Super Snacks for the Super Bowl

If you buy one thing for your Super Bowl Party, buy our Pimento Cheese Spread. If you buy two things this weekend, buy our Crostini to go with that Pimento Cheese Spread. But guess what? This is America and we don’t limit ourselves on food. There are choices (many of them) and if you’re going all in, here are some of my favorite things to snack on while watching what’s bound to be the highest scoring Super Bowl of all time. (Here are the 5 highest scoring Super Bowl games for fun).

Bleu Mont cheddar

Bleu Mont cheddar

Weeks ago, my colleague decided to promote Wisconsin cheeses for 2017’s Super Bowl weekend. As a dedicated Packers fan, the fallout from our Conference loss has left a pit of despair in my stomach. But if anything could fill that pit and help me feel whole again, its cheese, more specifically Sconnie cheese. All of our Wisconsin cheeses are 15% off this weekend! The Hook’s cheddars are exactly what you want if you love the big, bold, aged cheddars. The clothbound Bleu Mont closely resembles great English cheddar - with fresh grassy and barnyard-y notes. If you’ve been in-and-around our shop with any frequency you’ve most likely encountered the staff favorite, cheesemaker Andy Hatch’s very own Pleasant Ridge Reserve. It’s a nutty alpine-style cheese that is a great hearty option during the chillier months. Just across the border in Thorpe, the Penterman family makes Marieke Gouda. This cheese has those wonderfully crunchy protein crystals that keep you coming back for more bites. And the dark horse, Dunbarton Blue, is also on special. This cheese is a blue-veined cheddar, frequently lost between the two genres. But those who have discovered it are dedicated fans.

To round out your Super Bowl spread you will need meat. Good thing we have our own salumi producer right here in NE Minneapolis, Red Table Meat Company. Head Charcutier Mike Phillips’ flair for flavor and porky greatness shines through all of their meat products. Grab one or two of Red Table’s Boldog hard salamis (15% off this weekend too). They’re modeled after Spanish Chorizo and go perfectly between bites of Pimento Dip.

Yes, I’ve mentioned Pimento Cheese Dip a few times throughout this blog. It’s my favorite house-made dip that we sell. The Caviar of the South, pimento cheese is a game changer. The relish-y pimentos cut through the savory cheese and then you get a hint of umami from the Worcestershire. No typical one-bite-left Minnesota situation with this dip. It’s delicious on a crunchy vessel but can go the distance with other dishes in your kitchen too. Add it to a ham sandwich, top deviled eggs with it, or mix it in with your scrambled eggs. 

Pimento dip (on the right) and artichoke tarragon dip (on the left)

Pimento dip (on the right) and artichoke tarragon dip (on the left)

There is a lot of betting that goes down on Super Bowl weekend. Besides the game itself, you can put bets on the coin toss down to the color of Gatorade that gets dumped on the winning coach, (my money is on Limeade). Swinging into our shops for Super Bowl supplies will be the best bet you make because everyone will be a winner.  

How To Build a Cheese Board

Building a beautiful cheese board is a simple and elegant way to impress your guests during the holidays. Boards can range from bare-bones to over-the-top, but the most important thing to remember is that no matter how you serve it, delicious cheese makes people happy. Follow these guidelines for cheese board perfection:

  1. Start with three to five hunks of cheese. To make sure you have a nice variety, go for different textures, different milk types, and different countries of origin. Anyone behind the cheese counter can help you pick a great selection. It’s always good to taste cheese before you buy! There are some spectacular options in our case right now only available during the holidays. Check out Rush Creek Reserve, Black Betty gouda, and Comte Sagesse!
  2. Serve the cheese at room temperature. This is one of the most important steps. Cheese straight from the refrigerator doesn’t reflect its ideal flavor or texture. Make sure to leave it out on the counter for 3-4 hours at least.
  3. Keep the extras simple. Dried fruit, nuts, olives, honey, and fruit preserves are all perfect, but keep in mind that really good cheese doesn’t need much of anything to shine. Place one or two around the board or, for a more extravagant look, fill in all the spaces between cheese. Some great options: Ames Farm honeycomb, Marcona almonds, Inna jam.
  4. Crusty bread is the perfect vessel. We sell awesome rustic bread from Baker’s Field in Northeast Minneapolis, as well as more traditional baguettes. Simple crackers are also a good option.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to a delicious and beautiful cheese tray! If you need any more advice, keep in mind that any cheesemongers behind the counter would love to help out. You can find more inspiration on the @ThatCheesePlate instagram or in one of our favorite books, DiBruno Bros. House of Cheese.

 

Rush Creek Reserve Season

     When you stop by the store during the Holiday season you’ll most likely encounter a cheesemonger jazzed to tell you about the amazing seasonal cheeses we have in stock. In fact, when someone asks me “what tastes good?” I have a hard time deciding what cheese deserves that accolade. We don’t just bring out the ‘good stuff’ because it’s the end of the year, many of these cheeses are seasonal. And right now it’s RUSH CREEK RESERVE SEASON!

     Before I can even get to the Rush Creek Reserve story, we have to travel to Europe. Vacherin Mont d’Or (or Vacherin du Haut-Doubs depending on what side of the border between France and Switzerland you buy the cheese) is Rush Creek Reserve’s inspiration. If you’ve ever seen the full 90 lbs wheels of Comte and Gruyere that come through our door, it would stand to reason that the milk that goes into making these cheeses doesn’t just come from one farm but many farms. These farmers are called fruitieres. The fruitieres send their very young wheels of Comte to affineurs (cheese agers) to be ripened. Two Hundred years ago when winter rolled around sending young cheese and milk across distances was not so desirable. Enter Mont D’Or. When the cows came in from pasture and the temperature dropped, farmers would make Mont D’Or, a raw milk oozy wash-rind cheese wrapped in spruce bark for themselves. Unfortunately, Mont D’Or cannot be found in the U.S.A. FDA regulation only allows for raw milk cheeses aged for over 60 days to be imported and sold here. Luckily, Andy Hatch’s cheese can fill the void.

Andy Hatch with the herd at Uplands Dairy

Andy Hatch with the herd at Uplands Dairy

     Andy Hatch operates Uplands Dairy in a similar fashion to alpine cheesemakers from Europe. During the summer months, his cows graze on fresh pasture in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin and with their milk he makes the alpine inspired cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Just like the big alpine cheeses of Europe (ex. Comte, Gruyere, Beaufort) Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a raw milk cheese that has wonderful nutty, fresh floral grassy flavors, with a dense creamery texture and slight crunch. And just as the alpine cheesemakers use winter milk for Mont D’Or, Andy makes Rush Creek Reserve with the milk from the hay-fed cows who come in from pasture. Rush Creek Reserve is a raw milk cheese that just squeaks passed the FDA’s 60-days-aged benchmark. Because of this regulation, we receive few soft raw milk cheeses in case.

     This weekend Andy will roll up to our shop in his pick-up truck and drop off his final delivery of Rush Creek Reserve for the season. This cheese won’t last long in our case but has the staying power to last in your refrigerator until Christmas.  Pick one up and pair it with something bubbly: a saison, cider, or champagne. The bubbles will cut through the dense custardy texture of the cheese but still allow the cheese’s meaty barnyard funk to stand out. As you enjoy this cheese around a roaring fire on a dark December day you can picture the cows snug in their barn as well, waiting for that spring day they get to step out on their fresh pasture and start the whole cycle over again.

The most special cheese

Six years ago I was invited to travel to Europe on a cheese discovery trip. I had absolutely no clue just how lucky I was. Our first stop was the Jura, a majestic region of verdant mountains right along the Swiss border. We were there to visit a dairy making wheels of Comte and to tour the Fort St. Antoine where wheels of Comte are aged.

 

The cheesemaker inspecting the vat

The cheesemaker inspecting the vat

Comte is perhaps the most magical of cheeses. There's no point in spending time describing the flavors and deliciousness of this cheese when you can come on down to the shop and try some. So we'll leave it at magical and then you'll just have to see for yourself.

What is incredible about our Comte is that our wheels are chosen out of tens of thousands of wheels as the best of the best. We work with the fantastic folks at Essex St Cheese to supply you with some of the best Comte available in the world. 

My cheese adventure was also a selection trip for the folks at Essex. We were walking through the Fort so that we could try batches of cheese to see which ones were the best.

 

Benjamin's cheese mentor Daphne Zepos amongst thousands of wheels of Comte

Benjamin's cheese mentor Daphne Zepos amongst thousands of wheels of Comte

It's hard not to spew hyperbole when talking about cheese or food in general but Comte truly is a food worthy of all the fuss. It's the star of a cheese plate, the necessary ingredient in a life changing grilled cheese, or your go-to for kickass fondue.

