CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘cheese’ Category

(Product Review): Belle Chevre Goat Cheese Cream Cheese

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 25, 2019

Long time readers know that I am a sucker for cheese. Few know how much I love goat cheese but it well established that I love free cheese. In this instance, I was offered cheese I would gladly pay for next time I go to the store in the form of Belle Chevre cream cheese made from goat’s milk.

When I received this box I was vaulted to cream cheese heaven. Inside were eight different cream cheeses to try so I took my mission very seriously. In order of my taste preference these are the samples I received: Fig, Original, Honey, Roasted Red Pepper, Cinnamon, Pumpkin Spice (it’s not just for coffee anymore) Garden Veggie. I am still holding on to the Coffee Cream Cheese (unsampled) for unspecified and perhaps secret baking project.

My spouse was a bit skeptical of cream cheese made from goats milk. Also, her superhuman sense of smell confirmed that these cream cheeses did originate from goats, not cows. For her this fact was neutral, but for me, it was all goaty goodness.

Belle Chevre goat cheese cream cheese has some distinct advantages over standard cream cheese. Their goat cheeses are naturally gluten free and a one ounce serving offers five grams of protein which is more than double that of regular cream cheese. Compared to cow’s milk-based cheeses, goat cheese is lower in fat, provides more calcium and has two and a half times the protein. That is something that helped me rationalize eating a whole container in a day.

For my rigorous testing I did several head to head comparisons of Belle Chevre and standard cream cheese. Thinking of the creaminess and spreadability of typical cream cheese as a percentage or curve, the Belle Chevre cream cheeses were about 75% on the spectrum between regular goat cheese and regular cream cheese leaning more toward the cream cheese on the scale. Belle Chevre is dense but lighter and fluffier. It is less likely to “stick” and embed itself with it’s companion be it a bagel, salami, or whatever. The goat cheese flavor is present but not pronounced and pairs exceptionally well in the fig flavor in particular. True fact: I made my favorite sandwich of the year with a next day leftover piece of steak, the fig cream cheese and some just out of the bag sandwich bread from the store. It was simple but amazingly delicious. Over time I noticed the unused portion in each container tends to settle overnight bringing the remainder to a flat baseline by the next day which is value added for people like me that do not like big divots in the center of their dairy packaging but instead like a constant horizontal level awaiting the next knife or spoon.

Belle Chevre on the right

My most common test was to try the different versions of the goat cheese cream cheese on bagels, with one half of the bagel covered in Belle Chevre cream cheese and the other half spread with “a national brand cream cheese”. The Belle Chevre was always an even substitute and often a superior option depending on my flavor preference. My least favorite of what I sampled was the veggie. The veggie chunks in the cream cheese did not add to the flavor, for the most part, they just added some texture to the lump of cream cheese in my mouth. You can use Belle Chevre cream cheeses interchangeably with anything that would feature cream cheese and in my experience you will find it a flavor enhancer to whatever you are eating with it. In my research, it really excels in any baking recipe which calls for cream cheese, especially with the cinnamon flavor (which is why I am holding onto the coffee cream cheese for a future creation).

Belle Chevre is a company I have tracked for several years. They make great products and have an inspiring origin story. Their artisan cheese makers have been handcrafting traditional and original goat cheeses since 1989, combining old school European cheesemaking techniques with innovative approaches. All of this happens in Elkmont, Alabama under the chief cheese, Tasia Malakasis. The company is woman owned and led. It has won many accolades including a best dessert award for a goat cheese cheesecake and a feature on Oprah’s O List. To learn more about Belle Chevre click -> HERE.

Locally you can find Belle Chevre at Giant Eagle Market District and Meijer as well as in my refrigerator, but please do not take any of my Belle Chevre fig cream or I will give you an old copy of Who Moved My Cheese as a punishment.

Posted in cheese, Product Review | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Product Review: Folios Cheese Wraps

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 20, 2019

As a food writer, blogger, mystery shopper, social media person and more, I get a multitude of press releases to try new food items. Sometimes these pitches offer free samples. Often the sample is barely enough to get a true sense of the product or the offer itself is unappealing. While I will write for food, I would prefer more than one bite per byte. In the case of Folios Cheese Wraps such was not the case – their pitch was strong and the product seemed appealing.

