows. Wisconsin also has Milwaukee, which is a pretty hip town and not at all cheesy. Maybe a little bit cheesy.

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Mission Hill Saloon
491 Potrero Street
San Francisco, CA

Thieves Tavern
839 Geary Road
San Francisco, CA

Blind Cat
3050 24th Street
San Francisco, CA

Rainbow Grocery Cooperative
1745 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA

Whole Foods Cedar Center
13998 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH

La Cave du Vin
2785 Euclid Heights Blvd
Cleveland Heights, OH

Nettle Meadow Farm
484 S Johnsburg Rd
Warrensburg, NY
12885, USA