We're thrilled to offer three age profiles to you at our cheese counter this holiday season. 8- month, our signature 15-month selection, and the holiday-season-only 24-month selection. 

Oh, and did we mention that one of our employees is a Frenchman who used to work at the Fort? Yeah, there's that.

Sheep's Milk Stars For Autumn

Halfway across the world, in the Western Pyrenees, the brothers of Notre Dame de Belloc are preparing their sheep for the end of milking season and the beginning of breeding season. During the majority of the colder months, the herd will ruminate on winter grass, hay, and life. In the following spring, after the new lambs have been ushered into the world, milking and cheese making will resume.

The monks will transform the milk into a small tomme called Abbaye de Belloc. In the region, the style is referred to as 'ardi-gasna' (our/local cheese). Like other ‘fromage de brebis’ cheeses, Abbaye de Belloc exhibits a fresh, rich feel on your tongue and a subtle finish of straw and pasture.

Traveling back to the northeast corner of the U.S., cheese maker, David Major, is following similar practices on his own farm, Vermont Shepherd. He and his family are the first sheep dairy farmers to establish themselves in the United States. They use the unpasteurized milk of the Dorset, Tunis, and Friesian breeds to make Verano. The wheels showcase the symbiotic lifestyle of shepherd and flock along with traditional cheese making in a modern era. Using wooden boards to age the natural rinded tommes causes warm almond notes to harmonize with a luscious vegetal finish.

In our shop, we carry Abbaye de Belloc year round and Vermont Shepherd from Fall to late Winter. Early Fall is one of my favorite cheese eating seasons because I can settle in with a juicy apple, malty beer, and a hunk of good cheese. It’s the perfect preamble to Winter.

 

Alpine Summer

Summer in the Alps

Summer in the Alps

During midsummer, while you’re headed up north to the cabin or enjoying a cold one at your favorite patio, the folks at Uplands Farm are hard at work. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is in its height of production due to the high yield of milk from the herd at this time of year. The cattle are enjoying a lush diet of pasture grasses and wild flowers whose flavor profiles are reflected in the milk, and in turn, the cheese itself. Cheesemaker, Andy Hatch, maintains a closed herd. This means that they breed using their own bulls and calves rather than sourcing outside cattle. This allows the herd to evolve with the land. Uplands is in the Driftless region of Wisconsin. Our cheese monger, Mallory, wrote a great post on the area that you can check out here.

L'Etivaz production

L'Etivaz production

I can’t write about summer alpines without mentioning L’Etivaz. Henri Gutknecht makes cheese in his 266 year old chalet. The small scale producer creates, on average, two wheels of cheese a day. Gutknecht, along with other cheese makers, respect centuries of tradition by heating the raw Montbeliard and Red Holstein milk in large copper vats over open fires. The wheels we receive each year have the classic bass notes that resonate warm and nutty. Initial floral grassy notes make way for a clean finish.  

English Cheddar: A History Lesson

The story of English Cheddar is both ancient and brand new, making it a perfect model for the history of food in the British Isles in general.

     Cheesemaking in England  begins with the invasion of the Romans, whose influence lead to the development of recipes for cheeses now considered English classics: Chesire, Cheddar, Wensleydale. Cheese production remained small-scale and linked to individual farms across England, Ireland, and Scotland until the Industrial Revolution began to reshape every aspect of British life. The advent of factories coincided with the rise of imperialism (and by extension, the transport of goods like milk across the country) and eventually cheese was being made on a much larger scale with milk from dozens of farms.

Feta Lesbos and Why Origin Matters

    What does it mean for something to be inherently tied to the land where it is produced? As globalization plays an increasingly dominant role in our world, distinctions regarding origin become blurrier: we can eat strawberries in Minnesota in February. It’s possible to walk through the aisles of a grocery store without noticing once where our food comes from. But it does matter where our food comes from and this applies to cheese as much as anything.

    In the early 1990s, the European Union (as well as individual countries) began to fight back against what they saw as a tarnishing of reputations of foods historically made in Europe. Sparkling wine, they argued, should not be called Champagne unless it is made in Champagne. They viewed these imitation products as unfair competition and believed them to be misleading customers into buying inferior (or at least different) products. The EU established a set of classifications meant to tackle this issue, including “protected designation of origin” (PDO). PDO marks foods and beverages produced entirely within a certain region that have some unique characteristic because of where they are made.