In my hierarchy of pitch responses, the word FREE might get my attention, but the word CHEESE will demand my attention.

New Jersey based Lotito Foods is a specialty foods manufacturer and importer of Italian foods. They were kind enough to send one each of their three varieties of Folios. At first I was a bit skeptical. The products have the magic marketing words of Gluten Free and Lactose Free but typically for me, free in this context does not demand my attention. Lactose Free cheese (?), I pondered (very quickly) how that was possible. Before I became emotionally invested in the outcome I decided to see how I liked the cheese by tasting it as is immediately out of the package. It tasted pretty good, not how I would expect lactose free to be. (In case you are thinking…duh, why would you wonder, I have a BA not a BS). So here is what the Folios website has to say about how this is possible.

“Folios are naturally lactose free. The wraps are made with aged cheese; during the cheese making process, enzymes naturally convert the lactose to lactic acid over time. Typically, people with lactose sensitivity can still eat aged cheese, like Parmesan, Swiss, and aged Cheddar.”

Continuing my detective work, I wondered what made these folios functional as a replacement for gluten filled wraps – how could they be more rigid than a slice of cheese yet sturdy enough to hold fillings. My hunch was that there was something unnatural involved, so I checked the website again. Here is what I found for ingredients for each.

Cheddar: Pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes and annatto coloring.

Jarlsberg: Pasteurized part-skim milk, cultures, salt, rennet

Parmesan: Parmesan Cheese made from non GMO pasteurized cow milk, enzymes, and salt.

Ok, nothing unnatural here. The only thing I did not recognize was Annatto, which some Googling indicates: “is the ingredient used to dye cheese bright yellow, orange or bright red. Annatto is a natural ingredient, created from the pulp of the Achiote tree seed and is used as a natural food additive for cheese, as well as other foods”.

So far so good. The directions suggest letting the folio rest for 5 minutes before using (instructions for my use are similar). My testing suggests that letting the cheese acclimate to room temperature does allow one to enjoy more flavor but it is not critical to the cheese experience.

Each folio slice is placed on a piece of parchment which for at least short bursts of time in a microwave and conventional oven held up well and did crisp the cheese if needed. Each of the three types has recipe suggestions on the package for the specific variety of cheese folio in the package. I tried some of these out and I created some of my own. The Jarlsberg made for a good wrap with tuna salad. The Parmesan did well as an extra layer of cheese on a frozen pizza and it performed well as an Italian style wrap. The Cheddar was a good all purpose wrap for lunch meats and vegetables. I tested a sample of each with my resident expert on the eating habits of a four year old, CMH Griffin, and he approved. He liked the Jarlsberg the best of the three.

Each package has four servings each. The size, shape and consistency are comparable to a typical wrap (see the image at the end that compares a paper towel, flour wrap and folio for size). The cheese flavor is good. The only challenge I had was trying to figure out how the PEEL & RESEAL feature on the front side worked but by the third package I had it mastered.

Currently, Folios are a bit hard to find in the marketplace. They are available locally at the three Central Ohio Fresh Thyme locations. They can also be purchased online: Supermarketitaly.com

Folios serve as a good substitute for someone looking for a wrap without gluten or for a person that appreciates a more portable cheese source.

Gourmand tested, (CMH) Griffin approved

Posted in cheese, In the Grocery Store | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Finlandia Butter and Cheese? Oh, Yes Please

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 29, 2016

The story begins with (in part) this e-mail:

Happy National Dairy Month! I’m writing with a delicious opportunity for you to taste some of the best cheese and butter on Earth, and show off your baking and cooking skills.

Finlandia Cheese—a company that has been crafting great-tasting cheese and butter for more than a century—is a fan of your blog and asked me to reach out with a special Dairy Delight Kit for you, featuring yummy cheese, the best butter you’ve ever tasted, and some handy kitchen items.

