Beer and Cheese: A Match Made in Heaven

 

Colorado is beer heaven. We are fortunate to live in a state that is supporting the craft beer industry exponentially. According to The Beer Institute, Colorado ranked number one in terms of gross beer production. The Great American Beer Festival is coming up the first part of October and has been held here since 1982. It is the premier U.S. beer festival and competition.

With that in mind, we want to advocate for how wonderful beer and cheese go together. The yeasty, fruity, earthy and herbal flavors commonly found in beer are found just as often in cheese, making them perfect pairing partners. Both beer and cheese have a similar origin - grass. Barley is a cereal grass used for making beer, and milk is a by-product of an animal’s diet of grass. As a result, beer and cheese share common characteristics in both aromas and flavors. They naturally complement one another.

Because beer is carbonated, it is a perfect pairing for cheese. The carbonation, CO2, lifts the palate and binds to the aromas in cheese and carries them up through the nose, intensifying the flavors as it literally cleanses the palate. Both cheese and beer use live cultures and bacteria to develop and mature. Both are fermented foods; they rely on these living organisms to change natural sugars into acid or alcohol. Cheese was originally discovered and used as a way to preserve milk; beer was made as a reliable beverage when water sources were undependable. Farmers made cheese when they had an abundance of milk. They brewed beer during the winter, using fall’s harvest, when they couldn’t farm. 

The marriage of beer and cheese goes way back. During the middle ages in Belgium and central Europe, monasteries were known for their exceptional beer and cheese – a staple of their daily diets and a source of income. Many monasteries still make artisan cheeses and craft beers using the same recipes and facilities they have used for hundreds of years.  Beer and cheese have been traditional farm house fare for centuries as well. The “ploughman’s” lunch is still common throughout England and northern Europe - beer, cheese and cold meat – and is found on pub menus and in lunch pails today. Beer has many of the same nuances that we find in wine, so the pairing is just as compatible though not as common. The earth to palate process is varied and seemingly endless. Each craft beer brewer has their own recipe and technique to make not only each kind, but each batch unique, very similar to cheese.

Any of the cheesemongers at The Truffle Cheese Shop can help you with a selection of cheese that will be fun to pair with beer. Many of the craft breweries in Colorado welcome patrons to bring their own food, so an impromptu cheese plate is a delicious activity, a fun way to enjoy food with friends and a nice way to support several local businesses at once.  

Hazelnuts from Piedmont

The intensity and texture of these hazelnuts are unlike anything I have ever tasted. True, Italian hazelnut butter, chocolates, and Nutella is life changing! 

Most of the hazelnuts from Italy's northern region of Piedmont are made into confections like Nutella. But, there are around 3,000-6,000 tons of hazelnuts produced each year in the region. Unlike other tree nuts, these have strictly controlled planting requirements, the growers are allowing the nuts to fall off the tree for collection to allow for maximum ripening and flavor. Because of this special care, these nuts are extremely high in oleic fatty acids, which are a natural part of the 'Mediterranean' diet. 

It has been my goal ever since I tasted these magical nuggets to bring them into the shop and now we have them! Please stop by for a sample. If you make your own nut butters or want to stay away from the artificial ingredients and palm oil that is in mass-produced Nutella, I recommend you give these a try.

Here's a gluten free recipe that we love:  Brutti ma Buoni ("Ugly but Good") Cookies

  • 1 egg white
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2/3 cups Hazelnuts

For the Cookies:

  1. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

  2. Preheat the oven to 300F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  3. Beat the egg white and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

  4. Gently fold in the sugar and nuts.

  5. Spoon the batter on the baking sheet with a teaspoon or a tablespoon (it depends on how big you want your cookies) about 2inches apart.

  6. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

  7. Store the ugly but good cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

 

A Few of Our Favorite Wine Shops in Denver

So often, we talk about our favorite restaurants, but we do eat at home as well! (Rob is a chef, after all!) When we need a great bottle of wine, whether in a box or bottle, here are a few of our favorites. We aren't afraid to drive outside of our neighborhood, either:

The Vineyard: Just three blocks down the hill from The Truffle Cheese Shop. Their shop is small and the wines are well-chosen. Sign up for their 'Wine of the Month Club' and get some cheese to go with it!

Proof Wine & Spirits: Our good friend Liz, who has run some of the most successful wine lists in Denver, is the owner. There's your favorites, then there's also the obscure wines that will become your favorites. Located in Denver's RiNo district.

