Dec 12, 2008

Think Inside the Chevre-Box

It is a glass walled box displayed prominently at the cheese counter, a small emulation of the aging vaults back-store, and under the careful supervision of cheese-keeper Afrim Pristine. Contained within are an assortment of fine goat's milk cheeses from France and Quebec -- little chevre-jewels coated with a fine mold.

They have been subject to a careful aging process, no longer than 90 days, that culminates in each small batch receiving its one day of finishing in the climate-controlled display. Or perhaps less, such as on a busy day like today when the entire contents are purchased and replenished three times over-- with a number of hours to go until closing time!

Dec 5, 2008

Dec 2, 2008

Massimo Capra is rowing to Cheese B this weekend!

This Saturday December 6th, Chef Massimo Capra and Cheesekeeper Afrim Pristine will be doing a special promotion from 12pm til 4pm, to meet with the public and discuss the upcoming Cruise.

And rumour has it Massimo will be cooking up some of that in-house aged Prime Rib Roast mentioned in yesterday's post. Tempting, isn't it? And I am certain there will be blogging about this after the fact, so stay tuned!

Nov 28, 2008

Holiday Treats at Cheese Boutique

Panettones, cakes and cookies stacked high

Marzipan piggies in a row

Panettone and puppet

Assorted Joseph Schmidt truffles

Gourmet candy canes on display

The cheese of the season is the Vacherin Mont d'Or, just released from a 45 day bathing in the cheese cellar. It is a raw cow's milk A.O.C cheese made only with summer milk in the French Alps and only available for a short time.

Also available to order is the Prime Roast-- aged sixty days in-house.

We were hoping as well that this Christmas would see the grand un-barreling of the goat cheese (refer to this post) marinating in Malivoire all these months... we asked Afrim about it and he said that, well, it's not up to him to decide-- the cheese will tell him when its ready. And when it decides to be ready, rest assured, there will be a post about it!

Stay tuned for upcoming recipes... Happy Holidays from A Blog of Cheese!

Nov 24, 2008

Avgolemono Soup with Chicken and Orzo

This soup.... started as leftovers from a roast chicken dinner. The bones were turned into a stock, and stock is always useful to have kicking around for anything, but the challenge was-- how could I make this into a really delicious soup with the average assortment of ingredients I had in the kitchen?

Solution: Avgolemono, the Greek egg and lemon soup!

The egg, lemon and milk that constitute the base of this recipe turns a plain old chicken stock into something amazing. Using Orzo rather than the traditional rice was a great touch, as it has a very satisfying chew and slurpiness in the rich broth. (I used the yummy orzo mentioned in this post.)

Here is the recipe:

6 cups of chicken broth
3/4 cup orzo
1/2 to 1 cup milk (optional)
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. butter (optional-- but butter will make it taste even better. Especially Cheese B butter.)
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup (or so) lemon juice
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
lemon zest
pepper and salt

cooked chicken meat (I used leftovers from the roast)
red bell pepper

Start with sauteing the diced vegetables on low heat, meanwhile heat the stock and throw in the orzo, simmering until the pasta is al dente. Alternately you can add pre-cooked orzo shortly before serving to control its tendency to continuously expand. Reduce heat.
Add vegetables, meat, lemon zest, parsley, pepper and salt.
Combine the milk, yolks and cornstarch and whisk into the soup until it is thickened. Then stir in lemon juice and butter.

Garnish with a dollop of yogurt, a sprig of parsley, and a grating of pepper.
And there you go, a hearty bowlful of comfort!

Nov 13, 2008

The Provolone Procession

What's in the crate, you ask?

It's an 868 lb, 10 foot tall... Cheese! One of only four made in the world at any time in history.

An authentic Auricchio Provolone of finest quality... which Cheese B is now aging in the Vault for five years.

Waiting in the Vault until that day, sometime in 2013...

Nov 10, 2008

Beef Fillet Roll-Up and Mushroom Cream Sauce

Are you looking for a vegetarian, vegan, low-fat, high-fiber recipe?

