I heard this morning with great sadness that Ig Vella of Vella Cheese (and the original owner of Rogue Creamery) died last night. One of the few elder statesmen in the evolution of both Californian cheese and the American artisanal cheese movement, Ig will be sorely missed for his incredible knowledge and perspective—not to mention his unique personality.
My first encounter with Ig was shortly after I moved to California from London, when I went to visit his cheesemaking facility in Sonoma. Upon arrival I was met by a large-framed, unsmiling man dressed in what I later learned were his trademark red suspenders and slightly-too-small paper hat. I was immediately intrigued – and smitten!
On this week’s installment of the Foraging Fairy (uhhh..) I’m running with my pasta making video debut and adding wild nettles for a robust, textural and, of course, healthy green pasta dish that can be accompanied with cheese and various other garden/ foraged treats.
Stinging nettles grow in the wild starting in early spring into the summer. (When you cook them the skin-irritating stingers dissipate so there’s no need to worry of indigestion). Although nettles aren’t as flavorful as ramps or asparagus they offer a lovely green color and texture similar to baby spinach or chard.
In LA this week, at the International Dairy, Deli & Bakery's annual convention, which draws doughnut-makers, mustard mongers, and, of course, cheese professionals from across the country and the world. This is a major industry-oriented event, so I was occupied mostly with the entirely humdrum and uninteresting chores the magazine demanded of me, like tasting Rouge et Noir's unreleased triple-cream brie with truffles:
And stalking poodle-skirted cheese-carver extraordinaire Sarah Kaufmann—note the earrings: