Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's Fromage Savage: Queso de Wilson

Purchased from: Consumed in the kitchen of my dear pals in Austin, the Wilsons

Type: Melted

Teat: This would imply it's made of actual cheese

Trappings: Salsa, chips, carne asada, tequila

Taste: Like if you don't stay outta my way when I wanna eat it, you're gonna be sorry

I fell in love with Austin on my first visit some 6 or so years ago. Any city that plies me with that much good tequila and great BBQ was gonna end up on the short list of my favorite spots. I've had the good fortune to make it back there more and more often over the past few years, and the even better fortune to make some great friends who get to live there and eat that food all the time. How they all remain so remarkably fit is beyond me...unless it's the magic that is undeniably in the queso. And I've yet to have queso more magical than that my friend Mike concocted in his own kitchen.

Since unless you've spent time in the South it's entirely possible you don't actually know what this stuff is, a few details: it's a Tex-Mex phenomenon, it's served all the heck over Texas, and it's generally a combination of chili peppers of some sort, cream of some sort, and cheese of some sort, although what I actually mean by cheese is Velveeta. Before you make the barfy face, you need to know that if this is the reason Velveeta was created, then god bless Mr. and Mrs. Velveeta, because queso is fricking delicious. And this particular queso was so delicious that what I didn't actually get a photo of was a group of seven of us huddled over the counter on which this bowl was resting, elbowing one another out of the way to scoop the melty/salty/spicy yum into our faces. At one point we'd all dripped some down the front of our shirts...and actually licked off our own shirt fronts, partly because we didn't want to waste any and partly because no one wanted to lose their spot around the bowl.

In the case of queso, using a "regular" cheese doesn't really work. Actually, what it gets you instead is sort of a queso fundido, which is much thicker and more pizza-cheese-like in consistency. Not like I'd ever turn down a bowl of that either, but smooth chili con queso is so easy to eat and so tasty, it's actually my preferred method of arterial clogging.

I haven't tried to make my own queso here in San Francisco. I'm worried it just won't be the same. I think it's possible you need to have that x-factor Austin sparkly happy air crackle goin' on to really make it taste right. Which might be better in the long run, if I'm ever going to fit into my jeans again.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

That's Hot

Like Lady Gaga emerging from her Grammys Crazy Egg, I am poised to make my reappearance here. I know that once you've let your blog devolve into Internet detritus, it's tough to make a return. I also know that I'm not eating nearly enough good cheese, and this is as good a reason as any to start snarfing up the good stuff again.

It's not that I haven't eaten ANY cheese, though. I've had probably more than my fair share of some good stuff. So, in lieu of having an actual Fromage Savage post, here's some cheese porn to tide you over. Totally SFW, unless you're stranger than I think you are.

The cheese tasting at Kendall Jackson winery in Sonoma. Oenophiles, stop holding your noses: paired with these delish cheeses, KJ fronted some pretty great vino. Also, my sister is a chef there, so be nice.

Andante Dairy cheeses, the only place I've ever seen them available in a retail setting: at The Cheese Store in Silver Lake. Cheesemaker Soyoung Scanlan is basically my hero; her cheeses are among my all-time faves. If you ever see them available and you don't eat them immediately, you are a crazy person.

Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk: storage in the fridge all but requires putting it into a sealed Tupperware that goes inside a sealed Ziplock that should probably then be placed inside a lead-lined safe of some sort, unless you want everything else in the box to smell like this cheese, but oh my word, is it tasty.

Cheese and pate plate shared at Hotel Biron in San Francisco. Its deliciousness helped me ignore the person in the background who was wearing white shoes after Labor Day, and that is no mean feat. The bottle of Serra Barbera D'Alba helped, too.

My idea of a little afternoon snack: at the bottom is a grass-fed blue--essentially a roquefort. I am a big fan of stinky and salty blue cheeses, and this fit the bill. In the middle is a Sevre et Belle goat cheese, and up top is the super-crazy-delicious Ticklemore goat, aka best name ever. I am coming to realize that in general, goat cheeses are my favorite--I like the fresh ones that you've had if you've ever had a beet salad in a restaurant, but I am growing quite partial to those that are a little more aged, so they've got that slight funk/twang to them, but are still creamy without being sticky like a triple cream.

