As a kid growing up in Iowa, I knew three cheeses: Velveeta, Maytag blue and Swiss. My Mom always kept a 16-ounce block of Kraft’s processed cheese in the fridge. In Newton, located 140 miles from my home town of Manchester, Maytag Dairy Farms with its herd of prize-winning Holstein cows was producing a phenomenal blue cheese. And, my Great Aunt Iva and Uncle Jesse who lived in Belmont, Wisconsin, used to send us a wheel of locally-made Swiss cheese every Christmas.
While I cannot remember when I last purchased Kraft’s “Liquid Gold,” many Americans still do. Think Macaroni & Cheese. In any given 12-week period, approximately one-third of us eat it. Not surprisingly, half are children. Remember in the 70’s when Velveeta and RO*TEL linked up? The result: Queso Dip. Link to the recipe from Food Network.
Called a Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz), this Italian cocktail and a decked-out cheese board belong together. Recipe at end of the post.
Maytag’s “Lonely Repairman” left Newton in 2007 when the Whirlpool company bought their appliance business. Although the farm still produces its iconic cheese, since leaving Iowa and for no good reason, I don’t buy Maytag’s Blue. And sadly, after my Aunt Iva and Uncle Jesse died, so did my desire for a 2# wheel of Swiss.
In anticipation of National Voter Registration Day on September 25th, I’m just making sure these shoes are made for canvassing. For the last year my friend, Donna Grauer, has been involved in voter registration efforts in our 3-county area. She is also a USFS volunteer ranger, a Master Naturalist specializing in geology and a mentor with the Roaring Fork pre-collegiate program. (In truth, she is a crazy person!)
When I was in Paris last winter I lived a few doors away from cheesemonger Laurent Dubois’ flagship location. Dubois holds the prestigious and hard-won designation Meilleur Ouvrier (Best Craftsman) de France for his talent. Until I took a food tour through my arrondissement, the historic Marais district, I wasn’t brave enough to step through the door. Distinguished for his Comtés, small production chèvres and Pyrenées bribes, he also ages cheeses in caves below his shop and offers outrageous in-house specialties. After visiting Dubois during the tour I occasionally stopped by. Still, it was overwhelming in variety and intimidating to choose.
Hard at work in the French Cheese Tasting Workshop which I took last winter, offered by Paris by Mouth.
That’s why I enrolled in a French Cheese Tasting Workshop offered by Paris by Mouth to learn about cheeses, taste 10 varieties, and wash them down with 5 different wines and a never-ending bounty of baguettes. Of the many tours, walks, and workshops I did in Paris, my day with Jennifer, the Big Cheese, and seven classmates was the best.
To build the cheese board pictured above, I first started with the cheeses: Marin French Cheese, Brie Triple Crème (top); Point Reyes Toma Cheese (left); and, Rogue Creamery Organic Smokey Oregon Blue, with honey. All three were 2018 award winners at the American Cheese Society’s competition this year.
However, it was what she said to we 5 Americans after class that made the biggest impression. “You know,” she said,“they are making very good artisan cheeses in America now. Really good.”
I decided to find out.
#fromagefriday, Cheese Board for One
After choosing your cheeses, just begin building the board. More is better!
Sometimes when you know what you like and like what you know, it becomes a rut. When selecting cheese, I’m a bore. More days than not, I eat solo. And, while that’s never boring to me, I’m always eager to add a spark, to make meal time grater!
Why not, every so often, put together a cheese board for myself featuring 1-2 unfamiliar but well-considered cheeses – firm, semisoft, soft, fresh or blue-veined. And give that board a boost by adding fresh or dried fruit, cured meats, nuts, seeds, spreads, pickled and marinated foods, breads, crackers, a chocolate or two. Even better, pull out and include leftovers, odds and ends shoved to the back of your fridge and pantry.
The board on the Left is a perfect size for one or two people. With the board on the right, just go wild.
To my mind, food should be celebrated and eating it, an occasion. The process of building this board was as delightful as eating it. Whether a cheese board for one or teatime spread for 6 or holiday sugar treats for 25, the possibilities are endless. Choose your base, pick a theme, create a feast and make pretty. Need ideas? Look for Platters and Boards, Beautiful Casual Spreads for Every Occasion at your local library. The authors Shelley Westerhausen and Wyatt Worcel move the creative entertainment bar up a notch or two.
