Cheesewhizzes visit the Green Isle

January 13, 2009 at 6:29 pm (Cheesewhizzes, Napa Valley) (, , , , )

Fancy sign made just for the event!

Fancy sign made just for the event!

Cheesewhizzes…Cheesewhizzes…oh, sweet sweet Cheesewhizzes!

I really can’t believe that I still enjoy these gatherings so much.  But, it seems that each one is so entirely different.

…new cheeses to try
             …new people to laugh with
                          …new locations to wander

The last Cheesewhizzes event was extra special.  Instead of a local winery hosting the event and everyone bringing a cheese and beverage to pair, the Cheesewhizzes hosted the event with Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant in honor of the launch of Culture magazine – the first American magazine dedicated to the wondrous world of cheese.  Since the issue featured the famed cheese making region of Country Cork Ireland, it was decided to showcase the cheeses of Ireland…and no one had to bring anything but their fabulous self.

For $20 an attendee received five different Irish cheeses and two Napa Porter beers.  The cheeses were delivered on a plate with marcona almonds and fun chutneys and fruit paste.  The cheeses were:
1.  Tipperary Cheddar:  The land of Tipperary in south-central Ireland is known for its lush green pastures and mild climate, perfect for dairying. This mild cows milk cheddar is aged for 12 months and has a rich, creamy texture. The deep yellow color of the cheese comes from the beta carotene in the milk, a result of the fertile grasses that feed the grazing cows.

2.  Coolea: This smooth, caramelly, gouda-style, cows milk cheese is made by the Willems family in County Cork. Originally from Holland, the Willems brought their family recipe to the shamrock isle 20 years ago and have married the Dutch traditions and Irish terroir perfectly. It is aged for 12 months (at least).


 3.  Gubbeen: The Ferguson family is a marriage of mother Giana, from Spain, and Tom, from an Irish farming family. They are producing cheese as well as smoked meats in an impressive family farm operation. Gubbeen is a surface-ripened, semi-soft cows milk cheese with flavors of mushroom and cream beneath its delicate pink and white rind.


 4.  Ardrahan: Made from the milk of their own cows, Mary, Eugene and son Gerald Burns of County Cork produce this beautiful washed rind cheese that is earthy, pungent and delicately salty. Each wheel is 2-3 lbs and is aged for up to 16 weeks.


5.  Cashel Blue: Also made in Tipperary, this glorious cows milk blue cheese tastes like Stilton mixed with butter. It is made by Louis and Jane Grubb, whose family have been dairy farmers in Ireland for 300 years. This cheese, however, has only been made since 1984 after the Grubbs noted how popular the soft Danish blue cheeses were. The wheels are moist, aged for 6 months and made from the milk of their own herd.

My personal favorite was the Coolea – loved the caramelly nuances and rich flavor.  The cheddar was delicious as well as the Cashel and most people I asked said these were their favorites.  Some felt that the Gubbeen and Adrahan were a little too funky.  I personally enjoyed them…especially because they were at their prime ripeness.  But, all are worth a try!

The only thing missing from this Cheesewhizzes event was the fun of having the left over cheese and the reason to get together for a night of Mac and Cheese.  But, life always has sacrifices!

All the yummy Cheeses!



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Is there such a thing as too much cheese?

November 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm (Cheesewhizzes, Napa Valley) (, , , , , , )

This last week has been filled with Cheese!  Goat Cheese, Cow Cheese, Cheese from Italy, Cheese from France, Washed-rind, Bloomy-rind, cheese made 5 miles from my house in St. Helena.

Why so much cheese?  A lot of fun cheese stuff going on…and no will power to say NO!  I have never refused a good piece of cheese!

First night was at Oxbow Market.  Barbara and Rex Bachus who have been making cheese on their property in Napa Valley since 1972.  What makes their cheese so special is the fact that it is made from La Mancha goats that feed on the hillsides right on their property.  Lucky for me we got to taste four types of their famed Goat’s Leap Cheese:
1.  Dafne – named after the Greek bay leaves (daphni) that adorn the top of the wheel during aging.
2.  Kiku – Aged in a fresh fig leaf that is doused in Sauvignon Blanc.  Seasonal and only made in small amounts.
3.  Eclipse – The wheel is crowned with a whole star anise.  Mid-way through the barrel the cheese is slashed with ash…which is an ancient method of preservation.
4.  Carmela – Comes in a 5# wheel, and is the most aged.  Very, VERY rare!

The next night was a cheese class through the Napa Valley Extended Education program that was taught by John Raymond, the famous Cheesemonger.  John has been all over the world studying the production of cheese, aging methods, and migration patterns through the rise and fall of civilizations.  Needless to say – he is a Cheese Expert.  During the course of the three hour class we tasted through 20-25 cheeses, and learned the difference between things like a “washed rind” or “bloomy rind”; fresh versus aged; milk type characteristics.  There was so much information divulged, I actually stopped taking notes toward the end and just listened…I had a cramp in my hand from writing too much!  Hands aren’t in writing shape, but definitely in typing shape.



Two nights later, Helen Jane and I hosted another Cheesewhizzes.  The theme was cheese from the good ole USA, the location was Acme Wine Co., the results…a huge success!  One of My favorite cheeses from the table was the Franklins Teleme by Mid Coast Cheese Company.  It was brought by Jessica Pecota who purchased it at the Napa Valley Olive Oil store.  I will definitely be purchasing this to share with family and friends.  Helen and I went in on a whole wheel of Sally Jackson Goat Cheese from Washington.  That stuff is pure hedonism.

And to keep with tradition after the Cheesewhizzes event we took the leftover cheese to Malcom’s and made the famous Mac and Cheese.  What is fun about making Mac and Cheese after every Cheesewhizzes is that each Mac and Cheese turns out different because the cheeses always come from different areas or themes.

So no cheese for me right now.  Taking a HUGE break!

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