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Posts Filed Under The ‘Cheese and Wine Tastings’ Category

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Cheese Connoisseur Announces Book Signing Tour in St. Louis


For more information, contact:
Stephanie Flynn
Black Twig Communications
314-255-2340 x 103

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Cheese Connoisseur Announces Book Signing Tour in St. Louis
Author Max McCalman will be making appearances at five Schnucks locations

NEW YORK (July 20, 2011) – Artisanal Brands, Inc. (OTCQB:AHFP) today announced that Max McCalman, Dean of Curriculum and Maître Fromager at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center, will hold a book signing in St. Louis, Missouri on July 29 and 30 to promote his third book, Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager. McCalman will appear at the following St. Louis locations:

Friday, July 29, 2011:

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Schnucks Arsenal, 5505 Arsenal Road
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Schnucks Richmond Center, 6600 Clayton Road
4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Schnucks Ladue, 8867 Ladue Road

Saturday, July 30, 2011:

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Schnucks Lindbergh, 10275 Clayton Road
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Schnucks Des Peres, 12332 Manchester Road

“Max is one of the cheese world’s most respected authorities on artisan cheeses and he has been a highly visible advocate for artisan cheesemakers around the world,” said Daniel W. Dowe, president and CEO of Artisanal. “Mastering Cheese is the first of Max’s books to include extensive information on the artisan cheese revolution in the United States. We are all very appreciative of the work Max has done for our company and the entire industry.”

McCalman is America’s first restaurant-based Maître Fromager, and Garde et Jure as designated by France’s Guilde des Fromagers. He joined New York City-based restaurant Picholine in 1994 where he created the restaurant’s fabled cheese program with Chef-Proprietor Terrance Brennan. McCalman later established the critically acclaimed cheese programs at Artisanal Brasserie & Fromagerie restaurant, followed by the Artisanal Cheese Center, both in New York City.

In Mastering Cheese, McCalman condenses his vast knowledge into a single, one-of-a-kind volume that is the ultimate master’s class on cheese. The book presents in-depth information on everything from production methods and the laws that govern cheese naming, to choosing what cheese to buy at the grocery store and what wines or beers to pair with it. Organized into twenty-two distinct lessons, each lesson focuses on eight to 15 cheeses and ends with how-to information on creating a tasting plate from the knowledge garnered, bringing the experience to delectable life.

Mastering Cheese won “Best in the World Book on Cheese” for 2011 from the esteemed Gourmand International World Cook Book Awards, and was a finalist in the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Food & Beverage Reference/Technical category for 2011.

Artisanal Premium Cheese recently launched its products in St. Louis area Schnuck Markets along with its four-color cheese selection and wine and beer pairing system called the CheeseClock by Artisanal™. The CheeseClock by Artisanal™ gives consumers the guidance they need to confidently purchase cheeses and pair them with wines and beers in the very same fashion as a professional chef would present them in fine dining from mild to strong. Cheeses available include: (mild) Laurier, Rocky Sage, Brillat Savarin, Geit-in-Stad; (medium) Camembert, Pecorino Sardo, Tarraluna, Stella Royale; (bold) Uplands Pleasant Ridge, Artisanal 2-year Cheddar, Tomme Fermiere D’Alsace; (strong) Gouda Aged 4-years, North Country Blue, La Peral, Artisanal Roquefort.

About Artisanal Premium Cheese
Artisanal Brands, Inc. markets and distributes a line of specialty, artisanal and farmstead cheese products, as well as other related specialty food products under its own brand to food wholesalers and retailers, as well as directly to consumers through its catalogue and Web site, artisanalcheese.com. The company is based in New York, New York. For more information about Artisanal, visit www.artisanalcheese.com.

# # #

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Tasting Cheese


class%2525202.23%252520020 Tasting Cheese

This may not sound like much of a concern: how does one taste cheese? However there are some methods that we should mention that can help you better taste cheese. The look of a cheese helps to form our assessment, whether we admit or not. The nose gives an even stronger impression, while the tongue can pick up altogether different sensations, and the texture of a cheese figures as well. As we point out in our Cheese & Wine 101 sessions, what seals the deal in tasting is what you have to wait for – the “finish.” This is when the aromatic esters in the cheese move up the retronasal canal, leaving the final impression and taste of the cheese.

One of the first things to consider is that you not wear strong cologne or other scents. Because cheeses can be very aromatic, to have other aromas competing with those in the cheese can present conflicting assessments. It is also helpful to have a more neutral palate. Avoiding strong foods and beverages before you taste the cheeses is recommended. Cheese judges are advised to avoid drinking coffee before tasting the competition cheeses.