Divino Wine Shop: What a great group of winos over there! This shop is at South Broadway and Louisiana streets. Their selection is as varied and fantastic as their prices. Make sure to hit their Rose party in the Springtime. 

Mondo Vino: Our friends Dewey and Ellen are such amazing people. Their selection changes often, which forces us to try new things. Rob is always walking out with a new bottle of Rum or Sake. Make sure to stop in and say hello to our friends at St. Killian's Cheese Shop, just next door!

Amendment XXI: Just next door to our cheese bar, Amendment XXI are fantastic neighbors. If you ride up on one of the Red Denver Bike's they'll even give you a discount! We particularly love their Italian selection. 

Bayonne Ham

We love the mighty pig. Proscuitto di Parma is always in our cooler, as is the "best pig on the planet" Jamon Iberico. We are now proud to also carry France's newest export: Jambon Bayonne. 

This ham has been made in Southwest France for thousands of years. There are eight, approved breeds of hog as well as strict regulations regarding the animal's diet, care and regions where they can be raised before they are called 'Bayonne' ham. They are cured according to centuries old traditions and allowed to age, on average, 9 to 10 months. 

Sampling side-by-side next to the Proscuitto di Parma, we find the Jambon Bayonne to be slightly sweeter, with a nutty flavor that was very different from the Parma. 

The United States began importing the ham last summer and we have been enjoying the ham in the shop since early this year. I need to apologize ahead of time that you just might become addicted to this wonderful meat. The Parma, Iberico, Porchetta, Cotto, and Mortadella we sell, they all represent their region. The terrior of the product definitely comes through in the flavor. And we LOVE it!

Here's a little video explaining the process.

Chorizo Weenies

I am not a fancy girl! I grew up with working parents eating out of a crock pot most nights. When we started getting Cantimpalitos for the meat case, I immediately thought of pigs-in-a-blanket! These little chorizo weenies are amazing!! I love to have them cut, heated in a pan quickly with eggs and tomatoes for breakfast. Also, when we're camping, we bring them for the skewers. Our boys love them! Now, don't confuse Spanish chorizo with Mexican chorizo. Mexican chorizo can be more spicy because they use chili powders, whereas the Spanish uses paprika. I find the Spanish to be higher in acids as well- almost tasting the sherry vinegar and pork. Give them a try and find another recipe for me- all I do is eat them whole!!

Tiberino Risotto

Rob taught me to make risotto a long time ago, but his is still better than mine. For some reason, I think it's because I'm left handed, I stir the rice counterclockwise and it drives Rob crazy! Sorry, Lidia! When an Italian company in California sends us samples of risotto that you just add to boiling water, we are a little hesitant to trust. Believe us, though, this is delicious. They dehydrate the rice, vegetables and spices then cryovac. Read more about how they went to space with Itay's space crew at the International Space Station! www.tiberino.com

Fruition Farms Ricotta

Ricotta is one of the most simple cheeses to produce, but the stuff I make at home is nothing compared to what they're doing over at Fruition Farms. I think Jimmy (their cheesemaker) puts all of his love into the farm, the animals as well as the process of cheesemaking that there's no way to make fresh ricotta as good as his. They start with great sheep's milk from grass-fed dairies and end up with a creamy, nutty, fluffy, tangy and wonderfully versatile cheese. This is great for breakfast with honey and nuts, lunch on top of a bowl of fruit and then for dinner to finish a pasta or risotto. Whatever you're doing over there, Mr. Jimmy....Keep it up!  

Challah: Braided Perfection

I seem to have a greater appreciation for things when I cannot make or do them. For example: baking bread. I have certainly made my fair share of bread, but really mastering the art of baking is something that takes true passion, time and practice. The fine folks down at Grateful Bread Company are true masters of their craft. As if making one of the best baguettes I've ever tasted isn't good enough, they also make ciabatta, sourdough boule, lavain, and challah. Challah, people! CHALLAH! 
 

Image: Grateful Bread

Image: Grateful Bread

Egg, Flour, Sugar, Water, Yeast and Salt. I love the simplicity of ingredients that, like cheese, make up so much more than their parts. I won't go into the religious significance of Challah, but I will say that it's an awesome part of why this bread exists. Tradition, history, time, and love. Those are four more ingredients in the breads from Grateful Bread.

Burrata - An enduring love affair.

I know you're probably tired of hearing about it, but we only carry Burrata and it's fresh cheese counterparts like Mozzarella, in the warmer months. Here is the main reason: we are lazy and don't like to turn the oven on when we would rather be outside enjoying a concert, touring a park, hiking, biking, camping....you get the idea! 