Toward the end of last year, I had a grin-inducing experience: a friend called to ask me for suggestions on cheeses to bring to a family dinner. I figured that means I've now firmly established myself as...well, as a person who eats a lot of cheese, I guess. The mantle has been bestowed, and dammit, who am I to demur?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Today's Fromage Savage: ?

Purchased from ? , San Francisco

Type: Semi-soft

Teat: ?

Trappings: Newcastle Brown Ale

Taste: Like victory

I’ve kind of had some shit going down lately. I know everyone has shit going down, if not lately than sometimes, because it’s kind of the nature of things. But I think I can safely classify this as out-of-the-ordinary, above-and-beyond shit, which unfortunately sounds a lot like an Activia commercial. Except that as I understand it, Activia is all about ensuring that whatever shit you have going on is, in fact, entirely ordinary.

None of which has anything to do with the fact that I’ve been battling a back/hip injury. The rest of my shit is just fine, thank you. But I’m not walking well, or sleeping well, or standing well, or sitting well, which is totally, totally fucking my shit up.

It’s hard to care about cheese when your shit is fucked up like that. Cheese is all about sensory celebration and reaching for the right adjective to describe it, and sharing something really tasty with people who also appreciate it, and figuring out what great stuff will make it taste even better, and bloomy rinds and milk fat. It is so not about ice packs and Vicodin. That’s a different blog.

Today hasn’t been much different than a lot of other days I’ve had lately. I swung my left leg around my office hallways with the swashbuckle-y limp I’ve developed, fidgeted through a presentation (that I was giving—co-workers, I hope you were in less pain than I, sorry for all the slides in that PPT), and then stuffed in some earplugs before being shunted into a tube. I regret that this was not, as one co-worker asked, because I was being shot out of a cannon, because I am pretty sure that’s more fun than an MRI. I’m pretty sure that’s more fun than most things, actually.

I digress. As usual.

Post-MRI and physical therapy (thanks, Potrero PT!), I made my way home. It takes me about 5 minutes to climb the flight of stairs to my front door these days, because I don’t have one of those chairs like the mean old lady in Gremlins.

As you can plainly tell, I’ve been a bit embittered by this whole thing. But today…I dunno. Today I felt…I felt kinda all right. So, I did what anyone would do: I called my parents, I pet my dogs, and I made a cheese plate.

So, I don’t know what these cheeses are. They were in my fridge, and they were clearly put there recently, so I decided to eat them. I’m going to guess that the one on the right is a sheep’s milk cheese, because of its buttery color and slightly grassy taste. The one on the left is, I’d guess, a cow’s milk cheese—slightly creamier than the other one, less toothy when I bit into it, and definitely milder in flavor.

I know that does not a thing to help anyone—including me—decide whether or not to buy and eat these cheeses. All I can tell you is that they tasted good and they made me happy.

Which to me is further proof that, as I have always suspected, cheese is the shit—and I mean that in a completely not-fucked-up way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Drunken Goat Cheese

I am getting ready to leave town (for work, I'm not on the lam or anything), so I'm too swamped to actually write a full post, but I needed to at least drop some knowledge about the Drunken Goat Cheese I tasted a hunk of last night, because it is DELICIOUS. More on this later.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Today's Fromage Savage: Bellwether Farms' San Andreas

Purchased from Serpentine restaurant, San Francisco

Type: Firm

Teat: Sheep's milk (raw)

Trappings: Crusty bread slices, Sicilian almonds, pear slices, some sort of apricot-y/peachy compote-like stuff

Taste: Hrmph.

It's a good thing this came accompanied by Sicilian almonds, because they're pretty tasty.

