pink goat cheese fondue

like this, except pink

i discovered/created a fondue recipe that i think is kind of awesome and offbeat.  the (possible) problem with it is that it’s pink.  sort of mauve actually.

traditionally, fondue has 2 – 3 cheeses: gruyere and emmentaler are pretty standard.   you can also use appenzeller or raclette (swiss, not french, although french would do in a pinch if you needed to) or even jarlsberg if the stinky feet cheeses are getting to you.  also traditionally, those of us even remotely lactose-sensitive are going to be bent double after eating a large enough portion (say, half a fondue-pot full).

the other thing is that, while fondue typically calls for a dry white wine, a good, bold red (like a pinot noir or cabernet of syrah) pairs better with with the sort of aged cheeses used in fondue (or so says my wine and cheese book).  i’ve decided the white is strictly for aesthetics.

my first foray into throwing the rules out the window was for Valentine’s day, for which pink fondue could be considered somewhat thematically appropriate.  that wasn’t the goal, of course — the idea was just to make a goat fondue (goat milk is easier to digest than cow milk and has been found to not cause the symptoms of lactose intolerance) and pair it with a wine that both went better with the cheese (the same wines that pair well with gruyere and emmentaler also pair well with goat cheeses, especially aged goat cheeses) and that we both liked better (we prefer reds to whites any day).

thus began the first experiment.  for this, i got cypress grove lamb chopper and a mahon reserva.  my first choice to go with the lamb chopper was cypress grove’s midnight moon, but that was unavailable pretty much everywhere (my theory is that the goats were “kidding” — a time of year when goat dairies do not produce as much milk because the goats are giving birth to and nursing their kids, something i learned when i was working in grocery).  i had forgotten (until i got home) that mahon, unlike a lot of other spanish cheeses, was cow milk, not goat or sheep.

the result was really good.  the cheese didn’t melt as smooth as fondue usually does, which i’m guessing was because the aged mahon was pretty dry and goat cheese, in general, has a less smooth texture than cow cheese.  we used a smoking loon pinot noir and, aside from the pinkness, it was really good.

so last night i thought we’d go for an encore, and last night’s ended up being even better.  so here’s the recipe, more or less:

8oz (1/2 lb.) cypress grove lamb chopper
8oz (1/2 lb.) young (6 mo.) manchego
1 cup red wine (in this case it was Goats Do Rome South African red)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp corn starch
1 clove garlic
pinch of pepper
dash of nutmeg

my recipe says to get a clove of garlic and rub it on the inside of the fondue pot.  well, i didn’t have a single clove of garlic lying around, so i got some crushed garlic and scooped some with a spoon and rubbed it onto the pot with my fingers.  the result was garlic-y but tasty (if you like garlic).

next, mix the wine and the lemon juice and heat on medium until bubbly.  pour yourself a glass.  turn the heat down to low and stir in the cheese.  mix the corn starch with 1 Tbsp more wine.  the original recipe says kirsch, but the idea of cherry liqueur sends e running for the hills.  pour corn starch/wine mixture into the fondue.  stir regularly.  drink profusely.  add pepper and nutmeg to taste (original recipe called for white pepper but using black pepper didn’t seem to hurt anything).

serves two with room for dessert

the manchego melted a lot better and fit the goat theme.  the fondue still doesn’t have the same elasticity that you get with the traditional cow’s milk cheeses, but that’s goat cheese for you.  i’m still holding out to try this with midnight moon, an aged goat gouda, but that will most likely have to wait until next time.

i have this philosophy about fondue that you can’t really screw it up.  some cheese melts better than others, and some pair better than others, but cheese is pretty much cheese, and if you have a few cheeses you like, why not throw them together in a pot and melt it?  if you like cheese and you like fondue, you’ll probably like what comes out regardless of if it’s by the book.  for this reason, i think that fondue is the ultimate anything goes gourmet food; you don’t need to be an iron chef, you just need to like cheese.

