Tag Archives: cheese

Kitchen Adventures: Guava-rama

As much as I’d like to think of myself as something of a food savant, I’ll often come across random things in the grocery aisles and wonder, “What the eff do I do with this?”

Such was the case recently with a round can of guava paste. I picked it up at a local supermarket with an excellent Latin American food section, intending to use a bit of it in a baking experiment, but wasn’t quite clear on what to do with the rest. I mean, there’s a crapload of it stuffed in there. It sort of looks like that gelatinous cranberry jelly that pops out of a can, only darker, thicker and tastier.

Well, it turns out you can use guava paste in a crapload of ways, too–in Cuban empanadas with some cream cheese, in turnovers, in muffins, even in meat sauces. Pretty much anything goes when using the stuff, including these:

Ta-da! Guava macarons, straight up.

I’ll post a recipe shortly for these guava macarons. In the meantime, here’s a fresh and simple way to munch your way through a whole can of guayaba paste: Stick cubes of paste and a white cheese (the stronger-tasting, the better) with a toothpick, add some bread, and have yourself a little feast. Muy bueno!

 

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I’m Craving: Funky Fromage

Vive la stinky cheese! (by Palmino, via cheezburger.com)

I must confess: I’m very attracted to smelly foods. Durian, kimchi, bagoong, Époisses de Bourgogne, fish sauce, garlic–I will eat it all, and in vast quantities, if left to my own devices. Of course, I won’t eat these all at the same time, unless some genius chef comes up with a fabulous way to incorporate everything into one cohesive dish (hint hint, “Chopped” producers).

Unfortunately, not everyone shares my fascination with funk. Which is why it can be challenging when you’re working in an office environment and suddenly a craving for a  big, fat slice of smelly cheese hits you like a whiff of Limburger.

Usually, I’m very considerate when it comes to my lunch choices, but the other day, I couldn’t help myself. At lunchtime, I went in for a dentist appointment, which didn’t take as long as I expected. Left with some time to kill, I trotted across the street to Red White and Bleu, a local wine and gourmet shop that I’ve been meaning to check out for some time.

While they didn’t have any of my favorite cheese, Époisses, in stock, the owner, James, introduced me to two new pungent pals: Meadow Creek Dairy‘s Grayson and Grès des Vosges, an Alsatian cousin of Munster cheese (no, not Muenster, the stuff you find in grocery stores–the real stuff smells like feet and is made with raw cow’s milk and left to age in damp cellars). Munster smells so bad that I’ve seen reports that people call it “monster cheese.”

Both are soft, washed-rind cheeses, and both stink to high heaven, which is just how I like them. Grayson, a seasonal cheese named after the county where Meadow Creek Dairy is located, can only be described as having a rich, beefy and creamy taste, with the consistency of a thick fudge. Taste-wise, it’s sort of like a Taleggio. Fabulous. But, to be honest, it smells vaguely like that rotten odor that emanates from a tooth when a crown pops off,  along with a touch of manure.

The reeking Grayson (via Meadow Creek Dairy)

The Grès des Vosges, which comes nicely packaged with a pretty fern frond pressed into it, is also rich and creamy, but a little milder than the Grayson. So how does it smell? Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle article would have you believe it’s a mix of “garlic, mushroom, barnyard and cultured milk,” but that’s just being polite. Personally, I smell a mix of yeasty belly button lint with a hint of fish sauce, but that’s just me.

I handed the cheese to Dr. J while his eyes were glued to the TV during the Timberwolves/Bobcats game, and, thinking it was a bar of soap from Lush, took a big whiff. His response: “Gross. I thought I was going to be smelling something nice.”

Grès des Vosges--gross smell, grand flavor

Don’t my descriptions make you want to run out and drop some dimes on stinkcheeses? Like I said, the relationship between smell and taste is inversely proportional. The more gag-inducing the odor, the more gratifying the taste. I would buy these two cheeses again in a heartbeat.

Anyway. Returning to my point about malodorous foods and the office, I returned to the office with these two cheeses in hand, and, after opening the Grayson at my desk, I got self-conscious that my co-workers were going to throw up, so I stuck them in the communal fridge. Then, of course, I became paranoid that the cheeses were going to stink that up, so I left work a bit early to keep the smelliness to myself.

I stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few things, leaving the cheese in the car for about an hour, and, well, word to the wise–leaving two pungent cheeses in a closed space for a longish period of time is ill advised. That was a bad choice.

Have you ever tried a stinky cheese? If so, did you enjoy it? What did it taste like?  Feel free to get creative describing how bad they smelled–that’s half the fun when it comes to writing about cheese.

To paraphrase the great Andrew Zimmern, “if it smells bad, eat it!”*
*applicable only to stinking cheeses, not other foods. Actually, this is kind of bad advice out of context.

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I’m Craving: Humboldt Fog

The humble Humboldt (Courtesy of Cypress Grove Chevre)

 

Anyone who knows me knows I love animals, but, as with everything, there are exceptions. There are animals I just don’t like that others adore. Like rabbits (useless animals) and monkeys (too much like humans). And goats. I am not a fan of goats, mainly because they’re not very cuddly and have tiny eyes and scary teeth that make them look evil.

The only redeeming quality about goats, however, is that their milk can be used to make some badass cheeses. One of my all-time favorite cheeses is the award-winning Humboldt Fog, a soft, mold-ripened goat cheese made by Cypress Grove Chevre in Arcata, CA, about 300 miles north of San Francisco. I didn’t think I’d find it all the way out here in the DC area,  so when I saw it in the display case at Westover Market the other day, I snapped up a quarter pound of it. I don’t remember the last time I’d ever been so excited about cheese.

What makes this cheese amazing is that it has a mild, delicate goat flavor, not like the in-your-face tartness of the straight-up chevre logs you can buy at the supermarket. To give you an idea of what it looks and tastes like: If a wheel of Brie and a log of chevre got together and had a baby, it would be named Humboldt Fog.

Nope, that's not mildew, that's cheese ash, friendo. (Courtesy of Cypress Grove Chevre)

It has a bloomy, white exterior like Brie, and features a line of edible, tasteless vegetable ash running through the center, which reminds me of the earthquake faults that Northern California is so (in)famous for. There’s a fresh goat cheese core enveloped by a runny, shell, and just the mere sight of it sends me into a tizzy. Like, a “swim-in-it-like-Scrooge-McDuck-does-with-gold-coins” kind of a tizzy.

The moment you bite into it, you immediately want to reach for some crisp pears, a baguette and a glass of cava and lay out in the sun on a picnic blanket with your love muffin. Diet be damned, this stuff is worth gaining a few pounds.

One thing I didn’t understand, though was the ash. Apparently, the ash is used not only to give the cheese a striking appearance, but also to give it an alkaline element so its acidity doesn’t inhibit ripening. Hm. I learned something new today.

So how does it taste? It’s a beautifully light and mild cheese that has just the right amount of tang, and when it’s matured, the rind is a bit peppery, which is a surprise. If I could buy a wheel of it and just eat that every day for a year, I think I’d die happy. Although I probably would die  because my cholesterol would go through the roof.

To give you an idea of how much I heart Humboldt Fog, I ate nearly all four ounces in one sitting during lunch at work, and when a large chunk of it accidentally fell on the floor, I picked it up, blew it off, and ate it anyway. Five-second rule! I’m not too proud of that, but hey, there it is.

If you love goat cheese and Brie, and you happen to see this at your local grocery store, I would highly, HIGHLY recommend shelling out a few dinars for a taste.

Maybe goats aren’t so bad after all. At least these guys are entertaining:

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