3 Ways To Get More Vitamin D

sunshine and pines Here's the funny thing about that happy-making nutrient called Vitamin D: It's both a vitamin and a hormone your body produces when exposed to sunlight. That's a pretty rad dual status to have, but it also means that when it's too snowy and cold to bike to work or sunbathe, humans must turn to eating their Vitamin D. Of course, few foods are rich in the stuff, which is why lots of breakfast cereals say "Fortified!" on the box. D's a slippery little vitamin to catch. And the negative effects of a Vitamin D deficiency on the heart, bone health, and more are being studied all the time (gory details here).

So how are adult people supposed to scrounge up the recommended 600 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D a day? A united front of several tactics is probably best, from making the effort to stroll outside for 10 minutes every few days to swallowing supplements. But let's talk about the edible tactics right now, because that's the most fun.

Happily, the foods that do naturally contain Vitamin D are the best foods. They're rich in fat and totally classy, giving you a great excuse to dab your mouth with linen napkins instead of paper towels for an evening. Check it out:

Oily Fishes Salmon, sardines, tuna, and herring (pickled herring)! These fatty fishes are the biggest D hitters around, sometimes wielding over 90 percent of the recommended daily dosage for adults. Grab a salmon filet at Coastal Seafoods, a tin of lovely Ortiz Spanish sardines harvested off the coast of Galicia, or some melty line-caught white tuna (you'll never go back to StarKist, promise) from our shop.

Japanese Food Because Japanese cuisine is the master at combining ultra-savory individual ingredients, three of which happen to be fat with Vitamin D: caviar, tofu, and mushrooms. Get your deficient butt to Kyatchi or Origami in Minneapolis and tuck into some salmon roe, deep-fried tofu, or a bowl of hot udon noodles with mushrooms. Maitake mushrooms alone will hand you 131 percent of your daily D, and those succulent beads of caviar will provide you with 20 percent. They also pop in your mouth like salty Gushers, so that's a bonus.

Cheese and Butter And of course, a Vitamin D deficiency is an excellent opportunity for a fondue of melty Alpine-style cheeses like Comté, Appenzeller, and Gruyère. Or, it's a reason to add a little extra Cravero Parmigiano-Reggiano and another pat of butter to morning eggs (also great for Vitamin D!). OR, an excuse to have all of your friends over for a giant, sprawling cheese tasting with lots of wine (which is apparently good for the heart) and mischief.

Happy Supplementing, buddies.

The Year of the Sheep

Year of the Sheep “People born in the Year of Sheep are tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living.” —The Internet

Sometimes we like to wax philosophical behind our cheese counter. We spend our entire days surrounded by fermented milk. That’s kind of an odd sort of thing to do, no? But it’s a wonderful exercise to stop, think, and imagine where our fermented milk originates. And what better time to take stock than during Lunar New Year?

This Thursday is Lunar New Year and it so happens that 2015 is the year of the Sheep (we think). We love sheep’s milk cheeses at our cheese counter. I mean really love them. Several of our bestselling cheeses are made from sheep’s milk, quite the feat considering that the vast majority of our cheeses are cow’s milk and we might only have 3 or 4 sheep’s milk cheeses at any given moment.

Why so few sheep cheeses? The biggest reason is that sheep just don’t produce a lot of milk. A sheep produces milk seasonally—for about half the year (and not a lot of it while it is milking), whereas cows produce milk for up to 300 days of the year. That means a sheep cheese producer must produce all of their cheese for the year in just a few months.

French Manech Sheep

The most popular sheep cheese at our counter (and a staff favorite) is Abbaye de Belloc. It is a gorgeous cheese with a textured, dusty rind. Crack it open and you reveal a silky bone white paste. This is a monk’s cheese—meaning the recipe was developed by monks at an abbey in the Pyrenees mountains of France.  Abbaye de Belloc doesn’t hit your tongue with an immediate punch of salt or sweet, rather its richness builds and it releases subtle caramel and faintly grassy flavors. The texture is just killer. Not too dry, not at all waxy, just dense and perfectly chewy.