Drinking plenty of water helps to keep your palate more “neutral.” Water is a great universal cleanser. Allowing a little time between tasting cheeses gives your palate a little rest so that it come back to a more neutral state. A little bit of a plain baguette or unflavored cracker can pick up the acids and fats left behind by a cheese.

Another tip we offer that may not be so apparent is to taste the cheese a second time, or just a little later. Remarkable differences can be recognized in the flavor of a cheese if you first “temper” your palate with the first bite, then go back for seconds. This is something that Kevin Zraly suggests you do when tasting wine: you have the first sip then have a second. Whatever residual may have resided in your mouth beforehand is smoothed over by the introductory taste followed by the actual assessing taste.

Wine or beer can serve as a “platform” for tasting cheese. Nuances in the cheese may be highlighted with one of these beverages underneath. This may not be considered fair, since the flavors and aromas may be altered by the commingling characteristics in the beverage. Yet they can also help bring out those subtleties that might otherwise be missed. Any alcoholic beverage should be consumed in moderation, otherwise your assessing skills may suffer.

Max McCalman

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Garrotxa and Rioja

10239 Garrotxa and Rioja

Queso Garrotxa has been one of my favorites for years. The rustic appearance of the rind belies the mild creamy flavor of the paste. At one time this cheese was near extinction. To think that we might be without this lovely cheese today!

Goat milk cheeses can be a little difficult to pair with red wines. This past weekend I had the opportunity to taste the Garrotxa with a white and a red Rioja. The white was 100% Viura, the red was mostly Tempranillo with a little Garnacha and Graciano added.

The white wine made an excellent match; I gave it my highest score for a pairing – a +2 – from the scoring system I employ in Cheese & Wine 101, as well as most of our other classes.

Viura resembles a Sauvignon Blanc in its flavor/aroma profile, not quite as acid, a little more floral than citrus. Delighted with this pairing I had my doubts about what the red wine would deliver. It happened to be equally pleasing, from start to finish, another +2. The red Rioja had medium tannins and the berry flavor came through. And because the Garrotxa is made with pasteurized goat milk, this makes the marriage with different wines a bit more manageable. The “marriages-made-in-heaven” are less frequently noted with the pasteurized cheeses however.

A good Garrotxa can be a wonderful thing, and this time of year they should be in excellent form. This Garrotxa was in outstanding shape, firm but moist, creamy with just a little tang in the middle. I recall experiencing another “marriage-made-in-heaven” with another wine many years ago – a white Meursault. This is one reason why Garrotxa made the back cover of my first book – The Cheese Plate – and the front cover of my second one – Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best. The Garrotxa was one of the first cheeses that dispelled the notion that cheeses and wines should come from the same terroir to be good matches.

Of course Rioja is not all that far away from where the Garrotxas are produced. There is so much that goes into cheese making, as well as what goes into wine making, that to say that they should come from the same place is a little too easy. It is a good place to start however. Throw a dart on a map and see which cheeses and wines are produced closest to where the dart lands; they may work well together. In more cases than not, fine cheeses do pair well with wines, no matter where they are made.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Aged Gouda (4 y. o.) and Cognac – Big Cheese/Big Wine (or other beverage)

10716 Aged Gouda (4 y. o.) and Cognac – Big Cheese/Big Wine (or other beverage)

Our aged four-year-old Gouda is one of the stronger non-blue cheeses in our caves now. It fits in at the strongest quadrant of the CheeseClockâ„¢ – the 3-12 quadrant. That being said, this Gouda pairs best with the strongest of beverages. Not that this cheese cannot marry well with the lighter wines; it is that it can overwhelm those wines, essentially reducing them down to little more than a rinse.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to taste our aged Gouda with a couple of different Cognacs. The lighter Cognac was a V.S.O.P. that had been aged in French oak barrels, A Cognac that was designed for those that prefer the smoother, less harsh, styles of Cognacs. The second one was an unblended, “bolder” and more familiar style of Cognac.

The first Cognac was very approachable – that is “easy on the palate,” while the second one was a type with a little more “burn” in the finish. This tasting bore out the proof that not all Cognacs are the same, especially with regard to how they paired with different cheeses.

As is most often apparent, the bigger cheeses married more successfully with the bigger Cognac. The four-year-old Gouda, with its hard crystalline texture coupled with its forward salt, generally works well with a wide range of cheese, some better than others. This awesome cheese rarely disappoints.

While perfectly fine with the milder Cognac, this cheese was a much better partner with the bigger one. The “burn” in the Gouda was mellowed with the bolder Cognac, while it was merely “tolerated” with the lighter one. We were able to taste the Gouda and the bigger Cognac all the way through to the finish. The caramel flavor in the cheese matched that in the Cognac while the dense texture of the cheese melted like butter when it was paired with the Cognac.

