Happy World Malbec Day. Find out which Malbec to have with this tasty dish!Read More
Yesterday I woke up to a group text between my daughters and me in which my youngest, Jolie, had written, "It's stinky cheese week. I hope you're all celebrating!" What great news — an excuse to indulge in one of my favorite foods. Even better, stinky cheese gets a whole seven days of celebration unlike, say, popcorn which only gets a mere 24 hours. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Stinky Cheese Week had already passed. It was March 6 - 13 in New York City. But no need to fret, this is one celebration that we can easily keep going all year long!
A LITTLE Q & A:
Why are some cheeses stinky? It all comes down to bacteria. The stinkiest cheeses are of the washed rind variety in which cheesemakers keep the rind moist by washing it in a saltwater brine or with various alcohols throughout the cheese's maturation. This process encourages the growth of Brevibacterium linens, a type of bacteria also responsible for foot odor — ewww! In other types of cheese, like Camembert and Brie, there is bacteria in the starter culture that can result in the cheese having a pungent aroma.
Why do we love stinky cheese? There are many biological reasons why people love to eat strong smelling cheese but the most simple answer is because it's freakin' delicious!! And it never tastes as strong as it smells. Most washed rind cheeses have a wonderful creamy texture and complex flavors similar to mushrooms, nuts and meats. What's I find so interesting is that no other food with such an unpleasant smell is also considered one of the greatest culinary delights.
How can you tell if a stinky cheese has gone from good stink to the bad kind?
- Smell: A cheese that has gone bad will start to smell like ammonia. You don't want to eat anything that has this chemical-like scent.
- Appearance: The rind will start to look rotten and broken down. Avoid dry-looking, cracked, browning rinds. They should look plump and moist but not slimy.
- Taste: A bad cheese will taste bad. It may be sour and will be unenjoyable to eat. Spit it out!
What are some of the worst "offenders" ie., the best stinky cheeses?
- Limburger - Known for its especially strong smell, this semi-soft cheese originated in the historical Duchy of Limburg, now divided among three countries; Germany, Belgium and Netherlands. The cheese has a creamy texture and a strong, slightly bitter flavor. The traditional way to eat it is as a sandwich on rye bread with a slice of raw onion and mustard. It's also great on its own as a snack and even baked in a potato or pasta dish.
- Epoisses - This semi-soft cheese with a runny interior is produced in the Burgundy region of France. Napoleon is said to have loved eating it while drinking his favorite Chambertin Pinot Noir, also from Burgundy. I like to serve it with a nice piece of crusty bread and some apples, pears or grapes on the side. My friend John, Burgundian wine expert and the ultimate cheese geek believes that drinking a white Puligny Montrachet with a perfectly ripe Epoisses is "magical."
- Maroilles - a soft, cows milk cheese from Northern France with a tangy, nutty flavor. Its nickname is 'vieux paunt' - old stinker. In an article on KickAssFacts.com about the Top 10 Stinkiest Cheeses in The World, John C. commented, "Hands down the stinkiest cheese. I'm eating it now, but after my meal, I'm going to have to throw away my refrigerator because it smells so bad." That sounds a bit extreme!
- Stinking Bishop - A washed rind cheese dating back to the Cistercian monks. This soft-textured, creamy cheese is washed in pear cider and produced in Gloucestershire, England. Best served on crackers with some chutney on the side.
- Taleggio - A semi-soft cheese from the Lombardy region of Italy, it packs a big punch to the nose, but is relatively mild with both fruity and tangy flavors. It can be used in many recipes — grated on salads, melted in warm pasta or on pizza.
So get out to your favorite cheese shop and partake in this now year-long celebration. Select the smelliest kind, the ones that will make you want to throw your refrigerator away! Note: if you eat it all up, you won't have to worry about the lingering odor.
Try this cosy cheese and wine bar to sample all kinds of cheese:
CASELLULA, 401 W 52nd Street, In addition to an extensive cheese selection, there's a nice variety of small plates and desserts.
Try this wine with washed rind cheeses:
SYLVAIN DITTIÈRE LA PORTE SAINT JEAN SAUMUR-CHAMPIGNY 2014 ($35)
A certified organic Cabernet Franc from the Saumur-Champigny appellation of the Loire Valley. Well-balanced with lots of juicy fruit flavors and medium tannins, this earthy and savory wine is a perfect pairing with any stinky cheese.
