Posts Tagged ‘terrah kocher’

If you love food, wine and travel, you must visit California’s Northern Coast for a tour of Wine Country. The world-class wines of Napa Valley and Sonoma County, CA will satisfy the most discerning pallets and even if wine isn’t your thing, there is still plenty to do, see and experience during your visit.

Napa Valley:

The first Napa Valley vineyards were planted as far back as 1836 and since then the region’s wine growing popularity has steadily climbed, surviving the roughest of conditions, including prohibition, disease and vine killing pests. However, in 1976, Napa Valley became an overnight sensation when a Napa Valley Cabernet dominated a French Bordeaux in a blind tasting at an international wine competition on Paris, France. Today, there are over 300 wineries in the region, plenty to visit during your trip beyond city limits.

Although most known for full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignons, the award-winning wineries in the Napa Valley produce a range of grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, among others.

Sonoma County:

One of my personal favorites, Sonoma County is just north of Napa and far less commercialized. This region boasts over 370 wineries – from wine castles and the winery resort of Francis Ford Coppola, one of Hollywood’s most famed directors, to simple and rustic tasting rooms, according to Sonomacounty.com.

The region also offers incredible farm-to-table dining and more than 50 miles of stunning Pacific Coast, replete with world-renowned spas (compliments of its abundant natural mineral springs) and lots of open country air. Sonoma County is a bit more sprawling than Napa, so it is recommended that you map out your trip ahead of time to optimize your time.

With so many wineries and restaurants to choose from in both Napa and Sonoma, I sat down with local wine expert, Kevin Hart, part of WineCRAFT and on-site sommelier at Cork n’ Bottle, to get his list of personal favorites. Here is Kevin’s abbreviated insider’s guide to Wine Country.

Napa Valley Wineries:
(Note: the information below is sourced from each winery’s and restaurant’s website.)


“#1 Wine of the Year” – Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wines for 2008. Tours and Tastings available by appointment. Phone: 707.963.0530, web: www.faillawines.com


Dunn Vineyards produces two labels, Howell Mountain and Napa Valley. Both wines are one hundred percent cabernet sauvignon. Phone- 707-965-3642, web: www.dunnvineyards.com


Located in Calistoga, Calif., Schramsberg Vineyards offers five tours daily between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The tour, which usually takes about an hour and 15 minutes, costs $45 per adult (visitors younger than 21 and pets are not allowed). For more information, check out the vineyard’s website – www.schramsberg.com/

Napa Valley Wines, cont.

DOMAINE CARNEROS (Sparkling Wines)

The Art of Sparkling Wine Tour – $30* Offered Daily at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 & 3:00 p.m. On their signature experience, you’ll be guided through the process of creating fine sparkling wines in the traditional method. This journey begins in the vineyards and continues through the Chateau while you enjoy a tasting of our classic sparkling wines. At the completion of the tour, you will also enjoy a seated tasting of a red wine selection. Allow approximately 90 minutes for the tour and tasting.

For reservations within 24 hours, please contact the Tour Coordinator at (707) 257-0101, ext. 161.


Pride Mountain Vineyards sits high atop the Mayacamas Mountains straddling the Napa/Sonoma county line. Located at the site of historic Summit Ranch, where wine grapes have been grown since 1869, this beautiful setting includes wine caves dug deep into the mountains and the haunting ruins of an old stone winery dating to 1890.

Hours: by appointment, from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Closed Tuesdays.

4026 Spring Mountain Road, Saint Helena CA 94574.
Call: 707-963-4949


One of the Napa Valley’s Best Winery Tours. A visit to Jarvis Estate is an extraordinary journey like no other into the world of exceptional winemaking. The country’s first winery built entirely underground offers an intimate glimpse into the meticulous steps that go into producing lush Chardonnays, rich Cabernet Sauvignons and velvety Merlots among others.Tastings, daily by appointment. $60 per person. To book a tour, please contact the winery at 1-800-255-5280 ext. 150


They host a very small number of tastings each month. Please email info@caldwellvineyard.com
call 707-255-1294 for availability.


Best known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
4281 Dale Drive, Napa, CA 94558
Tel: 707-363-0693


Cimarossa ‘Red Hilltop’ is one of Howell Mountain’s most scenic estates, with terraced vineyards and olive groves climbing the hillsides.

1185 Friesen Road, Angwin CA 94508
For tastings, please call: 707-307-3130


Tasting at Neyers Vineyards – Open by appointment for private tours and tastings seven days a week. $10 per person fee, waived with purchase. Maximum 6 people per party.
2153 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena, CA 94574

Napa Valley Restaurants:


Redd Wood is a superbly stylish Italian-inspired eatery. Reddington, of Michelin-starred Redd, brings a new sensibility to this laid-back wine country destination: a polished, chic restaurant with a voguish vibe and hip playlist coupled with an osteria-styled menu and Napa/Sonoma favored wine list. 6755 Washington St. Yountville, CA, 94599, (707) 299 5030, web: www.redd-wood.com


A one-of-a-kind social gathering place located in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, serving ingredient driven menu of handmade multi-ethnic comfort food created with local and seasonal products selected to complement wine regions and meant for sharing. 610 1st Street, Napa, California. Call: (707) 226-1560, web: www.kitchendoornapa.com/


The French Laundry is a perennial awardee in the annual Restaurant Magazine list of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World (having been named “Best Restaurant in the World” in ’03 and ’04), and since 2006, it has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco. It has also been called “the best restaurant in the world, period” by Anthony Bourdain. Every day, the French Laundry serves two different nine-course tasting menus, none of which uses the same ingredient more than once. The most-current menu has priced their meals at $270 per person, including gratuity for the base meal. The food is mainly French with contemporary American influences. Yountville, CA 94599, phone:(707) 945-1050, web: www.frenchlaundry.com


Fine dining at the Meadowood Resort. The Restaurant at Meadowood offers a casually elegant dining experience featuring a modern approach to Napa Valley cuisine by Chef Christopher Kostow. Approachable, dynamic, evocative and playful. *Michelin 3 star rating

900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, CA 94574
Tel (877) 963-3646

GOTTS ROADSIDE (breakfast & burgers)

Great for breakfast and burgers.
Breakfast Menu: Served 7-11 a.m. Main Menu: Served 10:30-close
933 Main St., Saint Helena, CA 94574


French Bistro and Bakery near French Laundry
534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA, 94599
NO. 707.944.8037


Cook specializes in simple but elegant Northern Italian cuisine made from local and seasonal ingredients.

1310 Main Street; Saint Helena, CA 94574
call: 707.963.7088

Sonoma County Wineries:

(Note: wineries in Sonoma are much more spread out, so plan your day accordingly for an optimum experience. – Also, Sonoma is known for having some of the best spas, compliments of its natural hot springs, so take advantage after a long day of sipping and swirling.)


Hirsch Vineyards is recognized as one of the premier sites for pinot noir in the new world. David Hirsch planted his vineyard overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the extreme Sonoma Coast in 1980. By appointment only. Web: www.hirschvineyards.com<p>


Wines: Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Peay is the northernmost winery in Sonoma County. Using sustainable farming practices, they produce 8,000 gallons of Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay each year, as well as small batches of Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne. 207A N. Cloverdale Blvd. #201 Cloverdale, CA 95425, email: andy@peayvineyards.com, web: http://peayvineyards.com


The focus is on vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as an old-vine blend of “under-dog” California varietals (including Carignan and Petite Sirah). To schedule your appointment, email Jim Kuhner at jim@liocowine.com with your desired tasting date, time and number of people in your party. www.liocowine.com


What to Buy:
•’10 Chardonnay – $35
•’08 RED – $32
•’08 Cabernet Sauvignon – $52

3487 Alexander Valley Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone: 707.431.8845,
Email: info@medlockames.com

REPRISVery private, tasting tours three times a day, Must have reservation, Wine cave tours.
1700 Moon Mountain Road, Sonoma, CA 95476


