Sunday Simple Supper at NOCA….can’t wait.  I am also impatiently waiting to get down there on a Thursday night for the lobster roll and duck fat fries….and also the cheesesteak.  Can’t go THIS Thursday…stupid Thanksgiving.  I wish they were open…it will just be me and Si this year in AZ…no big plans for us…we just have  a nice bottle of wine and some cheese….but NOCA would be an awesome Thanksgiving treat.

Culture’s First Article

Culture, a new periodical focusing on cheesemaking, the cheesemakers and thier farms..sustainability and community has launched it’s inaugural issue.  Due to be on stands and in mailboxes by Dec. 1st.  Here is a link to the magazine’s first published artilce.

Two Brothers Embark on a Winning Path:  Crafting a Lush Cheese with Bark and Beer

If you search the cheese of the week category…you’ll find we talked about Jasper Hill Farm and one of my ultimate cheeses…..Constant Bliss…worth every penny and then some.

Simply Bread…Simply Divine

I was spoiled living in St. Louis…just a hop, skip and jump away from what has to be on of the best bakeries in the US. 222 Artisan Bakery When we were planning our move to the Southwest…we lamented on not having access to our favorite place for cinnamon rolls..bear claws…pecan rolls….COFFEE!  But, in talking with our friends, we were given a glimmer of hope.  The person that taught our friends to bake the most delectable edibles set up shop in our soon to be new home.  Simply Bread. Talk about luck of the Irish.  Of course, the actually bakery is about 30 miles from our new house…but as if we weren’t lucky enough..the gourmet food store that Simon works at is a Simply Bread retailer.  We wouldn’t get the FULL experience of Simply Bread but we would at least be able to get our hands on a decent baguette.

So, as time passed, we became accustomed to our lovely local selection of Simply Breads in our little town’s store.  Not feeling the need to travel to downtown Phoenix to score our next loaf….we were happy with what we had.

But, as luck would have it again…I got lost.  Yep, on the way home from dropping a friend off at the airport, my trusty TOM TOM ran out of juice.  Now, I like to think I’m pretty go at directions (Simon will tell you different)  I figured if I could just get to a street I recognized, I would be able to find my way home.  As I turned down N. 24th St…looking at cross streets or a sign to the I-10…there it was in all it’s glory.  Simply Bread!  I couldn’t let this chance meeting go by without a stop in…and lucky for me it was a Monday afternoon and they were open.  I parked the car in back…wondering if I should drop the names of my friends…but more curious than that…to see what else was going on inside.  I walked into a small home, converted into a retail space…flanked by what looked like industrial type barns for baking.  I was greeted by a lovely woman who was quick with a slice of a chocolate baguette (I could have finished the rest of the entire thing if she’d let me at it).  I asked for Jeff…my friend of a friend…but he was busy working his magic in the bakery next door.  No matter…I was still in awe of all of the yummy goods that were sweetly sitting in my view.   Without a thought, the nice woman behind the counter phoned the bakery and I was able to make the connection I wished I’d made sooner upon arriving here in AZ.  Jeff was very pleased to hear his friends had sent him a new customer and was very warm and polite during our short phone conversation…despite the fact that I most probably took him away from his work.

The conversation made me long for home…to see my friends that we both had in common…to have a warm cup of coffee and bear claw on a clear and bright Saturday morning in Edwardsville….but, Simply Bread would do for now.  I left with 3 loaves of bread and little package of coconut macaroons as a special treat.

As happy as I was with my bread…words cannot describe the beauty of my little macaroons.  There is another post coming soon on the coconut macaroon, itself…so I will spare you my superfluous diatribe now…but believe me when I tell you that I would drive 60 miles to get my chubby little fingers on these macaroons again….and no, I didn’t share one of them….I couldn’t resist.

Somebody pinch me…

i must be dreaming…Obama is our next president (Hallejluah!)  and now we have a new magazine devoted to cheese; Culture. Touted as America’s only cheese consumer magazine…it is sure to please all the cheese lovers of the US…and hopefully abroad.  The debut issue is set for December 2008.  You better believe I’ve already bought my subscription…I am so excited about this new venture.  It will be such a great outlet for increasing cheese knowledge and appreciation….

From Culture:

CULTURE, the magazine of cheese, farms, and flavor, debuts in Autumn 2008 as America’s only consumer cheese magazine. The quarterly, newsstand publication will obviously focus on cheese, which continues to grow in popularity, sales, and prestige. It will educate readers about the flavors of cheeses from the USA and around the world. It will show them the farms and dairies that produce the cheese. It will explain the science of cheesemaking. And it will provide tips on how to purchase and store cheese.
Unlike a typical gourmet lifestyle magazine, though, CULTURE taps into America’s growing awareness of local food growers, farm-to-table choices, and the desire to know the origins of our food. The magazine will blend the idea of a luxury food with a back-to-the land sensibility.
The tone will reflect the expertise of the editorial advisory board, but we will speak to readers in a friendly, encouraging manner. Our descriptions of cheeses will be enticing but realistic. Our profiles of cheesemakers will show their talent as well as their flaws and paint an honest portrait.

