Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese

Cheese Blogging Christmas

I enjoyed two Christmas dinners. One was Christmas Eve at tillyjane's house, the other was Christmas Day at lillypond's house. Many of the cast and crew were present at both evenings, including the Child, her mother, Mr. and Mrs. huyifu, lillypond with husband D and their child the Niece. tillyjane, AH, ET and G were present for Christmas Eve, while bibliothec, my brother M, and husband D's parents were present for Christmas Day.

Both dinner organizers had chartered me with cheese responsibilities. Christmas Eve morning, bibliothec and I went to Grand Central Baking for bread, then to New Seasons for cheese.

Bread selections were ciabatta, corn loaf, semolina and Yukon Gold potato bread. See descriptions of those breads here. We had the corn loaf (also known as yeasted corn bread) and the semolina on Saturday, the other two on Christmas day.

Saturday's Breads

Yeasted Corn Bread
Yeasted Corn Bread

Semolina Bread

The corn loaf was a rich, chewy flavorful bread with little of the corn flavor. Nice base for cheese or spreading. The semolina was classic firm-crusted artisan bread featuring a lot of interior air, with that slightly round-mouthed flavor associated with that flour.

In addition to the storebought breads, AH had made a very nice holiday bread, sweetened with cherries and white sugar sprinkles.

Anna's Holiday Bread

We had a lot of fun preparing the board, too.

Edith Cutting Bread

Sunday's Breads


Yukon Gold Potato Bread
Yukon Gold Potato Bread

The ciabatta was another classic artisan bread, with a fairly crunchy crust. The Yukon Gold potato bread was nicely flavored loaf, less chewy than some. No particular potato flavor.

All four breads were excellent.

Saturday's Cheese

On Saturday we had some leftover cheese pate, made from Delice de Borgogne triple cream and Schwarz und Weiss blue cheese per this recipe. It had been refrigerated from a holiday party the previous weekend, and had set up fairly cold. I let it warm to near room temperature, and added in about two tablespoons of heavy cream. It was, as always, delicious.

(And it suddenly occurs to me that this pate with these ingredients could be called the Franco-Prussian War Cheese.)

In addition to the leftover pate, the Saturday cheese board featured Al Vino (a Spanish goat cheese), Manchego (a Spanish sheep cheese), Pierre Robert (a French triple cream), Shropsire (a veined English cheddar), Soya Kaas Mild Cheddar (lactose-free cheese substitute).

The Christmas Eve Cheese Tray

The Christmas Eve Cheese Tray

Placards lettered by AH.

Al Vino

Al Vino Unwrapped

A Spanish goat cheese, also known as "drunken goat", described more fully here. The rind of this cheese is washed in red wine, hence the name. Smooth, firm texture with a mild white flavor and a slight bite. Despite the name, it doesn't have a particularly wine-y taste. It more resembles something in the way of provolone. $15.99/lb. at New Seasons. An easy cheese which can be enjoyed by people not particularly interested in craft cheeses.


Manchego Unwrapped

A classic Spanish sheep's milk cheese, described more fully here. Somewhat reminiscent of an aged parmigiana. Firm-to-stiff with a slightly crumbly texture, but moist to slice and eat. Very tangy and slightly bitter, a little less friendly to the casual palate. $15.99/lb. at New Seasons for the eight-month aged variety. Not necessarily an expert's cheese, but it didn't go over well as some of the other selections.

Pierre Robert

Pierre Robert Unwrapped

A French triple cream in the same tradition as the previously-discussed Delice de Borgogne, described more fully here. Per the Cook's Thesaurus at http://www.foodsubs.com/:

These cheeses are the gelatos of the cheese word--incredibly creamy and decadent, thanks to a high butterfat content that comes from tripling the cream.  They have roughly twice the fat as a typical Brie or Camembert, but they're much more buttery and rich.  Some triple-crèmes are fresh, like mascarpone.  Others are soft-ripened, like Boursault, Castello Blue, Brillat Savarin, and Explorateur.

This is a sweet, very soft cheese with almost none of the ammonia aftertaste some triple creams can carry. The flavor was almost like buttery. We ate it on bread, but this would be quite good with fruit as well, or on a sweet bread like a pound cake. $18.99/lb. at New Seasons. A very easy cheese for anyone, even those not interested in craft cheeses.


Shropshire Unwrapped

An English craft cheese, essentially a veined cheddar (think orange blue cheese, as it were), more fully described here. The initial bite struck me as a bit bland and unappealing, but the aftertaste is quite good. It left a rich tingle in the mouth, strong without being overly stinky. Might a good candidate for the much-discussed cheese pate. I will definitely be exploring this cheese again. $16.99/lb. at New Seasons. Probably not of much interest to casual cheese-eaters.

Soya Kaas Mild Cheddar

Soya Kaas Unwrapped

I added this cheese because Mrs. huyifu is radically lactose-intolerant, and I wanted her to be able to partake of the cheese board. It's a cheese substitute made on a soy base with no lactose content at all, manufacturer's page here. From my point of view, this would be better as a cooking cheese than an eating cheese, for example, to use in casseroles. Essentally it's a passable commercial quality cheddar with a slightly gelid texture. Think vegan Velveeta, with less salt, but the cheese did exactly what it needed to do. $5.29 for a 12 oz package at New Seasons.

Sunday's Cheese

On Sunday we had the second half of the Manchego discussed above, as well as more of the Soya Kaas Mild Cheddar, along with three new cheese: Chimay Gran Cru cheese from Belgium, a five year old Gouda from Holland, and a Wisconsin blue, Provvista Buttermilk Blue.

The Christmas Day Cheese Tray

The Christmas Day Cheese Tray

Chimay Gran Cru

Chimay Grand Cru Unwrapped

A huge hit with the Christmas Day crowd, this is a rich, creamy cheese with a nice, almost nutty flavor. The cheese is more fully described here. Researching this, I found some complaints about a strong odor, but that wasn't my experience of this cheese at all. It's firm without being hard or flaky, and very smooth. $15.99/lb. at New Seasons. An easy cheese which can be enjoyed by people not particularly interested in craft cheeses, but ask for a sample to make sure it's not from a bad wheel.

Five Year Old Gouda

Five Year Old Gouda Unwrapped

A very aged Gouda, more fully described here. I liked this cheese more than anyone else who sampled it at the dinner. It's a very hard, cheese that flakes as it's cut. The flavor is quite tart with a lot more in common with aged parmigiana than with what fresher Gouda usually tastes like. I got this cheese in part because of the very low lactose levels, since both bibliothec and the Child are moderately lactose-intolerant, and this is apparently a cheese which is very easy on people who can abide low levels of lactose. $16.49/lb. at New Seasons. Probably not of much interest to casual cheese-eaters.

Provvista Buttermilk Blue

Provvista Buttermilk Blue Unwrapped

A nice, creamy blue cheese. (Couldn't readily find a good description online, so no link...it's local to the Portland area, so perhaps has no wider distribution.) It was firm, not particularly crumbly as blues so often are, and easily sliced. It wasn't very salty either (another common blue feature), and the flavor was moderately intense. Not the taste explosion of my favorite blue, Schwarz und Weiss, but this Provvista Buttermilk Blue would be a good candidate for someone who doesn't think they like blue cheese, or is scared off by the typically intense flavors. $11.99/lb. at New Seasons. Potentially a "gateway cheese" to help casual cheese-eaters discover the joy of craft cheeses.
Tags: cheese, personal

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