    As you can imagine, PDO designations were not awarded evenly across Europe or without dispute. While English cheddar and Italian taleggio received PDO status as early as 1996, others weren’t as lucky. As feta had grown in popularity, it’s production spread from Greece across the rest of Europe and eventually elsewhere in the world, causing many (especially non-Greek feta producers) to argue that its name had become “generic.” The feta cheese that much of the United States is familiar with is often produced outside of Greece, without following traditional practices. As a result, a lot of it doesn’t taste all that good. We know feta as a crumble for salads, salty but otherwise fairly bland and uninteresting. That feta has been ruining Greek salads for decades. Finally, in 2002, feta was given PDO status and must be made in Greece with traditional methods, including the use of 70% sheep’s milk.

    The feta that we recently started selling is from a small village on the Greek island of Lesbos. Our primary importer of European cheeses, Essex Street, sent a chef named Danae Tsekoura to the far reaches of Greece looking for a feta worthy of introducing to the US as the “real deal.” This is what feta is meant to taste like: bright, briny, floral. It’s salty without being overbearing and the flavor of the sheep’s milk shines through.

    Essex Feta Lesbos is a great example of why we can’t ignore where cheese comes from. It’s glaringly obvious, from Essex’s search for perfect feta to its PDO status, that origin matters. By acknowledging origin, we are able to support independent cheesemakers and farmers in a country that is undergoing economic crisis. It also makes faraway problems seem closer and more personal. Or maybe it just means that we get to eat really delicious feta.

 

The Driftless Region and Its Cheeses

The Driftless Area in Wisconsin

The Driftless Area in Wisconsin

The Driftless Area of the Midwest, containing the southeastern corner of Minnesota, a large chunk of Wisconsin and a little bit of Iowa, gets its name from a glacial event that took place over 12,000 years ago. Glaciers surrounded this area of the land, but never passed over it. This meant that no glacial “drift” was collected in the region: deposits of rock and other earthly masses that glaciers tend to leave in their tracks. This allowed for rivers to cut deep, flora to grow lush and thus, shaped a truly special region of the Midwest.

Here at the shop, we have three delicious cheeses that come specifically from this area, all of which are produced in Wisconsin. Pleasant Ridge Reserve, for one, is a wonderful gruyere style cheese made by Andy Hatch and his team. Their farm sits upon Pleasant Ridge in the Driftless Area where the cows have a vast and beautiful landscape to traverse and feed on the different grasses and wildflowers that abound. This lends a complex and unique flavor to the cheese that customers, and mongers alike, fully enjoy.

 

Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese with his cows

Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese with his cows

Secondly, we have Bleu Mont Cheddar from Willi Lehner over at Bleu Mont Dairy. Like tradition goes, these awesome wheels of cheddar are cave-aged and clothbound. You can imagine that the Driftless Area fosters a great space for one to carve their own cave, which is exactly what Lehner did. This allows his wheels to age and bring out the earthy nuances that are ever so important in a cheddar.


Lastly, there is Dunbarton Blue from the Roelli Cheese Haus, a truly special cheese, handcrafted by Chris Roelli, that combines a cheddar and blue style all into one. These wheels are cellar-aged and contain a perfect balance of subtle blue veins and dense cheddar paste. It goes without saying that there is something exceptionally alluring about the Driftless Area for a man from Switzerland to choose it as the beginnings of a generational cheese production that hails back to the 1920s.

 

Sing a Song for English Cheddar

English Cheddar and Joe Strummer

Haven’t visited the British Isles? Neither have I, but a bite of Montgomery’s Cheddar offers a glimpse. This English cheddar is dry, structured and possesses an old-world earthiness. Nothing like the bright, fresh, and nutty earthy notes found in alpage cheeses. It’s that barnyard, cave-y, damp, gamey, hobbit hole kind of earthy. A quality that evokes images of the British countryside, giving me a sehnsucht to travel to that soggy field full of cows with the farmer in muddy Wellies and tweed jacket.

I get excited every time a new wheel of English Cheddar arrives at our store. Batches can vary widely, more than most cheese that we see. The earthiness is the backbone of this British Cheddar. But a range of tannic, cave-y funk, pineapple-y sweet and grassy notes will bring you a different adventure in flavors every time. If English Cheddar were an album it would be The Clash’s “London Calling”. It proclaims its English heritage from the start with London Calling, gets dank and grungy with Guns of Brixton, becomes a little tropic and fruity like the reggae in Revolution Rock, and surprises you with a long finish as if it were the bonus track Train in Vain.

