Support Oregon Food Bank Today!

Here in the Northwest we are blessed to have many different sources for good, local, healthy food; it’s literally right out our front door. Though the bounty may be near, for many it is simply out of reach. Given our current terrible recession and the stress it has placed on resources, more and more people are finding it difficult to cover the necessities of life including food. Record numbers have been turning to the Oregon Food Bank and this well-run organization is doing its best to meet the demand. I know there are a lot of organizations who need funds right now but if you can spare a little, please help this local organization meet the needs in your community today.

This is the second annual Blog For Food Oregon Food Drive supported by local food bloggers to get the word out. It runs from February 15th to March 15th. To participate in this food drive, go to the Oregon Food Bank donation page and donate any amount that you are able. Please include “Blog for Food” in the “In Honor Of” section.

If you are a blogger interested in participating go to Pacific Northwest Cheese Project for more info.

Thank you!

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Onward and Upward for Steve’s Cheese!

Well, the word is out! Steve Jones, the proprietor of Steve’s Cheese here in Portland, is starting a new venture this year. He’ll be moving his cheeses out to Southeast Portland and opening a larger shop where you can buy and sample cheeses, enjoy a small plate, have lunch or dinner and stay into the later hours pairing beer and wine with your favorites. Be still my heart!!

“It was time, we needed room to do more,” says Jones, whose clients include many top Portland restaurants as well as adventurous cheese shoppers. Jones says the spirit of the Cheese Bar is inspired by France’s tabac shops. “Every corner has one,” he says. “All the old men drinking espresso or grappa or having croissant. A tabac is for the neighborhood — they’re social yet convenient locations.”

~ Karen Brooks, The Oregonian

He’s hoping to open up in March and you can be sure I’ll be the first one in line.

The Cheese Bar6031 SE Belmont • Whoop! Whoop!

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2009, the Year of Festivals

What a year. What a jerk of a year. I think every year finds people sorting it into a winning year or a losing year. I have a lot to be grateful and thankful for here at the start of 2010 (Twenty-ten! The future!) but there were parts of 2009 which were terribly trying. The bright spots, for me, revolved around cheese and for that I can’t complain.

Cheese Plate

Boerenkaas from Willamette Valley Cheese Co, a 2009 favorite

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2009 Holiday Gift Guide is Up!

Got a cheese lover in your life? We put together just a few gift ideas that we’re sure will hit the mark. Check them out in our 2009 Gift Guide!

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Hearty Winter Cheeseplate

In an effort to expand our general knowledge of cheese we’ve been trying to get together at least monthly to kick back, try a few new cheeses and drink some wine. I encourage everyone to do this.

For December, we went back to Foster & Dobbs and put together a tasty cheeseplate of some European heavyweights.

Foster & Dobbs Cheeseplate

The cheese case at Foster & Dobbs.

The staff there is so helpful and are excellent at listening to your likes and dislikes and recommending something that hits the mark. They’ll also keep track of what cheeses you’ve purchased before! We were all in the mood for some hearty, stinky, battle-the-frigid-winter cheese and were not disappointed in the least.

Our Cheeseplate

Starting with the semi-soft cheese on the bottom left that Linnea is pointing to, we have Le Porteaupre from Belgium. It’s a cow’s milk cheese that is delightfully stinky and is pretty creamy and spreadable – we put it on baguette. It’s a bit on the salty side, tangy and very satisfying. Seems like a good pair with meats.

At the top, is Jura Erguel from Switzerland. A raw cow’s milk, this was firm, stinky and a little sour. Definitely hearty and quite good. Next, clockwise, is Blu di Bufala, a buffalo milk from, of course, Italy! This was a moderate blue with distinct mushroom notes and I wrote down “cardboard” but I don’t mean that in a bad way, there was an earthiness to the rind that was good. This was a stout flavor without being overwhelming.

The large wedge in the center was a big favorite for all of us, the Bastardo del Grappa Nero, another raw cow’s milk from Italy. This one from the Veneto region which is in the Northeastern part of the country, a stone’s throw from Austria. The Bastardo was light, firm, creamy, tangy and lemony. It hit all the right notes for me and I’d get that one again anytime.

We stuck with our Europen theme and rounded that out with the St Cosme Côtes du Rhône syrah. So delicious and a pretty perfect accompaniment to some stick-to-yer-ribs cheeses.

Thanks again Foster & Dobbs! What cheese theme should we explore in January?

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Amaltheia Dairy, Montana!

What? I can’t quite hear you. Did you say, “more goats”? I aim to please….

Mona Lisa Smile

Don’t you think goats have Mona Lisa smiles?

* * *

I was out in Bozeman visiting my family and the first thing I did when I got into town was stop in the local Food Co-op and scope out the cheese selection. I bought a bunch of good stuff to share (Humboldt Fog which my brothers loved, a puck of French Prairie brie from Willamette Valley and some dependable 12-month manchego). Then I hunted around for something from Montana. The only thing I could find was the mysteriously named Montana Organic Chevre.