APEROL SPRITZ RECIPE:
Main alcohol: Prosecco
Ingredients: 2 oz Prosecco, 1 1/4 oz Aperol, Splash of Soda water
Preparation: Build into glass over ice, garnish and serve.
Served: On the rocks; poured over ice
Standard garnish: Orange Wedge
Drink ware: Old Fashioned glass
Can we agree that seven years of blogging about food is worth 250 calories? Thus, the cake.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on this lifetime of growing, cooking, eating and sharing food, realizing it’s the frame work I’ve used to build and re-build my life. Most of my happy memories are in some way attached to food.
– From my childhood I still crave Mom’s Apple Crisp, Helen Shelley’s Whipped Cream and Oreo Cookie Pudding, Millie Potter’s Molasses Cookies and Carole Renken’s mom’s Rice Krispie Bars. There are so many memories attached to each of those cravings.
– As for silly family memories, this rises to the top. The turkey wouldn’t gobble if I didn’t bring a huge batch of Chex Mix to my family on Thanksgiving. Every year my granddaughters wonder aloud if Grandma will remember. It’s always a week before the holidays when I get the call.
“Hi, Mom. It’s Missy.(long pause)Mom, now I am serious, please, please don’t put so much butter in the Chex Mix this year.”
“Mom, Mom, I really mean it this year.”
“I know Missy.”
When I arrive the girls are quick to spy the Chex Mix canisters in the car. “I only doubled the butter,” I whisper to them.
They giggle and run in to tell their Mom. I do penance. Eleven years. Same story.
Take a look at the potato plant, just dug from of the soil. Potatoes are now grown in the Valley by Woody Creek Distillers who make acclaimed craft spirits including 100% Potato Vodka. WCD Photo
– One of my favorite Michael Memories is our annual potato harvest. We Iowans could not successfully grow tomatoes in Aspen but our potato crop was gangbusters. Each fall Michael would make the call. It was time. He’d grab his pitchfork to dig up the plants as I got down and dirty to retrieve those spuds. Since I experimented with different varieties, there was lots of ooh & aah-ing as we spotted each one. And God help that man if he mistakenly speared and damaged one of those tubers. Our harvest’s success dictated the number of guests invited to our boisterous potato parties which followed.
In Las Vegas, where I’ve spent the holidays, some people go High Brow and some go Low. I favor the Low – my favorite burger joint on Eastern Avenue.
My long-lasting friendships, whether in Iowa, Nevada or Colorado were nourished and nurtured in the kitchen and around the table. This experience of the past seven years of cooking virtually only raised the bar. In an instance of serendipity I joined French Fridays with Dorie, arguably among the first virtual cook-the-book food groups.
This exposure to kindred spirits throughout the world was an unexpected gift. C.S. Lewis nailed it, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
LV now has a big box IKEA. Since I had never visited an Ikea I stopped by to taste their iconic Allemansrätten meatballs with mashed potatoes & gravy and lingonberry sauce.
For me, every week I make time to plan, cook, click and write. My measuring cup runneth over.
There are none of the long lines here in Las Vegas as reported at Danny Meyer’s popular Shake Shacks in New York City.
Still worth a stop for the ‘Shroom Burger, a crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted meunster and cheddar cheeses, topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. Tasted mighty fine with french fries and a salted caramel shake.
YEAR EIGHT KICKS OFF IN SAN MIGUEL de ALLENDE
On Thursday I am flying to San Miguel de Allende, located in central Mexico, for a 5-week visit. Designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, SMA joins other historical cities like Venice, Florence, Salzburg and Prague as the most historically and culturally significant in the world.
I will be living near the centro histórico, the city’s 500-year-old downtown district. For the next few weeks of posting I’ll be trading David Lebovitz’s recipes for those of Diana Kennedy, aka the “Julia Child of Mexico,” and Señora Trini, the reigning cook in my hosts’ cocina.
Gracias, Readers, for a wonderful seven years with you.