IMG_4836

I did not receive the handy kitchen items but I did receive plenty of butter (salted and unsalted) and some Swiss Cheese. I discussed options with CMH Wife and we decided some of the butter and cheese would be a great opportunity to show off a new serving tray we received from a friend and introduce CMH Griffin to a simple summer meal of Swiss Cheese (his first Swiss) and a bit of salted and unsalted butter in a head to head taste off.

IMG_4870

IMG_4871

IMG_4873

The verdict, just like his dad, CMH Griffin is a huge fan of cheese. As for butter no indication was made as to if salted or unsalted was preferred.

Finlandia on Facebook

Finlandia Cheese Locator

Posted in cheese, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Quick Byte: The Pepperoni Roll at Omega Artisan Baking

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 4, 2012

Loyal readers or those that use the wayback machine and like reading CMH Gourmand archives may recall my pepperoni roll research a few years ago. The pepperoni roll’s roots harken back to the early 20th century when coal miners and factory workers dragged back and forth from back braking labor and soul crushing hours on the job. With little time, energy, or money for a meal, they needed something they could eat with their hands while standing or on the go. The pepperoni roll became the answer for many of these folks seeking a cheap and filling meal. The Pepperoni Roll is ubiquitous to West Virginia and can be found throughout the state in restaurants, diners, family kitchens and gas stations – made by hand or made en mass.

I came to appreciate this bit of culinary history but rarely find them on this side of the Ohio River. Oddly enough, the best pepperoni roll in all my travels resides here in my home town at The North Market. Omega Artisan Bakery takes this staple of the common man to such great heights. The ingredients of a pepperoni roll are as basic as can be – bread, pepperoni and cheese. The key to any good sandwich (or sandwich like product in this case) is good bread. In the case of Omega good bread is the baseline so part one is easily accomplished. Next, the balance of pepperoni and cheese is critical. I have encountered many ratios of these three ingredients but Omega seems to have found the magic mix of about 34%-33%-33% (my favorite measurements for many things, I guess). Since I discovered the Pepperoni Roll at Omega I can not think of a time I have been at the North Market and not bought one as my lunch for the day or as a meal for later. Each bite offers a mouthful of fresh, chewy roll, slightly greasy pepperoni and hardened, crusty, chewy and crispy cheese. No sauce is needed just three simple ingredients combined for a happy meal that needs no prize at the end.

Omega Artisan Baking on Urbanspoon

Posted in cheese, markets, sandwiches | 2 Comments »

Oakvale Farmstead Cheese

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 19, 2009


Oakvale Farmstead Cheese
1285 State Route 29
(about 4 miles North from I 70 on SR 29, less than 1 hour from Columbus)
London
740.857.0000

Oakvalecheese.com

Cheese lovers might be surprised to find a farmstead cheesemaker in the rolling hills and winding roads of Madison County. I certainly was because when I tapped my breaks as I noticed the Oakvale sign, I had completely forgotten about the pick up truck tailgating me. He moved on but I stayed behind to investigate.

I have tried Oakvale cheese at many farm markets and events at the Hills Market over the last couple years but I never placed where the Oakvale was in my mind. Fortunately for me, they were open and I happened to catch Jean King in between chores.

Jean and her husband Dale along with their daughter Dena, Randy Finke and the family dog run the cheese operation at the King farm. The family has been in the dairy business for five generations. As a farmstead cheese maker the milk for the cheese comes from the cows of the area which are mostly Holsteins and Brown Swiss cows. The cows eat local corn and graze on pastures near the farm. The cheese making process can begin hours after milking. Tudy is the senior cow of the herd and has been on the King farm for over 17 years.

Oakvale makes Gouda cheese in the following varieties: young, aged, caraway, Jalapeno and Habanero. They are also starting to work on smoked cheese and other products. The cheese is made with raw milk and aged 60 days (or more). Tours are available of the facility by arrangement. If you arrive and no one is around, you can self serve your order and pay when you leave. Jean says this honor system has worked very well and in some cases she has had wonderful thank you notes written by customers she has never seen.