9000 Hwy 128, Philo, CA 95466
Tel: 707-877-1771

Sonoma County Restaurants


The girl & the fig features a wonderful antique bar with French aperitifs, unique and traditional cocktails, an award-winning Rhone-Alone wine list, a seasonal menu, cheese & charcuterie platters, and outdoor garden patio seating. 110 West Spain Street – Sonoma, CA, phone 707.938.3634, web:www.thegirlandthefig.com


A very romantic destination with inventive cuisine, a stunning backdrop and impeccable service. Upon entering the restaurant, guests are enveloped by the elegant, yet lively atmosphere. Attention to detail, superb wine and good cheer is woven throughout every culinary experience. Madrona Manor captures the rich culture of wine, food and nature inherent to the region. A stellar wine list expresses the varied bounty of the local vintners as well as global sources. Reservations: 800-258-4003, web: www.madronamanor.com

Barndiva is a celebration of all things local. Their food is sourced from farmers, ranchers and small batch purveyors who live and work in the area.
231 Center St., Healdsburg, CA 95448

More casual than its sister restaurant Scopa, Campo Fina is serving up Italian staples such as pizzas and wood-fired meats. The focus of the menu is on simple Italian dishes.
330 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, CA


Artisanal food, wine and micro brews to inspirational retail items. From jams, honey, coffee table books, vintage style picnic and camp gear and an amazing cup of pour over single origin coffee to locally sourced cheeses, breads, meats and prepared foods.

Guerneville, CA, 95446
(707) 604 7295 |


Italian tratorria, Favorites: Sauces, confits, and ragùs stand out, including the wild-boar Bolognese served with house-made tagliatelle.

109A Plaza St. Healdsburg, CA, 95448
TEL: (707) 433-5282

Share some of your favorite places to visit in Wine Country with our readers.

Salute, Terrah

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Apple season is here! On farms across the Midwest to your neighborhood markets, apples are bursting on the scene, making their final appearance before winter. The orchard on our family farm near Oxford, Ohio is a colorful bouquet of deep ruby red honeycrisp apples, neon green Granny Smiths, Ginger Golds and beautiful multi-colored Paulia Red apples. It is a beautiful thought to know that my grandfather planted the orchard using tiny seeds of his favorite fruits. Today, years after he has left the earth, we are still reaping the “fruits” of his labor.

Mixed apples from the orchard

It only took me about 15 minutes to pick a basket of apples. This batch yielded about 5-7 baggies of applesauce.


With the diverse apple, there are endless recipes to be made; warm cobblers and pies to cinnamony sauces, chunky chutneys, and more. Harvest season has always marked a special moment in my family’s life. A time when the Italian women come together in grandma’s kitchen with aprons, bushels of (insert fruit/vegetable name here), canning products and stories from the past – to spend a day picking, peeling, boiling, mashing, grinding, flavoring and canning home-grown flavors that would last through the winter.

My grandma’s applesauce recipe, which I call Sunset Acres Applesauce (my mother’s version is Sunflower Applesauce), is incredibly simple and it makes a great gift for friends, family and other loved ones.  *A special thank you to my mamma bear, Jayne, for making a huge batch of applesauce with me and passing on the family recipe.

What you’ll need:

  • Bushel of mixed orchard apples: If you are making enough sauce to harvest for the winter (or give to friends) buy a bushel of apples (preferably Red Delicious, honeycrisp, Fuji) – mix them up and get them from an orchard or real farmer’s market :). A bushel is about 40 lbs. of apples. According to http://www.pickyourown.org, you’ll get about 12 to 16 quarts of applesauce per bushel of apples.  Count on 12 or 13 quarts per bushel. More on apple measurements below.


