Tag Archives: cheese

Favorite Comment

I was just sorting through the mass quantities of spam comments the site got swamped with over the Thanksgiving holiday and came across this one:

“Hi everyone. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. Help me!”

It goes on much less interestingly from there, but what a start! I could not agree more. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese, and it’s high time that stopped.

I love cheese. I even have a cheese journal to record which cheese I love more than other cheeses. It just stands to statistically reason that there must be poets who love cheese and have cheese journals.

So pull yourself together, poets! Now is the time: the season of cheese balls is upon us! Bring your best haikus, limericks and the like! Also, feel free to send me that cheese ball four-pack. That looks awesome. And by “awesome” I mean, “made entirely out of food coloring and preservatives.”

Hooray, cheese!

For the love of…


Over the course of your average day with me, there’s a better than average chance that two things will come up: I love cheese and I am inappropriately competitive.

Turns out I could be putting those features to good use: Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual race near Gloucester, England, where half-witted people chase an eight-pound round of Double Gloucester cheese down what appears to be a double black diamond, straight up and down slope. If they win – and don’t die (what’s with that word “wake” at the end of the event title?) – they get that eight-pound cheese. Sounds reasonable.

The Big Picture documented this year’s event.

Cheese: Chaource


I first had Chaource on my gay cruise* in France. I loved it then and I love it now. It’s a cow’s milk cheese made in small rounds, usually sold as a piece, which is fine for a cheese plate for about six.

(If you don’t eat it all, it’s OK: just make sure you wrap up the remainder in a new wrapper – cheese paper or I like Press n’ Seal – and eat it within a week. As long as you keep the air out and use new wrapping every time you re-wrap it, it shouldn’t spoil.)

Don’t be put off by the smell as you taste it: if you don’t like smelly cheeses you might veer away, but trust me, it’s not as pungent as its smell. The center is soft, heavy and has the strongest taste, bold and buttery. The outer edges are milder and slightly crumbly, somewhat like your average goat cheese in texture. The rind is thin, white and edible.

Since we were having a cheese and charcouterie picnic dinner, we went with a light red wine and the Chaource held its own nicely. Artisinal recommends champagne as the ideal pairing and that sounds fine too. For a balanced cheese plate, I’d do this + a hard cheddar + a blue and walk away happy. If you’re partial to milder cheeses, maybe sub this in for your medium-strong option and do a light goat, this and a mild blue, like Point Reyes.

Remember to take your cheeses out of the fridge an hour or so before serving. This is especially critical with soft cheeses like this one: Chaource will not be a treat when it’s cold and, as a result, hard.

*Me + R + our friend John + fourteen of his closest gay friends on a barge through the canals of Burgundy. (Re)convinced us we don’t like traveling in groups and we don’t like package tours, but it was worth a shot and we needed a holiday badly. Best part: three different cheeses a night at dinner.

Cheese: Cambridge: Formaggio Kitchen


Dude. Cheese. Mad cheese. More cheese than you can shake a stick at. (Not that you’d want to in this place because you’d definitely knock over one – maybe two – hundred things.) With a little perseverance, you can get your very own salesperson who will offer samples of anything you want to try and point you in the right direction. Ask about local offerings and cheeses that might be hard – or impossible – to get elsewhere.

We – well, I – went just a tad overboard, buying five cheeses for four people, but we were not disappointed. I grabbed onto a small round of Chaource, which is hard to find in good condition in San Francisco, half a round of Coulommiers (too much: get a quarter round for your average cheese plate), a Manchester hard cheese that had a nutty bandaged cheddar flavor, a Belgian blue (medium strong as blues go) and a lovely creamy Italian goat cheese (Robiola Pura Capra Carlina) that had just enough flavor to hold its own next to the Coloummiers. (Do you think “Carlina” is the name of the actual goat?)

Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal own the place – and sister stores in the South End of Boston and in Essex Market in New York – and stock it with excellent gourmet goods of all types. You can snag the baguette you’ll be wanting (as well as other kinds of breads) at their bakery counter, any condiment from anywhere in the world (try the chili and red pepper jams with your soft cheeses), goodies from their pastry counter (their small meringues with their chewy insides are the best I’ve ever had), wines from anywhere in the world, all manner of olive oils, pâté, crackers, honies and on and on and on.

