Brothers and sisters! I have returned from the motherland of fermented grain beverages and lived to tell the tale. Barely. Or is that barley? In any case, Belgium, that mysterious land that some believe is secretly populated by gnomes, brings you good tidings…and serious weight gain. Let’s take a gander at some well know beers and not so well known cheeses. It’s beer time you turkeys!
Beer is completely engrained in the social and gastronomic culture of Belgium, so it’s no wonder that they are best know for their beers and possess breweries that continually rank as the world’s finest. From Lambic to Farmhouse Saisons to Trappist Ales, the Belgians have the craft and science of brewing down. We’re going to take a variety from their spectrum and do a little old world/new world pairing exercise to keep your palate excited and your belly happy.
Well Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you little internet leprechauns out there! It’s your international day of Irish pride – celebrating that fateful day in history where all the snakes of Ireland got together, started playing pipes, and rode a Skittle rainbow into a green pot of gold and sailed down a Guinness river and straight into our hearts. That’s right. You’ve got Irish snakes in your heart….
I should probably preface this blog post by saying that there is absolutely not one drop of Irish heritage in my system. Grandmama never sat around kneading soda bread talking of the “old country,” listening to U2 makes me nauseous, and I don’t really care for potatoes in any other form apart from French. (Although once, I did once make a milkshake using Bailey’s Irish Cream, and after I pooped my pants, I realized I was actually in fact having a pretty great time…) I don’t really know anything about Ireland. Something about emeralds. That one actor dude. Gangs of New York? So, I apologize in advance if I say anything ridiculous and outlandish and insult someone on the internet. Because I’m sure this post will definitely be the first time that I do anything like that (see here, here, and probably a little bit here). BUT, what I DO know a lot about is cheese. And at the Bedford Cheese Shop we definitely carry some excellent cheeses that come directly from the majestic fjords and succulent forests of Ireland. No? I have no idea where Ireland is…
SO GET READY! Buckle your shamrock seatbelts and prepare to be taken on a journey through the hills, dells, and dairies of Ireland, as I tell you about some of the delicious Irish cheeses we provide – and SURPRISE – it’s enough to make a rich and hearty cheese board! Pair it with a pint of green Corona and a Shamrock Shake, and we can call it a day.
I’ve been hearing that it’s unseasonably warm outside, but I honestly wouldn’t know. The Cheese Shop remains a climate-controlled icebox (all for the good of the cheese) year-round, and I’ve been spending most of my days off re-watching Twin Peaks and eating obscene amounts of potato chips. I’m in a winter slump, and it ain’t pretty. On the one day I managed to motivate myself onto a bicycle and off to the farmer’s market, I found it full of a meager selection of cold-storage apples and some not-quite-exciting-anymore braising greens. There were, however, lots and lots of funghi. They called to me, ‘Cover us in butter! Smother us in cheese! We want to be devoured!” And I just couldn’t resist. A pound of mushrooms and a quart of Ronnybrook chocolate milk (don’t judge) later, I pedaled back home and got to chopping.
I don’t know what it is about water buffalo. I have such a soft spot for them. Don’t get me wrong – goats, sheep, cows, camels, alpaca. All fantastic farm animals. I enjoy looking at them, eating their byproduct creations, and luxuriating on their fine furs (or woven sweaters!) while sipping snifters of brandy in front of roaring fires. But there is just….something so MYSTICAL about the water buffalo.
For some reason I have not been able to escape the alluring image of a much covered buffalo out of my brain. Perhaps it’s the warming weather. Perhaps it’s the exotic aromas that emerge from the Popeyes/Dunkin Donuts mega-store I pass every morning to get to the J train (I’m not quite sure what exactly comes in the Popeye’s Tackle Box, but it looks exactly like a box of golden. And I REALLY want it. I mean, I could get a Green Shamrock Donut at the same time. I don’t know how I’ve held out for this long, actually…). Perhaps it was Nick Nolte at the Oscars.
Ah, Valentine’s Day. Macaroni glued to construction paper hearts. Shiny red foil encasing waxy milk chocolates. Prix fixe menus at every restaurant in town. Aren’t you glad it’s all over with for the year? Whether you spent Hallmark’s favorite holiday gazing tenderly at your lover over oysters and champagne or tearfully power-watching One Tree Hill on Netflix with your cat, chances are you overindulged on sparkly pink things last week and could use a little RnR. And what do the Bedford Cheese Shop mongers do to truly relax? Eat whole quarts of blue cheese ice cream in our sweatpants? No. I mean, maybe. But probably.
It’s beer time, you turkeys! Let’s pick something out of the ever-expanding pantheon of the world of malt, hops and yeast and see how it gets down with another one of my favorite fermented products- cheese. If my insides would support it, and my gut would just go away, I could exist solely on beer, cheese, and bread. At the end of a long day, a simple meal of cheese, bread, maybe some cured meats or pickled products can be the most satisfying. Maybe throw in some sweatpants and house shoes, just for circulation purposes.
