Rene Weber had just finished his eight-year cheese mastership program in Switzerland when he saw a newspaper blurb about a Wisconsin cheese company that wanted to make Gruyère. It was 1991. He hopped on a cargo ship in Antwerp that took him to Montreal, where he got in a car and drove to Monroe, Wisconsin, and knocked on the door of the Roth Käse cheese company. “It’s such a cliché,” he says, laughing. They hired him to make a Gruyère-style cheese, and so began the journey that brought us Emmi Roth USA’s Grand Cru Surchoix, the cheese that won third-place Best of Show at this year’s ACS competition.
The village of Peralillo in Chile’s verdant Valle Central has so few buildings that you might miss it driving past at even moderate speed. Yet on the strength of a novel bonding of Chilean wine with queso fresco (fresh farmer’s cheese), a dozen pioneering women here have put Peralillo dead center on Chile’s map of culinary innovations.
They had inspiration: It was less than 30 years ago that Chilean wines were a rarity on the international market. Today dozens of Chilean vintages with excellent reputations are exported to 90 countries on five continents, and eight out of every ten grapes we consume in the United States were harvested there as well. So why not expect the same daring success with cheese?
Be sure to accompany this savory dish with some good crusty bread for mopping up the sauce. Read more about Paul Virant and his restaurants in Relish the Season.
This past year, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) put up a series of billboards in Albany, New York, displaying a man’s belly bulging over his belt, captioned “Your Abs on Cheese,” and another of a woman’s large dimpled legs, captioned “Your Thighs on Cheese.” Their point? “Cheese is loaded with fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories,” states PCRM. “It should come with a warning label.” PCRM president Dr. Neal Barnard has repeatedly called cheese “dairy crack.” The Washington D.C.–based group, which aggressively promotes a vegan diet for Americans, targeted Albany because more than half of its adult residents are overweight or obese; they put similar billboards in Wisconsin, the cheesemaking epicenter of the United States.
This grand cake has three layers of creamy citrus-spiked mascarpone filling sandwiched between dark chocolate cake, all topped with a rich ganache glaze.
For the Cake:
It takes serious upper body strength to make Crema de Blue at Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey. Each batch of curd is stirred by hand, a decision made last year by owner and cheesemaker Eran Wasjwol (pronounced wise-wall). “We stir with our hands deep in the vat, which preserves curd structure and gives us nice round, fat curds that act better once in the matrix [of the finished cheese],” he explains.
Written by Kristin Vukovič
Photography by Stipe Surac
In hand-painted red block letters, the sign on the crude wooden farm gate reads: Oštar Brav! “What does it mean in English?” I ask Martina Pernar, who heads marketing at the largest cheese factory on this Croatian island known as Pag. “It is a joke,” she says, chuckling as we walk through one of the pastures. “It means ‘Dangerous old sheep!’” I stare at the seemingly benign animals, all huddled together. “Don’t worry,” she says. “They are tough, but they don’t bite.”
What’s more decadent than traditional fudge? How about handcrafted fudge made with fresh goat’s milk? Michael Amen, founder of Ugly Goat Milk Company in Parker, Colorado, shares his recipe— passed down from his great-aunt—which has earned a cultlike following in the four years he’s been making it on his farm. The sweet treat is a staple on the cheese plate at Denver hot spot Linger, and Amen cops to producing more than a hundred pounds each holiday season.
Peek inside Chicago chef Paul Virant’s winter pantry and you’ll find a panoply of root vegetables, meats, and dairy. “That makes it Midwestern,” says Virant, owner of the celebrated Vie restaurant in the city’s suburb, as well as its sister eatery Perennial Vie. “But it has a lot of European inspiration behind it. We’re fortunate that a few of our local farmers have greenhouses, so we can get baby greens, fennel, and herbs. But the food is heavier on protein . . . we use cheese to add richness.” When it comes to cooking with cheese, the chef admits, “I have to hold back in the restaurant, or it would be in everything.”
When you want a little elegance to end the meal, try this classic golden jellyroll cake filled with a lovely pink spiral of fruit-sweetened mascarpone.
Heat oven to 375ºF. Coat a 151/2 x 101/2 x 3/4-inch jellyroll pan with nonstick spray. Line with wax or parchment paper. Coat the paper with nonstick spray; dust with 1 tablespoon cake flour. In a small bowl whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup cake flour and baking powder.