Said to be one of the first cheeses ever made, Ossau-Iraty is a beloved gem with a rich history. Once upon a time, or so the story goes, the Greek God Apollo had a son named Aristee, a shepherd, who turned the milk from his herd of sheep into this delicious cheese. Although an actual Greek God may not have invented Ossau-Iraty, the wheels are made according to a tradition that dates back some 3,000 years. This means Ossau-Iraty predates the English alphabet.
Italian food is ubiquitous across the United States. Mall food courts have a requisite pizza place selling pepperoni-topped slices to hungry shoppers. Lasagna is a staple at the dinner table, and school cafeterias offer minestrone as the soup of the day. Bruschetta is on the appetizer menu at neighborhood bars, and coffee shops stock biscotti in the bakery case. At the grocery store, it’s easy to find prosciutto, gnocchi and dozens of flavors of gelato.
Since the earliest days of American artisan cheese, the type of milk used to make curd has evolved rapidly. At first, it was all about goat, with pioneering Francophiles like Laura Chenel and Judy Schaad turning the country onto fresh Chevre. Then, still borrowing from European traditions, raw became a focus; then organic, then grass-fed. We’ve seen a renewed interest in vegetable rennets, followed by a push to turn almonds, cashews and coconuts into vegan artisan cheese.
Switzerland delivers eye-popping beauty whenever you visit, but in summertime, the high mountain meadows roll out a welcoming carpet of lush green grass popping with colorful wildflowers. The Alps’ irresistible allure dazzles even the locals. On any given day, you’ll find families, couples both young and old, groups of friends as well as solo hikers enjoying the trails, the scenic lakes, a picnic or a bike ride in their mountainous backyard. And what will you always find in their picnic basket? Cheese, of course!
For the lucky, such as Greek-American chef and cookbook author Michael Psilakis, Feta cheese has held a long celebrated place in the kitchen and in cuisine since childhood.
“My memories of Feta growing up are very vivid,” he says. “It was always on the kitchen table, and I was always grabbing a little piece. As the seasons changed, there was something different next to it. In the summer, there was watermelon. The sweet watermelon of summer with the salty, briny, tangy flavor of Feta cheese — it was like a roller coaster of flavor in your mouth.”
If you’re like me, a self-confessed foodie (“Hi, my name is Aileen, I’m a restaurant junkie”), you’re always looking, not just for new places to dine and interesting new ingredients and recipes but also for interesting new people, trends and policies. So how do you expand your food and beverage knowledge in order to continually learn what’s happening in the industry?