Fancy Food Show Trend #2: Young Specialty Food Entrepreneurs

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The under 40 crowd is obviously inspired by making specialty foods.  Is it the a result of the Food Network, a need to save the family farm or take over the family business, or the innovative environment of the specialty food business that is attracting so many young entrepreneurs to the craft?  We don’t know, but we love to support this trend!

(pictured here: Shamus Jones, owner of Brooklyn Brine Pickles)

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Fat Toad Farm is run by husband and wife team Steve Reid and Judith Irving, their daughters Calley Hastings and Hannah Reid, and two perfectly invaluable employees Katie Sullivan & Christine Porcaro. The family has spent the last seven years building a high-quality herd of French Alpine milking goats and perfecting the art of caramel making. 

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Anne represents the finest French cheeses legally imported into the US. Her knowledge and passion is far beyond her years.

Get them at Feast! soon…

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Alessandro Carpenedo represents his Italian family’s remarkable cheeses around the world.  Here he holds the exquisite Blu ’61, a cheese that his father created for his mother in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. It is a romantic and delectable blue cheese that is aged in wine and dried cranberries.  We can’t wait to offer it at Feast! in August.

We’re Number Eight!

A little while back*, Livability.com rated Charlottesville as one of its “Top 10 Beer Cities.” Now, the list is open to some criticism, for sure – our town is referred to as “Charlotte” towards the end of the article, and I have to agree with one commenter that the list should be called “Top ten unexpected beer cities.” How else do you explain the lack of any cities in California, Oregon, or Colorado? And Albuquerque as #1? I lived there for a bit, and it is a great town, but calling it the #1 beer city in the country seems a bit of a stretch.

Regardless, we’ll revel in the attention when we get it, and Charlottesville is a pretty great place for beer. Besides, this gives me the chance to combine two of my passions, and talk about pairing beer with cheese.

Cheese and wine pairings are everywhere, and no one would deny that they make a classic combination- a nice port with your Valdeon? Tempranillo with the Ossau Irraty? A little bubbly with the St. Angel? Divine.

Culture has some great
beer & cheese pairing ideas.
And mouth-watering photos.

But pairing cheese with beer can open up whole new avenues of taste, and this trend has been gathering more cred with the foodie crowd. There’s lots of good info out there: Artisanal has their pairing tips, and Culture has a really nice American Craft Beer & Cheese guideline.

Since we’re celebrating Charlottesville-area beers, though, I thought a few pairings based on local selections would be appropriate. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my own favorites.**

A creamy, moderate intensity washed-rind cheese like Taleggio*** is really complemented by the hoppy bitterness of an IPA style beer, like Blue Mountain’s Full Nelson. If you really want to up the ante, pair Starr Hill’s Double Platinum with Meadow Creek’s Grayson. Not for the faint-hearted.

Looking for something more approachable? Try one of the local wheat beers (Starr Hill’s The Love or Blue Mountain’s Rockfish Wheat) with one of the local chevres from Caromont or Goats-R-Us. The lightly spicy, fruity beer is wonderful with the bright acidity in the fresh goat’s milk cheeses.

Not ready for spring yet? Cozy up with either the Blue Mountain Evil 8 or Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout and Beemster’s X-O Gouda. The rich butterscotch notes and subtle saltiness in the cheese brings the beer’s dark malty and roasted flavors to the forefront. Just add a fire, and savor our last few days of winter.

I could go on all day. As with anything, though, the best way to find what you like is to experiment. Come in and talk to us about your favorite beer (or bring one to sample- I promise I won’t tell), and we can find the perfect cheese pairing for you. Prost!

*Ok, this list actually came out in January, I believe. Sorry I’ve been such a bad blogger.

**Note that these are local bottled beers only. Devil’s Backbone, South Street, and Wild Wolf are all great breweries, but they’re not as widely available, and they rotate more frequently. So, you’ll just have to take your cheese to them to find your own great pairings. I imagine that if you share your cheese, they’ll be happy to help you out. Be sure to tell us what you discover!

***The Quadrello di Bufala is another great choice- basically a Taleggio made with water buffalo’s milk, it is richer and more flavorful than the traditional cow. Availability is limited, so grab it when you see it!

Old Man Winter Eats Fondue and Cassoulet with Friends (and so should you)

I’m a winter kinda guy, always have been.  I appreciate the cold weather immensely and look forward to making hearty comfort food as the mercury drops.  Soups, stews, casseroles, braises – you get the picture. This is my culinary wheelhouse so to speak.

Comfort food, in my humble opinion, is best produced in large batches to encourage sharing with friends, family, random drifters, shut-in neighbors, roommates in your hostel etc. Don’t be shy!  Make a big pot and get to know fellow citizens of the earth.

Like the classic nursery rhyme- "Do not eat cassoulet, made by a French cat wearing a black beret"*

Cassoulet and cheese fondue are two delicious dishes that are particularly well suited to bringing together large swaths of humanity.  Feast adapted recipes for cassoulet and cheese fondue that provide a fantastic starting point, but experimentation is definitely encouraged.  Contrary to the residents of Southwestern France, we can make good cassoulet right here in the U-S of A.

Give it a shot.  Let us know how it goes…or better yet invite us over to check out the results.  I promise we’ll bring wine and be on our best behavior in front of your folks.

Click through to the next page for full cassoulet and cheese fondue recipes.  Continue reading

New happenings in feast’s cheese world

Copyright Specialtyfood.com

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. Continue reading

Giant Peaches

“The floor was soggy under his knees, the walls were wet and sticky, and peach juice was dripping from the ceiling.James opened his mouth and caught some of it on his tongue.  It tasted delicious….Every few seconds he paused and took a bite out of the wall.”

James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

I haven’t read this in years.  Actually, I’ve never read it, but I  listened to a gravelly recording of Roald Dahl so many times that I wore the tape out about 24 years ago.  Every time peach season rolls around, I replay that passage over in my mind, his British accent punctuating the word “delicious” with special importance.  Though Roald Dahl is assuredly not a food writer, I count this and a few other passages from James and the Giant Peach more drool-worthy than other purpose-written food selections.  Maybe it was the British accent.  Or maybe it’s just that easy to make peaches sound good.

Continue reading