American Artisanal


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We have a growing hunger to know where our food comes from. Organics is booming, and the number of farmers markets has doubled in the past ten years. In our increasingly corporatized world, we are looking to get back in touch with the land. American Artisanal feeds this hunger as no book has before.The book celebrates twenty-five of America’s leading food artisans˜from Wood Prairie Farms potatoes in Maine to Leavins Seafood in Florida, from Reed’s Ginger Brew in California to Earthy Delights mushrooms in Michigan. These producers return to the basics of sustainable, small-scale, and just plain high quality-control food. Woven throughout each chapter is the engaging history behind our foods—their natural origins and long journeys to cultivation. Each chapter concludes with recipes, and ordering information is provided so you can enjoy these culinary delights at home.

I pre-ordered this on Amazon this week. I am so very excited to get my hands on this little gem. I already have devoured the Atlas of Artisanal American Cheese…this will just put fuel to the fire!

Pricey Pork


I am a lover of all meats. I didn’t realize how much of a meat eater I was until I tried to decrease my consumption for health reasons. I love all things pork. If I see a charcuterie plate on a menu, ten to one I get it. There is a big push for in house meats these days (YaY!). But I wondered what everyone else thought of cured meats. What are some of your favorite? Do you make your own? Where do you get it? Local? or do you have it shipped to you.

This week Si got a beautiful piece of Spanish jamón ibérico de bellota. Oh, my. It’s soo good. This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called la dehesa) along the southern border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns . The exercise and the diet has a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. I think it tasted like peanut brittle…rich nutty, buttery flavor. Delicious!

It costs $159.00/lb!!!!!!!!! Holy Lord! That is an expensive ham sandwich.

You can get a $110 kobe/foie burger in some spots…now St. Louis has the $150 dollar hoagie.

Crazy.

Phoenix, Arizona. Better in the winter.


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We have been to Phoenix once before this trip. It was in the heat of the summer and we were not thrilled. We are not desert people. We like lush greenery, tall trees and seasons. Simon’s parents moved out there last Spring and have been hinting at us to follow suit.

Nope.

One thing I do love are mountains. I had the joy of spending extended periods of time in the White Mtns. in NH and VT. I fell in love. As we approached Phx, I was able to reach across a sleeping Cheesemonger and take some quick snaps of the interesting landscape. I’m not Ansel Adams, but I do like this snapshot. The mountain range in the background covered in snow and the sprawling mesas in the forefront give you a hint of what to expect when you land.

My goal for this trip was to simply spend time with family (especially a 2 year old blond headed cookie monster) jax.jpg

We found Phx in February much more tolerable and easy on the eyes. The once brown, chokingly dusty, terrain has developed a thin green veneer…multi colored cacti and trickling mountain streams. Now this is doable.

Our second goal was to eat. And eat we did. 5lbs later I am cursing Kevin Binkley. (more on that dinner to come. writing about 25 courses is time consuming)

We stopped at AZ Wines after we de-planed. az.jpg This place has lots to offer. We found their prices very reasonable and staff knowledgable and laid back. The joint had a full bar and a living room. Decked out with a flat screen TV and leather sofas. Who’d ever want to leave?? We had brought a case of wine with us, so we didn’t pick anything up. But we did take Si’s mom around and point out some winners for purchase at a later date. Lots of local brews were on hand at this store as well. If you are ever in Carefree, AZ…stop in and pick something up. They have great classes too.

For lunch, Big Earl’s. 59.JPGA former filling station turned burger joint. Reminded me of Austin kitsch. Burgers were great. Fries even better.

It was the bar we went to for drinks later that night that fueled my love affair with Scottsdale. AZ 88 . If you are wondering what happened to all the fabulous gay men from Club 54 in NYC….look no further. You just have to remember that they are all over 50 now….but none the less fabulous. (Hence the nickname GAY-Z 88).

An appropriate mural hung above the bar during Valentine’s Day week.love.jpg

**photo not taken on night of visit…daytime view pictured here. Still a fabulous mural done by local artist.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on what I loved about this place. Was it the local art? the amazing bathrooms? The simple, yet delicious food that is served to 1 am? The diverse crowd packing the place to the gills? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. We arrived early…around 8ish. The place had a large amount of senior citizens present. (Scottsdale/Phx is full of them!) I found it strange, but upon closer inspection, these were fabulous little old ladies and extravagant gay couples dining before they head out the theatre (located just across the park). Then, a wave of middle aged gay men arrived….looking fierce. When 9 o’clock hit, the flood gates opened. Dinner before hitting the dance clubs located a couple streets over. The buzz of the restaurant was amazing. The bar was packed and getting a table was even harder. We waited over an hour. We didn’t mind…we loved the people watching and were enjoying our spots at the bar. (and my brother in law didn’t make reservations). Once seated we took a quick glance at the menu and found a very unique, yet simple choices: burgers, salads, light apps and decandant desserts. I opted for the hell fire chips…perfectly cooked house-made chips with shaved blue cheese and hot sauce. Delish! As we finished up our little plates and had one more round, the late night young and hip of Scottsdale popped in. Feirce little art majors (who I assume were at the art opening at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemp. Art) popping in to get their long night started. Oh, to be young and feirce.

