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From Gwyneth’s newsletter – GOOP!

The Cheese Board

Okay, it may not be the healthiest of indulgences, but cheese, really beautiful, well-made cheese, has to be one of the best things on the planet. Give me a slice of Camembert over chocolate cake any day. Last week, my friend Katie, all too aware of my obsession, asked to be pointed in the right direction for serving cheese. I turned to the experts at my two meccas, La Fromagerie in London, and NYC’s Murray’s Cheese Shop, and asked them to come up with options for assembling the perfect cheese plate. Here are some options for the more adventurous, and one for the, well, less (but no less delicious).

Love,
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At La Fromagerie, Patricia Michelson’s one-of-a-kind food lover’s cheese and grocery store/paradise, the formula for a cheese board is built from cheeses from 5 different groups: Goat Cheese, Soft, Hard, Washed Rind and Blue. Generally, you want to eat the cheese in this order, going from mild to strong so that you can truly savor each kind.

Dale, who guided us through La Fromagerie’s Cheese Room, created two cheese boards—a classic, which makes for a great introductory board, and a more challenging board for those who are looking for a bit of an adventure.

Goat Cheese

Fresh, light cheeses made with goat’s milk.

Option 1: Selles Sur Cher“Strong goatiness.” It’s quite firm but still creamy. The ash covering counteracts the sharpness of the goat’s milk.

Option 2: Cendre de NiortA silky smooth cheese typically served on a leaf. It has incredible texture.

Soft Cheese

Think of French Brie, Camembert, English Wigmore or Waterloo.

Option 1: Brie de MeauxMushroomy and so creamy.

Option 2: WigmoreThis British soft cheese is from Berkshire and has a sweet milkiness to it.

Hard Cheese

This is a broad category that encompasses Cheddar, Parmiggiano, Pecorino, Manchego, Swiss and Gruyère.

Option 1: Comte d’EstiveA Gruyère-style cheese from France.

Option 2: CastelrossoAn aged Pecorino that has an herby flavor.

Washed Rind

These are cheeses that have been washed with alcohol—varying from cider to brandy. The process is called an “affinage,” and at La Fromagerie they continue to wash the cheeses in-store. These are generally stinky and very flavorful varieties.

Option 1: Epoisses AffineThis cheese is from Burgundy and is washed in brandy. Notice just how creamy it is when sliced.


Option 2: BachensteinerThis is a small production Austrian cheese. It is super punchy, creamy and very, very strong.

Blue

The strongest of the cheeses, with a tangy and sometimes even sweet flavor. Classic examples are French Roquefort and English Stilton.

Option 1: Roquefort PapillonIt’s organic and La Fromagerie carries the premium Papillon exclusively. (The picture is of their regular brand.)

Option 2: Zelu KoloriaFrom the Pays Basque region in France, this ewe’s milk cheese has an incredible flavor that changes on the palate the more you savor it.

La Fromagerie has its own line of crackers. The label on the box tells you exactly which cheeses they go best with, which is very handy. In addition, Dale gave us a list of solid cheese and food combinations for the summer.

  • Goat cheese + fresh cherries
  • Sweet hard cheeses + fresh figs
  • Cheddar + grapes or apples
  • Manchego + Quince Jelly

Cheese,” Patricia Michelson’s encyclopedic tome on the subject, is incredibly useful if you’re looking to learn more about individual varieties, pairings and recipes.

My Ideal Cheese Board

For the dinner I hosted for My Father’s DaughterMurray’s Cheese in New York created a cheese board of my favorite kinds of cheese. I love stinky cheeses and blues, so here’s what Amanda Parker at Murray’s put together:


Photography: Ellen Silverman

“Epoisses”

“Super stinky little rounds of French cheese, these are soft, gooey puddles of funk. They come to Murray’s washed in marc de bourgogne, a locally made spirit from Burgundy—distilled from the stems and grape mash leftover from the Burgundy winemaking process—and the fiery liquor is what eventually gives the cheeses their pungency. They’re rumored to be banned on the French subway system, that’s how strong they are! We take it a step further, and I wanted to highlight the Murray’s cave-aging process at the dinner—our ‘affineur,’ in charge of aging and ripening the cheeses in our caves downstairs, washes them again here in New York. They’re even better that way, and unique to us at Murray’s.”

“Scharfe Maxx”

“Another smelly cheese, this one’s a little firmer and nuttier than the Epoisses. It’s an Alpine style cheese, made in the great tradition of those famous Swiss cheeses like Gruyere and Emmentaler, but it’s got a bit more going for it. It’s firm and smooth, and basically melts in your mouth into a slightly sharp but rounded flavor reminiscent of caramelized onions.”

“Bonati Parmigiano-Reggiano”

“Parmesan is not Parmigiano is not Bonati Parmigiano Reggiano—not all Parm is created equal! These wheels are specially crafted by Giorgio Bonati in Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. He’s a master cheesemaker, only making 2-3 wheels of Parmigiano a day—super small batches for a Parmigiano producer—which allows him to focus on the craftsmanship of the product and devote attention to flavor development as his cheese ages. He manages his own herd of fewer than 100 cows, which have a specialized diet of grass, herbs and hay from the region, and contribute again to that amazing flavor—dry but not too hard, crumbly, crystalline, fruity and grassy and nutty and sharp all at once. It’s really the best Parm ever, the King of Cheeses!”

“Bleu d’Auvergne”

“Since Gwyneth loves blues, we went for two. This Bleu d’Auvergne is a classic French blue, made in the Auvergne region of Southern France. It’s a milder, creamy blue, with some fruitiness and a bit of a peppery bite. One of the French AOC cheeses, we chose this to complement the stronger Gorgonzola (next).”

“Mountain Gorgonzola”

“Another classic blue—the spicier Gorgonzola Piccante, or Mountain Gorgonzola, from the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. It’s stronger than the Gorgonzola Dolce that many are familiar with, and firmer, drier—lots of blue veining. They say it’s Italy’s version of the French Roquefort. This one is dense but creamy in the mouthfeel, and definitely has a kick when you taste it—also great when tempered with a honey.

We also threw in Tom Cat Baguettes, a classic pairing for any cheese, Semolina Raisin Bread from Amy’s Bread, which is a lovely anise-y raisiny complement to some of the sweeter cheeses, and mixed olives, of course.”


Photography: Ellen Silverman

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My girlfriend, super-mom and super-woman, Elizabeth Barber, made delicious homemade burrito bowls and was nice enough to share the recipe with CorkStories! She made up most of the recipe as she went along (like a true chef),  and says it’s amazingly good. Note from the chef: “I didn’t have chipotle seasoning, which obviously means it wasn’t as spicy as the real Chipotle, but we hardly noticed. The recipe is for my typical order: rice, chicken, black beans, mild tomato salsa, lettuce, and a little cheese. Hope you enjoy!”

Wine recommendations for this dish from A Bottle or Two’s David Pustinger, are: *click the links to place your order on A Bottle or Two’s website.

  • Laxas Albarino – a Spanish white wine. Its grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks, thus creating a light, citrusy wine that pairs nicely with lime flavors in this dish.
  • Abad Dom Bueno Mencia – $17 Presentation of butterscotch, seasoned spices, black cherry and tobacco. A dry Mencia with a full body. You may notice tastes of cinnamon, black mulberry and blackberry preserves. We suggest having this wine with risotto, port wine and glace reductions or pot roasted half racks. *notes from A Bottle or Two
  • Louro do Bolo GodelloAnother Spanish white grape, round and aromatic with flavors of lees, pineapple and lemon in the nose, as well as a bit of smokiness and oak spice.
  • Gazela RosePortuguese wine, $7 (winediva.ca describes this wine as having “a prickle of vivace bubble on the tongue…aromas of juicy cherry, red berries, vanilla and hints of peach pit…juicy, lively acidity to balance the sweetness. The bright peachy/berry flavours return on the palate with a zesty finish.”  Sounds yummy!

You can read more about A Bottle or Two’s online wine services in my column, “Vine + Table” featured in Cincy Chic

From Snooth.com

Chianti Wines
The Sommelier Says: These light red wines are bright and earthy, making them excellent choices for pairing with this recipe

Viognier Wines from California

The Sommelier Says: These medium bodied white wines are aromatic and fruity, which allows them to work well with this dish

Arneis Wines
The Sommelier Says: These white wines are aromatic and dry, allowing them to work well with this meal
Read more: http://www.snooth.com/wine-pairings/better-bean-burrito/#ixzz1F6eLfAth

HOMEMADE BURRITO BOWL RECIPE (by Elizabeth Barber – blog)
Cilantro-Lime Rice
1 box white rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp. butter
3-5 dashes of lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro
Cook rice according to package directions using chicken stock instead of water. Add butter, lime juice, and cilantro before serving.

Seasoned Black Beans
1 can black beans
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 clove chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Combine ingredients and simmer on low 30 minutes to one hour, stirring frequently.

Grilled Chicken
1 chicken breast
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Cut chicken into 1/2 inch pieces and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Add olive oil to grill pan and cook chicken on high until no longer pink and slightly charred.

Homemade Salsa (Recipe courtesy of Ashley Barden)
4 cans diced tomatoes with green chilis
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 lime; squeezed
3 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 onion; chopped
1 small green pepper; chopped
Sugar to taste
Blend ingredients in food processor. Pulse about 15 times.

Shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
Chopped Romaine Lettuce

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Starring Joaquin’s Hamburger Mia’s Sangria

When I was invited to my first supper club experience, visions of Frank Sinatra–and for some reason–1950’s Zsa Zsa Gabor at a swanky hipster social club in Vegas, came to mind.  As it turns out, Supper Club is an incredibly unpretentious opportunity to break bread with new friends in the comfort of someone’s home.

Adam and I were asked to join the Supper Club by Stephanie Moore, a modern sophisticate from Pittsburgh (see her blog: Sprout) who shares my insatiable passion for food and wine.

Here is how Supper Club works:

  • Gather a group of friends, preferably who don’t already know each other (12-20 guests)
  • Create a monthly Supper Club Calendar
  • Pick a Host, a date and a theme for each month
  • Invite guests to bring the “supporting cast”- side dishes, deserts and appetizers + drinks, to go along with the theme. (Pingg.com is a great way to invite friends.  It’s a free online program that helps you keep track of RSVP’s and let’s you share your event through your favorite social media outlets.)
  • Include fun games and a laid back atmosphere. (We personally love to play the game Catch Phrase)
  • Eat, drink and be merry!
  • Set rules around attendance.  Supper Club is a community and should be a commitment.

I can only speak for our Supper Club, which is comprised of 12-20 people.  In the beginning only a few of these people know each other, typically friends of the hosts, and eventually everyone else gets to know each other, sharing the common bond of food and drink.  Each month a new supper club is hosted.  The Hosts come up with the theme for the night and they create the main course. The invited guests stick to the theme and provide the ‘supporting cast’ and drinks.  Guests show up at the host  home and the party begins. The First hour is typically spent mingling, cooking, and snacking on appetizers, wine, beer, and other libations.

Because of Supper Club, I’ve been invited to sample hundred year-old family recipes that I’d otherwise never have access to.  I’ve also been given the opportunity to celebrate holidays that I culturally have no rights to.  The true gift of Supper Club is that my husband and I have been exposed to these wonderful traditions and foods through the new friendships we’ve made during these monthly gatherings.

Our first Supper Club theme was Dia de los Muertos, hosted by Mia and Joaquin Lastra.  Joaquin is from Mexico, and this Holiday–also known as day of the dead–is celebrated throughout Latin America in honor of deceased family and friends.  Wikipedia definition: The celebration occurs on November 2 in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts).

Other supper club themes have included themes such as comfort food, a holiday cookie exchange, Italian cuisine and “Foods we love” a Valentine’s Day celebration wherin I was introduced to a protein dubbed ‘Bacon Porn.” This month’s Supper Club landed on Labor Day weekend, so of course, we celebrated with a summer cookout.

There is always one dish that stands above the rest at Supper club; on this day– once again–that dish was provided by our Latin Friend, Joaquin, who made the most incredible hamburgers that I’ve EVER had in my life.  They were even better than the burgers at Terry’s Turf Club, which is a huge compliment.  The joke is that we are going to put Joaquin’s burgers in a competition with celebrity chef, Bobby Flay on the Food Network show, Throwdown! with Bobby Flay and Joaquin would kick Flay’s ass…however, in the end, Flay would be the true winner because he would walk away with Joaquin’s secret family recipe.

Under different circumstances, this post would be dedicated to the world’s greatest Chef and his incredibly juicy, fill-your-mouth-with-flavors-you-didn’t-even-know-existed hamburger recipe, BUT, in true chef style, Joaquin’s lips are sealed and the recipe remains sacred to the Lastra family.  (The only ingredient we were able to guess was chorizo, a type of pork sausage, which made for an extremely flavorful burger. Joaquin also splurged that all of the ingredients could be found at any grocery store.)

So, instead… drum roll please… I dedicate this post to his beautiful wife, Mia, and her Super Sneaky Sangria. Super sneaky because it is so deceivingly delicious that you wouldn’t guess there was a drop of alcohol in it.  I know this to be true because soon after the party began, there was a moment when the sangria drinkers looked at each other with that “uh oh, we’d better slow down before we get wasted” look. You know the one–a bloodshot sparkle in the eye and slight slant of the lid.

Sangria is a Spanish drink blended with wine, sugars, juices and fruit.  I’ve had several versions of Sangria; the worst version I ever drank, believe it or not, was in Madrid, Spain. The best version was during May Supper Club.  Mia mixed wine, fresh lemon, mango and papaya slices.

Here is the recipe.  Enjoy! And go get your Supper Club on.

Mia’s Super Sneaky Sangria

Equipment

Large glass bowl or pitcher

Here are the basics. It’s not an exact science, so adjust to meet your
taste preference.

Start with the fruit of your choice (apples, cantaloupe, peaches,
nectarines, mangoes, etc.) Freshness is key, which is why after checking
the options at Kroger I chose mango and cantaloupe (2 smaller mangoes
and a quarter of a cantaloupe). Cut the fruit into manageable bites (you
don’t want it so small that the alcohol has a macerating effect, nor too
big that guests need a fork with their cup!)