  • 2 lbs. of mixed orchard apples: for smaller portions, use about 2 lbs. of apples. Again, use Red Delicious, honeycrisp, Fuji small tart apples. Mix them up and get them from an orchard or real farmer’s market 🙂
  • 1 large pot (at least 8-quart size or larger) for boiling water
  • Large spoons and ladles (wooden preferred)
  • Sieve – they look like this:Image(Macy’s sells Martha Stewart sieves)
  • Plastic baggies for freezing (*Optional: Jars – *a longer more tedious method not covered in this post. For jarring methods, click herehttp://www.pickyourown.org/applesauce.htm)

Ingredients: (told you it was simple)

  • Apples (mixed orchard apples)
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
  • cloves

Step 1: Wash and slice apples into manageable chunks, keeping skins on (the skin will be separated in the sieve. Remove the core and seeds.


Step 1: wash apples


Image Slice apples, removing the core and seeds


Step 2: Boil water in large wide pot at a simmering boil. Turn the heat down and place apple slices in hot water for 20-25 minutes or until the apple skin appears to be separating from the apple flesh. The color of the apples will turn from a crisp/ripe apple to a brackish/brown color when ready – they should be soft and mushy if you stick them with a fork.


Step 3: Add the boiled apples to sieve and churn, placing a ceramic dish beneath the sieve to catch the sauce.


Sieve the boiled apples


stir the handle of the sieve to separate the flesh from the skin with a bowl beneath to catch the sauce.


Step 4: Flavor the apples. First, place the ceramic pan with the sauce over low heat. Using a wooden spoon, mix in your ingredients (metal adds bad taste when you mix with acidic apples).

  • add 1/2 cup of water at a time to the applesauce mixture until the sauce reaches a consistency you enjoy (less water for thicker sauce. More water for runnier sauce)
  • add a clove to taste (remove before bagging)
  • add 1/2 cup of sugar.  if you like your applesauce sweeter, add another 1/4 cup more at a time until it reaches a sweetness you enjoy
  • 1 tsp. of cinnamon (more/less or none).

Step 5: Remove applesauce from heat and begin to ladel into the plastic freezer baggies.  I use about 5-7 scoops/ladels per baggie.  The applesauce only lasts a week once removed from a freezer, so use portion sizes according to your needs.


Step 6: Toss the baggies into the freezer and when you are ready to enjoy them, simply defrost and eat within a week.

You can serve your applesauce warm with any meal or pour over ice cream as a topping.  Either way your family and friends will enjoy this homemade delicious treat. Salute!

More on apple measurements:
How Many Apples in a Pound and How Many Apples in a Bushel? 


1 pound equals:

  • 3 medium apples
  • 2 cups sliced

3 pounds equals:

  • 8-9 medium apples
  • one 9 inch pie

1 peck equals:

  • 10-12 pounds
  • 32 medium apples
  • 3-4~ 9 inch pies
  • 7-9 quarts frozen
  • 4 quarts canned

1 bushel equals:

  • 42-48 pounds
  • 126 medium apples
  • 15~ 9 inch pies
  • 30-36 pints frozen
  • 16-20 quarts canned

Types of Apples:


By: Terrah Kocher

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Have you ever had a cocktail?  No, I mean a REAL cocktail – the kind made in the Roaring Twenties, when the bartender could whip up an Old Fashioned Gimlet without Googling its ingredients.  Today, Cincinnati bar-goers can get their Jazz Aged Sidecars and the Blackberry Brambles at the newly resurrected Japp’s on Main where Molly Wellmann, co-owner and ever-so-lovely damsel of drink, knows how to make a cocktail good enough to make Clara Bow blush (Clara Bow was a famous flapper/Hollywood starlet from the 1920’s). Here is a link to the full article in my column – Cincy Chic‘s Vine + Table.

In the next post I’ll feature the back of the bar, where Tazza Mia‘s Bob Bonder brews up your evening espresso with a splash of absinthe.