Stop in this weekend and at our counter you’ll find Montgomery’s and Keen’s Cheddar, and Lincolnshire Poacher (somewhat of a divergence from true cheddar). Not only do these cheeses have distinct flavor profiles, if you stop in our store 6 months from now and try another Montgomery’s Cheddar, that batch could be singing a different tune. This weekend cheddar might be all Rudie Can’t Fail, but don’t be surprised when the cheddar you pick up in a few months is more Lost in the Supermarket. Whatever the flavor or tune it’s bound to be a good experience! 

Cravero Parm: Not Just For Your Pasta

Katie Renner, Cheese Buyer

When I create cheese boards I usually stick to the classic line up: clothbound cheddar, something soft, and something sheep or goat. Having grown tired of this classic (and still tasty) plating affair, I decided to reach out to a cheese that is often overlooked. A good Parmesan, more specifically Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano, has become one of my favorite things to nibble on. The Cravero family has been selecting wheels and aging them in Bra, Italy for five generations.  The local forage and pasture that the herds of Fresian cows eat create a flavor profile which is rich with fruity and savory notes. The texture is succulent with that good bite of tyrosine delight.


As of late, my favorite way to devour this baby is to let my piece come up to room temperature and just dive in. This first part is key to any good cheese eating. By letting the cheese warm up, the texture becomes more supple and flavors that would otherwise be masked by the chill of the fridge, will open up. After an hour or so, depending on the size of my hunk, I go for it. The bread, oils, and fruit are all left behind in my frenzy, but if you aren’t ready to make the plunge quite yet, I highly recommend you drizzle some of the 2015 press of the Laudemio olive oil or the Saporoso balsamic from the Malphigi family over the top.


So please, the next time you go to make a cheese plate or a snack, go beyond your usual choices and dive deep into the pool of Parmigiano Reggiano.

A Love Letter to Cheese

Dear cheese,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. You're always there for me yet always changing. No two wheels of Comte or Cheshire ever taste the same. We taste each new wheel with a completely open mind, forgetting what we tasted the time before.

2. You fill me up both literally and spiritually. Cheese is a complete protein which fills you up and keeps you feeling full. And really do we need to talk about all the ways that cheese is the most delicious and versatile food on the planet?

3. It's possible that you might be an aphrodisiac but at the very least you're made to be sandwiched between two pieces of bread and melted.

So this Valentine's Day clearly wouldn't be the same without you. I'm so lucky to have you in my life.

xoxo

Benjamin

Early Harvest Olive Oil

We wait all year for this. Our shipment of novello harvest olive oil has arrived from Tuscany just in time for the holidays. Any wine aficionado can relate to the excitement of a new vintage of their favorite grape juice flying onto the shelves.

Our novello harvest oil of choice is the Frescobaldi Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Here is a quote direct from our importer's website: 

the Frescobaldis helped develop a new level of extra virgin olive oil production by emphasizing the concept of terroir, linking the olive’s typicity and quality to the uniqueness of its productive environment. 

Make whatever wine comparisons you want (Burgundy, Oregon pinot, etc) but the bottom line is that this oil is luxuriously delicious and incredibly versatile. Ready for ideas? Here we go!

  • Drizzled on burrata with some sea salt
  • With your dry aged ribeye
  • RIsotto
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Finish any soup with a swirl

 

Sausages--Why we think ours are the best

It seems that some foods are taken for granted. We eat it but don't really think too much about it. When we first opened the cheese shop almost 8 years ago it seemed to me that cheese was one of those foods. Over time our customers have come to expect a different level of deliciousness from the cheeses we stock. 

Sausages are a food that I had not really given much consideration to. In fact my enjoyment was based on saltiness and seasoning but little else. Additionally (and maybe this is the non-midwesterner in me) I always found them troubling to cook. Inevitably they'd cook too fast and the casing would burst and all of the fat and juiciness would leach out. I always blamed my poor cooking technique on mealy, dry sausages. Turns out maybe I was only partially to blame.

Our sausage maker Peter truly does create something different from any other sausage/bratwurst I've eaten. I'm saying this objectively, not as someone trying to sell something. The process is a painstaking one that involves multiple steps of seasoning, freezing, grinding, mixing, and slow poaching (more on that later). All of this to achieve perfect texture to accompany great flavor.

There is a whole, long science explanation here which I'll spare you. What you, the sausage consumer, will notice is a bouncy texture that is juicy every single time. And because we've pre-cooked our sausages sous vide you will never have to worry about undercooking or overcooking your brat, italian, chicken sausage etc. Don't worry you can still crisp your sausage up in a pan or on a grill and feel like you're cooking, but the end result will be much much better this way. Trust us.

We invite you to come to the shop and taste the difference. We're pretty convinced that once you experience how sausages should be you'll never want to eat anything else.

Being #1 on a List

This week the City Pages named our new Meat Shop's pastrami sandwich the best sandwich of 2015. Wow. 

Typically we're a modest kind of place. We've been named best this or that over the years and typically we let it pass without making much of it. Maybe it's false modesty or humble bragging, but really we typically feel great about what we do and are happy to simply keep delighting our loyal customers.

This one, however, is different. Our pastrami sandwich was a big deal to all of us here. Our butcher Scott masterminded the operation and was essentially trying to create something that existed in my east coast childhood. We've blogged about our process in the past so no need to revisit it here. 

If you haven't been to the Meat Shop yet maybe this is what you needed to convince you to do so. For me, I'll just keep trying not to eat one of these sandwiches every day.

Comte!

In May 2011 I had the privilege of visiting the Fort St Antoine in the Jura region of France to see wheels of Comte being aged. In the nearly 8 years I've been selling cheese, not other experience has come close to being as remarkable as this one. Comte is a phenomenal cheese. It is for snacking, cooking, fondue, cheese trays, picnics. At our shop we stock two different age profiles all year round and during the holidays months we are fortunate to receive an allocation of highly sought after extra aged wheels (appearing in our cheese cases very soon).

If you have never tried Comte this is your opportunity, we think you will discover a cheese friend for life and a new staple in your refrigerator.

Below: Wheels of Comte aging in an ancient Fort. Below that a picture of the founder of Essex St Cheese, the late Daphne Zepos.

Apple Season at the Cheese Shop

strudel We wait and we wait and we wait. It seems that apple season in Minnesota can never come soon enough for us. Yes, it heralds the end of summer and the winter to come, but we prefer to look on the bright side of things. Minnesota apples are beautiful, bright, and delicious. Our apples are supplied exclusively by Brian Fredrickson of Ames Farm honey fame and they really are some of the more delicious apples we've encountered.

Our apple sandwich began in our first year of business. We wanted a seasonal special that would work well with the fine English cheddars we sell. It all started easily enough--we had no idea what kind of a beast we had unleashed. The apple sandwich is by far our most popular sandwich special and we constantly have customers asking us to make it year round. If you haven't tried this sandwich, this might be the time. Head to our Minneapolis cheese shop or our St Paul Meat shop to check it out.

And then there was apple strudel. We started making this two years ago and it's a treat that makes all of our mongers so happy. They're snacking on it constantly--it's a wonder we ever have any left to sell to customers. Each year we've made slight adjustments to the recipe but the one thing that remains constant is that we use Mengazzoli Organic Cider Vinegar in the glaze. This vinegar is magical and we're featuring it in our shops all month long. Please stop and ask for a sample, it will change your life (for the better).

Local apples are available deep into the winter but we tend to highlight them only through the fall. Beyond the sandwich and the strudel we'll have apples for sale at retail and popping up in a variety of ways throughout the autumn.

A Vegetarian's Guide to the Cheese Shop // Part II

vegetarian_guide_image_2 Meet Eliza, our cheese shops’ resident vegetarian! She’ll be showing you around the shop from an herbivore’s point of view. This is the first in a multi-part series.

This past month I turned 24, marking a decade-long abstinence from meat consumption. Eating vegetarian has become a deeply ingrained habit for me and when I started working at the France 44 Cheese Shop last September, I made it my job to carve a vegetable-shaped path through my experience.

Despite the presence of countless delicious (allegedly) meat-centric products, the France 44 and St. Paul Cheese Shops have a bounty of vegetarian options. Back in June, I shared a few tips to following an herbivore's lifestyle and here I am again to bestow some more knowledge upon you vegetable lovers. This time I’ll focus more on home cooking and the great products you can buy at our cheese shops to create delectable meals of your own.

