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March 18, 2009

Say cheese

In today's guest post, our Shallow Thought Wednesday guru, John Lindner, examines a not-so-shallow question concerning the complexities of love, and quotes my favorite poet to boot. At least I think he's my favorite poet. EL

I bought a small brick of traditional English farmhouse cheddar, an Italian truffle cheese and a havarti at Trader Joe’s on Saturday. TJ’s isn’t my favorite stop for cheese, but I was there and so was the cheese.

While I was checking out, the cashier, a bright, sweet, raconteur of a young woman, asked what  my favorite cheese is. A type immediately came to mind, but then I thought, No, can that be right?

I love Campo de Montalban, which blends cow, sheep, and goat milk to wonderful effect (also, great with quince paste). But is it my favorite cheese? Some days, yes, undoubtedly.

The type I eat most is cheddar, but how can I say it’s my favorite when I’m not a big extra-sharp cheddar fan?

Mmmmm… Havarti (but not my favorite).

If I were marooned on some desolate isle and could have only one cheese, it would soon become my least favorite, I’m sure. But if I could have only one type, I think I’d choose cheddar. So maybe that’s my favorite.

"A poet's hope: to be, like some valley cheese, local, but prized elsewhere”
--W.H. Auden

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:26 AM | | Comments (55)
        

Comments

I think if I were stranded on a desert island, my favourite kind of cheese to have would be one that was only available in one place, as long as that place was not a desert island.

TJ’s isn’t my favorite stop for cheese, but I was there and so was the cheese.

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

My favorite cheese? I like a lot of them. Perhaps Muenster, its very good. I think I might even get some at the store today.

White American. maybe yellow if I had to.

It would have to be Bleu d'Auvergne for me. I truly love all blues, the more pungent, the better. This one has such a nice balance of flavor and wonderful texture. And then on some other days it would be Comte. Either way, I'm happy that I live in a world surrounded by cheeses.

5-year aged Gouda is the finest cheese ever to enter my mouth.

It's all good! Buffalo mozzarella, chevre, bleu, havarti, muenster, just about every cheese but Velveeta (which still makes a darn fine grilled cheese!)

If you're a cheese lover (which I am,) the trick is not to have a favorite. That way, you don't get jaded. Enjoy a tangy Jarlsberg for a few days, then when that begins to cloy, go on to a well-aged Cheddar, transition to a Fontina (melts beautifully in the toaster oven on crusty bread,) followed by a soft and runny Camembert (with a pear or grapes) after dinner, supplanted by a blue-veined Stilton (with port, of course,) then snack on a slice or two of mildly flavorful Meunster. I'd day more but there's an Edam in the fridge that requires my immediate attention.

I had a Monte enegro cheese a few months ago that was out of this world. Even my wife, who is not a huge fan of cheese, thought it was amazing. Unfortuantely, I haven't been able to find it in any stores in the area.

Are there places in Baltimore that actually serve a cheese course? I haven't really seen any. It is quite common in many of the Washington restaurants.

Are there any great cheese shops left in Baltimore? I mean real cheese shops, where the cheese monger gives you a taste and then asks how big of a piece you would like. I used to frequent the cheese shop in Federal Hill but it is closed now.

Oh, Christine the Lioness, I have fond memories of the Federal Hill cheese shop. They also had excellent pate.

Like Michael A. Gray, I love all (or most) cheeses, but my current favorite is Epoisses. This is not a cheese I'd want to have every day, but it certainly makes any occasion special.

We used to have a great cheese shop in Broadway Market, but it's long gone. Alas!

Ditto Christine's query - does anyone know of a good cheese shop? TJs is OK, Whole Foods is sort of OK, the Wine Market is OK, but I want good. Somewhere that the staff doesn't huff at you when you ask for suggestions.

I never thought I'd say this, but Baltimore needs more cheese.

The Wegman's cheese department people are very attentive and know their stuff. Good selection, too.

Mr. Gray, thank God you stopped when you did. I was getting hungry ... and a little dizzy.

Hey PCB Rob - what cheese do you like with your bourbon and pistachios?

Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia does a cheese plate as an appetizer, but I assume they would bring one after your entree if you so desired.

"Selection of Artisanal Cheese, House Made Pickles, Grain Mustard, Red Grapes, Grilled Baguette. $15"

One time I found a box of cheese on my street. It's true. I have a witness.

I had pistachios but no bourbon for dinner. For cheese maybe that Spanish stuff we had at Tapabar. I forget the name.

I'd agree with the Wegman's recommendation; I can get comté there, (my favorite everyday cheese), and they have a chevre I'm particularly fond of. But I, too, would love to know of a place in Baltimore proper with that degree (or better) of quality and selection.

OMG 2 -- Otter-City Rebel Motorcycle Guy--were you thinking of manchego? That's our favorite Spanish cheese.

As for the cheese you found on the street, was it marked "not to be sold--for donation only" or some such thing?