Self Serve

On December 4th and 5th, Oakvale is having an open house where visitors can see everything in action, sample cheese and get 20% off all cheese purchases. It is a rare opportunity to buy cheese at the home of the people and cows that make it possible so make the drive and stock up of the holidays.

Posted in cheese, Road Trip | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Kent Rand: Hills Market Cheesemonger at Wild Goose Creative

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 8, 2009

The Wild Goose Creative, Too Many Cooks Series hosted Kent Rand, Cheese Director from Hills Market for a night of Ohio Cheese tasting. The suggested donation was $10. Too Many Cooks serves up something tasty the first Sunday evening of every month. Since I love cheese and support all things Hills Market and Wild Goose, I was there.

Friendly Neighborhood Cheesemonger Man

Friendly Neighborhood Cheesemonger Man

Kent Rand – also known as The Budda of Gouda, Chief of Cheddar, Prince of Provolone and Bhagwan of Brie guided a full house through a tasting tour of four Ohio Cheeses. He was assisted by one of my two favorite marketing mavens, Jill Moorhead, The Hills Market Marketing Director. In addition to creating good events, crafting fine prose on produce and significant craftiness to boot, Jill pours a good glass of wine.

The cheeses for the evening were:

Chevre with Herbs from MacKenzie Creamery in Hiriam
MacKenziecreamery.com

Organic Cheddar from Green Field Farms in Fredricksburg
www.gffarms.com

Old Time Smoked Swiss from Steiner Cheese in Baltic
www.steinercheese.com
(Yippee!! See my December 2008 post)

Caraway Gouda from Oakvale Farmstead Cheese in London
www.oakvalecheese.com
(Hills was the first local market to carry Oakvale cheeses.)

The cheeses were paired with South River Vineyard’s Temptation, a Rose from Geneva, Ohio.
www.southrivervineyard.com

We were also treated to a section of plated tastes to accompany our curdish delights so we could compare and contrast the flavors of the cheeses. Our tasting selections included dried apricots, black radish slices, watermelon radish slices, nuts, apple chutney, figs, an apple slice, Columbus Ham (not from Columbus), and a few other morsels.

In between eating, drinking and more eating, Kent discussed each cheese, provided an overview on cheesemaking and reviewed how to store cheese. He also fielded questions on Farmstead cheese, pasteurization in the art and science of cheesemaking, raw milk cheeses and why Cheddar is orange / yellow, among other questions. Kent topped things off with a serving of his Ohio Dutch Fondue (including grated gouda and a nip of gin).

It was an excellent night of eating education and you missed it. I used to worry about Hills Market and Wild Goose getting enough traffic at events to sustain their good ideas. Now I worry about getting a seat.

If you live in Worthington, Clintonville or Campus, The Hills Market can be reached after long but rewarding ride on the Olentangy River Bike Trail.

Posted in cheese, culinary knowledge, events, markets | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Hills Market – 2009 Wine and Cheese Tasting Line Up

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 24, 2009

I wrote and raved about Hills Wine and Cheese tastings in 2007 and 2008. Each month, the market presents an evening of wine, cheese, and appetizers (featuring the cheeses) inspired by a country, region or theme. Constance (wine director) and Kent (cheesemonger) pair up to create the wine and cheese pairings. They guide us through each wine we drink and each chunk of cheese we devour to fill our minds with knowledge while we fill out stomachs. It is a great night of good conversation with interesting and diverse people.

A taste of a tasting is offered in Columbus Foodcast, episode 15.

Here is the line up for 2009:

Seating is limited, reservations can be made at 614.846.3220. The cost is $35. Take your seats at 6:30 PM or I will steal your cheese.

January 29 – Ohio

(Post Post – 01/30/09)
This is what we had:

Wine
Firelands Winery Sparkling, NV
Ferrante Winery Vidal Blanc
Harpersfield Pinot Gris
Markko Vineyards Chardonnay
South River Winery Trinity
Kinkead Ridge ‘River Village Cellars’ Cabernet Franc

Hors D’oeuvres...