Then I'm afraid this is not the post for you. This recipe involves rivers of cheese oozing out of meat wrapped around more meat, and topped with a rich creamy sauce.

Specifically, a tender Beef fillet surrounding plenty of grated Swiss Gruyere, slices of Prosciutto, diced portobello mushroom and a subtle mix of herbs. Cheese Boutique prepares this neat little package in-house for you to cook up at home.

I'm sure it would be great on its own, but I opted to make a mushroom cream sauce using the wild gourmet mushrooms that have been calling my eye from the produce section these past few weeks. Oh, and look, a pretty package of fresh green beans. I selected that as well-- beans are good.

The mushrooms, before:

The mushrooms after:

Fresh out of the oven:

A leetle garnish of parsley, and voila!


The Roll-Up

It was started with a quick pan-searing, top, bottom and sides in Cheese Boutique olive oil until browned, then I placed it in a small baking dish in a 375 F oven for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese (bubbling and oozing out) was melted all the way through.

As that cooked I prepared the Cream Sauce:

Begin with a simple velouté sauce. I had fresh vegetable and chicken stock on hand and used a little of both. That can stay on low heat to reduce while you get started on the rest.

1 cup "Chef's Exotic Mushroom Blend" (fresh, from Cheese B)
2-4 tbsp. sliced or diced shallots
2 tbsp. butter
splash of vinegar, wine or balsamic
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup velouté
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of cream
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
(Remember, the measurements given here are an approximation)

I used the same pan that I seared the beef in... removing the little bit of cheese that fell out and retaining those nice caramelized meat flavours. Put it on medium heat and melt the butter.
Saute the shallots or red onion until soft, then add mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms just begin to brown.

Add a little balsamic or red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan, then add minced garlic and chopped fresh parsley and cook for a couple of minutes. Mix in the wine and velouté and stir on low heat while it all mingles and thickens. Add the cream and very gently allow it to simmer while stirring for a few minutes more.

The beans were gently steamed with carrot curls and topped with a drizzle of lemon juice.

And of course, don't forget to drink some of that red wine with your meal.

Coming soon: It's just about that time of year-- Christmas at Cheese Boutique! Stay tuned...

Oct 24, 2008

Salmon and Soba Noodles

An impromptu and quite healthy dinner ala Cheese Boutique:
Salmon fillet with a honey garlic tamari glaze, on a nest of soba noodles, jerusalem artichokes, shallots, and wilted pea sprouts. These sprouts are tasty, cheap, and stay fresh for a long time.

Organic Living Pea Sprouts...

Honey, garlic, and tamari for the salmon....

Soba (buckwheat) noodles...

The final result:

The salmon is baked in the glaze at 375 F for about half an hour depending on thickness... it should be caramelized on the outside and remain moist and tender on the inside.

The Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, add such a lovely crisp texture and nutty flavour. I peeled them, cut them into fat strips and briefly sauteed them with the shallots.

I cut some of the sprouts from their forest and threw them in the still-hot pan with a sprinkle of water to steam for about a minute.

All that was tossed with the noodles and everything was given a drizzle of lemon juice. I also used some flax oil and salt and pepper, but it could be seasoned in a variety of ways of course.

Completely delicious as well as being vegetarian (well, for the kind that eat fish) and gluten-free.

Star Ingredients (from Cheese B except for the fish):

Fresh Salmon fillet

Rolana 100% Organic Buckwheat Soba Noodles
Slegers Premium Organic living pea sprouts
Jerusalem artichokes

Oct 10, 2008

Thanksgiving at Cheese Boutique

Cheese B has an eye-dazzling selection of desserts at any time of year, but now they have outdone themselves with an impressive display of Thanksgiving treats.

Pumpkin Pie deserves the honour of being at the top of this list. There is the Traditional, spiced with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and for those who find such spices to powerful, ask for the new Roasted Pumpkin and Ginger Pie. I sampled the regular Pumpkin Pie, and the spice levels certainly aren't overwhelming by my standard. It was, for the record, quite delicious and home-made in its quality, with the occasional pleasant little chunk of pumpkin and a light, non-oily crust.