Burrata (and cheese in general) is the perfect to-go food. All you need is an ice pack to keep things cold, a baguette, fresh berries or fruit of choice and beverage du jour, and you have a perfect meal. Burrata is creamy and rich without being heavy. At the first cut, when it starts to ooze all over the plate, sprinkle a bit of fresh pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Tear off a piece of bread and proceed to dunk. As the weather continues to warm, add your favorite toppings like asparagus, ramps, mushrooms, tomatoes, peaches...the list and opportunities is endless. 

We receive our Burrata fresh from the airport every Friday. It's made the week receive it and meant to be eaten within a week. Fresh means fresh and that's how we like it. If you would like us to set one aside for you, just give us a call! We would hate for you to miss out.

New Look at the shop

When Rob and I (Karin) bought The Truffle Cheese Shop nine years ago, we were in love with everything. We brought in products that we are passionate about as well keeping so many that truly made the shop lovable. As the years go by, we have been updating things here and there. We love the look and feel of our space, but we know things can always be better. That's, truly, what being a good business owner is for us: improving on things that are already working.

As the shop's 15th year is upon us, we thought it was a perfect time to make more drastic changes. You will see a new door, shelves and cheese case by the register. This we have been keeping full with olives, fresh ricotta, single cheese favorites as well as sandwiches that we are making daily.

"Sandwiches?! Are you kidding?"  No, my friends....I am serious and they are delicious. 

My point with all of this is that change is good. I say that as much for myself as I do for you. Change is what moves all of us forward into being the best we can be. I love the changes we are making to our little shop and I can't wait for you to see them. 

Nine years ago, we came in with so many fantastic ideas of how we could make this already great business even better. More cheese, sliced charcuterie, more ingredients for inspiring our customers to create fantastic meals at home- in short, sharing our passions for cheese and cooking. I am so proud of where we are and where we are going. Thank you for 15 years! Truly.. 

15 Cheeses We Highly Recommend

  1. Parmigiano Reggiano. This is a staple. If you think that Parmigiano is just for lasagna or risotto, you are missing out on one of the finest table cheeses- perfect with any wine or beer.This unpasteurized cow's milk cheese is made with some of the finest milk in all of Italy and has been handcrafted since Roman times. Of course, The Truffle Cheese Shop is always the least expensive price in town, working from whole wheels and cutting as much or as little as you need. I will warn you, however, we usually cut a little heavy on this cheese- you'll thank us later!
  2. Ricotta. We are receiving fresh, just-made, Sheep's Milk Ricotta from Fruition Farms on a weekly basis. We love this to finish on top of scones for breakfast, salads for lunch and pastas for dinner. Need a quick snack? My go-to is a bowl of Fruition Ricotta with a drizzle of Tondo Balsamic Cream, nuts and dried blueberries. Not feeling the fresh ricotta? Try some Ricotta Salata made from Water Buffalo milk, direct from Italy.
  3. Epoisses. This is Karin's cheese boyfriend. I love the way he stinks!!
  4. Pecorino Canestrato Filiano. What seems like a simple, plain, sheep's milk cheese is, in fact, so much more! Ours comes from the importer in San Francisco who is actually building one of the largest dairy cooperatives in the region to make this cheese even better! Read more HERE from our favorite cheese guru, Janet Fletcher. 
  5. Cabra Blanca. From Avalanche Goat Dairy in Paonia, Colorado, this is one cheese that is everything you want. The wheels we have been getting this year are super fresh, buttery and perfect with a bowl of Spring strawberries.
  6. Skyr. Yes, yogurt is cheese! Skyr is a traditional, rennet coagulated yogurt from Iceland. Ours comes from Fruition Farms and is made with the healthiest Sheep's Milk you will find. 
  7. Gruyere 1655. Whether you are making French Onion Soup or a stunning cheese platter, this is one of the finest cheeses in our case. Nutty, creamy, rich and full of those 'flavor crystals' you love.
  8. Grafton 2 year Cheddar. Grafton, Vermont, is one of our favorite places in the United States. Green, rolling hills next to a babbling river in Southern Vermont is home to one of Rob's family favorites. This cheddar makes the best quesadillas! 
  9. Brillat Savarin. When you can eat a cheese with a spoon, you know you have found Heaven on Earth! But, don't forget to eat the rind. Want to be even fancier, add some truffle paste to your baguette.
  10. Courrone du Touraine. This cheese used to be (and hopefully will be again) covered with ash. Close your eyes and each bite of this cheese transports you to Loire Valley, France. Chalky, earthy, creamy and amazeballs!! Thanks again, Rodolphe le Meunier.
  11. Roquefort. One of the best blue cheeses on the planet. Always unpasteurized, sheep's milk, always from the limestone caves of Roquefort, France. Always a perfect cheese!
  12. Beurre du Barratte. Technically not a cheese, but still one of the best products in the case. Rob calls it 'butter flavored butter'. 
  13. Brie l'Original. This is not your grocery store brie. Naturally and slowly fermented curds brings a depth of flavor that is difficult to achieve. Ever have a Brie and Butter Sandwich? You haven't lived!!
  14. Montgomery Farms Cheddar. Clothbound, unpasteurized Cow's milk from one of the oldest Cheddar makers in England, this cheddar is not for melting! Put it on top of a vegetable soup, but we love it with honey and a crusty loaf of bread.
  15. Oriol de Montbru. This water buffalo milk cheese from just outside Barcelona, Spain, is everything you want from a Spanish cheese. Earthy, natural rind, firmer paste with a long, lactic flavor. 