Contemporary Art and Food….my two great loves


Not sure how many of you know that I LOVE contemporary art. I have been know to run in that circle in St. Louis back in the day and feel that we have an AMAZING community of artists right here in STL.

Anyway, I digress. P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens held a competition to see who would win the rights to transform the courtyard of the Art Center for the summer. The winning architectural duo, married couple Dan Wood and Amale Andraos, won the judges over with their design plans for an urban farm-including an abundance of fresh produce and a genuine harvesting plan.

The seven-year-old competition calls for creating an outdoor social space for dancing and drinking in the summer months. Ms. Andraos and Mr. Wood were chosen over four other finalists, all of them based in New York: Matter Architecture Practice; su11 architecture & design; Them; and Monad Architects, which also has an office in Miami.

The Work team’s presentation — which included Mr. Wood’s donning of a pouffy green gardening skirt with specially designed pockets for his trowel and gardening gloves — made an impression.

 

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Photo by Jacob Silberberg for The New York Times
Dan Wood and Amale Andraos with elements of their design, which includes growing heads of lettuce and harvesting them.

 

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Work Architecture Company
A model of the proposal by Work Architecture that won this year’s Young Architects Program at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center in Long Island City, Queens.

 

 

 

This is how I know he loves me


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The picture you see before you represents how very much the cheesemonger loves me. I may not get diamonds or fancy trips to France….I get a big wedge of Grandpa Ed!!! Lovingly delivered by Cheesemaker Neville McNaughton yesterday afternoon. For those of you not familiar with Neville McNaughton, he is the head cheesemaker at Saxon Homestead Creamery in Cleveland, WI. If you are not familiar with Saxon Homestead Creamery, make sure you take a minute to visit their website.

Started by 3 farming families, they have created a community that focuses on ‘life-enhancing nature family business’.

Saxon’s little corner of the natural world was formed thousands of years ago. Eight inches of top soil sits on red clay loam, deposited by the lake on glacial till, sitting on limestone dominated, fast draining Karst soil. The clay loam holds moisture for our pastures. This makes for great pastureland touched by moist breezes off Lake Michigan. Other great cheesemaking regions of the world have Karst soils — the Auvergne, Southern Italy, St. Nectaire and even Roquefort, but none has topsoil on clay or a lake as big and beneficial as ours.

Grandpa Ed is startes out it’s life as Big Ed, a young, mild raw cow milk’s cheese. It is named after Ed Klessing, founding father of Saxon. It is a clean rind cheese which means it get’s it’s bottom wiped meticulously in order to have an immaculate rind. As time passes, Neville picks out some of the BEST Big Ed’s and sets them aside for aging….to create Grandpa Ed. These little buddies are aged for a full year and develop a robust flavor. As of now, Grandpa Ed will not be available until 2009…..except for that big hunk you see before you. Talk about a lucky girl. We are going to Phoenix on Friday to visit Simon’s folks…and Grandpa Ed is coming with us! You can’t just leave him home alone!!!

Oh….the beauty of cheese.

Cheese Tip #1:


When buying cheese, it’s best to find a reliable source, such as a specialty market, cheese shop, or gourmet foods store that specializes in cheeses. Often, your local farmer’s market and a cheese maker’s Web site are excellent resources, as you will often speak directly to the cheese makers, who will ensure that the products are in the best possible condition. When using a retail store, you will want to make sure that the staff is knowledgeable and that cheese turnover is swift. St. Louisans are lucky:  we have cut-to-order or cut-and-wrap retailers….even their own Cheesemonger!!

Cheesemaker of the Week


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This week’s featured Cheesemaker is Mike Gingrich of Uplands Cheese Company out of Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Mike (and his cows) are known for their Pleasant Ridge Reserve.

 

Their initial motivation for developing hard cheeses was to preserve the summer’s milk production for winter use. “Cows calved in spring and produced milk until winter ended the grazing season. Excess summer milk was turned into cheese, stored in caves and brought to the table during winter.

 

And if you are looking for freshness…look no further: “We make our cheese right on the farm starting within minutes after the last cow has been milked. Using such fresh milk eliminates the possibility of the milk developing any off flavors.”

 

You can find some of Upland Cheese Company’s finest here in St. Louis. The Wine Merchant is carrying the Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve. It’s aged 18 months, is drier, flavors are more intense and sweetness is more caramel-like. Stop in and pick some up!!

 

**The Cheesemonger’s Wife will be on holiday next week and, therefore will not be featuring a Cheesemaker of the Week until after February 18th. But stay tuned for tales from our travels to Phoenix, AZ!