Ratatouille Bruschetta (Served with Ohio Goat Cheese)
Mini Cheese Artichoke Hearts (Served with Ohio Monterey Jack)
Stuffed Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cheese and Bacon (Served with Ohio Smoked Cheddar)
Savory Spinach Cheese Squares (Served with Ohio Farmers’ Cheese)
Sour Kraut Gouda Balls (Served with Ohio Caraway Gouda)
Feta-stuffed Mediterranean Pocket Pitas (Served with Ohio Feta)

February 26 – Germany and Switzerland

March 26 – East Coast U.S. and Canada

April 30 – France

May 28 – Greece

June 25 – West Coast

July 30 – Spain and Portugal

August 27 – South America

September 24 – Italy

October 29 – Australia and New Zealand

November 19 – Autumn Cheeses and Wine

December 10 – Sparkling Wines and Cheeses

Posted in cheese, culinary knowledge, events, markets, wine | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Wild Goose Chase: A Cheese Tasting and More

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 14, 2009

I left town to get caught up again. This time I was on sabbatical in San Antonio. The SA food scene has serious menu mojo!

Now for a journey back in time. A gaggle of folks from Wild Goose Creative put together a New Years Festival filled with a diverse range of activities running from December 31st to January 4th. I attended several of their events: a coffee tasting with the owner of Cafe Brioso, a pairing of Buster Keaton and Popeye for Saturday morning breakfast, another breakfast at the new Banana Bean location (Nick spoke about his breakfast blog and I chimed in a bit) on Greenlawn and a few other workshops. The event had a wide array of sponsors – many of them dear to my heart and stomach as shown below.

sponsors

What lured me in was the cheese tasting with Jen Bhaerman from Snowville Creamery. If you have not tried their milk – do so. Got Milk? Well compost it or give it to your cat then get Snowville instead, it is that good. You can find Snowville dairy products at North Market, Hills Market and other select stores.

snowville

Jen provided a packet of information titled The Pleasures of the Curd. This short handout provided a quick overview of cheese fundamentals. As part of the workshop she used several cheeses to hone our taste buds to the four main attributes of cheese – Appearance, Touch, Smell, and Taste. We started with mild cheese and worked our tastes up the flavor spectrum to wild.

Interesting factoid from her handout: Taste buds can detect only five flavors (bitter, salty, sour sweet and (not commonly known) Umani / Savory but the olfactory system can detect about 10,000 different aromas. So smell is critical to the tasting experience. Hmm, so why do I like stinky cheese so much?

cheese tasting

Jen knows her cheese and she works for a great company. Another bonus is she formerly worked for one of my favorite cheesemakers Cowgirl Creamery.

These are the cheeses we tried (photos not in order):

Twig Farm Goat Tomme

A raw milk aged goat cheese from Vermont. My favorite of the samples.

cheese 1

Oakvale Gouda

An aged cheese from just west of Columbus. Gouda..good.

cheese 2

Vermont Shepherd

Another raw, aged sheep’s milk cheese. Award winning and pleasing to my palate. Who told Jen I am a chupacabra of goat cheese?

La Chaux Doux (no link)
A washed rind cow’s milk cheese from a Fromagerie in Switzerland. This is a pungent, runny cheese that the group either loved or hated. I like stinky cheeses and found this paired well with the Gouda on a cracker.

cheese 3

Bayley Hazen Blue

A cow’s milk cheese made in Vermont using an English recipe, how is that for diversity? Jasper Hill Farm is a renown cheesemaker in a state that fields a lot of competition – we benefit from the high standards these cheesecrafters hold.

A guest also provided two additional cheeses from Bobolink Farm in New Jersey. Unfortunately, I did not note what they were.

 Jen B

Jen does practice what she teaches – the photo above shows her sampling cheese – it is great to lead by example.

I think we can expect to see Jen in the future, maybe I can talk her into doing a tasting or two for Slow Food Columbus…stayed tuned.