Vine + Table: Japp’s and the Return of Cocktail Couture PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terrah Kocher

071111FOOD1.jpgJapp’s on Main,  Tazza Mia071111FOOD2.jpg071111FOOD.jpg

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Cork Stories was designed as a platform for friends, even strangers, to share their personal experiences (and love) of food, wine and travel.  So, I am excited to welcome our first guest blogger – Abby Cucci.  Abby and I are fellow Supper Clubbers (see “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” post), wine lovers and marketing pros.  She recently visited Oregon’s Willamette Valley with her boyfriend, Craig and shares their incredible journey, including favorite restaurants and three important facts about the Willamette Valley.  ~Enjoy (with a glass of wine), Terrah Kocher

Let’s get just a few things straight:

#1: Oregon is simply stunning.

The scenic beauty of Oregon rivals anything I’ve ever seen.  The drive into the Willamette Valley provides jaw-dropping views of lush rolling hills, rows of vineyards carefully tucked in, with sprawling snow-capped mountains set behind it.  Photographs don’t do it justice (especially not with our camera); it is something you’ll want to see for yourself.

We were told we were “lucky” to experience such amazing weather with 75 degrees and nothing but blue skies the day we toured the wineries.  Clearly, though, the rain has a major payoff—the thriving green landscape is breathtaking.  One local exclaimed, “THIS is what we wait for!  This is our reward for six months of rain.”

The views from our Bed & Breakfast, The Joseph Mattey House, were well worth the trip in itself.  Not to mention the fact that everyone here knows a great deal about wine and you can’t help but join in on the enthusiasm.  Jack and Denise, our lovely B&B owners, had several bottles available for their guests’ enjoyment.

View from our balcony at the Joseph Mattey House

#2: Oregon produces amazing wine.

Surprisingly, the modern history of Oregon wine dates back to the 1960’s—not very long at all considering the competition.  There are some 300 Oregon wineries today, almost all producing Pinot Noir, with 72 grape varietals and 16 approved wine growing regions known as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), the largest of which is Willamette Valley.

There is so much to learn—but don’t let that intimidate you.  Craig and I are wine lovers, but we surely aren’t experts.  A familiar theme we heard throughout our visit was, “Start with knowing what you like.”  We all know what foods we like, why can’t we expand this notion to our wine palette?

Speaking of food, the culinary journey of Willamette Valley matches their pinot varietals. We were fortunate enough to dine in two award-winning restaurants: The Joel Palmer House and The Painted Lady.  These establishments—like most in town—tout organic, local seafood, produce, meat and wine.  While the backdrops of both places are beautifully restored Victorian homes, their menus are quite modern.

At the heart of The Joel Palmer House are mushrooms—and it’s no coincidence that their earthiness pairs perfectly well with the 500+ Pinot Noirs they have on their wine menu.  For dinner, I enjoyed the mushroom tart followed by the beef stroganoff.  The tart was unlike anything I’d ever had before—rich in color and taste, and complete with a perfectly flakey and tender crust (lard, perhaps?); it was a fungi-lover’s dream.

The Oregon Pinot Noir we ordered—The Joel Palmer House label—was strong enough to stand up to the stroganoff, yet it was low tannin, with a blend of red fruit and earthy notes, well-suited for Craig’s sturgeon, as well.  Caught the day before by the chef’s father (and founder of the restaurant), Chef Christopher Czarnecki served this dish with quinoa (a light, fluffy grain alternative to couscous, en vogue with cutting-edge chefs) with matsutake mushroom duxelle and cayenne aioli.  The solution to properly preparing this characteristically tough fish is to marinate it for more than 24 hours in olive oil, spices and herbs—and the outcome was worth trading plates with Craig halfway through dinner!  Chef Czarnecki was kind enough to speak with us at our table with as much care as if we were regulars, walking us through the wine selection, offering insight and expertise on the menu.

I must admit, it was with slight apprehension that I selected the stroganoff.  With all due respect to my mother, this was a dish I grew up with and had (foolishly) decided I didn’t like.   It turns out, I love it!  This was a perfectly rich and flawlessly balanced dish that incorporated Painted Hills Oregon Beef (served rare), wild mushrooms in a delectable cream sauce, and served over a bed of rice.