1.Whole Milk Ricotta, the single best-kept secret of the Cheese Shop Our Ricotta comes from Calabro Cheese Corporation, in my beloved home state of Connecticut. This fluffy, luscious, smooth ricotta was originally distributed out of New Haven—home to the country’s best pizzeria and Mecca for delicious Italian fare—so you know it’s good. Though we don’t sell this cheese directly out of our case, we almost always have it, so please ask us to package some up for you!

Ricotta is versatile. You can bake it in lasagna, put it on pizza, eat it for breakfast on toast with honey, or have us smear it all over your favorite sandwich. Calabro ricotta is fresh and delicious and if you are anything like me, you will steal a bite whenever you can.

2. Pasta! So all this talk of Italian food has you hungry for pasta. Well you’re in luck because we sell pasta in every shape and size! Trust me, I have a new appreciation for our selection after having recently rearranged the shelves. We have a lot of pasta and it's all impeccably made. From buccatini to ringlets to shells, we’ve got it. And you can also always ask a monger if you need a recommendation. Pick up pasta with some delicious Scarpetta sauce or our house-made Smoked Paprika Parmesan and you are good to go. Mix in some grilled vegetables from our deli case for that extra wow factor.

3. Soup Though it’s only August, fall is right around the corner and that means soup. We offer a smattering of delicious vegetarian soups in the grab-and-go case. Here are some of my favorites:

Carrot Fennel: Oh man, it is simple and delicious and it’s so healthy it’s almost like you went for a run just by eating it. Shave some of our Cravero Parmigiano-Reggiano right on top and invite me over for dinner. And don’t forget to dip one of our freshly baked baguettes in that bowl of golden soup!

Gazpacho: I know I know, I’m getting hasty thinking about fall and not even savoring summer, the absolute best season of the year. Gazpacho is basically synonymous with summer soup so eat some chilled deliciousness on your next picnic at the beach.

Tomato Soup: Let the tomatoes speak for themselves! They are delicious and so is this soup, which truly highlights all the natural sweetness and deliciousness of everyone’s favorite summer vegetable.

4. Melts

In my last post, I told you all about the different vegetarian sandwiches you can order at the cheese shop. What I failed to mention is that every once and a while it’s important to switch it up. Regular sandwiches are great, but you know what can be even better? Melts. Offered exclusively at our St. Paul Cheese Shop, our savory Melts are decadent, oozy grilled cheese sandwiches that are oh so vegetarian-friendly! Unlike our cold sandwich menu, which skews to the meaty side of things, more than half of our St. Paul shop's Melts are meat free. Check out these mouth-watering options:

• Barber’s English Cheddar and house-made harrissa • Melodie Comté with caramelized onions and whole grain mustard • Calabro whole milk mozzarella with house-made tomato-garlic confit • Double cream brie with cranberry chutney

And the best part? Each Melt is served with a shot of the tomato soup I mentioned above. Perfect!

I’m happy to say, after working at the Cheese Shop for nearly a year, I am still discovering new vegetarian indulgences. Remember, you can always ask your cheese monger for vegetarian options or alternatives. Enjoy that meat-free lifestyle!

The Meat Shop Reuben // Now With Beef Tongue!

reuben_email Before we opened the St. Paul Meat Shop, a group of us went on a reuben sandwich tour around the Twin Cities. It was a great bit of staff bonding and an opportunity to assess the reuben landscape. Unlike the pastrami and the chacarero, I have no emotional tie to the reuben. It’s a classic, it’s delicious, but it’s one of those sandwiches that can turn into a greasy mess of muddled flavors very easily. This was going to be a sandwich that we turned on its head a little bit.

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We’re a whole-animal butcher shop, so of course, we use every little bit of the animals we source. We wanted at least one of our sandwiches to really reinforce that message, and that sandwich turned out to be the reuben! Beef tongue is a magical cut and it seemed perfect for this sandwich because, once pickled, it is incredibly similar to corned beef. In fact, we think it’s richer and more tender than most corned beef, without all of the extra fat that comes along with brisket. Beef tongue adverse? Don’t be scared, this sandwich will help you conquer your fears!

The other big change we made to the classic reuben was serving it at room temperature. Is a reuben really a reuben if it's not served hot? You can decide that for yourself, but we love the creaminess of the unmelted raclette next to the crunch of the fermented cabbage. Textural bliss. And finally, our Russian dressing has just the right amount of sweetness to pull off the tricky balancing act of salt, acidity, and savoriness. I hope you'll give it a shot!