Monks and sheep, apparently, both have a special fondness for quiet living. The beginning of Lunar New Year is, however, a great time for celebration. We are more likely to think of fireworks or lion dances than we are to imagine meditative contemplation. One fortune prediction for the year of the Sheep 2015 is that it is a year to be tolerant of family. So perhaps a wedge of Abbaye de Belloc, a nice bottle of something from the Southern Rhone, and a trip to your cantankerous Uncle’s house are in order.

Happy Lunar New Year!

[purchase Abbaye de belloc] [original illustration by Nate Braun / sheep image via]

The Sharing Song

Happy Valentine's Day

It's mine but you can have some With you I'd like to share it 'Cause if I share it with you You'll have some too. Well if I have a cake to eat If I have a tasty treat If you come to me and ask I'll give some to you. --Raffi, The Sharing Song

If you were a child or parent in the late 80s and early 90s, you're familiar with this little acoustic tune. It's the perfect missive to being a good friend, the kind of song little kids start to mumble along with if you gently sing it to them enough times. And bonus! It mentions the word "cake." I remember the pink image of a generously iced, multi-layered birthday cake popping into my mind whenever The Sharing Song warbled from my parents' tape player. Yep. That would get me to share for sure.

But the loveliest part of The Sharing Song is its simple reminder. Sharing is inherently worthwhile. Its benefits and resultant fuzzy feelings don't even need to be explained; If I split that piece of cake with you, well then "you'll have some too." Because to own something is great, but to share it is an experience, a memory you knit between yourself and another (or many) human being. And anyway, if a cake is baked in the woods and no one is around to eat it with, does anyone enjoy it?

soft cheese with goat's milk caramel

Instead of mushy, glittered, cardboard-cut-out love, this Valentine's Day we're focusing on sharing. Especially food. As M.F.K. Fisher would put it, “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” When we offer the things that sustain and delight us to another person, then we show them true affection.

Here are a few yummy things that we love to share at the France 44 / St. Paul Cheese Shops:

-Green Hill // a small round of soft-ripened cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy that's perfect for two -Fat Toad Goat's Milk Caramel // drizzle it over everything, but especially that round of Green Hill cheese for dessert (pictured above) -Langres and Coupole // wrinkly button-shaped cheeses that are great with Champagne -Rogue Chocolate // a single-source bar of extreme quality; choose your chocolate partner wisely, because this one's a major treat -Baby jars of Pâté // little pots of silky duck or chicken liver to split with a buddy and some crusty baguette -Brownies, caramel corn, and toffee // sweet snacks for a Valentine's Day movie with a friend, perhaps?

How To Stay Warm

fondue_image In Minnesota, it's frigid and snowy outside. But inside our houses, we melt nutty cheeses in little pots, add a little white wine and some spices for oomf, and dip things into this smooth cheesy mess all day long. It's a winter ritual. It's a delicious way to stay warm.

Classic Cheese Fondue

1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 pound Gruyère, grated 1/3 pound AppenzellerComté Melodie, grated 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour 1 3/4 cup Petit Roubie Picpoul de Pinet wine 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg A splash or two of Kammer Black Forest Kirschwasser (optional)

Toss the cheese with the flour. Rub the interior of a medium saucepan with the peeled garlic. Place over medium heat and the add wine. Bring to a simmer and add the cheese mixture, one handful at a time. Stir in the nutmeg and minced garlic.

Stir over low heat until smooth and cheese is melted and bubbling. Add a splash or two of kirsch and continue stirring until it starts to bubble just a bit. Transfer cheese mixture to a fondue pot and you’re ready to go! Don’t forget to stir frequently.

Try dipping hunks of baguette, blanched vegetables, tiny cornichons, or cubes of salami. The possibilities are endless, even if your stomach isn’t. Enjoy!

[image on right via]