Thomas Pastuszak, Beverage Director of NYC's NoMad Restaurant (home of the best roast chicken in Manhattan!) believes that Riesling is a misunderstood wine, often assumed to be sweet when, in fact, it is made in many styles from dry to semi-sweet to sweet. While he personally enjoys all variations of a well-made Riesling, he takes particular pleasure in turning people on to the drier styles of these aromatic, mouthwatering white wines.
"Oftentimes, I'll have a guest who comes in and says, 'I just want to have a glass of dry wine. Something not too expensive." Thomas told me during our recent video interview, "Maybe they won't pay it any attention, I'll come over and pour a dry Austrian Riesling or something from the Finger Lakes in a drier style, like Empire Estate. They'll taste it and they'll say something in the range of, "That's really good. What is it?" Then when I tell them that it's Riesling, a light has been shown, the doors are open, and they realize that Riesling can be made in a dry style. I think it's a misconception and often you just need to get the wine into people's glasses. You need to get them to taste it to realize what it can be."
Empire Estate is Thomas' own wine label, started in 2014 which produces two excellent dry Rieslings. Read the full interview at GrapeCollective.com. And, as a bonus, you'll find out if awesome hair helps to sell wine!!
"Whisky is liquid sunshine" - George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
With the chill of winter sending shivers down our spines, we could all use a little more sunshine and if it comes in the form of whisky, so be it! Balcones Distilling, the award-winning craft distillery in Waco, Texas, has been one of The Wine Chef's favorite whisky producers for several years now. Started in 2008 by Chip Tate, the distillery was built by hand with only a few tools, the help of some friends and a dream to make legendary artisanal whisky. The Baby Blue, made from roasted blue corn, has the honor of being the first legal Texas whisky since the end of Prohibition. In 2016, Balcones was named Best Craft Whiskey Distillery by the readers of USA Today.
The folks at Balcones Distillery were happy to share some of their favorite whisky cocktails to help keep us warm until the daffodils and tulips begin to bloom. As you sip these warming concoctions, I think you'll be in agreement with Mr. Shaw. Cheers!
The Rumble Bee Airmail Cocktail
Honey highlights the richness of the Rumble whisky in this cocktail and helps to bring out the fig, plum, nectarine and grapefruit notes. The bubbles add a refreshing effervescent quality.
Ingredients (for one cocktail):
1.5 ounces Balcones Rumble whisky
0.75 ounces honey/water solution (1:1)
0.5 ounces lime juice
2 dashes angostura bitters
Shake and strain first four ingredients together and serve in a champagne flute or martini glass. Top with your favorite sparkling wine.
This drink highlights the orange citrus flavors found in the Texas Single Malt.
Ingredients (for one cocktail):
1.5 ounces Texas Single Malt whisky
0.75 ounces Cynar artichoke amaro
0.75 ounces aperol
3 dashes orange bitters
3 dashes angostura bitters
Stir and strain above ingredients and serve up or on the rocks. Garnish with an orange slice or twist.
The Chai Brimstone Old Fashioned
The Chai syrup provides a very pleasant, earthy base note to this drink. The dilution of the Brimstone helps to dial back the smoke element of the whisky and brings out more of the sweet characteristics in the spirit. Leaving the infusion longer will result in a deeper chai flavor.
Ingredients (for one cocktail):
0.25 ounces Chai Tea Syrup (see below)
2 ounces Brimstone whisky
2 dashes angostura bitters
Stir and serve over the rocks. Garnish with an orange slice or twist.
Chai tea syrup
1 quart water
6 chai tea bags
4 cups sugar
Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat. Add 6 chai tea bags and infuse for approximately 15 minutes, or longer for a deeper chai flavor. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
Barbara's Paper Airplane
This recipe was given to me by a friend who makes a pitcher of it to keep handy in the fridge all week long! The addition of blood orange juice is a fresh spin on a classic cocktail.
Ingredients (makes 2 cocktails):
1½ ounces Balcones Baby Blue corn whisky
1½ ounces amaro (preferably Nonino)
1½ ounces aperol
1½ ounces fresh lemon juice, strained
1½ ounces fresh blood orange juice
Combine whiskey, amaro, aperol, lemon and blood orange juices in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is frosty, about 20 seconds. Strain into 2 glasses and serve straight up or on the rocks. Or, to make a 30 ounce pitcher, multiply the ingredients by 4. Stir and pour into glasses, with our without ice.
(Video Interview from my last night in Bordeaux, above).