Beaufort Ete

Here's the scoop direct from our importer:

"The Beaufort AOP is a cooked-pressed cheese made from raw whole (unskimmed) milk and feature a smooth, pale yellow paste. As its AOP specifies, Beaufort must be manufactured in the high mountains of the Savoie valley of Beaufortain in France.

The milk comes exclusively from cow breeds Tarine and Abundance, faithful to the tradition of agropastoral system with herds departing in spring for the high pastures of the Savoie.

These cheeses, made in September of 2014 are made with late summer milk, rich from the regrowth, as the cows descend from their highest summer peaks. Beaufortains mobile milk machine makes this Alpine milk available to the valley cooperative during the Summer Alpage season.

The rind is slightly tacky and spotted with a dense, rich, nearly sticky paste. Flavors are deep and round, with characteristic grassy notes intertwined with sweet custard and roasted nuts.

The Cooperative Laiterie du Beaufortain began in 1957, led by a group of farmers. At this time, Beaufort production had become very low. As industrialization and urbanization perpetuated a rural exodus, farmers responded by adopting to this new organization to pool resources and produce Beaufort collectively.

By 1962, the Cooperative at Arêches ceases trading and its members join the new cooperative Beaufortain. Over the years Beaufortain leads the effort modernize the dairy production by developing ripening cellars and a laboratory, etc, culminating in the creation of the AOC for Beaufort in 1968.

The Beaufortain Dairy Cooperative has been a major player with the support of INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research) in the establishment of the first mobile milking machine. This innovation has helped maintain and redevelop in Alpine dairy production.

With more than 50 Concours awards in its 54 years, the Cooperative Laiterie Beaufortain remains an essential element in the lifetime of Beaufort AOP."

This Holiday Season

This holiday season is a special one for all of us here at The Truffle Cheese Shop. It's special for so many reasons that are both joyful and painful. We have lost loved ones and made new friends. For the most part, we are having a great time with our busy lives. On the other hand, our families are weighing heavily on our minds. 

For me, Karin, one of my favorite parts of the day is working either at the retail shop or at the restaurant. I love helping customers, seeing children grow up eating great cheese, pouring glasses of Champagne for families celebrating the Holiday Season.  

As stressful and busy as it can be working long hours, filling everyone else's stockings with sweets and treats, it can also be a happy distraction from everything else going on in the world. It is my hope that maybe we can be a happy distraction for our customers as well. Whatever happened in your day, your week, month or year, maybe stopping in for a nice cheese plate, a good baguette or a few slices of special Jamon makes the difference. I know it does for me.

This Holiday Season, be kind to each other. Linger by the door a few more seconds to help the next person. Send one extra card to a co-worker letting them know how much they mean to you. Maybe even hug a cheesemonger.

Stilton: A King Among Cheeses

 

One of the reasons Stilton is a quintessential Winter cheese is its age.  It takes at least 9 to 12 weeks for this cheese to be fully mature.  In the summer months when the cows are pasturing on lush, green grasses, their milk is much more rich and flavorful.  So, when October and November arrive, the cheeses that have been made from summer milk will be perfect.  These cheeses have the flavors of the pasture: sweet, fresh, green, deep and savory with a crumbly texture that is creamy in the mouth.

