More Recipes, Please

Americans love cheese. We love grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, sauces and salads. Mostly, we eat these amazing concoctions at restaurants. We indulge when we are out and save in-home cooking to simpler foods.
COVID-19 has changed our lives and most likely will continue to do so for quite a while. Unfortunately, the restaurant industry has suffered, as people are hesitant to go out and mingle in groups. In some areas, local regulations have restricted restaurant access. In other areas, masks are required, and many people do not see themselves donning masks when eating out.

Because of the dangers of mingling, home cooking has seen a revival. People are experimenting, often with recipes from their childhoods using easy-to-find ingredients at mainstream grocery markets. Folks are also cutting back on the number of stores they will visit. If their main supermarket does not carry the items they want, they will not make an additional trip.

Another problem is people are just looking to cook simple recipes and favorite meals. Polenta with Gorgonzola is not on the menu. Every family member may not be a fan, and the ingredients may not be easy to find. Then again, in many simple recipes, the addition of a fine cheese may elevate the dish to a sublime meal.

Sautéed mushrooms in butter over chicken breast is delicious but adding crème fraîche to the mushrooms will add a level of richness and sophistication. Crumbled blue cheese on top of a grilled steak is a restaurant classic, and homemade blue cheese dressing is amazingly simple to make and tastes nothing like blue cheese dressing in a bottle.

While I find cheese plates easy to make, I have been doing it for years. Consumers may find the task more daunting. Just one featured cheese paired with fruit, vegetables, nuts and condiments is a complete summer meal that is perfect for when it is getting late.

But what is the trick to providing customers with the knowledge, especially when staffing is low and sampling is forbidden? Recipes. It is back to basics. Using print recipes, tear off pads and digital are great ways to educate.

When thinking about recipes, do not think just about the cheese. Homemade condiments are easy, unusual and delicious. A simple blueberry compote spooned over a room temperature, soft-ripened cheese is a sublime dessert.

Since out-of-sight is usually out-of-mind, old-fashioned print may be the best way to reach the greatest number of people. Cross merchandising is also a great way to offer encouragement.
Now is the time to bring cheese home.

Giving Cheese a Helping Hand

The impact of COVID-19 on the consumption of specialty cheese is difficult to discern. On the one hand, a lot of these top-end cheeses are served through an upscale foodservice channel, such as high-end restaurants, cruise lines and yachts, first-class airline cabins and private jets. The idea of specialty cheese as something upscale and special correlates to these types of venues. Many are closed, such as cruises, and many are restricted in volume, such as restaurants.

Of course, lots of specialty cheese is consumed at home, but, even there, a lot of specialty cheese is served around entertainment for friends and relatives—and that type of conviviality isn’t happening as much right now.
Of course, specialty cheese is an indulgence, and people stuck at home, nervous about the future, might well indulge. The fact that the refrigerator is close by to the spare bedroom or dining room table, where people are working these days, makes consuming specialty cheese easy. This is a real contrast to office employee lounges that tend to be filled with inexpensive junk food.

On the other hand, people who aren’t entertaining much may stick to basics, and if they are ordering groceries online, they certainly won’t get exposed to tastings and promotions that spur trial and impulse purchasing. They may even get bored with the items they have always liked and eliminate the purchases.

As if the stay-at-home, don’t entertain, don’t-eat-out culture promoted by COVID-19 wasn’t enough, it follows, of course, that massive tariffs imposed on imports of many European specialty cheeses, in response to an unrelated issue regarding Europe’s subsidizing of Airbus Jets, has made the situation even worse.

Food retailers seem to be mostly experiencing record years in overall sales. Obviously, though, there are people who, in an economic sense, have been very hurt by COVID-19. Up till now, most people who have been laid off have received unemployment insurance equal to, or more than, what they were paid, but think about restaurant owners unable to switch to take-out but still responsible for rent and other costs.

Everyone has to think of their own situation, of course, but we can all help. When I go to a restaurant, I tip a little more generously. I even order more food than I might normally, figuring I will take the rest home. I was out at a local Italian place where we’ve come to know the owner. We ordered a full table, then an extra fresh mozzarella and tomato caprese salad, an order of fried mozzarella, cheese ravioli, a Gorgonzola salad and few more things.
As we walked to the car, my oldest son, William, having seen me order more than usual asked, “Do you think he will make it?” I replied, “We will try to help where we can.”

A Perfect Pairing

A Perfect Pairing

Combining savory cheese with sweet chocolate results in unique flavor sensations.

Autumn excites chocolate lovers. The summer heat that melts the sweet stuff in our hands also coats a silky, dark brown bar, left to sit, in a bloom of white dust. But let the cooler weather set in, and we gravitate towards chocolate, just as a greater variety of cheese beckons.

Continue reading →

When The Work Is Worth It

When The Work Is Worth It

Creating Portuguese cheese is labor-intensive, but the results make it worth the effort.

Portugal’s most famous consumable may be Port, but everybody knows that few foods pair better with wine than cheese. So it should come as no surprise that this small country on the Iberian Peninsula produces outstanding cheeses—some so good they were once used in place of currency. From soft cheeses melting inside hard rinds to crumbly, firm cheeses that are perfect for grating, everyone can find something they’ll love on a Portuguese cheese platter.

Continue reading →

The Cheese CSA

The Cheese CSA

Sustainably staying afloat through community.

Farms and creameries around the country are diversifying their marketing and sales strategies to try to set themselves apart. Some are ushering product into neighborhoods at farmer’s markets or in grocery stores, and others are meeting customers exactly where they are by offering Community Supported Agriculture shares, or CSAs.

Every farm has a slightly different process for this, but most are very similar: customers purchase a “share”, either directly from a creamery or from a farm that makes cheese or has partnered with a cheesemaker, and that customer receives a number of cheeses or dairy products on a regular basis throughout a season.

Continue reading →

SALUTE GRANA PADANO

SALUTE  GRANA PADANO

A healthy Italian cheese with gusto.

Beloved in its Italian homeland and throughout Europe, Grana Padano cheese was a familiar sight on the dinner table when chef Danilo Cortellini was growing up in the Abruzzo region. Now Cortellini is passing that tradition on to his own family, and to visitors to the Italian Embassy in London, where he is the head chef.

“There is a culture/heritage factor in my love for it,” says Cortellini. “And it is one of the most nutritious options when it comes to cheeses. In fact, it is the first cheese that my baby daughter ever tasted.”

Continue reading →

Casu Marzu: An Illegal Cheese

Casu Marzu:                                                An Illegal Cheese

Those with a weak stomach may want to stop reading now, as there is an Italian cheese delicacy that is not for the faint of heart.

In a past issue, Cheese Connoisseur detailed the making of Anthill cheese, chèvre topped with citrus-flavored ants originating from Australia.

Italy’s Casu Marzu takes pairing cheese and insects a big step further. Known as ‘maggot cheese’ and originating from Sardinia, this variety includes thousands of live maggots.

Continue reading →

Bringing Italy’s Finest to the U.S.: Ambrosi Food USA’s CEO Giacomo Veraldi

Bringing Italy’s Finest to the U.S.: Ambrosi Food USA’s CEO Giacomo Veraldi

One man’s mission to increase awareness of an Italian cheesemakers authentic offerings.

When Italian Giacomo Veraldi joined Ambrosi in 2007, little did he know how far his mission to market the company’s cheeses would take him.

Fast forward almost a decade and a half later, and his goal to make a name for the company’s hard, washed rind, fresh, semi-hard and blue cheeses in the U.S. has been a rousing success. Among the highly-regarded varieties are Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano. As for the brands, the most sought after are the White Gold, Millennials and Tradizione lines.

Continue reading →

Reflecting Its Roots: Lively Run Dairy’s Finger Lakes Reserve

Reflecting Its Roots: Lively Run Dairy’s Finger Lakes Reserve

Good things happen when cheese has the back of the region it’s created in.

Interlaken, NY-based Lively Run Dairy’s focus is on supporting family farms and using their milk to make original cheese. One of its most heralded is Finger Lakes Reserve, which won first place at the 2019 American Cheese Society (ACS) conference in the Goat Cheese Aged Over 60 Days category. It also was in the top 15 out of 1,700 cheeses for ACS’ top prize, the Best in Show.

Continue reading →

A Sustainable Cheese Company

A Sustainable Cheese Company

Mozzarella has been a boon for Wisconsin’s Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese.

In the early 80s, a group of four brothers acquired a farm in Waterloo, WI and started raising and milking 90 cows on a 200-acre property.

Today, the farm is still run by brothers Charles, Thomas and Mark, while brother George and his wife Debbie now serve as cheesemaker and manager of the farm’s cheese operation, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese.

Continue reading →

Tradition and French AOC Cheeses

Tradition and French AOC Cheeses

It’s all about the history, terroir, quality and flavor imparted in France.

In 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle famously mused, “How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?” While the point holds true, de Gaulle’s estimate was a lowball—France boasts closer to 1,600 varieties of cheese, which is a whole lot of cheese for a country roughly the size of Texas.

Continue reading →