Many thanks again to all of you — subscribers and readers of my blog — who voted for me on Facebook when I was one of 18 finalists for the Millésima Blog Awards earlier this year. The 2018 edition of the contest is now accepting applications and, if you or someone you know is a wine blogger (or videographer or wine vlogger), my advice is, "go for it"!
My trip to Bordeaux with five other bloggers was like a fairy tale come true! After checking into the InterContinental Bordeaux, a five-star Michelin hotel, our first couple of days included a thorough exploration of the history, culture, food and wine of the city of Bordeaux. Our last night was spent amongst thousands of impressive wine bottles in the 200 year-old cellars of Millésima — yes, I brought a shawl and a warm sweater! The evening began with a fun (and humbling) blind-tasting game before a Champagne reception and awards ceremony dinner with some more games, an all-around great evening.
The next day started with a walk-around tasting of the 2016 “en primeur” wines, organized by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB). We met several winemakers who were pouring young wines that had just been taken from their barrels that morning. We then headed off on a three-day excursion to the wine region of Médoc during which we were treated to a whirlwind tour of several world-renowned Châteaux — Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, Montrose, Phélan Segur to name a few — tasting some of the best wine (and food) in the world. I almost fainted from excitement when I saw the beautiful castle we would be staying in, Pichon Baron.
After three busy days in the left bank, we travelled to the famous areas of the right bank, Pomerol and the quaint village of Saint-Émilion, before spending the night in the charming village of Sauternes. After all, what trip to Bordeaux would be complete without a vertical tasting of Château Suduiraut's exceptional sweet wines with Pierre Montégut, the man who makes them?!
It was back to Château Pichon Baron to meet up with the Millésima and Pichon Baron teams again for a special farewell gala dinner and wine tasting. Christian Seely, General Manager of the AXA Millésimes Group, the wine division of the French Insurance company AXA, hosted a memorable wine-tasting and dinner. Everywhere along the way we learned a lot, had fun and made lifelong friends.
Read more about Millésima and the Blog Awards in my interview with Fabrice Bernard, CEO of Millésima, on GrapeCollective.com.
And remember, you could be a part of the next group of MBA ambassadors!
Interesting things happen when people band together over a shared passion, especially when they’re on a mission to break tradition. In Champagne, the two year old Meunier Institute, created by a group of nine progressive winemakers, is trying to shake things up. They are tirelessly promoting the Pinot Meunier grape which usually plays a supporting role to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in traditional Champagne blends. The members of the Institute believe that Meunier has what it takes to play the leading part.
Read more about this versatile grape at GrapeCollective.com where I interviewed one of the Institute's members, Fanny Heucq of Champagne Heucq Père et Fils.
A few years ago, on a cold winter morning in Manhattan, a man walked into the wine shop l was working at and introduced himself as the producer of one of my favorite Loire Valley wines, Pascal Jolivet. It was great to finally put the face behind a bottle I had been selling (with pleasure!) for years. We got to chatting about wine and travel and life in general. l then mentioned to him that my colleague James, who had the day off that day, was soon getting married at a beautiful château in the Loire Valley to a French woman he had met while on vacation the year before. By the end of our conversation, Pascal had offered to send six magnums of his delicious white Sancerre as a wedding gift to James and his bride-to-be. Don’t you just love when serendipitous things like that happen?
l caught up with Pascal recently by email to talk about life (again!) and his natural approach to winemaking. Read the full article and interview at Grape Collective.
When I first met Bérénice Lurton, owner of the historic Château Climens in Barsac, Sauternes, she mentioned something funny that I often think of as I'm running around on my busy days in New York City. She told me that, every so often, when she's feeling famished in between appointments with no time to stop and eat, she takes one little sip of her Sauternes. And this one little taste, besides leaving lingering flavors of vanilla, apricot, peach, nectarine, pineapple, honey and mint on her palate (just like a real fruit salad!), abates the hunger and she can continue on her busy day until it's time for the next meal. So, you know what? Sauternes in the fridge isn't the only way to go. Maybe you need to carry some in your pocket as well. Cheers!!
Getting ready for "lights, camera, action" with Bérénice Lurton (at left) and Christopher Barnes of Grape Collective (at right).
Château Climens produces one of the finest sweet wines in the world. Read the article and interview with Bérénice at www.grapecollective.com.
Who would believe that the moldy grapes above would make such beautiful wines below?!
As a Sauterne ages, its color changes from light gold to a deep amber color. Notice the difference between the 2005 on the left and the 1997 on the right — eight years makes a big difference!