fondue season

image credit: J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd./EB Inc. via Encyclopedia Britanica onlinethe wheel of gruyere that i found in the produce section during our last trip to whole foods reminds me that it’s fondue season, which reminds me that once upon a time i had resolved to write more about food on this blog, and reminds me of the number of times people asked me what cheeses they needed for fondue.

it’s easy.  the fairly standard, traditional formula for fondue consists of three cheeses:


you take roughly equal parts of each, grate them into a fondue pot, add some wine, and voila, fondue. the proportions really depend on how much you want to make.  probably a half pound of each would suit two people.  the thing about fondue, though, is that the fun part is making it your own, or using variations, or making it to taste.  for example, appenzeller is one of those really foot-stinky cheeses; a hard swiss cheese you probably wouldn’t want to eat by itself.  for a milder flavor, you could substitute raclette or jarlsberg and still be pretty authentic.

image via Wiki Commonsthis time of year is also raclette season, and i remember distinctly not being able to keep raclette in stock between thanksgiving and sundance (which is right about now-ish) when i worked the cheese department in park city.  i’ve never had raclette, as in, served as raclette — a specific swiss dish — but my understanding of it is that it’s traditionally a sort of peasant food (although now it’s all gourmet), where you take a specific type of frying pan (well, specific for the 20th century gourmet version, that is — probably originally it was whatever was lying around) and melt the raclette in it.  the idea is that it’s supposed to cooked until brown.  like fondue, you dip bread and assorted meats in it.

fondue is a great way to warm up the cold months and everyone loves fondue, making it a hit a both sports- and non-sports related holiday and/or family and/or other festivities.  i particularly like fondue as a romantic valentines day thing.

the only problem with fondue, of course, is that most of us are, in some way, lactose intolerant, meaning that much cheese is bound to wreak havoc on our intestines later.  for those of you concerned about that, i’d like to direct your attention to cypress grove creamery or any number of spanish cheeses (manchego, mahon, drunken goat, murcia curado (aka “naked goat”), etc).  both cypress grove and various spanish cheeses have both aged and not-so-aged varieties, so you could probably concoct a fairly decent lactose-free fondue (because sheep and goat’s milk do not contain lactose — rather, they contain lactase , a related enzyme that is more closely related to what our stomachs produce naturally, meaning it doesn’t cause the same problems).  some combination with midnight moon and lamb chopper sounds yummy to me…

food blog returns: halloween candy meltdown (literally)

so i was really aggravated last night.  we just had a major reset done in the cheese department, and i was focusing on the case, figuring out what i should cut.  there was some chocolate that i needed to deal with and my big, pretty display i built a couple months ago got pulled down and replaced by rolling racks.

 that was annoying, but because our regional analyst person talked to me about it, i was expecting that.  i was annoyed because i thought it looked good and i had it somewhat organized the way i wanted it, and the new set had stuff mixed together and the tags were all mixed up.  plus there was stuff everywhere.

more annoying, however was when our marketing guy — who was doing a demo in front of really big windows letting in the afternoon sun, came over and said “hey, chris, i thought you should know…your chocolate is melting.”

wtf?  i go over to see the halloween display had been moved in front of the big windows since i last worked, with all my specialty halloween chocolate and, in fact, the chocolate had been melting.  hi, chris, you need to do a chocolate reset.  so i did.  the result looks pretty good, but it was annoying to have to come in and deal with some scruffy-faced nerfherder’s brilliant idea to stick the halloween chocolate in front of the frickin’ window.  i mean, seriously.  whose brilliant idea was that?  so far i’ve had no answers (not that i think anyone would take credit for it to me, considering how pissed i was).  so here’s the new chocolate set, halloween candy included:

beyond the annoyance of having to do the reset, that’s $65 of lost chocolate now, that’s unsellable, and while that could have been a lot worse and we generally make a pretty big margin on most of the chocolate, it’s still lost sales and our department hasn’t been doing fabulous with the change in seasons, the economy, etc.  not to mention the fact that my whole day was spent on that instead of other things.

so i came home and made myself feel better with an herb-crusted fleur de france brie and yummy cambozola (a german cross between the italian blue, gorgonzola and the french camembert brie) on la panzanella croccatini which, in my opinion, is the best cracker for cheese.  they’re big flatbreads and kind of unruly, but they’re awesome and crunchy and not too thick like some other croccatinis.  the cambozola was a bit more -zola than cam- having sat in our fridge for a few days, but still tasty.  the evening was capped with some hornsby’s crisp apple hard cider which, i’ve decided, doesn’t suck.

food it is, then…

so, i just checked my wp analytics and the last post, new topic: cheese is my top post and most active.  so, um, i guess i should talk about food more.  ha.

which really makes the ubergeeky theme for the site somewhat unrelated.  so yeah, it’s on the list…

the big boss came (regional pres) today and arrived last night. so everyone’s running around like chickens with heads cut off freaking out about making the store look pretty.  I threw the cheese load as fast as humanly possible, faced up the tea, and then started cutting cheese to fill the holes and…by the time i left he still hadn’t shown up yet.  figures…

i’m excited because i got my login stuff set up so i can officially start talking to vendors and ordering chocolate.  i sent an email today to amano to set up a wholesale account for our team.  i’m excited to bring their product into the store and give it a push.  i’m also trying to set up a field trip to visit the factory.  i’ve never been into a factory, let alone a chocolate factory — even though i lived within walking distance from the see’s factory in south city.

my specialty team is also heading out to logan to visit caffe ibis next week.  that’s exciting, too, cuz, you know, coffee.  and they’re cool and their coffee is the best we sell in the store (though i’m still bummed that we can’t get salt lake roasting company coffee in to sell).  also, the awesome power of sampling was able to sell some of the cowgirl creamery MT TAM i blogged about the other day which we have at exorbitant cost due to not being able to get it from cali.  still, it’s probably the best triple cream we have (it’s my current favorite, anyway), so it’s kinda worth it.

in other news, my decision re: the mac is to keep it at Tiger.  it works, i can use the iSight, it actually opens Photoshop files now and so long as i don’t install any updates at all it should continue to do so, so it does everything i really need it to do.

(posted from a mac)

new topic: cheese. discuss.

erin thinks i should write about my cheese exploits.  because it’s at least as exciting as anything else i ever write about.

…she probably has a point.


today i discovered cowgirl creamery.  they’re based in petaluma, ca and we got some MT TAM in (named after mount tamalpais).  not only is it a good triple cream brie, the produce guy came over and dropped off some honeydew melon chunks for the sushi guys who share our little production area with us, and i discovered that it also pairs awesomely with that.  a perfect combination of sweet and bitter.  i was making everyone within 5 feet taste it.  

i took this cheese specialist test my dad sent me a while back from his work.  there was a question in there about pink and red mold on cheese and pretty much all i really knew — having had no real training before moving into the cheese department — is that it’s bad.  well, it’s bad because it’s a sign of bacteria which is icky and can make you sick.  and it’s good i knew that because the other day i ended up having to toss out about $80 worth of gorgonzola that had pink splotches.  and then today, i pulled some more out from the back to replace it, unwrapped it and…eek, more pink spots.  i cut a chunk into it a bit to make sure and, yeah, bad cheese.  so that’s a total of about $250 that i had to toss in the trash in two days.  kind of depressing.

i also cut some salemville amish blue — which at 7.99/lb is the ghetto blue — and some maytag blue, but at that point i wasn’t really interested in tasting because of all the MT TAM i had earlier.

in other news, i met the amano chocolate guys a while ago and they make some awesome single-origin dark chocolate.  they recently perfected their fourth bar, which is super top secret, and i’m anxiously awaiting my samples!

does this mean is turning into a food blog??? 

another site redesign is in the works, by the way.