For a more unusual take try the pie made from a scrumptious mixture of Pumpkin, Carrots and Dates, baked in a shortbread crust and topped with crunchy Pecans.

There is a Pumpkin and Date pound loaf, perfect to serve with Tea, and a fun assortment of Thanksgiving-themed Sugar Cookies and Chocolates with great appeal to the child within-- as well as actual children.

To serve alongside Turkey dinner, try the Savory Sweet Potato Pie, made with oven roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions. (All pies are available in the following sizes: 3”, 5”, 6”, 8” ,9”, 11”)

It was a tough choice, but I went with the Ambrosia Pie... made from Apples and Berries, and defying description. Oh, and Cheese B has some very healthy-looking fresh Turkeys if you haven't picked one up yet.

And that's all for now... have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sep 27, 2008

Just Released: A Cheddar with Seniority

It's "Le Cru du Clocher", a raw-milk Cheddar from Quebec-- and a finalist at the Fine Cheese Festival of Warwick.

Cheese Boutique cures and ages it for ten years, making it their oldest cheese available right now.

This fortunate blogger has had the delight of sampling it with some fruit and crackers and a little red pepper jelly. I bet it would shake a fantastic cheddar sauce, fondue, or soup, or jazz up an omelette, or rock a classic dessert with apples. It may be old, but it's versatile!

Breakfast at The ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

5:30 am Sunday....(I'm still wondering how I managed to wake up).... I'm up early to catch Agim set up a breakfast table as part of representing the Swansea community that came out to support runners at this year's event.

For those that were stationary--- CheeseB had a healthy selection of fruits, and perhaps a not so healthy selection of morning pastries but I for one wasn't going to complain-- I mean the apple danish still has apples in it, right?

At the intersection of Windermere and Lakeshore, the course bends back to the downtown route already completing 12 km and CheeseB was there to greet and cheer them on. Watching the lead olympians was quite a moment of inspiration and amazingly a lack of perspiration. The throngs of runners that followed was an endless wave of colourful and earnest Torontonians all receiving my highest kudos for competing... in the meantime I was encouraging them with a danish in my hand.

Sep 18, 2008

Shouting out El Silencio!!!

Today's post features a very special Olive Oil... naturally, Cheese B has a well-chosen variety, but the one recommended to me was Torres "El Silencio" extra-virgin Picual, from Miguel Torres. Check out the Torres website: Torre Real.

Cheese Boutique is the exclusive importer of this product in Canada. Afrim described it to me as having flavours of mango and papaya, and says the price is actually lower here than in Spain due to export subsidies--he tells me it's one of the best deals in the store, with so much quality for the price. Along with this, I picked up the Torres Cabernet Sauvignon wine vinegar. And to fit with the "Spanish" theme a large wedge of Spanish Manchego Sheep's Cheese:

After bringing home my coveted bottle of special oil, I unscrewed the lid (almost expecting a cork!) and smelled the contents. Lovely fruity aromas wafted to my nose. The taste is delicate and fine, so of course it's best not to use it in high-heat cooking or anything that would mask its qualities, but it's wonderful to have around to add something extra to your recipes. If you are a fan of olive oil I highly recommend giving this one a try. If you are not sure if you are a fan, then I think I know a way for you to become one!

The fuss-free meal I prepared was simply a salad of avocado, figs, red onion and cucumber, some pre-made ravioli, and generous amounts of grated Manchego. I drizzled the oil and vinegar just before serving. Most delicious! The wine vinegar retains a rich wine flavour and sweet acidity, the cheese sparkles with pungent goodness.

In other news, Cheese B was featured in the Toronto Star today.

Featured Ingredients, from Cheese Boutique:

Torres "El Silencio" Extra Virgin Picual olive oil
Torres "La Oscuridad" Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
Spanish Manchego cheese

Sep 15, 2008

Vignettes -- Sept 13

Kiwi presentation

Zespri Gold and Zespri green

Fred's Bread weekend sampler display

Sep 11, 2008

Produce Produced

For this week's post, I was granted a casual interview with Ralph Newmeister. He's been with the store over eight years with an extensive history in food retail before that.