I've been pleasantly surprised by the cheese selection at Whole Foods (at least the one in Mount Washington -- I can't vouch for the Harbor East location). Also, for Italian cheeses, check out Trinacria (their Parmigiano-Reggiano was a steal when I last bought it).

Every time I am asked about a favorite _________ (fill in the blank: wine, cheese, ethnic cuisine, kitchen knife, &tc.) a little part of my brain immediately is transported to the place where I hear the following bit of sacred dialog:

KEEPER: Stop! Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me
these questions three, 'ere the other side he see.
LAUNCELOT: Ask me the questions, bridge-keeper. I'm not afraid.
KEEPER: What is your name?
LAUNCELOT: My name is Sir Launcelot of Camelot.
KEEPER: What is your quest?
LAUNCELOT: To seek the Holy Grail.
KEEPER: What is your favorite color?
LAUNCELOT: Blue.
KEEPER: Right. Off you go.

That pretty well keeps the question in perspective!

MD Canon - thanks for the laugh! One of my favorite scenes from Monty Python!

Hey Bourbon Girl,

I like several kinds of cheese for snacking along with the pistachios and bourbon. Sharp cheddar is really good, especially with some good spicy mustard. Asiago isn't a bad second choice. Or maybe some colby/jack. Sometimes even that pepper cheese (jalapenos in there perhaps?)
I want to try that manchego cheese, haven't located it down here just yet.

How about you BG? Have a favorite cheese with your pistachios and bourbon?

Ah, but look what happened to Brave Sir Robin, MD Canon.

Ah yes, manchego. BG loves it. Me too. It's a great cheese because it changes so much as the temperature changes. It's a solid favorite but the one that I really love that is more, uh, challenging-looking is cabrales . Mmmm... scary blue cheese that is fragrant, complex, but so creamy and smooth, without the harsh tang of a scary bleu cheese. Did I say harsh tang?

The box of found cheese has a more detailed story.

MD Canon - it's all good fun until someone gets thrown from the bridge...If you're talking Monty Python, I think the Cheese Shop sketch would be the best fit for this post.

The last time I was in Harris Teeter (Columbia), they had quite a selection of cheese. I picked up a manchego and some mozzeralla. Both were quite tasty.

Although the selection isn't huge, the 'cheese shop' inside the Wine Source is good. There is always someone willing to help with food&wine pairings and finding something new to try for those still trying to branch out of comfort zones. Very friendly and will cut your piece to size.

Lissa ... my point exactly! Sadly, my knowledge of the rest of the Python canon is wanting, so I don't know the particulars of the cheese shop scene. I think one of my children has the boxed set somewhere, but that may be Boston.

Owl,
That link to cabrales also sells manchego. Cool. I think I might get some from there. What's better, the young cheese or the aged?

Manchego definitely changes as it ages. I'm not sure I have a preference. The more that kind of cheese ages, it becomes denser and possibly more complex. Sometimes I like a young cheese. I guess I prefer the less aged manchego. I don't know about cabrales.

Manchego definitely changes as it ages. I'm not sure I have a preference. The more that kind of cheese ages, it becomes denser and possibly more complex. Sometimes I like a young cheese. I guess I prefer the less aged manchego. I don't know about cabrales.

I like my women the way I like my cheese. The older they get, the more dense and complex they become.

Trixie--dense and complex! That's putting a very positive spin on aging.

Must ... resist .... temptation ... not ... strong .... enough ....

I like my women the way I like my cheese – on a cracker.

I'm not so sure about the density, Trixie, but I'm with you on the complexity.

Whichever I'm enjoying at the moment, especially if the wine and company are equally as delicious (then again, there's the fresh buffalo mozzerella I ate while having lunch at a water buffalo farm in Campagnia last May, just a few hours after it was made -- I still dream about it).

YumPorchetta

Do you have a recommended recipe for the fine porkystuff? Not the whole pig stuff but a butt seasoned correctly for a grilling experience. I guess I'm looking for the seasonings really.

I have had such a beast produced in SE Massachusetts that I believe had both Italian and Portagues influences that was great.

Ah yes, nothing like a well seasoned...oh never mind!

For the goat cheese lovers, if you saute mushrooms and onions with a bit of thyme in butter and a touch of red wine and then throw in the food processor with chevre it makes a most delicious spread or dip for crackers, and a wonderful filling for beef tenderloin, which I've also made before. Spread all over beef, roll, tie shut, sear and bake like you normally do to a pleasing rare or medium rare

Hi LEC,

I have a recipe for that FINE, FINE dish that makes grown men weep with pleasure and women lick their plates clean. However, it cooks long and slow in the oven, not on the grill. Still interested? Let me know and I'll be happy to post.

YP, with a description like that, you have to post that recipe. I don't care if it is for homemade Playdoh.

Ms YP

Please post your recipe for that FINE FINE porky dish.

