My first, and most lasting impression of Savenor's Market in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, was their meat cooler. Yak steaks, ostrich burgers, rattlesnake - it's not the same selection of products found at say, Shaw's. And while its menagerie of meats might grab attention first, its cheese selection is not to be overlooked, and packs as many surprises.
On a wall before checkout, blocks of cheese stand like soldiers in tightly packed columns, marked by index cards penned by neat handwriting. This selection has been curated by Diana Deming, who is in her third year of cheesemongery at the market. Under Deming's tutelage, you will be hard pressed to find a Kraft Single or string cheese.
"I try to explain to them that I'm selling cheese that you can't usually get at a supermarket," Deming says of confused customers looking for nothing more than Monterey Jack.
A recent article in Mother Jones examines what Americans are eating overall. Information here is pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and we learn that we now spend more on processed foods than any other food type. This is followed by meats, with dairy now at the bottom!
How would you describe the flavor of cheese?
It's an impossible question. You can certainly elaborate on the tastes of cheese varieties, the sharpness of a blue vein, spicy kick of jalapeno, or flavor of an ale wash. But trying to define the basic taste of cheese itself is impossible, no easier than trying to tell you what red looks like.
Cheese's' avoidance of being captured by words or trapped by sentences can make writing about cheese difficult, but I'm viewing that as a challenge as I began writing and blogging here at Culture. As a budding writer and foodie, I hope to learn how to better capture food through language, and learn more about what makes cheese such a unique, undefinable treat.
I hope that you will join me.
Wondering why northern Italy got hit twice in short order with earthquakes? I asked Jeffrey Park, coauthor of Dynamic Earth (Read it. It's about the earth you live on. The one we return to, call mother, mine, fight over, and, sadly, the one that puts the terror in terroir). He's a Yale seismologist who works on the seismology of northern Italy. Here’s what he had to say. A warning, there’s strong earth science language in this report, a suggestion that plates are getting stuffed in the mantle, plus a reference to a quake in the 1500s. Reader access to a geological dictionary is advised. ~ Steph
The earthquakes both hit very close to Bologna, where I spent a year's sabbatical while collecting seismic data. I once spent a night in Carpi, where the cathedral roof fell in.
In the middle of a cool, drizzly day, three of us from Culture Magazine (Stephanie, Eilis and myself) took a little field trip to the Concord Cheese Shop in Concord, Massachusetts. Driving from our office in Somerville, it felt as if we were entering the countryside for a vacation, a nostalgic feel that continued into the shop itself.
Tiny, wooden and old-timey, the Concord Cheese Shop certainly gives that old-fashioned feeling. A large wine collection engulfs the back end of the store, packed with careful selections. Taste rules over brand in this shop, so count on finding many new and unique bottles. The shop’s sommelier also has a bit of an affinity for Rosé, so if you find yourself craving something light in February, stop by—they stock a variety of pink wines year-round.
Last night I attended a casual mini trade show in Somerville MA. Gorgeous cheeses from around the world were out and available for sampling - including 6 I'd never tasted before. The crowd was small so you could actually talk to producers, and diverse, which made it interesting. Spain made a big showing, including a range of raw sheeps milk cheeses, and a lactic set goats milk from brand new Santa Gadea. Giovanni Guffanti Fiori brought a southern italian bell shaped 3 milk cheese covered in ash. Made with (I think he said) Maltese goat milk, this was a wild and wooly ride around a barnyard. I like it! but it is not for the faint of heart.
April was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month and The Lady and I, your humble Feline Foodie, promised 30 new grilled cheese recipes… alas… to mis-quote the late, great John Lennon… “we had grilled cheese plans and then life got in the way”… so even into mid-May, we are still posting grilled cheese recipes… this one today is #26 and as with the last, this is actually an open-faced cheese melt.
The Lady took Jasper Hill Farm’s sample #120125 to make her latest cheese sammy…
Using Original La Panzanella Croccantini for her bread base, she topped it with Prosciutto and then JHF’s sample #120125. She sprinkled a little rosemary on top.
She popped it in the toaster oven and three minutes later… ta da… we had dinner.
Another terrific grilled/open-faced sammy for the grilled cheese recipe vaults and future reference… living with The Lady does have at least one good side… Cheese, Glorious Cheese…
-- Spaulding Gray, The Feline Foodie, for Marcella (The Lady)
It’s thrilling to be a part of Birth of a Cheese 2012 and want to thank Culture Magazine and Jasper Hill Farm for this opportunity.
With the cheese came a questionnaire to fill out with initial reactions to appearance, aroma, texture and taste. Wanting to impress, I found that challenging. Hopefully, the good folks at Jasper Hill won’t shake their heads and wonder about choosing me, “What were we thinking?”
Most of the cheese I taste is at the peak of its age and as the cheese maker wanted it enjoyed. To taste young cheese and then “follow” its aging is a special treat.
The three samples were in various stages of aging; all young; all on the way to becoming cheese… let me rephrase that… all on the way to becoming great cheese.
So let's get right down to it... last night I opened three cheeses from Jasper Hill. Each came wrapped in brown paper so aside from the rough shape, all of us receiving these new cheeses had no idea what to expect.
What greeted us were three samples, each obviously the same cheese yet... not... exactly.