The State of Cheese in PHX/Scottsdale

What a sad story…a town full of foodies…great restaurants, wine bars and brew pubs…but not one proper cheese shop.  Yes, they have Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and thier little local gourmet off shoot of their supermarket, AJ’s…but alas…no place sells cut to order, high-end..good quality cheese.  Now, some of you would say…”Why don’t you guys open one?”  And it has crossed our minds…we even found a little space next door to one of our favorite wine shops.   But what is the point of opening a shop if we are going to be here less than a year or so?  I just don’t see how pouring our heart and sou (and savings) into a shop before we head back to the Midwest to start the farm.  I was thinking that maybe we could run a web-based business out of the house…I’m still mulling that one over.

It’s not that the local shops don’t carry cheese…they do.  Whole Foods has thier standard fare…albeit over-priced in my opinion..and even the local Fry’s Supermarket carries Humbolt Fog…but it’s all pre-cut and packaged.  You don’t know where it really came from…or when it arrived.  There isn’t a cheesemonger there to guide you, make suggestions or prevent you from doing something you’d regret.  It’s a lonely cheese experience.

Now, some locals like Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar.  I was not overly impressed.  The cheese looked old and some had an off flavor I just couldn’t put my finger on.  The staff were nice, but the one person I spoke to did not really have a deep knowledge of the cheeses on hand.  I hope to give them another shot…maybe it was an off day.  Folks around here tend to sing the praises of the frommagier there…so..I’ll give it another whirl….because they do have some winners on their cheese list.

So for now…we rely Valley Wine and Cheese in Henderson, NV for our fix..make sure we buy enough to last us a while b/c it’s a 4 hour drive (on the way to Vegas…that’s a whole other post)

From their website:

Valley Cheese and Wine is the premier specialty wine and food store in the Las Vegas valley. Founded in July 2006 by Bob Howald and Kristin Sande, Valley Cheese and Wine features flavorful, artisanal products that are produced in small quantities. Every item we carry is hand-selected with taste in mind, representing the world’s finest. At Valley Cheese and Wine you will find include hard-to-find wines, artisan cheese, charcuterie, specialty dry goods and wine accessories.

“We seek out the very best and are committed to promoting these labors of love,” says Kristin “and we extend the care that goes into the making of each product by offering excellent service to each customer.”

Cheeses and meats are cut to order to insure optimum quality. We offer educational classes and free tastings on a regular basis. Consider Bob and Kristin’s expertise as your passport to a world of tasty and authentic food and wine.

my deepest apologies

I know I have been MIA lately.  LIfe has just been quite busy for us here in AZ…with work, school, quasi-parental duties…I have neglected my blog….and I am so very sorry.

So…where to begin?  Let’s start with our favorite new bar…well, favorite in a sense that we’ve been there twice…they have fried cheese curds…it’s a Packers Bar and you get draft Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for $1.50…and it’s served in a Mason jar.  Live country & western to boot.  Not what most of you would assume would be our watering hole….but…the food is good and simple…the beer is cheap and cold and you can toss your peanut shells on the floor.  It’s called the Buffalo Chip SaloonbclogoOne of the last cowboy bars out here in our neck of the woods.  Where we live, the horse rancher is king….the Buffalo Chip even has an area for you to tie up your ride…give it a cool drink of water while you load up on fried cheese curds and Pabst Blue Ribbon.  And yes…it is used often…you can tell by the huge piles of poop.  Sunday nites is Rodeo night and they have real-life bull riding.  Simon was quick to ask if anyone could ride the bull…and no, it’s only for professionals.  The minute I walked in the joint I was instantly taken back to my time in Austin, TX…nights at Jenny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.  It’s not often I can tolerate a night of country music….but this place is different.  It’s authentic.  The dust on the walls is at least a half inch thick…loads of vintage beer posters/neon signs…the house band in the corner..including a little old guy that plays a mean steel guitar and about 10 true to life old cowboys sitting around the bar in their ten gallon hats with thier horses tied up out back.  Just down the road is a Steeler’s bar called Harold’s.  I don’t like Harold’s as much at the Buffalo Chip.  Harold’s is a Harley bar…Harley’s are BIG out in these parts.  Lots of baby boomers livin’ the good life on thier Harley’s….kinda annoys me…but hey…at least they are having fun.