My mind is usually all over the place, so the goal here is to exercise a focus in pairings. My idea is to take three beers of a specific style and pair them with three different cheeses. For a bonus, there will be one accoutrement to rule them all, to tie the whole thing together, if you will. So maybe this is really just an accoutrement challenge…and relish is an accoutrement…and hot dogs go good with relish…and baseball season is coming! And…back to the beer, right.
When I’m choosing a beer to drink, 9 times out of 10 my pick is going to be driven by the weather. Since we’re in the middle of this fabulous winter-spring mix, what sounds good today could sound ridiculous tomorrow. So for arguments sake, let’s go with a cold weather favorite – Stout. Stout is fantastic- it’s dirty, roasted bitterness makes me want to roll around in damp top soil wearing nothing but a loincloth and goggles. But the world of stout is, like most styles of beer these days, wide and varied…best to hone it in a bit. We’re going to take a look at three different domestic stouts, all of the imperial range, meaning higher ABV, bolder flavors, heavier body, and more smiles from ol’ Naters.
Recently, as I was polishing off my sixth Krunchy-covered Klondike Bar and watching a little show called “Toddlers & Tiaras,” I lovingly glanced down at the milky white sandwich that I was holding between two sticky paws that had attracted a blend of cat hair, lint, and Wheat Thins crumbs, and thought “I think I’m going to throw up.”
It had been decided. I was CLEARLY lactose intolerant. I shoved my last cow’s milk based treat down my throat and tried to enjoy my final moments as one of the blissfully easy breezy lactose tolerant. I quickly jumped to and in a flash was at my third most visited website (after this and this one), the all knowing WebMD. Many a late night had been dedicated to researching grave medical disorders that I was positive I had contracted while hustling cheese on the streets of Williamsburg. Face Blindness. Moebius Syndrome. Progeria. Gout. Irritability. This began my grand journey into the world of dairy intolerance, and the subject of this week’s blog post!
So, hey you guys. Have you ever heard of this place called Sardinia? A SUPPOSED island in the middle of the Mediterranean, which is kind of between Italy, Corsica, and North Africa. Where balmy breezes gently brush past white sands, only to gently sway palm trees laden with coconuts and monkey butlers to and fro, only to reveal a delicious swirly margarita machine tucked into a beautiful grotto, surrounded by tropical flowers and hula dancers and probably a white tiger. And most likely a crocodile in a tuxedo is sitting at a grand piano, gently tinkling away and singing Harry Belafonte tunes. Or something like that. I may or may not have just taken a lot of Zicam.
But, seriously. I don’t know if it’s because it’s cold and rainy in Brooklyn, but Sardinia looks pretty sweet right about now. Relatively hilly and with craggy cliffs leading up to the blue, temperate ocean, it looks like the setting for a James Bond movie, and is clearly home to the craziest and most awesome pirate people on the planet.
Pretty sure Grace Jones, as the lovely and terrifying May Day, lives on a Viking Ship moored off the coast of Sardinia...
Come closer, my dears. I know we haven’t seen each other in a long time, but I’m back and I’m ready to talk. Ring ting a ling! It’s 2012! It’s a year of great, mystifying, exciting things that are sure to tantalize and amaze and I am officially here, ready to report back to you.
So I’ve been absent since June 2011. Eh – it’s good to take a break every now and then. You come back to things you haven’t been able to focus on and learn to relove projects that you’ve neglected. It’s like sending your kids to summer camp…But what good stuff really happened in the past few months. Nothing really (just this, this, we all got into this, and everybody snickered about this. If you need a reminder of anything else that happened, see here or here.) What else. There was the Second Cheesemonger Invitational. There was the reinvention of the Bedford Cheese Shop website. And then there were the holidays – which is a mental dead zone for cheesemongers anyways…
So, a lot has happened, I apologize for the delay, but guess what! It’s the New Year! We can forget about the past and look forward to the future! Finally. I’ve been waiting since last January…
So I’m a sucker for celebratory and/or themed drinking. Hark, is it Cinco de Mayo (give or take 3 weeks)? Celebramos con tequila! The Oscars? Let’s open that $9 bottle of whatever has bubbles in it and put on bow ties and eat hot dips. Tuesday? Probably going to need to theme the night “Vodka,” and put on Robyn as I vacuum for the next 3 hours in my underwear.
So, because it’s finally summer time in the city, I’m going to touch on the topic that everyone has on their mind. Two words. Pink. Wine. That’s right. I’m declaring it GLOBAL ROSÉ MONTH! Cue chorus of scantily clad angels fluttering down from above, gently cooing Stevie Nicks, and presenting you with a glowing bottle of something chilled and pink. Yeah, so it’s already three weeks into June, so you probably haven’t actually realized that this is an officially themed month. But don’t worry! You have 10 days to catch up with me, because I’ve been sucking down the stuff like there is no tomorrow.