This exercise gave evidence to a fundamental principle of the CheeseClock™ pairing tool – big cheese works more successfully with bigger beverages.

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Amarelo da Beira Baixa

10020 Amarelo da Beira Baixa

The full name of this D.O.P. Portuguese cheese is Queijo Amarelo da Beira Baixa, which means: Yellow cheese from the lower Beira. Like many old-world cheeses’ names this one is simply named for the place where it is made, along with a note about its color. Most of the cheeses of Portugal are made with sheep milk, the Amarelo is produced with a mix of goat and sheep, not necessarily 50/50. The milk is coagulated with traditional rennet, unlike most of the other Portuguese cheeses whose milks are coagulated with Cardoon Thistle.

The yellow color comes from the blending of the two milks. The goat milk gives it a lighter color while the sheep milk gives a sandy golden hue. Together these milks come out a little yellowish. More important than the color, the flavor and aroma of the cheese is especially unique. There are certainly other cheeses that are produced with a mix of sheep and goat milk, but not many. This blending of these two milks is what gives this cheese its pairing potential with many wine types. Essentially you get the best of both worlds.

For those wines that generally pair well with cheeses made with goat or sheep milk, these usually work exceptionally well. Recently we tasted the Amarelo in a Cheese & Wine 101 with three Italian wines: a Pinot Bianco, a Nero d’Avola, and a Primitivo. Though it worked pretty well with the Pinot Bianco, the two reds were exceptional matches. The pairing with the reds was one of those matches where either the cheese or the wine is enhanced, or both are.

One of the other qualities that we appreciate about the Amarelo is its long shelf-life. Another point in its favor is the wide diversity of nutrients it offers.

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Fleur du Maquis & Riesling

10222 Fleur du Maquis & Riesling

There was a time when I thought that this primordial type of cheese – Fleur du Maquis – would be only at its best in the summer months. I refer to this cheese as “primordial” partly because it is made with sheep milk, but also because it is a fresh style of cheese (the first types of cheeses). The Fleur du Maquis also has a way of offering easy versatility with many wine types.

I have noticed that this cheese has been arriving in fine form throughout the year pretty much; I don’t have to wait for summer to have it. It could be partly because it is from Corsica (whose winters are not quite so extreme) but it could be partly because there’s plenty of sheep milk there anyway, now that they cannot send the excess milk to help produce Roquefort. It’s been that way for several years now. Sheep milk is one milk type that can tolerate freezing and can then be used later to make cheese. If the milk harvest is a good one, and the milk is not destined to Roquefort production, this provides a good supply of high quality milk to make lovely Fleur du Maquis year round.

As I was contemplating a wine partner for the Fleur du Maquis I looked over my cheese and wine pairing catalogue. I recalled that it performed well with many wine types, from Albariño to Zinfandel, but one varietal stood out – the noble Riesling. As much as I enjoy a good Riesling it is not one of my go-to wines. Because I have had the good fortune to taste some of the finest expressions of Rieslings, it does make it a little difficult to settle for a lesser one. Reading across the several pairing scores I found Rieslings popping up several times, and some of those Rieslings were a bit ordinary. As we always hope to find: the cheese can enhance a wine.

Sometimes referred to as a Sommelier’s varietal, the Riesling does show versatility with many foods. Not that is always offers that “marriage-made-in-heaven” experience with all cheeses, but it is almost always better than “just-okay.” I see the Rieslings popping up frequently with the wash-rind cheeses, especially those that are made with cow milk. To find an altogether different type of cheese partner you might try the Fleur du Maquis. Both the cheese and the wines made with Riesling are available and delightful throughout the year.

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Pecorino Sardo and Pinot Grigio

At almost opposite sides of the country of Italy – Sardinia to the west and the Alto Adige of the northeast – the pairing of these two:
Pecorino Sardo and Pinot Grigio might be expected to be unlikely partners. The terroir couldn’t be more different between these two areas. The sheep fare better in the warmer climate of Sardinia and the Pinot Grigio expresses itself rather elegantly in the cooler climate of the Alto Adige.

Pinot Grigio has a lightness that may not stand up to the bolder cheeses very well. Take a delicious Pecorino Sardo that is not particularly overbearing and you will likely find those wines meld equitably. A great pairing for a picnic too: a chilled Pinot Grigio and a nutty Pecorino Sardo.