In fairness, I don't think the problems here--mealy texture, taste approximating what I imagine a mouthful of soft chalk to be like--can be attributed to Bellwether Farms. I actually think something went awry in Serpentine's kitchen, which bums me out on a whole different level, because the restaurant is usually amazing and was more than up to par last night, until what I may henceforth remember as The Great Cheese Disaster of 2010. This cheese smelled and tasted like the wedge had been cut hours--possibly days--earlier, and then stuck somewhere to dry out and pick up the various and sundry smells and tastes of a commercial kitchen. It was like eating from the box of baking soda in the back of my fridge.

I'm told that the San Andreas is supposed> to be creamy and smooth with a tangy finish, all of which sounds delectable to me. I probably should have known something was wrong with this particular portion when I inspected it up close and saw that it looked almost crumbly, like a cheddar.

This has been a blow to us here at Fromage Savage--it's ruined our practically perfect record of tasting really good cheeses. And while I'm not quite ready to burn this motherfucker down, Pookie, I was still feeling rather crotchety about the whole debacle this morning when I checked my mailbox at work and found...

Awesome anonymous cheese t-shirt gift arrives the morning after tragic cheese-tasting incident.

Coincidence? I think not.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Today's Fromage Savage: Tomme Abondance

Purchased from Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco

Type: Semi-soft

Teat: Cow's milk*

Trappings: Apple slices

Taste: It seems that the Abondance cows responsible (at least partially) for this French mountain cheese are being regularly cross-bred with American herds kept by US cheese-makers because these particular bovine are both hearty and very fertile. Perhaps that explains why this is one of the sexiest cheeses I've ever eaten. Seriously, one bite and I was on some other astral plane. Abondance is almost peanutty, with an otherworldly mix of sweet but savory, buttery but firm.

Cheeses like this often have a kind of earthy smell that's described sometimes as like hay or leaves. Neither of which, I'll be honest, are descriptions that would make me want to rush right out and try a cheese, so I hesitate to suggest that Tomme Abondance has those qualities, although something about the descriptor "wet straw" actually rings a little true.

Apparently, Abondance cheese is perfect for making a fondue because it melts well and it's so flavorful. But this is not cheap stuff, mostly because it's name-controlled (i.e., only cheeses from the Savoie region of France can be called Abondance) and isn't around very often. Given that, along with the fact that it's one of the best cheeses I've ever, ever tasted, I'll be damned if I'm gonna melt it down and watch people lose bread chunks in it.

Sorry, just one photo today. We ate it so fast, there wasn't time to take another.

*Interesting American-cheese fact: you can only buy raw milk cheeses in this country that are aged for 60 days or longer. Anything younger than that has to be pasteurized or it's illegal. Which makes me believe there has got to be an underground raw cheese racket going on somewhere, because that's the American way. If someone finds out the secret handshake that'll get me hooked up with those renegades, drop me a line.

New Fromage Savage coming tonight, but in the meantime...

While visiting the Homeland over Christmas (all hail the Garden State!), I made a stop at the place that many consider to be the center of this country's cheese universe: Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleeker Street in the Village.

Murray's is...gosh, I barely know where to begin. How about with the fact that they have their own cheese aging cave under the store? That's the kind of commitment to fromagerie that brings a tear of joy to my eye.

I'm currently reading a book that I wanted to share with other cheese lovers, because it's that rare combination of interesting, informative, and fun: The Cheese Chronicles, by Liz Thorpe. Liz is a Yale grad who left a job at a dot com for an entry-level gig at Murray's because she wanted to learn about cheese. She's now a vice president at Murray's. She's also funny, likes to go out beer drinking, and appears to be a super-cute blonde. Basically, she seems to be an overachiever in all departments, which should totally make me want to cut the bitch, but her story is so fun and her writing is so personable that I wanna go make cheese with her instead.

No, that's not a euphemism.

I'm actually learning quite a lot from the book about cheese and cheese making, including some more effective language for describing a cheese's tastes and textures. I'm hoping that somewhere in the book is an explanation of how Liz stays so impossibly cute and thin around all that cheese, because all I have to do is look at the sign for Murray's and my ass starts getting bigger.

....aaaaaaand, there it goes again. I am definitely not ready for this jelly.