I was looking at a pork shoulder roast at the grocery store this morning and was drooling at the thought of a porchetta. Then I signed on and see your offer. It is a sign that I must make one this weekend.

Thanks

By popular demand (thank you Lissa and LEC), here is the basic recipe for my version of porchetta (feel free to improvise, as I did, according to your taste):

Ingredients:

10 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fennel seeds
2 Tbsps. coarse sea salt (I use less-- about 1 Tbsp b/c I prefer less salt in the meat and pan drippings)
1/2 to 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
5 to 6 small dried red chiles, crumbled with seeds OR 3 tsp+ crushed red pepper
1 boneless pork shoulder butt (about 6 to 7 lbs works nicely -- you can use a smaller one and reduce the herbs/spices accordingly. But believe me, you'll WISH you had made the larger one)
4 Tbsps olive oil, divided (approx.-- I eyeball as necessary)
1/2 cup hot water (approx.-- I eyeball as necessary and always add more)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chicken broth (approx.-- I eyeball as necessary and always add more)


Heat oven to 450 degrees. Using a mortar and pestle (this makes me feel very Italian), crush the garlic and fennel seeds and mix them together. If I'm feeling lazy or time is tight, I throw the fennel seeds in a mini-chopper or spice grinder and try to grind them part-way, but then I always use the mortar and pestle to scrunch in the garlic. Add the salt, black pepper and chiles or red pepper and combine.

Trim excess fat from the pork sholder to your preference. Cut 1 inch slits all over the surface of the meat, including top and bottom. (This is the time to indulge your inner serial killer and go nuts with your weapon, if desired.) Rub the garlic-seed mixture into the slits (if you have deboned the pork shoulder yourself, feel free to make lots of the rub and smear it inside the pork before rolling it back up and tying it into a nice porky package) Massage the rub into the meat, tenderly or fiercely, lovingly or with reckless abandon.

Heat at least 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy Dutch oven or roasting pan. Sear the pork on all sides over medium-low heat for about 10 to 12 minutes but do not allow garlic to burn.

Remove the meat from the pot and add hot water, stirring and scraping the bottom to deglaze the pan and incorporate all those wonderful flavorful brown bits of porky goodness. Place a rack in the bottom of the pan. Add the meat, fatty side up, and roast in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes.

Pour the lemon juice and chicken broth over the meat. Brush with remaining olive oil.

Reduce the heat to 250 degrees (yes that's correct). Cover the pan, and roast that lovely thing for 8 to 10 hours, basting with pan juices (I baste every 45 minutes or so; if the juices look low, I add more water, chicken broth and lemon juice, depending on my mood). How will you know it is done? When the meat falls apart when barely touched with a fork. However, it will call out to you long before then, and your willpower and the willpower of all of those within sniffing radius will be severely tested as you restrain yourself and them from ripping open the oven, pulling off the cover, and diving face-first into the porchetta).

Remove the porchetta from the pot and place it on a serving platter, beating everyone off with heavy clubs while you skim the fat from the pan drippings. Serve the pan drippings on the side or drizzled over the meat, or in tall tumblers to guzzle alongside this FINE, FINE dish. Smile modestly as your guests heap praise upon you while gorging themselves.

Buon Appetito!

yum yum Ms Yum

It will definitely be made this weekend and I will report. However, I can say at this time that it will be terrific.

Thanks

YP, that sounds delicious. I also have a weakness for any recipe that involves my inner serial killer and garlic.

I bet it'd be even better if you subbed lime juice for the lemon juice.

Well you earned your name today.

LEC, after you try it this weekend, please give me a full report. You really can't go wrong.

Lissa, you and I would get along nicely, I think. Lime juice would be lovely as well, and would give it a more Cuban twist, perhaps? Use more garlic if you'd like, and more fennel-- I don't measure anymore. It's mostly by feel. A tip: you may wrap the roast in foil, after it's been rubbed/massaged, to rest overnight in the fridge which will allow the flavors to really permeate the meat.

OMG, my quest while in Italy was to eat my weight in artiginale gelato and to do the same at the porchetta stands/carts. I've learned to make gelato at home to help satisfy that yearning, and this recipe is swoony enough to fulfill the porchetta cravings. I prepare it instead of the same old for Thanksgiving -- while unconventional, there are no complaints at the end of the meal.

I am intrigued by the fennel. Intrigued.

I bet a rest would really help. Give the garlic time to work.

Wish I had a good source for ethically raised pork.

vdp knows a place with happy pork. i'll ask him.

Lissa and OMG, while the porchetta slumbers in its rub, the garlic and fennel work their magic, but I believe it is the fennel's perfume and flavor which transforms this FINE FINE dish throughout the process into something sublime, something greater than the sum of its ingredients.

I'd greatly appreciate it if you would share the source of happy pork with me as well. It's been very difficult to find.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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