Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The end of an era

It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I share the news that Sally Jackson is reportedly retiring from the cheesemaking business.

As many of you already know, she recently cooperated with the FDA in a voluntary recall of all of her products when they were targeted as potentially being positive for e-coli. I had seven beautiful wheels of her cheese in my possession at the time, and having to dispose of them had me choking back tears. A few days later I hear through the cheese grapevine that she was selling off her small herd of several pregnant ewes, some nubian goats, and a few Swiss cows. I admit I wasn't entirely surprised to hear this, but it still made me depressed and sickened; this is not the way any cheesemaker should go out.

The sliver of a silver lining in all of this is that the public is just as saddened by this as I am. Customers have been coming in to ask after her, and the general feedback that I've received is that of sympathy and great love for what she has accomplished. She is quite simply a legacy in American artisan cheesemaking, and her cheese will be dearly missed.

I've also had many people ask what they might be able to do to help. I don't know Sally very well, in fact I've never met her in person or seen her amazing farm, but I do know that she needs our support as she goes through this incredibly difficult transition. I do know that she is among the most humble people I've come across, and it would mean the world to her to hear from you, so please take a few moments during this crazy time of year to write her a postcard or a letter, send her an email, and tell her how much you have loved her cheeses over the years. You can find contact information for her on her website.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sally Jackson Cheese recalled

Today brought the sad news that all of Sally Jackson's cheeses have been voluntarily recalled.

This is the result of a recent outbreak of e-coli in the area, linked to a cheese plate upon which her cheese, among others, was consumed.  Tami Parr of Pacific Northwest Cheese Project has a summary here.

This is pretty devastating for me right now, and after speaking briefly with Sally this morning, it is very up in the air as to what will come of this. What I do know is that the strain of e-coli found in the persons who became sick has not been specifically linked to her cheese, this is a cautionary measure at this time.

Anyone who has purchased, or is planning to purchase one of our Pacific Northwest Selections for the holiday season, which feature a wedge of Sally Jackson goat, we will be substituting an equally delicious product from the area.

If you bought any Sally Jackson cheese from my shop in the past 2-3 weeks, please dispose of any unconsumed portions. If you like, you may return any unconsumed cheese of hers in exchange for another cheese.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A marriage made in heaven: Bacon Wrapped Brie

The holiday season has always been, for me and for so many of us, a time of indulgence. Food, drink, talking myself hoarse among loved one to excess, all part of the gameplan. In the spirit of indulgence, I bring you a very special treat, commonly referred to as a "small wheel of pure sin" in my house, but for the sake of brevity it will be plainly known in the shop as "Bacon Wrapped Brie".

The inspiration for this ridiculously delicious little morsel comes from our favorite neighborhood shop back in Brooklyn, Bedford Cheese Shop. One Thanksgiving or Christmas many years ago we made our usual stop there to stock up on decadent treats before heading to the family's homestead for a few days of eating ourselves stupid, and they had this glorious little gem tucked into the wee side of the case, almost hidden, which I can now understand seeing as they may have had the privilege of taking home those unsold.

It was a small disc of a ripe, punchy brie, wrapped in locally produced, cured bacon.

We snapped it up and salivated the entire 4 hour drive to New Hampshire, thinking and talking about how awesome it would be to sear that baby into a molten, gooey glob of salty pork and tangy curd. What we eventually experienced far exceeded our wildest dreams, and I could not pass up the opportunity to re-create it during this, my first of many holiday seasons.

