Cheese paper allows cheeses to breathe, protecting their moisture and preventing adverse mold growth.
Creamy panna cotta nicely balances the tart, spicy layer of gelée. Serve this with a crisp ginger cookie or tuile for a contrast. You can make the dessert in whatever vessel you like (wine glasses and teacups are especially nice).
Early last winter I purchased a wonderful piece of cheese at Di Bruno Brothers in Philadelphia. That chunk of Gorwydd Caerphilly was so beautiful and appetizing to me that I was compelled to paint it before eating it.
When I connect strongly with a subject like that, everything seems so natural in the process of the painting. I wanted more of it—more cheese and more experiences connecting to the world of this handcrafted food.
Without much knowledge of good cheese, I appealed to a friend I had previously met at a dinner party, Tenaya Darlington (a.k.a. Madame Fromage, whose writing is also featured this issue in ““The Accidental Cheesemaker,”” p. 80). She became an enthusiastic mentor, taking me on various treks to find beautiful cheeses throughout Philadelphia.
Kevin Willman, Chef/owner, Farmhaus, St. Louis, MO
Hometown: Greenville, Illinois/Pensacola, Florida
Despite the fact his acclaimed Farmhaus Restaurant is in landlocked St. Louis, Willmann is a diehard fisherman (the result of his Floridian childhood). When he’s not trolling Missouri’s lakes and streams for freshwater fish, Willmann is reeling in many of the local cheeses for his playful, regional menu.
culture: How does cheese relate to your menu at Farmhaus?
Kevin Willmann: It’s a big part of what we do. We use a lot of local cheeses. The terroir here is fantastic—you can really taste it in the local cheeses, so I try not to do too much to them. Maybe just serve them with some preserves we’ve put up, or house-made lavash.
culture: You come from a family of farmers, as well, right?
What started as a $6,500 investment for Executive Chef Jérôme Ferrer and partners in Montréal’s 30-seat Europea restaurant in 2002 is today a burgeoning culinary enterprise. It includes an expanded three-story Europea, the gourmet take-home food shop Boutique Europea, French bistro Beaver Hall, Mediterranean-influenced restaurant Andiamo, and upscale Birks Café located in the Montréal flagship store of Canadian luxury jeweler Birks.
Ferrer has built his big empire on many small details. Every aspect of a guest’s experience is thoughtfully considered and choreographed, including Europea’s cheese plate. Ferrer has been quoted as saying, “Business is all about giving pleasure.” Little wonder that he plies his guests with a sélection fromagère featuring some of the finest Canadian artisan cheeses.
Carr Valley Cheese Co., Inc., Wisconsin
Cave Aged Marisa
Some men have man caves; Sid Cook has a cheese cave. As owner and master cheesemaker of Wisconsin’s Carr Valley Cheese Company, Cook sought a combination of local natural microflora and aging conditions for particular cheeses. Initially, he adapted an actual cave in northern Wisconsin to create this environment. Now his company has created a large open-air cave on-site at its Sauk City location, where Carr Valley cheeses develop distinct characteristics through careful maturing conditions.
Carr Valley currently produces more than 100 original selections; Cook’s cheeses have amassed more than 450 honors in the last ten years of cheese competitions, earning the company more national and international awards than any other cheesemaker in North America.
Finica Food Specialties Limited, Mariposa Dairy, Ontario
Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar
Mariposa Dairy is operating in overdrive. Thanks to unanticipated attention from recent awards, cheesemakers Lori Legacey and Peter VanOudenaren are excited to be clocking long days in the make room of the dairy in Lindsay, Ontario.
In 2010, Mariposa’s Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar beat 40 other cheeses from across Canada and the U.K. in the British Empire Cheese Competition. Then, the cheese tied for second at the 2011 ACS competition in Montréal.
Legacey was thrilled, but for one thing: she had made only a limited number of wheels of the triumphant cheddar, the first specialty hard cheese she’d ever created.
Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
Brothers Jean and Dominic Morin are fourth-generation dairy farmers in Québec who have found amazing success as first-generation cheese producers in just a few short years. Now, with a third-place Best of Show at the 2011 ACS competition and a first-place award in the open category for their cow’s milk Louis d’Or, the pair is poised for the big time. The secret to their success: “Happy, healthy cows,” says Jean, who often wears a tie adorned with smiling bovines. “It all starts with the milk, and the care we show the cheese as we make it.”
Jean is quick to give credit to his brother, Dominic, who looks after the herd, and to Dany Grimard, who runs the make room in a former Roman Catholic rectory in the village of Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, about 100 miles east of Montréal. The renovated and expanded rectory serves as the creamery, located across the street from their farm.
Just as cheesemaking began as a means of preserving milk, putting up fruit conserves and pâté de fruit (fruit pastes) started as a way to store fruit that was otherwise perishable. Concentrated pastes (also called “fruit cheeses,” by the way) are natural sweets that, historically, were often presented at the end of a meal, which is possibly how they came to make cheese’s happy acquaintance. Quince became the most common fruit for paste making because of its heady aroma and high pectin content, which yields a firm, gelled texture. Paired with aged cheeses such as Manchego, quince paste (a.k.a. membrillo) is a great counterpoint of fresh acidity for the cheese’s rich and salty demeanor. That’s what a fruit paste does well; it provides welcome
refreshment, texture, and sweet acidity, much as plump grapes or soft-ripe Seckel pears do alongside a favorite wedge.
Mild yet tangy, this fruit pâté pairs well with soft and slightly aged goat’s milk cheeses.
So I was asked to write about what I do as a cheese importer, how I find my cheese gems. There isn’t one specific way. Often, it’s about recognizing when an opportunity presents itself—“having the eye,” as a colleague once described to me.
Take the goat cheese Leonora, for example, that I bring in from León, Spain. I stumbled on that one at a trade show when I went to say hello to Tomas, the producer of Valdeón cheese. It was a cool-looking white brick tucked away in a refrigerated case at a trade booth, unattended. I helped myself to a taste and loved it, so I found the person who knew the producer, and within minutes I was on the phone with Oscar, the cheesemaker, asking him how he felt about selling to the United States. The cheese didn’t even have a name; I gave it one.