At The Painted Lady the following evening, they solely offer a tasting menu and you choose one dish from each of the four courses.  I ordered the vegetarian tasting menu, while Craig went with the main tasting menu; however, don’t consider for a second that my path was any less flavorful.  The elegant plating is worth noting, as well as the outstanding service, professional and friendly—and experts on wine.  Both Craig and I went with the suggested wine pairings per course, as well, which was absolutely delicious and added an element of surprise and fun as each bottle and pour was presented.  And, of course, it was amusing to see familiar wineries after a day spent wine tasting around Willamette Valley.  A few highlights from our culinary adventure at The Painted Lady: Craig’s Roasted Rabbit Roulade on Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Puree, and my Spinach and Artichoke Crepes with Wild Mushrooms and Red Wine Soubise Sauce, both paired with the 2009 Aryes Pinot Noir of Willamette Valley.  The small plates made it perfect for sharing (if we were kind enough to do so).  Our evening ended with a gorgeous chocolate soufflé and port wine.  Scrumptious!

the author enjoying a gorgeous view of the Willamette Valley

#3: While painfully obvious, let me remind you – Oregon is in the United States.

If it’s the mystique of another country you’re after, then a trip west won’t fit the bill.  For us, it felt amazing to, in essence, claim Oregon: This is our country.  How extraordinary!  And the people of Oregon do an outstanding job welcoming each and every visitor.  In fact, we are already daydreaming of our return.  In the meantime, we have many bottles of wine to savor our memories.  When I asked Fred Gunton, our wonderful tour guide of A Nose for Wine, how to choose a favorite, I believe he put it best: “Experiences make great wine.  That certainly weighs into your choice and enjoyment.”


Abby Cucci

Abby and Craig - enjoying life in the Valley

A few wineries we visited (and loved!):

What is your Cork Story?  Email Terrah Kocher – Terrahk@gmail.com to be our next guest blogger.

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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).


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.


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


“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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Written by Terrah Kocher
Sunday, May 08 2011
Vine + Table: Queen City Cookies
This local bakery produces a cookie so beautiful, so divine, that it belongs in a museum, but it’s much better in your mouth. Learn more about the lady behind these couture cookies.
It all began with a magazine — Martha Stewart Living’s December 2008 issue, to be exact – that transformed the trajectory of Peggy Shannon’s future. Inspired by a picture of artisan molds, a passion for baking and unbridled flavor combinations, her company, Queen City Cookies was born into existence.Fourteen states, 32 stores and various catalogues later, Queen City Cookies continues to break the mold of artistic, delicious, edible, perfection.


During my first encounter with the buttery shortbread cookies, I found myself in a unique predicament: To eat, or not to eat? I was holding the most beautiful confection ever – a hand painted cookie caressed with porcelain “fairy dust” icing, surrounded with white piping and shaped to perfection from an incredulously detailed mold. It was more than shortbread and sugar. I caressed a work of art; a hand-painted masterpiece. Carefully, I placed the artisan cookie between my lips. The soft, sugary icing with crisp tender buttery shortbread was exquisitely divine.

“Our ingredients are fresh, local and organic whenever possible,” says Shannon, whose cookies are made to order, from scratch, using prime, natural ingredients of wheat flour, rich European butter, sugar, farm fresh eggs, salt and Lemon zest.

Many say that the cookie is simply “too beautiful to eat,” but I profess that by not consuming this treat would be to miss out its true essence and artistic splendor.

“The cookies are a work of art, but I don’t think anything is ever too pretty to eat,” says Amy Hunter, Queen City Cookie’s publicist. “The beauty is part of the enjoyment. A perfectly ripe strawberry is beautiful, but no one would ever hesitate to eat it. What I love about Queen City Cookies is that because of the artistry you can taste the butter and in the case of my favorite cookie, the rich white chocolate icing. I love knowing that each cookie is handmade and packaged by someone who loves what they do.”