 

So many cheeses from the United Kingdom have historical significance and Stilton is no exception.  This cheese has records of its production as early as the 17th century.  There is a town of Stilton in Southeastern England where the cheese gets its name.  Most of the Stilton cheese, however, is made near Nottingham, which is about two hours North of London.  In 1996, Stilton earned “Protected Designation of Origin” or PDO status.  This regulates the production of the cheese to make sure each cheese is of the highest quality.  It also assures that the name “Stilton” can only be used by approved cheese makers.

Not just any cheese maker can make Stilton.  There are only six dairies that are approved to produce Stilton, but at The Truffle Cheese Shop, we only carry the Stilton produced by The Colston Bassett Dairy.  This dairy uses just four neighboring farms for its milk, hand-ladles their curds and they pierce the wheels later, so there is less blue veining but a more concentrated flavor in the cheese.  It takes twenty one gallons of fresh milk to make one, seventeen pound wheel of this cheese.  Every single wheel is inspected, tested and graded for quality before, during and after the aging process.  With more than one million wheels made each year, these cheeses are truly handmade!

The simple ingredients of milk, salt and cultures creates all the cheeses in the world.  Colston Bassett Stilton is made with pasteurized, whole cow’s milk, an enzyme called rennet to coagulate the milk, cultures and Penicillium roqueforti, which is the mold responsible for the ‘blue’ in blue cheese.  The curds form and are then cut by hand.  The whey is drained off, the curds are cut again and hand salted.  The curds are then placed, never pressed, into a cylindrical mold and allowed to drain naturally for 5 days.  They are then taken out of the mold, hand scraped on the sides to help the ‘crust’ develop and then placed in a temperature controlled room.  The wheels are then turned once by hand three times each week.   It takes five weeks to produce that beautiful, characteristic ‘crust’.   Stainless steel needles are pierced into the cheese to introduce oxygen into the cheese, allowing the p. roqueforti to turn blue.  As they age, each cheese is continued to be turned regularly to encourage proper maturity.  Throughout the cheese making process, samples are taken from each wheel to test for bacteria, to make sure the bluing is developing and that the cheese has a pleasing texture and flavor.

Every time we taste this magnificent cheese, we can taste the care and love that goes into each and every wheel.  A handmade cheese is a beautiful thing.  A handmade cheese like Stilton with a glass of simple port, a room full of family after a bountiful meal is magical.


Velvet Bees Honey Butter

Want to know what they eat in Heaven? It's Velvet Bees Honey Butter. This is one of our favorite products in the shop. Don't judge, but we eat this with a spoon! The fact is, this is a very versatile product. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy:

  • Toast your grilled cheese
  • Place in roasted squash
  • Spread on crackers with stinky cheese
  • Eat with banana bread
  • Finish a bowl of hot, butternut squash soup

Find your favorite way to enjoy and let us know what you think.

New Mongers at the Cheese Counter

We love cheese and we love people who love cheese. Better yet, we only surround ourselves with people who love cheese. Other requirements of our friends: you must love life, love people, to travel, laugh, eat, drink, explore, you must be gracious and communicate openly and honestly. That is who we surround ourselves with. That is who our cheesemongers are. 

Want to know why our cheesemongers change every so often? Because they love to go back to grad school, they love to go to South Korea for a month, explore the world looking for buried treasure, dip their toes into the Pacific, go on painting trips, spend time with the people that they love and haven't met yet. We only hire people who are driven, passionate, caring and aware of the world around them. 

So, next time you are in the shop and you see a new face behind the counter, introduce yourself! Let them know how much you enjoy stopping in the shop and welcome them into our community. We are all part of this crazy, fantastic, stinky cheese world here in Denver. Welcome Ryan, Ursula and Daniel!!

 

Cheeses of Italy

I always say, "There are as many pecorinos as there are people." After attending the Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy, I don't think I'm that far from the truth! What an incredible experience. Just when I thought I couldn't eat more cheese, turns out I CAN! 

The cheeses in Italy are so dependent on the terrior of the land: the season of the milk, the vegetation of the ground, the weather, and, of course, the traditions that came before. The question, "why do you make this cheese?", is met with utter confusion. The answer is so obvious to Italians, "because that's what we do." I asked one of the cheesemakers how old the milking barn was and he said, "It's always been here." 

The cheeses of Italy are so diverse. If you think you have tasted a Pecorino, you haven't tasted all  or this pecorino. Their cheeses are as diverse as their wines and their people. Each with its own, unique character and charm.

I am so looking forward to one of my first classes in awhile. I usually leave the teaching opportunities to the newer cheesemongers at the shop, while I go home and don't talk cheese with my boys. This class is personal to me, and I hope you can join me.

Please find the registration and payment information HERE: