New happenings in feast’s cheese world

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One aisle of the Summer 2011 Fancy Food Show

As some of you may remember, a little while back several of the feast! staff members got to head up to DC for the Fancy Foods Show. 180,000 products from 2,400 vendors on two mind-boggling floors. We spent two days wandering dazedly through this cornucopia of craftsmanship and chemistry, marveling, savoring, recoiling, and head-scratching. You learn quickly to pace yourself, and turn down nearly everything thrust at you, or you don’t make it down the first aisle. Nevertheless, I feel like I consumed nearly my body weight in 1-ounce cheese samples. Our waistlines suffered, but our knowledge grew markedly. Not only did we have some great staff bonding time (go ahead, ask Megan about standardized testing in public schools, I dare ya), but we also came back with formidable lists of new products to add to our lineup.

Over in my corner of the store (the cheese counter), we’ve already been able to integrate some of these fantastic new items.

One of my favorites is Bonrus, a marvelous young cow and sheep’s milk cheese from the Alta Langa folks in northern Italy. Packed after only 21 days of aging, the cheese is firmer than the La Tur or Rochetta (also made by Alta Langa), with less pungency and a mild grassiness.

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The stellar Petit Agour

Another great new sheep’s milk acquisition is the Petit Agour. An entirely different character than the Bonrus, this raw milk cheese is from the French side of the Basque region and aged for at least 3 months to yield a firmer, nuttier paste with rich buttery notes.

From this side of the pond, we’ve picked up two cheeses from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. The Toma is a new product for them- a natural rind and semi-firm interior with a lactic, subtly grassy flavor. Their Original Blue, on the other hand, is what launched their popularity- creamy and smooth, the raw milk provides a sharp tang and wonderful complexity reminiscent of Roquefort.

My explorations at the Fancy Food Show didn’t stop with cheeses, however. I also had to save room for some incredible cured meats (I know, it’s a rough job). At the Forever Cheese booth, while Eric was harried by a Spaniard over the correct names for obscure cuts of pork, the rest of us discovered the superlative Cabacero Iberico.

From the famous Iberico hog (also known as the Pata Negra, or Black Hoof), this is the top loin, which means it has more fat and connective tissue than the loin or tenderloin (which makes up the Lomito Iberico). As anyone familiar with Iberico products can tell you, much of the flavor is in the fat, owing to the unique breed and acorn-rich diet. The Cabacero is rubbed with paprika, garlic, salt and pepper, then allowed to cure for three months, intensifying and melding the flavors. As a cut of Iberico, it is of course pricey, but packed with so much flavor that a few slices are all you need to plunge yourself into paprika-infused bliss. Let your friends buy their own, sharing is overrated.

And the list goes on- Lou Bergier Pichin, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Edwards Jowciale… Instead of reading my ramblings, however, you really just need to get in here and try some of these- my words cannot do these sublime tastes justice. We’re always happy to give you a sample and any advice or information we can.

We also love getting suggestions from you- some of our best products have been recommended by our customers. Feel free to drop me a line with ideas, questions, or feedback at ehren@feastvirginia.com

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