We talked out on the sunny patio, and he had a few interesting personal stories to share as well,
but this post is about getting inside what he does, what really goes on behind planning these colorful arrays and unusual selections.

The staff have to be trained extensively its at times very hands-on. However, trained and knowledgeable staff are part of what makes that machine work so well.

Every week, he explained, they display something new. Shoppers are not going to walk in and see all the same things week after week. This week for example, they've brought in quince, pomegranate, and fresh dates.

There's a very limited supply of certain items, he explains-- but he will always be sure to get these items because of the long-standing relationship with suppliers. "It's all about rapport" he tells me, "rapport from the wholesaler to the store, from the store to the customer".

He walks the produce section of the store to take inventory, then goes to the wholesale market to source his requirements. First he looks for best size and quality, and considering the price is looked at last. He doesn't look at the sample they might try to show, he looks in the box to really see if it is worth getting. How does he know? He explains it like this: "It must laugh at me, or I won't buy it... if I can't smell it (for instance strawberries), what is the point?"

It also takes an awareness of the seasonal cycles throughout the two hemispheres... at certain times of year from certain places in the world, you will get the best product.

There are ever-bearing Ontario strawberries that will produce up until Thanksgiving. He brings those in, but they have a sort shelf-life, only three days.

Knowledge of farming practices also plays a part in how the product is selected-- lettuce is alive, he explains, keep it alive. Don't pick the crop and pack it up while it still contains field-heat-- it will cook. He informed me of the process used called "hydro-cooling" where the food is-- you guessed it-- cooled with water before it is packed off to the wholesaler. You can tell when they don't let it cool first, he said, the food is wilted like it has been sitting for a week.

Naturally, there is an element of fashion to this-- the latest "it" item, and there are also traditional "old world" products-- things some people didn't know they would ever find in Canada. He tells me a story about an old Russian woman who found the bin of Fingerling potatoes (which Cheese B had twenty years ago, before everyone else) and she scooped them up in her hands and wept. Food has nostalgia, emotion.

There are fads, and there are old-time items, but if there is something of interest and someone else has it, Ralph simply must make sure Cheese B gets it too. Recently it was these particular Heirloom tomatoes-- although there were enough in stock already, he found another kind, beautifully packaged, and had to get some of those too. You know, like when you just have to get another pair of shoes. I guess you could say tomatoes are like shoes, for Ralph.

He gave me a brief tour, right into the storage areas for employees only, where food waits in boxes and crates for its turn out on display. There await the new tomatoes... called "Red Zoo" brand Heritage-- he hands me one to take home.

I asked him what else was in the store that he particularly likes. It depends, he says. He brought me over to some cartons of purple figs-- all beautifully arranged, what he likes to see. Fresh, plump, nice color, fragrant, packaged just right: the best quality. This is what he looks for.

A couple of tricks I learned: the "cleat" the green thing on top of a tomato, should be soft and not too stiff or dried out. And on-vine tomatoes should be five to the cluster to know it is the first pick.

Grapes should be hard, with green, not brown stalks to know they are fresh. Fresh Dates, pictured below in foreground, should be "glassy" in appearance.

List of a few items of interest, found at Cheese B, mentioned by Mr. Newmeister.

Particularly nice abate pears and forelle pears
Several kinds of wild mushrooms
Ontario Artichoke
Ontario ever-bearing strawberries
Fresh dates
Specialty melons
Sweet pimento peppers

Also, he tells me they have gotten a hold of some nice Kiwis-- and this weekend at Cheese B there will be a Kiwi presentation. Of course, this will mean tasting them, and probably cheese too, knowing how things go around that place.

To close off, I would like to thank Mr. Newmeister once again for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me-- very informative, and I bet readers of this blog will think so too!

Sep 4, 2008

Heirloom Tomatoes are Here!

I couldn't help but notice all the shapes and colours of the Heirloom tomatoes at Cheese B yesterday... when tomatoes are good, they are very, very good. Keep those pale, flavourless mass-produced things away from me, I love a real tomato.

Those Big Red Ones, In-Store

There is an article about them from David Lee here in a recent issue of The Globe and Mail, with great tips and what looks like a wonderful recipe (which I must try!).

I selected three tomatoes of varying colours, some basil, and a hefty little brown paper sack of Italian Orzo from the Pasta Room. Then over to the Deli counter for further inspiration.

Got some olives, and was thinking maybe a nice grated hard cheese, but Agim, true to his title as "the Meat Guy", suggested the Lamb Merguez Sausage instead. And a very good suggestion it was-- it made the dish more hearty and, I don't know... exotic (he said "Moroccan"), but cheese would work well if you wanted to keep it vegetarian-friendly.

Tomatoes Pose Vainly, Orzo Reclines in Background

I cut the sausage into pieces and added them to a hot skillet with some olive oil. Nice Lamby fats are released as it sizzles, and as it neared the end of cooking time I added a clove of minced garlic and ground some pepper into that-- it smelled great. So much flavour. I mixed that into the Orzo along with a leeeetle more olive oil. Then combined it with the olives, chopped fresh Basil, lemon juice and salt.

Off the pasta goes into a serving dish.. and now to arrange the Stars of the Show, our colourful Heirlooms, with a garnish of basil, a drizzle of balsamic crema, and pepper.

So... mmmmm

The Orzo was a great backdrop for these ingredients-- a very good quality pasta that retains a nice al dente firmness.

The yellow tomato in particular was my favourite, exceptionally sweet. I think I have to go back and get more... who needs candy?

And so, here is the List of Ingredients (from Cheese Boutique of course!):

Assorted Heirloom Tomatoes
Lamb Merguez Sausages
Rustichella d'Abruzo Italian Orzo Pasta
Deli Olives

Fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Aug 28, 2008

From Farm to Table: Charcuterie Platter

I have made my first official Charcuterie plate using Cheese Boutique prepared meats, and a fair bit of recommendation and helpful information from the folks behind the counter. I was pleased to find out that all of it is direct from local farms and cured in-house, naturally preserved using tried-and-true methods, with no added Nitrates or Preservatives or Irradiation or any of that nonsense.

Here they are, the Stars of the Show:

Prosciutto Principe di San Daniele: --To quote the sticker "Authentic Italian prosciutto from Friulli. Pigs raised on acorns and chestnuts. Aged there for 18 months then further aged an additional 18 months in-house."

Pork and salt, nothing else! Lean and flavourful "the best prosciutto I've ever had" according to my friend, who has, apparently, had a lot of prosciutto-- and this product is exclusive to Cheese B and no where else. Here they are hanging behind the counter:


Beef tenderloin: "Dry-cured to the point of perfection, a favourite of Picasso when he was living in Paris." It's luscious and slices paper thin, an especially nice treat.

Chobai: Hungarian-style sausage made from Berkshire Pork, Paprika and other spices.

Tender Roast Beef: Made daily from selected Canadian AAA Beef. Cooked perfectly rare (or well done if you prefer), I like to get it rare and it's always nice and bloody.

In-House Berkshire Ham: Just a really good ham, for any purpose-- Cheese B's "House Ham". I used this in a previous recipe here, the Croque Monsieurs, and it was good in that, too.

Left to Right: Prosciutto, Roast Beef, Chobai, Bresaola, Ham

Poor me, having to eat this for the Blog.

A View of the Chobai

Eveything in the above list is prepared in-house except for the Prosciutto.

Co-starring a few house-made Balsamic Marinated Pearl Onions, made with balsamic and olive oil. Not too acidic like some pickled onions, just a sweet tasty crunch and I daresay a perfect accompaniment to this platter.

The bread I used was the Ricelle--a skinny and baguette-like little loaf. I also used some German-style Rye, olives, grain mustard, and Chevre. All stuff I had on hand, it's flexible.