As with Whole Foods, I wouldn’t recommend doing your general shopping here. It will definitely cost you to score the perfect picnic dinner – that chili jam runs $11 – but it’s worth it for an occasional anti-recession splurge or a mini splurge if you’re after a specific product (or just want to try something new). Also, don’t even think about going at peak times – the place is a zoo. Go on a weekday afternoon or first thing on the weekend when you can get some of their stellar service, enjoy some samples and generally rummage among the goods.


grilledcheese.pngI’m back in New York. This is always a good thing and, in this case, it’s meant to jar me out of any anxiety incurred by leaving my corporate gig. Every silver cloud has a cloudy lining though: being in New York means I missed this year’s Grilled Cheese Invitational. I know. Right? Sucks.

(Not that I was invited. And it is an “invitational”. But maybe they sent my invitation late and it just arrived yesterday and they were holding my seat this afternoon and I wasn’t there. If that’s what happened – and it probably is – that’ll teach them to send their invitations so late.)

Cheese: Brie Coupe Explorateur

brie_explorateur.jpgI have inexplicably taken a recent dislike to bries. Maybe once I moved on to triple creams, regular brie was just not good enough anymore. Baked brie with honey and almonds is where I’ve been drawing the brie line of late.

Yesterday at Whole Foods, I accidentally bought a brie I didn’t know, Brie Coupe Explorateur. I saw the label when I got home and cursed my eager hand for snatching it, but it looked white and creamy, not yellowing, so I thought maybe I’d snagged the extra cream after all.

It turns out I had, but it was not what I’ve come to expect from triple cream bries. Most are smooth, very rich and a brie flavor comes through the creaminess. The Coupe Explorateur tastes nearer to a triple cream goat cheese, It’s very, very white, almost granular before you spread it, and with a non-brie-like subtle flavor more common in goat cheeses than cow. My sample must be very young, because the rind was almost non-existent. (The photo to the left is of a more aged sample.)

It’s a really lovely cheese and I’d recommend it without reservation. No special tastes are required and it wouldn’t present a challenge to any cheese plate. Try it with fresh fruit and don’t serve it on a board with a strong blue unless you move to the blue and don’t turn back.

The Tasty

Oh. My. God. If you live in San Francisco, you have got to venture over to the land of Gucci babies, Pucci mamas, over-bred puppies and post-frat bankers and get yourself a grilled cheese sandwich at the Blue Barn on Chestnut Street in the Marina. Holy Lord but they are good. They make me want to move into their storefront. In the mornings, they would give me cups of their famous Blue Bottle coffee to cleanse my palate. After that, I could help them fill up their organized, shiny containers with quantities of perfect, colorful vegetables for their custom-made salads. I wouldn’t have any salad though. I would eat only cheese.

They have six kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. Goat, Sheep, Cheddar and three other kinds which I barely looked at because I snagged on the sheep’s milk cheese with jambon serrano and fig jam. The jam caramelizes in tiny chewy pockets in the bread. It is the best – the BEST – sandwich I have had in a long time. And I love me some sandwiches. I am a grilled cheese fanatic. For the record, I am also nutty for BLTs but that’s not what we’re talking about right now.

In addition to their grilled cheese menu, they have other sandwiches (which, I am sure, are of a lesser breed since they don’t include grilled cheese), macaroni and cheese and salads (fresh and packaged). They also have a mini cheese counter and Acme baguettes if you feel like you need to go home and have DIY grilled cheese. Oh – they also sell the jammy figginess that makes me swoon.

The place only has a couple of tables, so it’s mostly a take-out thing. If you have to take-out, don’t wait until you get home to open up your toasty warm packet of cheesy goodness. Eat it immediately. Go back often.

Cheese: Bayley Hazen Blue by Jasper Hill Dairy

Bayley Hazen Blue is a cross between a Stilton and a blue and it shows in the yellow hue of the cheese. Because I love blues and I love Stilton, this seemed like a perfect bet and it was…sort of. I was hoping for a stronger blue flavor and a slightly creamier texture but the Stilton won out. Result: a blue-ish Stilton with a strong, rural, oak flavor and a texture verging on crumbly.

Available in San Francisco: Cowgirl Creamery, Ferry Building