The Cheese Plate of Awesomeness
It’s possible that my cousin still credits me for his interest in specialty foods. But after working in Sicily for years and now back in the US doing purchasing for the best gourmet retailer in Philadelphia, his knowledge has far surpassed my own.
We don’t see each other a lot during the year. I’d love to spend more time together. But we always have at least a day or two to hang out at his childhood home for the family’s annual Thanksgiving rites in Milford, Connecticut.
For over a decade I’ve been bringing wine. I used to schlep it on the plane from California. Now I just drive it down. But in the past couple years I started bringing down some meats and cheeses as well. Last year they came exclusively from Adventure in Food. But this year The Cheese Traveler played a role too.
My goal is to bring something more delicious than my cousin. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to be so competitive. But our family is really the big winner, because they get to eat it all. Here’s a peek at this year’s throwdown.
The scary part is that the cheese platter didn’t even hold all the delights we brought to Connecticut. But let’s start there, as Eric Paul my cheesemonger would, starting at six o’clock and rotating clockwise from the most delicate to the most powerful cheese.
At the pole position is Sushan Snow. I picked up half a wheel of this small production sheeps milk cheese from upstate New York at The Cheese Traveler. I had it at a guided cheese and wine pairing event, where it went brilliantly with the off dry and floral white meritage called Frost Cuvee from Hermann Wiemer Vineyard. As it turns out, it was a less good match with the Hudson-Chatham sparkling apple cider, but one lives and learns. For what it’s worth, the hard cider was a big hit on its own.
Next came Barat, which I kept on wanting to call Borat. While The Cheese Traveler carries this fine specimen, I picked mine up at Adventure in Foods Trading. This aged raw cow’s milk cheese looked much smaller on the shelf of the walk in, but we only ate about half of the thing, and I’m still sitting on about eight ounces of this dry and nutty cheese with a rustic, grassy-tasting edible rind.
My cousin didn’t believe me that the next cheese, which was from Italy and made in the taleggio style, was from goat’s milk. It involved a quick text message back to The Cheese Traveler to ask whence this cheese came. And Eric confirmed that this was a “Stagionatta di capra.” Capra means goat in Italian. Color my cousin impressed.
The next three cheeses came from my cousin’s shop in Philadelphia.
He brought an entire round of Rush Creek Reserve. I’m a fan of Vacherin, which serves as the model for this domestic cheese. Carefully, my cousin cut off the top rind of the wheel, and dug a spoon into its paste. And I was happily spooning out luscious gobs of this delightfully earthy cheese all day.
The showstopper though might have been the Challerhocker but I’ve always been a sucker for those complex aged Swiss cheeses.
As the day wore on and the family elders arrived, the loaf of Limburger got carted out, and wasn’t nearly as stinky as I had imagined. In fact, it was quite pleasant. However, the two balls of Maplebrook Farm Burrata had to wait until the next morning to be enjoyed, and the cows’ milk taleggio that came up from Philly never got touched.
Damn. That was some good eating. And we haven’t even mentioned the meat.
I finally bought that La Quercia Rossa prosciutto from The Cheese Traveler which has been beckoning me to it from the moment I laid eyes upon its gorgeous layer of pristine white fat. And it was amazing.
My cousin found a spot for his Licini Bros. hot salame next to my ham. He also brought some of their finocchio which we snacked on the night before with a massive amount of Pepe’s coal fired pizza.
Finally, I had sliced up some of the cured duck salami from Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which was a favorite of Little Miss Fussy. Such lovely luscious squares of meltingly tender duck fat.
And all of this came before dinner which naturally included copious amounts of my favorite stuffing. Looking back on it, I probably could have skipped out on the Burrata. But it was so light and refreshing the morning after. And my cousin suggested we pair it with a nice olive oil and a bit of salt. Granted, he was taking his cues from a world famous chef. Still, he made the call, and it was awesome.
I’m already looking forward to next year.