After we feasted on all this good cheese and decided that the chevre was truly awesome, I started poking around online to figure out who was behind this yummy chevre. As it turns out, right outside Bozeman, Montana, in the cute little town of Belgrade, you can find one of Montana’s few cheesemakers. I sent them an email asking for a tour and heard back almost immediately that I could come on out.

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Goats in the city!

Anna & Sweet Darlin'

Anna and Darlin’, her top milker.

This summer I had a great time volunteering at the Madison High School City Repair project to build an outdoor classroom with a curving cob wall and a green roof. Anna Gordon was in charge of the site, working through the AmeriCorps program to teach kids and the community about organic gardening and sustainability. Behind Madison, there is now a sizeable fenced community garden and right in the middle is the outdoor classroom for people to take shelter, make plans, dream big and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It’s a really great project and it was so fun. If you ever get a chance to cob, do it — it’s amazing what people can accomplish with this material.

Anyway, one of the days we were all working and talking and I discovered that Anna keeps goats! In the city! For milking! We had helped our friends Leah & Greg put up a chicken coop this summer so I knew that you are allowed up to 3 livestock animals inside the city limits. Beyond that, you need a special permit, which Anna’s household has. She is living on a double lot in Northeast Portland as part of a co-op of nearby households. There are 8 people who help oversee the goats and chickens and the garden. They take turns milking and cleaning out the pen and making sure that the goats are healthy and thriving. Darlin’, Cheyenne and baby Mona are very happy goats.

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The 2009 Wedge Cheesefest in Review

Wedge Logo

Despite the grand title, this will be a short post.

I was extremely privileged to wrangle a spot on the organizing committee for the ’09 Wedge Cheese Festival — Nicole and I were co-coordinators of the volunteers and site. We had a good group of over thirty volunteers throughout the day and they were all rockstars. Seriously. Everyone worked so hard and I think it was a lot of fun, too.

We had nearly 30 vendors from all around the Pacific Northwest. There were close to 10,000 visitors to the festival and we took in four barrels of food donations for the Oregon Food Bank. From what I could tell, people were really amazed and blown away by all the wonderful cheese. Our site at the Green Dragon Pub worked out great and the bar did a huge amount of business selling beer and grub. You can see a bunch of photos from the event on the Flickr group site — if you took pictures at the event, become a member of that group and submit your Wedge ’09 photos today!

All in all, a big success and I’m so proud to have been a part of it. Looking forward to the next one!

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Visiting Vancouver & San Juans

The Mister and I have been trying to plan a big adventure vacation for a long while now. We were flirting with barging in France (who wouldn’t?) but I got put off by how much of our vacation savings would just go toward airfare. The other thing I’ve had on my mind for years is kayaking in the San Juan Islands. So we took a couple lessens here in Portland from the Portland Kayak Company, one out on the Willamette River just toodling around and learning how to paddle and one in a pool learning to get ourselves back in our boats should we flip them over. Handy trick, no?

We booked a guided weekend tour with Outdoor Odysseys on San Juan Island and had a great time. Our guide, Kaitlin, was totally wonderful and the other couple on our trip happened to be Portlanders and also winemakers! We loved chatting with them about outdoor adventures and the making of beer, wine & cheese. We paddled out from San Juan State Park and across the channel to Stuart Island which was our base camp where we slept in tents and paddled during the day. Total, we paddled over 30 miles on the 3-day trip and it was tiring but amazing. We saw harbor seals, porpoises, stellar sea lions, jellyfish and lots of kelp. The coastline of the islands is gorgeous and the weather was great.

Kayaks @ Reid Harbor

Our kayaks at the ready in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island

So… kayaking, blah, blah, blah. This is a cheese blog! To make a short story long, it’s a good thing we did all that kayaking because we were then more than happy (and hungry) to partake in the local cheese scene!

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Claudia Lucero & Urban Cheesecraft

I was at Foster & Dobbs three times this week. I may have a problem. Last night they were having a meeting of the occasional DIY Cheesemakers group with a demonstration by Claudia from Urban Cheesecraft. She has started her own line of cheesemaking kits with products all sourced on the west coast. The whole kickoff for the FUCheese cheesemaking adventure was the Ricki Carroll mozzarella kit that Nicole got for Christmas two years ago. Ricki Carroll has great products but her supplies are in New England so you have to order and wait. It’s great to have a local option and Claudia’s kits are super adorable!

mozzarellaKit

Claudia did a mozzarella demonstration for us and she was absolutely charming and very clear. She has a great, relaxed attitude about cheesemaking — you can’t mess it up! While cheesemaking is a science it is very often an inexact science so it helps to have a cheerful can-do attitude for when things go a bit sideways. I picked up some great tips from her and look forward to sharing them when Nicole and I do our own mozzarella demo for some friends next month — eek!

Claudia is planning to be at the Wedge Festival (be there!) with her kits and may also do a ricotta demonstration on the main stage. Kits are such a great way to jump in to cheesemaking, I highly recommend picking one up. You can find out on her website which stores in Oregon are selling them or order from her etsy shop. They would make such great gifts!

Also, if you want to get notified when Foster & Dobbs do their next DIY cheesemakers meeting or to hear about any of their other many events, sign up for their mailing list!

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