Wild Goose Creative offers several food related events throughout the year. A taste of what is to come includes:

Whiskey Tasting at Mac’s Cafe – January 26th

Too Many Cooks: Pattycake Bakery – February 1st
See how vegan baking can taste so good.
(For reasons why you want to go to this event listen to Columbus Foodcast Episode 21)

Too Many Cooks: Northstar Cafe – March 1st
Learn some of the secrets of Northstar’s kitchen. If they show how to make one of their peanut cookies or the veggie burger I am in.

Check out the Wild Goose Creative web site for more details.

Posted in cheese, Clintonville, culinary knowledge, events | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Merry Cheese Mass

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 25, 2008

I am a cheese whore. This is the premiere time of year to indulge my passion for cheese. While cheese can be shipped anytime of year, winter is the season to make your move. The shipping charges are reduced because cheese producers can ship it slower and cheaper without having to add freezer packs to maintain the integrity of the cheese.

These are the cheeses that have added to my mass this month.

Pearl Valley Cheese

Pearl Valley Cheese was awarded the Silver Medal for their Smoked Swiss Cheese at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison Wisconsin. This was my favorite of the seven Pearl Valley cheeses I sampled.

Steiner Cheese

Steiner

Steiner has won many awards as well. If shipping is not your thing, they have added a retail store in Zanesville. If you are passing by on I 70 during the holidays – the store might be an alternative to a rest stop. If you do make a detour, I would suggest you visit Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl and Donald’s Donuts. If you opt to visit their store in Amish country take a look around, it is the oldest cheese factory (1833) in the country. Aged Swiss is my favorite.

Carr Valley Cheese

Ok, Carr Valley is in Wisconsin, but I discovered the cheese in Granville. Their Baa Baa Blue is the second best Blue cheese on the planet. (The best is Whitestone Windsor Blue from New Zealand).

Ordering Pearl and Steiner cheeses by mail order can provide some really good deals – even with shipping factored in. Carr Valley is pricey, but shipping is a bit lower this time of year.

I also cross checked my cheese chomping choices with my chief CMH Gourmand taster, Toby. He agrees with my picks.

Tobias

Posted in cheese | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

IPA’s vs. Belgians; Surly Girl and The Beer Wench

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 3, 2008

My friend and podcast co-conspirator, the Columbus Beer Wench along with Surly Girl Saloon (co-owned by my pal Liz Lessner) have a beer tasting event coming up. For in depth information see more at the Beer Wench site.


Here is the press release


Beer, Cheese and Cupcake Tasting

SUNDAY JUNE 8, 5 – 8PM

Surly Girl Saloon, in conjunction with The Columbus Beer Wench, invites the citizens
of Columbus to explore the uncharted territory of a beer, cheese and cupcake pairing on Sunday, June 8th.

The theme of the actual beer tasting will be a battle of India Pale Ales versus Belgian Ales. Tasters will learn the different nuances of each of the two styles, all while enjoying delicious fresh baked cupcakes and select styles of beers and cheeses.

New update (June 6th – stolen straight from Surly Girl’s weekly events e-mail)

$20 gets you a pairing of 4 intense Belgians with 4 ridiculously good cupcakes (made by the tough and lovely Lara Yazvac) and 4 amazing IPA’s with 4 delicious cheeses.


Cupcake tasting and tweaking happened yesterday and we had some very happy staff. Bacon cream cheese frosting was to die for. No, seriously. We all almost killed each other trying to lick the bowl. Mmmm…bacon. Think that’s going to be our only non-veggie product though for the non-omnivores among us.

So the cupcake lineup is now:
Piraat Triple IPA with an orange and cardamom cupcake
Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru with a Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale and cheddar cheese cupcake with bacon cream cheese frosting
Lindeman’s Framboise with a lemon rosemary cupcake
Lindeman’s Pomme with a goat cheese cupcake

(Post Post Script June 8th…..late in the evening)

The event was at attended by 20 plus people. The Stilton was the cheese that pleased all. And it is now official – bacon is the new black, most people loved the bacon icing.

Posted in bar, beer, cheese, culinary misadventure, Short North | Tagged: | 4 Comments »