Shannon has a cookie design for everyone and every occasion. She even offers personalized molds. All of the information can be found on her Web site www.queencitycookies.com.

050911FOOD2.jpgRegarding the artistic expression of each design, Shannon’s Web site says it best:
We do not offer mass-produced products devoid of personality or artistry. Each cookie is meticulously created for you and should be considered an original work of art. Like an original masterpiece, each cookie expresses its own unique beauty. Queen City Cookies are hand made from replicas of historic molds carved by artisans as far back as the 14th century.”

Even the facilities surrounding the bakery contribute to the overall enchantment of the Queen City Cookie brand. Shannon’s business originally started in the basement of her home – a statuesque piece of Cincinnati history, one of three remaining Jergens’ Mansions, built in 1890, located on millionaires corner in eccentric Northside.

“As the company grew, we needed more room, and moving off the property just didn’t feel right,” said Shannon. “So we began the renovation of our carriage house, a beautiful space boasting 11 foot wide windows. The building overlooks a pristine yard blooming with 100 rose bushes, nine-foot wind chimes, and the dogs who come to work here, too; it’s a beautiful, peaceful, inspiring setting that translates into everything we do.”

050911FOOD3.jpgNo detail has been spared when it comes to the cookie’s brand. From the double-sided silk ribbon, biodegradable peanut packaging to the enchanting story on the back of every cookie clad greeting card. Every last detail is purposeful and well thought out, adding to the overall enchantment of Peggy’s products.

“I have the best graphic designer in the planet,” boasts Shannon of designer, Lisa Ballard. “Lisa completely brings such energy and beauty to everything we do in a way that reflects the fun and approachability of our cookies, all of my employees do.”

Blessings that Make up the Queen City Cookie Story

The success of Queen City Cookies is made up of chance encounters, talented artists and trustworthy confidants.

Averse to appearing vulnerable, one of Shannon’s greatest qualities is her willingness to say, “I don’t know,” and ask for help. This character trait led her to reach out to friends, even strangers, who ultimately helped shape the success of today’s product. Shannon noted that Doug Faulkner, co-owner of Take the Cake, recommended an icing that she says, “radically changed the design and flavor of our cookies, and I’m so grateful for his recommendation.”

050911FOOD5.jpgWhen it came to refining the overall flavor of the cookies, it was the honesty of a friend that made all the difference. “Anne Evans, Executive Director of the Governor’s Mansion for state of KY came in to pick up an order. I wanted to share our latest cookie with her. She tasted it and very honestly told me she hated the flavor. Instead of being devastated, I began brainstorming; this moment led to the shortbread base that make our cookies so popular today,” says Shannon.

And finally, when perplexed about how to go forward with new packaging, Shannon reached out to Liz Grubow, vice president/group creative director of LPK Beauty. “Liz kindly came in and gave me really great ideas about how to display cookies. Shrink wrapped as a piece of art, which really started the ball rolling on our designs and overall shelf-life,” said Shannon.

Today, the cookie is divinely perfect from its pristine packaging, to its tantalizing flavors and gorgeous moldings.

050911FOOD4.jpgPerfect for all occasions, including weddings, corporate gifts and fundraisers, cookies are made to order. Price is based on size and type, ranging from $4.50 – $10, even $20, per cookie.

Order online at www.Queencitycookies.com. Available locally at NEST Hyde Park on Michigan, Joseph Beth booksellers, Nordstrom’s e-bar, in Northside, at Sidewinder Coffee & Tea, and the Picnic & Pantry.


Call (513) 591-0022 or email her at corporate@queencitycookies.com for gift suggestions and to place an order.

Terrah Kocher
About the author:
Terrah Kocher is the food and wine columnist for Cincy Chic and owner of TK PR & Marketing in Cincinnati, specializing in online marketing for small businesses, non-profits and gourmet food and wine stores.  Contact her at TerrahK@gmail.com.
Last Updated ( Monday, May 09 2011 )

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