Bacon on anything tends to be a no-brainer, for sure, but I find myself in an especially fortunate situation sharing market space with Rain Shadow Meats, procurers of the most amazing double smoked Colorado bacon I've ever laid my tastebuds upon. The difficult choice for this project was the cheese - it needed to be affordable, with a thick rind that could hold up to a bit of heat, with enough punchy flavor to stand up to the salty bacon fat, but not enough to compete with it. The clear winner: Weybridge. This modest 3.5 oz. round is everything you want in a well-balanced brie; creamy, buttery pate with a slight tangy kick that intensifies just so when you reach the hearty but not-too-thick rind. Made with love by Scholten Family Farm in Weybridge, VT, this palatable cheese makes it's way to the west coast via the Cellars at Jasper Hill.  I've been eating this cheese for a while now, and have taken much notice to how well it holds its form as it warms, which led me to believe that it would melt like a dream just as the bacon began to crisp, and I was right. Oooohhhhh so deliciously right!

Here is a photo montage of the trial run tonight at our house:

A perfectly ripe disc of Weybridge

wrapped in bacon!

securing the bottom with a couple toothpicks

Searing begins top down, on high heat

Just a little sear to each side piece for good measure

Bottom down now and the cheese is starting to melt and crisp on the pan, mmmm

Bacon seared to just crispy, cheese is a glorious puddle of fromage!

Sliced and ready to inhale, was lucky to nab this shot before we gobbled it like starved children

I will be honest - once cut into this frankenbaconcheese does not present well, but who cares?  It's bacon and cheese, what's not to love??

We'll be selling these beautiful babies at the shop this Thursday 12/16 through Christmas Eve.  They are intended for immediate consumption, so please plan accordingly.  We will be assembling and taking hold requests for them on a daily basis, so please call the shop at 206.467.5447 to secure yours now.
Also note, they are small discs, once cooked can provide a hearty taste for a group of four, or an appetizer if you're a glutton like me, for two.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This holiday season, give the gift of cheese!

Every holiday season when the fever of shopping is in the air, I always think about how I can direct my personal contribution towards things that promote sustainability. These days, who really needs more stuff? For years I've opted to purchase or make gifts that produce little waste, don't clutter others' homes, and carry a small carbon footprint. Needless to say, I've built a reputation among my friends and family for giving gifts of food. This holiday season, do something that feels good on so many levels, and give the gift of cheese! You'll support a local small business, which in turn supports an entire network of other local small businesses through the independent cheesemakers and local distribution companies I work with, and impress the hell out of people with awesome cheese!

In addition to our usual range of great gift ideas like gift certificates and specialty cheese platters, you can also get your orders in now for hand-selected Holiday Cheese Assortments.

* Pacific Northwest Selections (pictured above): Tumalo Farms "Jewell" (OR), Sally Jackson Goat (WA), Black Sheep Creamery's "Queso de Oveja" (WA), and Rogue Creamery's "Oregonzola" (OR). $35

* European Classics: Delice du Jura (Burgundy, France), Abbaye de Belloc (French Pyrenees), Keen's Cheddar (Neal's Yard Dairy, UK), Valdeon Cabrales (Spanish blue) $35

or go for the gusto with
* Around the world with cheese: 7 exquisite selections of the best cheeses available from the U.S. and beyond $70

Each assortment includes labels for identification and a cheese menu detailing origin, type, and production of each cheese. All assortments are available on a pre-order, pre-paid basis and available for pickup from 12/20 - 12/24.

And as always, we will be fully stocked and staffed to give you the great the individual service you know and love. See you on the other side of the deli case!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Breaking the Cheddar!

December 11th-12th we're stoked to be participating in the annual Pike & Pine Holiday Shopping Weekend! This is a great opportunity to cruise the neighborhood for dozens of great deals from all your favorite locally owned businesses.

For this event, we'll be breaking a wheel of Montogmery's Cheddar from Neal's Yard Dairy. This mighty British cheddar was one of the first I ever tasted from the Neal's Yard collection over ten years ago, and it is still one of my all-time favorite cheeses - rich, buttery, salty and tangy. Muscling into a wheel of Monty's is just as much a treat for me as it is for everyone else.

That's a wheel of Keen's in the photo, a close cousin to Monty's

We'll break the cheddar at high noon on Saturday December 11th, so swing by for some tasty samples and enjoy 10% off Monty's for the rest of the weekend. See you then!