Then place the fruit in a large pitcher or other container, and cover
with:

1) Brandy (Enough that all pieces are soaking, but not submerged. Think
a cereal-to-milk ratio)
2) Honey (about a quarter cup)
3) Granulated Sugar (a heavy dusting)

Stir and let sit for 15-30 minutes (stirring occasionally). Add a bottle
of red wine (we used a pinot noir, but another sweet or light red wine
would do the trick), the juice of 1 lime and the 1.5 cups of orange
juice. Adjust other flavors as needed. Serve over ice and enjoy (with
caution)! -Mia

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My mother-in-law’s “partner in crime” from her youth is traveling to Italy and asked for a few suggestions on places to eat, see & play in Rome and Florence. Well, any partner-in-crime of Cathie Kocher’s is a partner-in-crime of mine, so I was glad to help.  I’ve decided to document my “MUST” list and have others contribute.  If you have suggestions on where to go – or place’s to stay away from – your thoughts are welcome here.  This guide will be helpful for many who plan to travel to one of the greatest countries in the world.

Must Eat
*For authentic Roman meals, ask the locals where they eat and consider it a cardinal sin to “get your food on” in touristy squares.  Your best bet for authentic Italian is typically found off the beaten path, in some narrow alley where the owner may, or may not, have a restaurant license.  We ate at a place like this in Rome and I’m pretty sure a law was being broken, although the pasta was incredible.

Food:
La campana – any pasta with truffles or pesto
Matricinella – bucatini all’ amatriciana (pasta with tomato/pancetta sauce), abbacchio cacitore (lamb hunter’s style) best overall meal I had!
Da Baffetto – best pizza in Rome! Make sure you go to the original! It’s very thin and incredible! -submitted by chef, David Falk of Boca Restaurant group

Hosteria Roma (AMAZING) dinner
anyplace near the Pantheon in the square for lunch (for a less authentic, but still delicious experience)
La Campana
Florence:
GustoVino (the best) dinner

Others:

Rome — Armando Al Pantheon, La Campana, Antico Forno, Pierluigi, Ristorante del Pallaro.
Florence — Gusto Vine, ViniE Vecchi Sapori, La Casalinga, Tattoria Garga, Le Fonticine
*Chowhound.com has a lot of great suggestions. This is what we reviewed before going to many of the restaurants we visited
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/444686

Must See
Pantheon
Vatican
Tuscany
Ruins

Must Sleep:
expect to wake at 10am-12pm. You are going to be on a 6 hour difference and it really messes with your body.
Allow time for naps
Lunch around 2pm
Dinner around 9pm

Best Villa in Tuscany:  Borogo De’ Ricci- http:www.borogodeiricci.com;  tel. +39 055 208324

This 14th century villa, renovated with modern comforts, is 15 min outside of Florence and is absolutely breathtaking with an infinity pool overlooking the vineyards of the Lanciola Farming Estate, http://www.lanciola.net.  At this estate,  they produce one of the most incredible wines I’ve ever had called Terricci.  The estate also produces golden honey & extra virgin olive oil.  The owners of this villa own Gusto Vino Restaurant, http:www.gustavino.it, a modern and delicious taste of Tuscan and Florentine cuisine.

Must Wear
The best time to visit Rome is in March when the weather is warm, 75-83 degrees and sunny with low humidity.

The summer months, July- September get very hot.  If you go anytime between May-September wear cool, comfortable clothes and expect to increase your body temp. from all the walking you will be doing.
SACRIFICE style for comfort!  Your shoes can make or break your trip.  Be sure to wear comfortable, already-broken-in shoes to tread the cobblestone walkways of Italy.
In holy places, such as the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, cover your legs to the knees and arms to the elbows, otherwise you will need to run to a nearby store to purchase a long scarf or wrap like I did here:

Must Say

Here are some key phrases that will help you navigate your way around, compliments of my friend, Val.  Parli’ Ingles is one of the more important of the phrases (Do you speak English?)
Era un piacere incontrati oggi! (It was a pleasure to meet you today!!)
Do you speak English: Parli Inglese?
I would like a glass of red wine: (posso avere is may I have it is more formal) Vorrei (I would like) un bicchiere di vino rosso(red) bianco (white)
I’ll have an espresso: Posso (may i) avere un espresso per favore?
Where is the bathroom: Scusi, Dove al bano?
What is your name? Come ti chiami? Mi chiamo Val
Vorrei abitare con suo familia in questo villa per tre mese. .. e possibile? I would like to move with your family in this villia for three months, is that possible? Lol.. they would love you if you said that!
And the word they use for everything is PREGO .. I can’t believe I forgot that today.. they say prego for everything!!! Hai un bellissima viaggio!! Ciao bella.. Arrivederci!!

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