Last but not least, a smooth Italian Chianti to wash it down-- MMMmmmmm!

If you have any questions about these or the many other meat products sold at Cheese B, go to Agim-- he's the Resident Meat-And-Greeter.

The List:

Roast Beef

Balsamic Onions

And anything you have on hand!

Voila, a beautiful Charcuterie Platter.

Aug 27, 2008

Cheese Awards--perhaps already at the counter at CheeseB

The Blogosphere has been an interesting learning curve for me, the Big Cheese.

I had the concept of its creation hard wired into my aspirations in what I wanted to share with foodies, all wonders to be found at CheeseB. How the use of this technology can bring news up to speed---its slow food, but news travels fast and I've been rewarded with CheeseB inviting me to help spread the word through this channel....but seeing it in action where you, the audience, are helping me out now in spreading the message and happenings.... makes it quite worthwhile I'm finding so thank you to all for that.

With that in mind, I'm incorporating this post as a new stylistic entry for those who might have missed a comment highlighting the recent winners of the 2008 American Cheese Society Competition.

19 fine Canadian cheeses and 2 dairy products (butter, yogourt) Canadian winners stood out from 1,149 cheeses and dairy product entries submitted by 181 producers from 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces. The award winners were announced at a ceremony held last July at the Merle Resking Theatre in Chicago.

Now I have some homework to do....reporting back on what CheeseB has from the list of winners already in stock!

Thanks to Andre for the link :-)

PS. The Title that links to Facebook isolates all the Canadian winners for you... you may have to register though to view....I know I know there are still some Facebook shy people out there ---I understand --but I caved and joined. In anycase I'll have a followup post on the winners to match a confirmation with CheeseB on what they have inhouse in case you don't join Facebook to see the list.

Aug 21, 2008

A Midsummer's Eve Mix-Up

As I perused Cheese B. looking for something quick, tasty and shareable, I was directed to the colourful Frontera display by a rather enthusiastic Afrim Pristine.

Frontera Foods, he explained, is a line of products from the renowned Rick Bayless restaurants in Chicago, and is exclusive to Cheese Boutique -- you won't find this line of products anywhere else in the City.

Melt cheese (Gruyere in this case) over the chips and serve, it can be as simple as that or you might want to get fancy and pile up your nachos with all kinds of toppings. The chips are good and thick so they can handle all that extra weight.

You know what's so great about dipping? You don't even need a fork... or a spoon... or a knife... or chopsticks... but do bring a napkin.

List of Ingredients:
Frontera Fire-roasted Tomato and Cilantro Salsa
Frontera Lime with Sea Salt Tortilla Chips
Gruyere Cheese
Organic Fat-Free Yogurt

We also have something from my co-author Big Cheese this week, who has clearly been feeling a bit jealous over the weeks. So I will leave off here for now-- take it away, Big Cheese:

I went all out--I'm a meat eater and the CheeseB just so happens to be a gourmet artisanal meat shop which I have felt has been neglected of late in this blogosphere.

It's summer--the BBQs are flared up--lets get hearty.

I got the thickest cuts of Cheese Boutique's Veal Rib Chops that my eye could pick out: 2 of them actually to do a comparison between Stove cooking and BBQ as I've heard so much over the years that BBQ is always better but I never really did the tasting myself to compare at the same time before.

I pan fried the first one--8 min on one side, 6 min on the other per Agim Pristine's instructions. The result, super yummy, its veal--its tender you can't really contest it as any other edible.

Then to the BBQ. Gas grilled....hands down, BBQ wins.

It retains the savour--it felt more plump and it cooks through the meat much more evenly.

I shared the second chop---it was getting too much to horde all that meat to myself. Rave reviews from all. It was served with Debriciner sausage and a toasted pumpkin seed, coriander and mushroom Pilaf.

Ingredients used:

Veal Rib Chops
Debriciner Sausage
Mom's BBQ
Pumpkin Seeds
Mushrooms and stuff---I know that's weak--other than the meat, the GF made it.

Till next week.