Being a sheep milk cheese has its advantages with a broad range of wine types. Those cheeses tend to be more forgiving than goat or cow cheeses; they rarely clash. Add to that their keeping qualities of the Pecorino Sardo especially; leftovers can be stashed for later. And the Pinot Grigios hold up well themselves of recorked and kept cool.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Robiola Rocchetta and Dolcetto d’Alba

There are some gorgeous Robiola Rocchettas in our caves right now; they are always a welcome site. One of the many appealing qualities these cheeses have is their versatility in the matching with many many wines.

pc 10651 Robiola Rocchetta and Dolcetto dAlba A varietal that we may not expect to yield as much tolerance for many cheeses is Dolcetto d’Alba. These wines are rarely if ever crafted to be especially “fruit-forward” as is the case with many new styles.
However, I have noted quite a few successes pairing cheeses with this grape.

The first thing we may want to check for good matches are the cheeses and wines that are produced closest to one another. The Piemonte in northwest Italy is also home to a diverse range of formaggi, all milk types, even a few water buffalo cheeses. The combination of all three of the major milk types: goat, sheep and cow, give the Robiola Rocchetta many more successes than conflicts with wines.

Part of the successes of the Dolcetto d’Albas is their softness; they are less astringent than many other reds. Lovely drinking wines. The buttery creamy Robiola Rocchettas at room temperature dissolve gracefully into this smooth red, preferably served slightly cooler.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Queso de los Beyos and Prieto Picudo

There are not nearly as many cow milk cheeses in Spain than there are sheep or goat milk types. This is mainly due to the warm dry climate that dominates most of the peninsula. Of the cow cheeses that are produced, most of them are made in the northern part of the country, from Galicia all the way over to Catalunya, with a few others scattered around other greener parts of the country, including the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean.

pc 10321 Queso de los Beyos and Prieto PicudoThe province of Asturias boasts the broadest variety of types, not only cow milk cheeses but a few goat, sheep, and a number of mixed milk cheeses. One of the more unusual cheeses from the region is the Beyos. The cheese has a dense clay texture that becomes chalkier with age. When you first take a bite of the Beyos it may remind you of a goat cheese – that clay chalky texture most often found in those cheeses. I have tasted a goat version of Beyos as well as a mixed cow/goat version, but I much prefer the better-known 100% cow Beyos.

The dry paste may be a little surprising at first; it is so unusual, yet it melts into a buttery finish, mouth-wateringly delicious. During the most recent Master Intensive Series we tasted the Beyos in the cheese and wine session. It was included as one of the cow cheeses that is pressed but not cooked, a little bit like cheddar. One of the wines that we tasted with the cheeses was a Prieto Picudo from Castilla-León in northwest central Spain. It is a Rosé (Rosado) that has a raspberry flavor, similar to what you find in Grenache (Garnacha).

This was one of the best matches we had in the session; the assessments were unanimous. One person was reminded of a raspberry tart.

One word of caution about the Beyos, for all of you that like to eat the rinds of their cheeses: this rind can develop a little mold growth that, though it is beneficial to the flavor and the texture of the cheese within, is not particularly tasty itself. Enjoy the buttery inside, and try it with the relatively inexpensive Prieto Picudo.

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

An ode to Azeitão, and with Primitivo (or Zinfandel), oh my!

pc 10032 An ode to Azeitão, and with Primitivo (or Zinfandel), oh my!From the tiny village of Azeitão (Ah-zhey-TONE) just south of Lisbon, the eponymous cheese is one that I have admired for years. Its soft unctuous texture and its nutty olive oil flavor makes for an inviting gateway to the diversity of thistle-renneted cheeses of Iberia. Azeitão appeared in my first book – The Cheese Plate – in the all-sheep plate. The ode that I wrote to it in my latest book – Mastering Cheese – had to be edited down; the tribute I wrote to it was just short of “X” rated.

Azeitão is a particularly sexy cheese, being made with sheep milk helps. Because it is produced in a relatively small format makes it a perfect cheese for sharing with your significant other, though as I mention in that ode, you can enjoy it all by yourself. Likely you can’t quite finish it in one setting however, not even two persons, it is so full of great nutrients: protein and amino acids, good butterfats and conjugated linoleic acid, vitamins and minerals.

Just last night we had this cheese in a Cheese & Wine 101 class here at the Center. We tasted it against a Muscadet, a Prieto Picudo and a Primitivo. I enjoyed the cheese with all three of the wines, but the clear favorite for most everyone was the Primitivo. The Azeitão has way of taming the medium tannins in many red wines, the more rustic types and the more elegant styles. In my second book – Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best – the Azeitão is highlighted and several varietals are recommended as good pairing partners, Zinfandel (a descendant of Primitivo) is listed.